Honey Caramels come to you in honor of NYC’s Pollinator Week (this week!), which is coordinated by Just Food. Beekeeping is currently illegal in New York City (sign a petition to make it legal here), although there are quite a few rogue beekeepers in Brooklyn and in the rest of New York City. Read more about urban beekeeping here.
I found this recipe in the Puerto Rican Cookbook by Elizabeth B.K. Dooley, an antique cookbook that is part of my growing collection of ye olde cookbooks. It dates from the mid-40s, and is a fascinating collection of Puerto Rican food from the era of American colonization (i.e, prior to Puerto Rico becoming a Commonwealth). It’s got an entire chapter dedicated to recipes made with honey; pretty interesting coming from an island that grew a heck of a lot of sugar cane.
If you’re a novice candy maker, it really, really helps to have a candy thermometer on hand. The various stages of candy making (soft ball, firm ball, hard ball, etc.) tend to happen really, really quickly – you can take your candy from firm ball to hard ball in just seconds and then be totally screwed (mind out of the gutter, people). Without a proper candy thermometer, you will have to drop a bit of your candy into ice water to determine its stage in the candy making process. Don’t be intimidated – it’s really not that difficult, you just have to pay close attention to what’s going on in your pot. Also – hot sugar is one of the hottest, most dangerous things you’ll come across in the kitchen. I kid you not. If you get hot caramel on your skin, it just keeps on burning and burning. (Speaking from experience here.) So be careful, OK?
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup honey (mild honey works best here)
1 cup raw sugar (or granulated sugar)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Fleur de sel or other sea salt for topping
Special Equipment: 8×8 pan, candy thermometer (optional)
- Line an 8×8 pan with aluminum foil, letting the edges of the foil hang over the side of the pan, and spray with cooking spray, or butter generously.
- Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan.
- Add the honey, sugar, and heavy cream. Stir over medium heat until the sugar has mostly dissolved.
- Turn the heat to medium low. Clip your candy thermometer onto the side of the pan….carefully.
- Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches firm ball stage, which you can determine in one of two ways: a. the mixture reaches 248ºF (give or take a degree or two) on a candy thermometer (it will be marked with “FB” or “firm ball”) or b. Drop a bit of the mixture into a small bowl filled with ice water. It should immediately form a ball that you can squeeze together with your fingers without it dissipating.
- Immediately remove from the heat, quickly stir in the vanilla (it will bubble slightly) and pour the mixture into your greased pan. Sprinkle with fleur de sel or other sea salt.
- Let cool, lift out of the pan using the foil, then cut into squares and wrap in squares of parchment paper or cellophane.
Note: If you happen to accidentally take your caramels past the firm ball stage (i.e., if the caramel mixture gets a little too hard after it has cooled), remelt the candy over low heat with 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Stir until the mixture is totally combined, then do the ice water test to check the consistency of the mixture (dropping the mixture into cold water is a reliable indicator of what the texture/consistency of the caramels will be when cool). Immediately pour into a newly-foil lined and greased pan, and cool completely.