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smoky salty caramels

March 22, 2010

Balance. It’s so easily achieved, if you try.

And I suppose that is what I’m reminding myself of, as I type this post up all over again, casting aside stories of a hot, humid Summer, tea for two with Hilaire and a jaunt around the office on a day of annual leave oh-so-long-ago.

That, and not just sometimes, it is good to block out an hour on your calendar and to sit and chat with a girlfriend in the kitchen over lunch.

That it is good to, when the last of your must-do-today list has been crossed off, run off home early (by which I mean earlier than the not-so-early hometimes I’ve been having of late).

To go for a run to the gym. To engage in some balance. To run back home and eat dinner at the same time as if you’d stayed back those extra couple of hours to do work that could be done tomorrow.

That it is good to try, and it is good even if it is just to try, to spend time with family while you’re here and they’re here and everyone is ready and willing to eat cake.

And that when all is done, and you feel refreshed and energetic and alive (!), to bring smoky salted caramels to work for Hilaire-whose-lapsang-souchong-you-“stole”-to-make-said-caramels. And to deliver a small baggie to a blogger for whom your fan-dom is sometimes quite embarrassing.

Just for kicks.

lapsang souchong & smoked salt caramels

For the unacquainted, lapsang souchong is a dark, smoky, earthy tea that is one of the many components of the more popular Russian Caravan blend. Be warned that, when you’re infusing the cream with all of those lovely flavours, your mother may yell down the stairs with a “Cheh! Something’s burning!” and then your father, with a “What’s in that pot? Is something burning?” and then the Bean, who will dance merrily around the kitchen chanting “Burning! Burning! Burning!” until you chase her out with a wooden spoon.

You will need:

1 tbs lapsang souchong tea leaves (I used Toby Estate)
1 cup thickened cream
½ cup golden syrup
1 cup sugar
½ tsp + 2 tsp smoked sea salt flakes (I used Maldon)
1 tsp vanilla bean paste / 1 vanilla bean pod
50g butter, cold and cubed

How to do it:

1. Tip your cream, vanilla bean paste (or halved & scraped vanilla pod) and tea leaves into a small saucepan. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until little bubbles form. Put the lid on and turn the heat off. Leave the cream to cool with the lid on for 20-30 mins so the tea and vanilla infuse into the cream.

2. Try not to lift the lid too often to smell the tea. It’s hard, but you can do it.

3. Tip the sugar, golden syrup and ½ tsp of smoked salt into another saucepan (heavy bottomed works best). Make sure you have enough room for it to triple in volume, just in case.

4. Put your sugar-laden pot on the heat and cook, stirring until small bubbles form. Cover the pot and let it simmer for about three minutes.

5. Now take the lid off and turn up the heat until it reaches 150C. You can check this with a sugar thermometer. I wouldn’t recommend using the hard / soft ball method here. Unless you know how to use it properly. I don’t. Hm.

6. Turn the heat off. Add the butter then the strained cream. It will be easier for you if you first strain the contents of your cream/tea/vanilla pot into a pouring jug, but you can strain it straight into the caramel pot too if you like. Which is scary. Again, not recommending it. Mainly because at this point, everything smokes and bubbles and looks like crazy. Which is a little scary if you aren’t used to making caramels, but not so scary in the scheme of things.

7. Turn the heat back on and stir stir stir! We want everything to become lovely and homogenous now. Keep it at a decently energetic bubble until it hits 125C then turn it off.

8. While it’s cooling a touch, grease a square pan (I used a 25cm x 25cm) generously and then line with greaseproof paper. Carefully tip the molten caramelly mixture into the tin and leave it to cool for about an hour, or until it is squishy to touch.

9. Sprinkle the remaining smoked salt flakes over the top and leave 4 hours more (or overnight) to set. You can cut it into smaller squares once it’s set with a sharp knife that’s been run under hot water then dried.

10. Hand them over to Hilaire at work and watch his eyes light up at the bounty. Don’t forget to secrete a few in your desk drawer so that you can eat them for breakfast. Which is oh-so-wrong… but oh-so-right.


  • #1
    March 22nd, 2010

    Nothing tastes as good as freedom.

    …except FIRE.

    Delicious.

  • #2
    March 22nd, 2010

    So happy to see a new post from you! Hope you attain that much sought after balance that us modern day people struggle with amongst the demands of employers and other things. For now, have another caramel =)

  • #3
    March 22nd, 2010

    Great post. I am sure Hilaire didn’t mind that you took the tea to make these. I love love caramels. So addictive. Bad bad for your teeth. But so so good..

  • #4
    March 22nd, 2010

    These are delicious!

    Hopefully you find the balance, too. I’m struggling big time.

  • #5
    March 22nd, 2010

    Oooo these look really cool. Homemade sweets are like the ultimate in cooking pleasure. There only purpose is to make you feel good. Great recipe and story.

  • #6
    March 22nd, 2010

    Lol I can imagine Bean doing that hee hee mmmm these look sooo good!

  • #7
    March 23rd, 2010

    These look fantastic. I obsess over salted caramels!

  • #8
    March 23rd, 2010

    @The Ninja: Next time you make some fire, ship it over to me for a taste test ok?

    @mademoiselle delicieuse: Uh-oh. I ate them all. Might have to seek real balance instead 😉

    @Katherine: Shortly after eating about a quarter of them, I went to see my dentist. No cavities! Yeah!

    @Anh: Oh! I know how that feels. Hang in there!

    @Mark: And to live up to the “I bet you can’t do anything with lapsang souchong” challenge. But that’s a whole other story.

    @FFichiban: It’s funny in hindsight, but “BURNING BURNING!” tends to etch itself into your brain…

    @Miss Dissent: Me too – and smoked salt. Oh lordy!

  • #9
    March 24th, 2010

    these look great i have never attempted to make my own caramel chews, i’m scared i might really burn it!

    i should get a cooking thermometer!

  • #10
    March 27th, 2010

    Words cannot express how good these caramels were. In fact, they were so good I can’t bring myself to attempt the recipe, for fear I will be left with the disappointment of them not turning out as good as yours!

  • #11
    December 21st, 2014

    I found this page just by random surfing. I’m already in love with this smoky caramels (I’m a fan of lapsang souchong). You deserve a place in heaven for publishing it! 😉 Thanks!

Shez