Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fleur de Sel Caramels and Hello Kitty


Today, I walked into the office building behind Hello Kitty Man again.  Hello Kitty Man, henceforth referred to as HKM, carries a Hello Kitty lunchbox.  It is metallic, has a sparkly pink handle, and the front of it is plastered with Hello Kitty's proud face.  There are a couple of noteworthy things about HKM:

  1. He is not a ten year old girl.  In fact, he is a rather distinguished looking gentleman sporting a fine selection of tailored suits.
  2. This is not a lunch bag that he stuffs discretely into his briefcase.  Oh no.  This is a large lunchbox.  One which he carries proudly.
  3. This is not a one time occurrence.  I'd be willing to overlook a one time breach.  I may even find it charming.  But nope.  This is HKM's regular lunch carrying vessel.  
  4. Most importantly, it is not 1993.

In the middle of making my mental list of violations, I realized HKM was holding the elevator open for me.  "You coming?" he asked in the most amazing British accent.  A fabulous British accent, wasted on a grown man carrying a Hello Kitty lunch pail.  Such.  A.  Shame.  


Running into HKM was funny because I was in no position to judge anyone this morning.  See, I was eating fleur de sel caramels and spitting out paper as I chewed.  Think, biker spitting chewing tobacco juice but well, with candy.  Because I'm classy like that.  This  past weekend, I spent many hours making fleur de sel caramels.  It sounds simple enough in theory.  I mean, the recipe has five ingredients.  Five.  You really can't go wrong.

Except you can.  So, so wrong.  The first time, I cooked the sugar too long.  The recipe said light golden caramel color but apparently, I skipped kindergarten the day they went over colors.  I completely flew by light golden caramel and landed squarely in the realm of dark brown caramel before finally mixing in the cream mixture.  Enter Exhibit A which definitely had a hint of bitterness from the overcooked sugar.  I'd probably lose what little foodie cred I have by admitting I kinda enjoyed the burnt taste so I won't admit that.  Except that I ate the entire pan before moving on to attempt 2.


Attempt 2.  I somehow figured the instructions were wrong and I didn't really need to cook the mixture until it reached 248 degrees.  Because never having made caramels (or any candy) before suddenly made me an expert on the matter.  So instead, I cooked it until it looked like I figured it was supposed to.  Then, I figured I'd keep the good times rolling so I poured the candy into a container lined with wax paper instead of parchment paper.  Exhibit B was a sticky, delicious mess.  Of course that didn't stop me.  I ate that batch as well, spitting out paper as I went along. 


Attempts 3, 4, and 5 were also problematic.  At least I'm consistent, right?  Somewhere around attempt 36, the stars aligned.  The sugar syrup didn't burn, the cream didn't burn, and lo and behold, when I combined the two, the mixture didn't burn. 



The finished product, sweet and creamy with flecks of salt, was nearly perfect.  Come lunchtime, I imagine it would be the perfect treat to find in one's Hello Kitty lunchbox.




Fleur de Sel Caramels


1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water

Special equipment: parchment paper; a deep-fat thermometer

Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly oil parchment.

Bring cream, butter, and fleur de sel to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.

Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel.

Carefully stir in cream mixture (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 248°F on thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes (I found 248°F resulted in a harder caramel, almost toffee like candy so I cook it until it reaches 240'ish).  Pour into baking pan and cool 2 hours. When slightly cool, sprinkle fleur de sel over cooling caramel. After cooled, cut into 1-inch pieces, then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.


Adapted from Epicurious.

52 comments:

  1. Those caramels look gorgeous!! I love the salt on top :)

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  2. oh these look SO delish!

    Here's a quick trick that I've found so you're not eating paper. Pour your caramel onto greased tinfoil. Works better than wax paper and all of that malarky.

    I must try this...now to go find some fleur de sel!

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  3. The caramels look great, but back to Mr. Hello Kitty... I would have had to comment. Maybe something like "nice lunchbox" and see how he responds. I'm so curious now I'd almost pay you to do it. If you do, report back!

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  4. LMAO! HKM sounds like quite the character. The movie, American Psycho came to mind when you described him. And candy. I agree, sometimes the directions are wrong! When I made some taffy I definitely did not wait until the thermometer reached the specified temp bc then it would have burned. I went on smell and texture. I would have eaten all the caramels too. And the paper, yea I would have spit it out like a rockstar!

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  5. I just snorted my coffee! That was hilarious... and the caramels look superb!

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  6. Bahahahah! The man must have lost a bet with his wife!

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  7. You crack me up and this is the first time I've read your blog.

    I get a little but like that in similar situations...I had to boil cream until it reached 150 degrees. I thought to myself, now what chef on a power trip decided that number? 120 should suffice! Alas it did not. That'll teach me. I'm glad you enjoyed your caramels. I like a little burnt flavor too so no judgement here.

    Now tell us more about HKM...

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  8. I loooove your posts- I always get such a good laugh and recipe at the same time!

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  9. Now all i need to do is find fleur de sel:)
    i can imagine the frustration..i wud have given up by the 2nd time...

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  10. HKM sounds like he has a story. You need to find out what it is. :) Maybe offer him some caramels!

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  11. I love the determination!
    HKM definitely needs some grown-up caramels for his lunchbox.

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  12. LOL about the Hello Kitty lunchbox. :) Those caramels look divine!

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  13. Wow! You do have lot of patience to try the same recipe for 5 times..I am sure it taste great :)

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  14. I am very intrigued by HKM. He has an accent? And wears tailored suits? And carries a Hello Kitty lunchbox. You must get to the bottom of this! I must know what his deal is!

    I am in shock that you tried a recipe more than once. If it doesn't work out around here the recipe goes straight into the recycle bin.

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  15. Real men carry Hello Kitty lunchboxes?! AND he has a cute British accent? Girl, I think he's a catch. Confident, AND sexy. :-)

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  16. Can I say, I wish I had an HKM in my life? Provides great entertainment!

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  17. You know, if Dudette offered her Daddy her absolute favorite lunch box (Strawberry Shortcake), he'd take it to make her happy, knowing that the opinion of a 4 year-old matters more than a lunching lawyer, mom chef, or the whole world. If I saw this, my heart would melt.

    Like it's melting over those caramels. I'll send you my address....I'll take a pound please!

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  18. If we couldn't judge you, we couldn't love you. You and HKM are a classy bunch.

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  19. HKM is definitely making a statement, and now you have foodies all over the world waiting to find out what it is. Please don't disappoint us by not following up.

    I make my caramels in the microwave. No thermometers, just nuke it for a certain amount of time. They always turn out. However, I am sure that my family would be willing to eat all 35 failed attempts and the final 36th that turned out. You are a trooper for persevering.

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  20. I kind of love HKM... mostly because I've made up a story in my head about how his daughter/neice/granddaughter chose his lunch-carrying apparatus for him and he carries it with love for her. Or something.
    And also, you should FedEx some caramels to Dallas, because I for sure am drooling right now. Also klassy.
    Miss you, lady!

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  21. *sigh*
    ...for the record, I do know how to spell niece. Dang it.

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  22. Beautiful caramels! It doesn't matter if it took some 50-odd tries to get it exactly right ... and doesn't everyone "mess up" a little at times and then get to eat the evidence?

    I'm just imagining HKM's little daughter giving her dad the lunchbox for Father's Day, and him carrying it around proudly ever since. At least, that's what I'd like to think.

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  23. HKM... interesting. I mean, Kello Kitty does have quite a following in the UK but a well dressed and accented man? So sad.

    Love the caramels, great job! You are a brave woman for sure! I haven't ventured into candy making for fear that I will inevitably shame Willy Wonka's good name :)

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  24. A grown man. With a Hello Kitty lunch box. Is he having some sort of identity crisis? Cause it sure sounds like it. I think he needs some fleur de sel caramels to set him straight. They sound amazing.

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  25. Oh, you do know how to make me smile! Apparently you don't have to be 10 years old to enjoy Hello Kitty anymore. Would it be bad to admit that my apron is a Little Twin Stars one from when I was 10? At least I'm a girl, right?

    Was planning on making a sweet treat with caramel and salt this weekend. Very timely post. Now I'm nervous.

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  26. Lovely chewy recipe. Always loved eating them but never thought that these can be made at home. Will try it for sure.

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  27. HKM sounds like my dream guy! He's kooky to a T, I'd love to pack his lunch daily in that super sparkly Hello Kitty vessel even though I dislike the feline trend (even when I was 12!). Your fleur de sel caramels look pretty good to me... do you have a jar on your desk at work?? I'm dying to try these, thanks for the 'what-not-to-do' tips!

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  28. HKM...how funny. Yesterday, the Hello Kitty truck came to Austin and there were HUNDREDS of die-hard fans (men and women alike!) Your friend should have stopped by :-) These caramels look heavenly. I'm so bad at making candy though! Thank you for sharing this with us. I hope you are having a relaxing Saturday!

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  29. These caramels look fabulous, and HKM sounds hilarious!!! I'd LOVE to see this.

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  30. I have to say...a sexy British accent (because British accent is absolutely sexy) would make me forget anything, even that we are not in 1993. Now what I won't forget are these caramels because 1: I've never had the courage to make candies myself...great job and 2: you did not call me! How did you not call me to share them? :)

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  31. i like how the darker caramel looks...are you sure it was "burnt" and not just "toasted"?
    anyway, i'm lucky enough to have a father-in-law and a best friend that make the caramels for me =)
    ~K

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  32. Impressive! Good for your for attempting a tricky recipe. These would make for cute holiday gifts!

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  33. this is why i don't make candy--happens to me every time.

    in other news, i'd pay you $10 to strike up a convo with HKD and ask him about his lunch box. I could totally script it for you if need be. Please?

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  34. How hilarious?!!? I would think it strange if I even saw a grown woman carrying a Hello Kitty lunchbox. So, a man? Yes, indeed.

    I'd carry a Hello Kitty lunchbox, though, if it was filled with these. No shame.

    Also, I love that you showed all your attempts. Nice work! :)

    Sues

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  35. Okay, so those caramels just look delicious!

    I'm pretty much positive that HKM gives me more cognitive dissonance than those batteries they sell for breast cancer.

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  36. It has been a LONG time since we last spoke n I was missing you :-( So I thought I'll come visit your blog and read a couple of your posts and admire your witty writing. Now I feel like we're in touch again :-)
    Its always gr8 to visit here!

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  37. totally reminds me of MacIntosh Taffy- THE BEST IN THE WORLD! ahhh this looks amazing!!! <3

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  38. Are you planning on dishing out these caramels to your blog friends? ;) We won't mind the wrapper flecks. They look amazing!

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  39. these are my favorite...yum! thanks for sharing this.

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  40. HKM is truly a waste of a good British accent it seems. Because God knows that they take a man's sexiness up a million points!

    Those caramels look perfect. I've always wanted to make them.

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  41. You have to get to the bottom of HKM's story. I actually like a guy who has the self-confidence to do something like that!

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  42. you have to get the whole story on the hello kitty lunch box!! as for your caramels, I think each batch must have been wonderful, and I would have kept eating them all too!
    Thanks for sharing your adventures!
    Dennis

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  43. Love it! You totally should have asked him about his lunchbox or at least pointed out his courage for doing so every day! I've been bookmarking candy recipes like its my job.. I'm determined to make some for the Christmas season.. I think these are going into the mix!

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  44. Azmina! HKM is such an entertainer. I love guys with british accent except my boss. LOL. This guy is intriguing hello kitty lunch box? hehehehe

    I have been doing the same trial and error thing with Gulab Jamun this whole week! To come to a recipe tht can be made by everyone! Though I have a recipe tht works for me here in Kuwait ;) Once to get past the 2nd attempt, u r more determined to get it right than before. Happy chewing! You are classy!

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  45. ha ha ha ha ha!!! That is hilarious...like a comedy skit, just thinking of it makes me chuckle. And I don't blame you, caramels are one of my favorite things...these sound amazing!!! I would totally pack some into my {ahem} lunch box.

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  46. I'm going to go ahead and say it...I love Hello Kitty Man! Any man who can rock a Sanrio-themed lunchbox proudly gets mad props...plus a British accent?? Azmina, what if he's in fact a British spy? :) You're so brave for making caramels as your first voyage into candy-making!

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  47. beautiful presentation looks delicious

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  48. What if that lunch box was his daughters and she has passed???? I want to know the whole story, you must find out!

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  49. Ok. HKM is hilarious! He and my 2 year old would get along stellar cause they have a major thing in common - a deep love for HELLO KITTY!

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  50. I go to 246F ... that seems to be the sweet spot for my caramels. The candy will hold its shape, yet still be soft enough to make your tongue smile.

    Plus, as someone else said (sorry, of course now I can't find the earlier post), try using greased aluminum foil.

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  51. Can't decide which is more interesting...Mr. HKM or these beautiful caramels! Since I'll have more time during this winter break, I might try making these caramels.

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  52. I stumbled here and you have one avid follower from now on. This post cracked me up... hilarious! at 1:30 in the morning. Thanks Angela

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