Here’s my recipe:
3 cups manufacturing cream (or heavy cream if you can’t find manufacturing cream)
3 cups sugar
2 vanilla beans
2/3 cup orange-blossom honey
3 tbsp butter, softened
2 tbsp Peet’s Yin Hao Jasmine tea, from a freshly-opened tin – or the freshest, most powerfully jasminey tea you can find (this is important!)
Line a 9×12 pan (or something of similar size) with parchment paper, or aluminum foil oiled with a tasteless vegetable oil like canola oil.
Slice vanilla beans in half lengthwise (to open up the most surface area), add to cream, and bring to boil. Remove from heat and add 2 tbsp of jasmine tea. Steep for 30-45 seconds ONLY and pour through a strainer to remove the tea. Rinse off the vanilla beans, scrape the seeds into the cream, and add the vanilla beans back to the pot full of cream. (You want to steep the vanilla beans in the cream for as long as possible, so leave them in during the cooking.)
Put cream, sugar, vanilla beans, and honey in a 2-gallon pot. Put on medium-high heat (high heat if using an electric stove) and stir with a wooden spoon until sugar is dissolved. Cook to the firm-ball stage (250 degrees if using a candy thermometer – I personally hate the things, and use the ice water test instead), then remove from heat and add the softened butter. Stir in well, then pour into pan. Remove vanilla beans with a fork or the tip of a knife.
Let cool overnight before cutting with an oiled cutting board and well-oiled knife.
The reason you want to use so much tea (double the usual amount for green tea) and steep the tea for such a short period is that you want to extract the jasmine flavor (which comes out almost at once) without getting much of the bitterness of tea. With a very short steeping, it comes out with a strong jasmine fragrance, and just an intriguing hint of nuttiness/bitterness from the tea. Combined with the vanilla and orange-blossom honey (the more floral the honey the better – I buy mine from the farmer’s market, where it’s better than the supermarket brands), you get an intensely floral vanilla caramel that’s oh-so-yummy.
I then cut the caramels into pieces roughly 3/4″ square and dip them in tempered Valrhona Extra Bitter chocolate to make my chocolate-covered caramels, but as tempering chocolate takes considerable practice, you might just want to eat them straight up – when they’re also very yummy.
Next week I’ll give toffee recipes, unless I make toffee tomorrow that is 🙂