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Wine Pairing By Jim Schwabe

These Chocolate Covered Caramels are rich and sweet. They are a marvelous finish to a nice dinner with your special someone. Have a bottle of our 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon with dinner and go with tradition for dessert: a bottle of your favorite Champagne. We love Veuve Clicquot, made from grapes from some of the most revered vineyards in Champagne. 

The Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label is affordable for a special occasion and is delicious. For maximum enjoyment take it out of the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving to let it warm a bit. Optimum drinking temperature is about 45 degrees, to let the beautiful fruit, brioche and vanilla aromas come out.
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Chocolate Covered Fleur De Sel Caramels for Valentine’s Day
By Jen Sommerness

By far, my favorite chocolates in any Valentine’s Day box are the square ones…the caramels. Other than once a year in February, the only other time that I seem to have them is if I treat myself to one that I find during my travels. Something so fantastic that it makes me raid my Valentine’s Day box, before the rest of my family can find them, is certainly something that I wanted to try to recreate at home.

With a little looking, a little learning, and a little luck, I made some and LOVED them. The recipe that I used did not call for them to be covered in chocolate, but with a little research as to how to temper chocolate correctly, I decided I’d give it a whirl. If you want to leave them undipped, feel free to do so. They are wonderful either way. They will be like the ones you find in specialty stores or many times in little gift shops…the ones wrapped in wax paper and deliciously chewy. That is what these are when not enrobed in chocolate, although gilding the lily and taking the extra step with some really fine quality dark chocolate was very worth the effort. 

To learn how to temper chocolate, I would suggest reading David Lebovitz’s post that gives very straightforward directions and explanations of why it needs to be done the way he describes. You can also dip the caramels in chocolate that hasn’t been tempered, but will need to refrigerate them after dipping.

This recipe could easily be adapted to include your favorite flavors in the caramels, and a sprinkle of freshly ground pink peppercorns on top would also be a lovely addition.

I love fleur de sel; it offsets the sweet so well, and adds a bit of crunch. I always have fleur de sel on hand at home, as a tiny sprinkle on any savory dish creates the perfect finish. My family simply calls it my “fancy salt”, as it brings anything we are eating to the next level. 

This recipe makes enough to share, and will express your love in a most heartfelt way! Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your loved ones!

Chocolate Covered Fleur de Sel Caramels

Vegetable oil (for greasing the parchment paper)
1 ½ Cups sugar
¼ Cup light corn syrup
1 Cup heavy cream
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fleur de sel, plus extra for sprinkling
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped of seeds (or ½ tsp pure vanilla extract)
Approximately 12 oz of fine quality dark chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao)

Method

Line an 8-inch-square baking pan with parchment paper, draping it over two sides of the pan, acting as “handles” for easy removal later. Brush the paper lightly with oil.
In a deep saucepan, combine ¼ Cup water, sugar and corn syrup. Bring them to a boil over medium-high heat – DON’T stir!! Just swirl the pan to mix. If you stir, there is a chance that the mixture will seize and crystalize. Continue boiling until the mixture is a warm, golden brown color, only swirling the pan the entire time to mix.

Meanwhile, in a small pot, bring the cream, butter, 1 teaspoon of fleur de sel, and vanilla bean and scraped seeds (or vanilla extract, if using) to a simmer over medium heat. Do not boil. Take off the heat and set aside, allowing the vanilla bean to steep in the mixture.

When the sugar is golden brown remove the vanilla bean from the cream mixture and, very carefully (it will bubble up violently) add the cream to the caramel mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees F (firm ball) on a candy thermometer. You can even go slightly under the firm ball temperature, just to make sure your caramel stays chewy when cooled.

Very carefully (it is extremely hot), pour the caramel into the prepared pan and refrigerate for a few hours, until firm.

Once the caramel is cooled, lift the paper and caramel from the pan and place on a cutting board, removing the paper.

Cut into 1 inch squares. Dip them in tempered chocolate, and place them on a parchment lined tray to cool. While they are starting to cool, sprinkle them with a bit more of fleur de sel.

Enjoy!!
Chocolate Covered Caramels
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