I first spotted this recipe about a month ago when my December issue of Bon Appetite came in the mail. As a sucker for anything cooked with bourbon, I immediately dog-eared the page and made plans to return to the recipe as soon as possible. I had never made homemade caramels before, but knew I had found a great place to start.
When I got an invitation for my dear friend’s third annual “Thirsty Santa” Christmas party, I knew right away what I would bring: Shauna Niequist’s goat cheese and bacon dates and these bourbon-sea salt caramels. We spent the night munching on festive treats and stealing one another’s booze–all in good fun as part of our game. I returned home with a full belly, an empty date tray, and only a small handful of candy.
I modified the original recipe a bit, adding a bit more salt and an extra splash of bourbon. I often enjoy a salty contrast in sweet treats, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love an extra slosh of bourbon?
A candy thermometer is essential as you want to be sure and reach that perfect “soft ball” stage, and when I say constantly whisk, I mean it. My arm was sore for a good two days. I think that maybe I’ve found my new favorite, holiday workout…
Bourbon-Sea Salt Caramels
Adapted from Bon Appetite magazine
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3 tbsp bourbon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Cover an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper. Lightly coat paper with nonstick cooking spray.
Bring sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cook until mixture turns a deep amber color. About 8-10 minutes.
Remove pan from heat and whisk in sweetened condensed milk and butter until smooth. Fit pan with candy thermometer and return to medium-low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until thermometer registers 240 degrees. Remove from heat and whisk in bourbon and kosher salt. Pour into prepared pan and allow caramel to cool completely. Once cool, sprinkle caramel with sea salt and cut into small pieces. Wrap each piece individually in parchment paper.
Store in airtight container at room temperature. Recipe yields approximately 50 pieces.