From Charity Ferreira.
Vanilla-Sea Salt Caramels
French caramels are often flavored with sea salt, which cuts the richness and sweetness nicely. An inexpensive square disposable aluminum pan, the kind you can buy in the supermarket, is perfect for making this recipe because you can just bend the sides to release the caramel. Because the pans are fairly flimsy, place a baking sheet underneath for stability when moving the hot caramel.
Waxed paper and white or brown cooking parchment make great wrappers for these caramels. Cut the paper into 4-inch squares (you can measure the first few and then just eyeball the rest). Wrap two sides around each square, as if you were wrapping a present, and then twist the ends closed.
Yields: About 80 caramels
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
2 ¼ cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup whipping cream
½ cup water
2 ¼ teaspoons sea salt
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out, or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Step 1: Generously butter the sides and bottom of an 8-inch square disposable aluminum cake pan. Place the pan on a baking sheet for stability.
Step 2: In a large pot over medium-low heat, stir-together the sugar, corn syrup, cream, ¾ cup butter, water, salt, and vanilla bean and seeds (if using vanilla extract, don’t add yet) until the sugar is dissolved and the butter is melted. Increase the heat and boil, stirring occasionally with a heatproof spatula or a wooden spoon, until the mixture turns a golden brown and measures about 250˚F on a candy thermometer, 18 to 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully (the mixture will bubble up) stir in the vanilla extract if using.
Step 3: Immediately pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Let stand at room temperature until the top is set, about 20 minutes, then refrigerate (with baking sheet underneath) until firm enough to cut, about 2 ½ hours.
Step 4: Bend back the sides of the pan and invert to release the caramel on to a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut the caramel into 1-inch squares. Wrap each piece and store them in an them a few minutes at room temperature before eating.