I’m gonna start with a little bit of truth telling: if you are here looking for a healthy recipe, you might want to keep on looking. This recipe is NOT vegan, low carb, keto, Whole30, or paleo. I’m not sure what the calorie count per delectable bite is (and frankly, I don’t want to know). What I do know, is that these Whiskey Sea Salt Caramels are about the tastiest thing I’ve had in a very long time and I recently had to give away most of my last test batch to keep from eating them all.
While I’m generally not much of a candy person, when I do indulge, I’m pretty specific about what I love. I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for old school cinnamon bears. Junior Mints were a high school obsession. And don’t get me started on those dark chocolate covered caramels from Costco. But one of my favorite sweet treats has always been caramels. My grandma and mom have been making them for years and the recipe is pretty legendary in my family. I actually begged my mom to make over a thousand of them to give as favors when I got married – and with the help of my grandma and aunt – they did!
Over time, I’ve tinkered with this old recipe a little and made it my own. Recently I’ve been loving them with a little whiskey to add a little flavor richness (the alcohol cooks off) and a good dusting of crunchy sea salt for contrast, both in flavor and texture. Adding a little butter never hurt anyone, either!
If you’ve never made caramels before, don’t fret. As long as you’ve got patience and a good candy thermometer, you’re good to go. It’s true that you do have to watch the temp on the caramel really closely but other than that, they really are quite simple.
The recipe starts with a good amount of heavy cream. Into the cream goes both granulated sugar and corn syrup, which helps with texture. I know, I know it’s corn syrup. Like I said earlier, I am making no health claims for this recipe. It’s a total, crazy indulgence, but trust me when I say it’s also totally worth it. Watching carefully, the mixture is brought to soft ball stage, or about 238 degrees Fahrenheit, before a good splash of vanilla and a bit of whiskey get stirred. Pour that beautiful golden liquid into a buttered pan, sprinkle generously with sea salt (I love Maldon for this!) and let them cool slightly before you cut them into bite sized pieces.
I typically wrap mine in small wax paper squares to keep them from sticking together. They make great gifts but also freeze well if you just want to keep them around for when a craving hits. They will firm up quite a bit when chilled, so remember to give them a little time to come to room temperature if you don’t want to break a tooth!
Are you a caramel fan? What other candies do you love to make? Let us know in the comments!
Whiskey Sea Salt Caramels
The perfect sweet treat with just a hint of salt!
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 3 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups light corn syrup
- 2 Tablespoons whiskey (I like Jameson)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon good, flaky sea salt (like Maldon)
Gently grease a half sheet pan or 9x13 cake pan with 2 Tablespoons of butter and set aside.
Place a candy thermometer in a large, non-reactive pot.
In a separate, smaller pot, gently heat two cups of the heavy cream, being careful not to scald it.
Into the large pot, add 1 cup cream, the sugar, and the corn syrup. Stir gently to combine. Watching the thermometer, heat the mixture to 238 degrees (or soft ball stage), stirring frequently.
When the mixture has reached the designated temperature, gradually stir in a second cup of cream and heat again to 238 degrees F.
Add in the third and final cup of cream, stirring and heating to 238 degrees. The mixture should be bubbly and a light golden color.
Remove the caramel mixture from the heat and quickly stir in the vanilla and whiskey. Add in the final Tablespoon of butter and stir well.
Pour the caramel into the prepared/buttered pan and sprinkle generously with flaky sea salt. Allow to cool before cutting into bite sized pieces. Enjoy!