Monday, December 23, 2013

Chocolate Dipped Bourbon Caramels With Hazelnuts And Sea Salt

Why do I do this to myself?


A little back story. When I first started cooking, I was very health conscious. My grocery carts were full of vegetables and whole grains, I never ever bought butter, and I barely salted anything. I never ate white bread, and I didn't have much of a sweet tooth at all. I ate oatmeal every morning, sweetened with only a little raw honey. In short, I was awesome.

And somehow we have been brought to this. These candies. They are sitting in the fridge, tempting me, taunting me. I don't want to admit how many I've eaten today, and yesterday was even worse. I'll only say this: yesterday I ate so many of these candies that I gave myself a stomach ache. Like a 6 year-old on Halloween. 

How did we get to this point? The road is dark and twisted, but there have been a few red flags along the way that should have told me that I was on the way to self-destruction. 

The first is very obvious: I started baking. Now, to be fair to myself, I'm not what I like to (colorfully) call a "sugar slut." If I'm going to eat something sweet, it better be damn good. Sweets that Americans can't seem to get enough of (cookies that have that fake-y, lardy taste, cupcakes with way too much icing, and the whole fro-yo thing) have absolutely no effect on me, and I can easily pass them by. So, when I first started baking about two years ago, I would happily eat a single serving of my cookies/cake/whatever and let my husband devour the rest, like Garfield with a lasagna. But, as my baking skills have steadily increased, my ability to abstain is just as steadily decreasing. 

First red flag.

Then there was the day that I bought corn syrup for the first time. I remember thinking to myself, "this is a bad idea Meredith, you are making a mistake." Did I reconsider my actions? Did I place the corn syrup back on the shelf? Of course not. Second red flag.

Then, last week, I realized that the last 5 or 6 times I have been to the grocery store, I have purchased a pound of butter. The last time this occurred, I didn't even need the butter, I just bought it purely by instinct. Like milk, or eggs, or bread. 

Strike three! Intervention time! And now the worst thing ever has happened: these candies.

I don't really think it is good to be able to whip up a batch of whatever you love most in the world. You should have to go to a store, shell out the money and buy it in front of everybody. It's like being able to make crack. Not that I have ever made crack. But I can make these candies, and they are my crack.

I LOVE little chocolate candies with a weird and intense passion. Normally, by the time Valentine's Day has come, I have already purchased 3 or 4 Russel Stover's hearts. Then I buy one or two more when they go on sale the next day. This is a yearly indulgence that I allow myself and take no shame in it. My husband also knows that every year on my birthday I expect a $20 package of Dinstuhl's chocolates (a Memphis chocolatier that is a bit pricey, but totally worth it). If I did not receive these chocolates, I would probably go into some sort of tirade typical of Bridezillas or those little snotty girls on My Super Sweet 16. Now I can make these perfect little candies. All hell has broken loose in my kitchen.

Ok, enough of the melodrama.  I am in control. Really. I am. I'm not thinking about the tiny morsels of heaven sitting in my fridge, with their chewy, crunchy centers, chocolate-y shells and salty toppings. Really. I'm not. I'm thinking about something totally different. 

So here is how you do it. Maybe you shouldn't make them. But it is the holidays, which means we've thrown all sense of self-control and abstinence when it comes to food out the window. So what the hell? Let's make candy.

Chocolate Dipped Bourbon Caramels with Hazelnuts and Sea Salt

Now, it is nice to have a few tools for this recipe. A candy thermometer is an almost necessity. I have made caramel without a thermometer before (see here), but it is very inconsistent. So, I would just go ahead and get one.

Also, if you would like your candies to be prettier than mine, you can get a candy mold. I don't have a candy mold, but you can bet that I will be purchasing one soon. Your candies will still taste amazing, so if this is your first time making candy, I wouldn't run out and buy one. 

For my caramel, I used the Bourbon Sea Salt Caramels recipe from Bon Appetit, but with a welcome addition: hazelnuts.

First step: make caramel. I let my caramel set up in a pan lined with wax paper. Don't do this. It sounds like a great idea, but the caramel does not want to pull away from the wax paper.  Lightly spray a glass or ceramic dish and place your caramel in this. Top with a generous layer of chopped hazelnuts and throw in the fridge. Your caramel needs to set up in the fridge for at least an hour.
When you are ready to assemble your candies, get yourself a double boiler going. For those of you who don't know, a double boiler is just a pot of boiling water that you place a bowl on top of. Throw your chocolate in this bowl. This allows you to melt your chocolate without scorching it. A quick tip: don't move the bowl around a lot. Water and chocolate don't mix and if you move your bowl around, steam will escape and get into the chocolate. Then your chocolate will turn kind of crumbly and matte looking. You want it to be smooth and glossy. I used Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips and I was very satisfied with the results. I'm also a big fan of Hershey's dark chocolate chips, but I can't ever seem to find them.

Once you chocolate is melted, turn the heat down on your double boiler to medium-low. Grab two spoons. With one spoon, scoop some caramel out into a quarter-size piece. You can roll it into a ball shape, if you want, but your hands are going to get very sticky. Just a heads up. Drop this piece of caramel into the chocolate. With your other spoon, turn the caramel in the chocolate until it is completely coated. Place onto a cutting board covered in wax paper. Repeat this process until all of your caramel is covered in chocolate. The candies will spread out a bit, and may not have enough chocolate on the top. Just spread a little extra chocolate on the candies. Sprinkle with sea salt and place in the fridge. Don't skip the sea salt! It totally makes these candies.
You will need to let your candies set up in the fridge for about an hour. Now, prepare for a serious sugar rush! I cannot stop eating these things! I know this is a long winded post, but don't let that fool you; these candies are very easy to make and well worth your effort.

I think I'm in full on candy mode now, so get ready for tons of fun candy combinations! 


  1. Chocolate and caramel and hazelnuts - oh my!

    Sounds amazing!

  2. I would totally be okay if you showed up at my house today with some of these. But really.