A little while ago I got to taste some caramels made by a lovely lady I used to work with. I put a piece in my mouth and bang! It was love at first bite. The caramels tasted just like Daims, which are little Swedish caramels with bits of almond covered in chocolate and are a staple on my duty free shopping list.
Psh, caramel covered in chocolate doesn't sound too flash, I hear you say? Well my friend, it's not just any old caramel we are talking about here, this caramel is brittle and crunchy without being sticky, buttery smokey and salty sweet without being toothachingly sugary. The result is totally moreish and very very addictive. The caramels made by J, were just as crunchy, just as smokey and buttery as my beloved Daims.
I HAD to have the recipe.
Unfortunately, J had been sworn to secrecy from the person whom she got the recipe off of as it was a Family Secret Recipe. Which, of course, made me even more obsessed with finding out how to make them.
What is it with secret recipes that just makes you want to crack them? There's really something magical and mysterious about a secret recipe - just look how well it's done for Coke and Colonel Sanders. It made me kinda wish I had more secret recipes. Come to think of it I don't even have a single secret recipe. Not one. I'm guess I'm an open book kinda girl, as soon as I get a good recipe I wanna tell the world...Hey everyone! Check this out, it's so meeeeeean!!!!
J was very apologetic that she couldn't share the recipe but I totally respect baker/recipe-giver confidentiality. One tidbit of info I did manage to squeeze out of her was that J's caramels, had crackers in the middle to make it that bit crunchier. So pretty much as soon as I got home, I scoured the internet for a like recipe and hit the jackpot with a recipe for Saltine Cracker Toffee or as I like to call them Sea Salt & Cracker Toffee just to be a lil fancy.
I've made these several times now and played around a little with the quantities. Some batches have come out just a bit sticky so there's definitely room for improvement. I reckon it's mostly to do with when you start timing your 3 minutes of cooking (you'll see what I mean when you hit the recipe) as I'm pretty sure the chewiness/crunchiness ratio is dependant on the time you cook the caramel. Although next time I might try and up the amount of sugar to 240g to see how that goes.
The taste of these caramels is bang on. A perfect balance of salty and sweet. Do yourself a favour and don't even try to only have one piece. You will have a hard time stopping at just one at a go. Believe me, you will have a hard time stopping at a couple.
I used Le gros sel marin de Guérande - its a gorgeous unrefined grey sea salt from France. You know how normal salt pretty much tastes like intense saltiness, well this stuff actually tastes like the ocean: minerally and ozoney. Of course the "in" salt is fleur de sel, but that's super expensive and for the price of a tiny bit of fleur de sel I got a big bag of sel marin de Guérande. Now, don't get me wrong I'm no salt snob but if you don't have any sea salt, fleur de sel or large salt crystals I reckon don't sprinkle any on the top of your caramels. It will make the caramel too salty and will just melt into the chocolate - the salted butter and salted crackers should be enough to give the caramels that salty sweet flavour.
Sea Salt & Cracker Toffee
240g salted butter, cubed
220g soft brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
300g dark chocolate chips
~ 1 tsp sea salt to sprinkle on top (don't use normal salt, just omit this if you don't have any sea salt/fleur de sel on hand)
optional: 1/2 cup toasted almonds / pistachios / pecans
1 pkt Salada crackers (there are 2 packets per 250g box)
1. Preheat the oven to 200oC. Line a 22cm x 32cm baking tray with tin foil and spray with cooking spray. Line with one packet of Salada crackers broken into their 4 little squares.
2. Melt butter and soft brown sugar in a saucepan (heavy bottomed one if possible) over a medium heat, stirring. Take your time with this as you want the butter and sugar to melt at similar rates otherwise it may separate. Once bubbling vigorously, don't stir it but allow the caramel to boil for exactly 3 minutes. Then take off the heat and add the vanilla essence and swirl to mix. Don't stir the caramel once it is boiling, you can swirl it around the saucepan to mix. Also make sure the mixture is a really angry bubbling quite hard rather than a weak lady-like bubbling.
|Not quite bubbling hard enough|
|Now that's about the level of bubbling ferociousness you want|
3. Pour the caramel evenly over the Salada crackers and place in the oven and bake at 200oC for 5-6 minutes.
4. Take the tray out and sprinkle the chocolate chips on evenly top. Wait around 5 minutes for the chips to melt then smooth the chocolate with a spatula. No need to put back into the oven, the heat of the caramel will melt the chocolate.
5. Crush the crystals of sea salt in between your fingers and sprinkle lightly on top of the chocolate. (You can also add the chopped toasted nuts at this point also)
6. Allow to cool for 2 - 3 hours at room temperature until the chocolate is hard. You can speed the process up by placing the tray into the fridge - be careful though as a sharp drop in temperature could cause the chocolate to bloom and discolour so make sure the tray is cool to touch before you put it in the fridge.
7. When the chocolate has hardened, pull out of the baking tray and cut into little triangles with a sharp knife. Store in an airtight container for around one week.