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Chewy Sea Salt Caramels

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ cup 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • 2 cups sugar
  • tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt such as Maldon or fleur de sel, for sprinkling (optional -- I thought that it was salty enough without this salt. I tried it both ways, and liked it without better.)
  • 64 4-inch-square cellophane candy wrappers or waxed paper wrappers

Instructions

  1. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray, then line the bottom and sides of the pan with two strips of parchment paper that fit the pan both vertically and horizontally, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides. Coat the parchment with cooking spray.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat the condensed milk, butter, and cream over medium-low heat, whisking, until smooth and loose; remove from the heat. In a large (at least 4-quart) stainless-steel saucepan, combine the corn syrup and ½ cup water, then slowly pour the sugar into the center of the saucepan, being careful not to splash the sides of the pan (this helps avoid crystallization later). Give the mixture a gentle stir with a spatula and cook over medium-high heat, without stirring but swirling the saucepan occasionally, until the mixture turns a deep golden color, 13 to 17 minutes. Do not take your eyes off the saucepan, since the last stages of the caramelization happen very quickly!
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the cream mixture; it will bubble up dramatically, then subside. Stir with a silicone spatula, then return to the stovetop over medium-low heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture darkens and thickens, 4 to 7 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and fine sea salt, immediately pour the mixture into the prepared pan, cool for 5 minutes, then sprinkle with the flaky salt. Let rest at room temperature for 1 hour, then chill until the caramels firm up slightly, 1 hour more.
  4. Use the parchment paper to lift the caramels out of the pan and set on a cutting board. Cut into 1-inch squares and place each caramel in a wrapper; twist the sides to seal.