I love caramel in any form – ice cream, macarons, chocolates, and especially salted caramel. When I found Barefoot Contessa’s Fleur de Sel Caramels recipe in her very newest cookbook, How Easy is That?, it was love at first read.  I knew that it would be the perfect confection to bring to my friend’s Halloween party.  Not only was it a dessert, it was candy – for big kids!  And if Ina Garten tells you it’s easy to make, then it must be, right?

Wrong.  I would love to tell you that the recipe turned out exactly like the Contessa’s.  I even toyed with the idea of writing that my caramels were perfectly set, sticky salted sweets.  But that would be a lie.  Let’s face it, I am not a professional chef – and I learn mostly by trial and error.  Fortunately for you, I figured out my mistakes, and you will not face the same rock hard caramels that my friends almost cracked their teeth attempting to chew…  Truth be told, my caramels weren’t horrendous.  They were actually quite delicious, and perfect to suck on – à la See’s lollypops.   

My two missteps were as follows: (1) I used a meat thermometer rather than a candy thermometer, which has a maximum heat reading of 190 degrees, while I needed 248 degrees (rookie mistake).  (2) I presumed that “firm ball” meant that the caramel should actually resemble something like a baseball.  Oops.  “Firm ball” is not something you can eyeball – it is a technical cooking term that refers to the point where the candy reaches 245-250 degrees.  Because I used the meat thermometer, I let the caramels overcook, which is why they were hard.  I was so anxious that the caramels would be too fluid, that I never considered the opposite result.  Never one to make the same mistake twice, I ran out the very next day and purchased an apropos Martha Stewart Candy Thermometer.

Now that you know what not to do, you will be able to make these perfect sweets for your next party.  p.s. they also make adorable stocking stuffers!  xx tt


Recipe – adapted from Barefoot Contessa


·  ½ cup sugar

·  ¼ cup water

·  ¼ cup light corn syrup

·  1  cup heavy cream

·  5 tablespoons unsalted butter

·  1 teaspoon fleur de sel, plus extra for sprinkling on top of each caramel (you can use Maldon Salt or Sea Salt if you cannot find fleur de sel)

·  ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

·  2 tablespoons corn oil for coating the parchment paper (it’s flavorless)

·  2 tablespoons corn oil for coating the knife before cutting the caramels

·  Glassine or parchment paper


·  Line the bottom of an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper, then brush the paper lightly with oil, allowing the paper to drape over two sides – the paper will NOT want to stay put, so weigh it down with a glass or something heavy until you are ready to pour the caramel in

·  In a small pan over medium heat to bring the cream, butter, and fleur de sel to a simmer (just before a boil, where the tiny bubbles are forming just at the sides of the pot)

·  Remove the cream mixture from the heat, set aside and put a plate over it to keep warm

·  In a deep saucepan (at least six inches wide and four inches deep) combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water

·  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat

·  Boil until the caramel is a warm golden brown color – DO NOT STIR, just swirl the pan to mix

·  Watch carefully, as it can burn quickly (which you don’t want because the burned taste will stay with the caramels)

·  When the caramelized sugar is the right color, SLOWLY add the cream mixture to the caramel - it will boil up spectacularly

·  Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon

·  Cook over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees F (firm ball) on a CANDY THERMOMETER (not a meat thermometer)

·  Very carefully (it’s hot!) pour the caramel into the prepared pan and refrigerate until firm, but not completely cold

·  When properly cooled, pry the caramel block from the pan onto a cutting board

·  Cut the block in half, and roll each tightly length-wise until you have two eight-inch long logs

·  Sprinkle both logs lightly with fleur de sel

·  Brush your knife with corn oil as needed, and cut each log into eight pieces

·  Cut glassine or parchment papers in six by four-inch squares and wrap each caramel in a paper, twisting the ends

·  Store in the refrigerator or at room temperature

·  Devour