Bourbon Salted Caramels

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

I guess it’s time we kick it into full gear and discuss homemade holiday gifts! I’m trying to get my head in the game…but I’m still mustering up the energy to out my fridge of Thanksgiving remnants. When it comes to holiday gift giving, I like going with treats that are a little bit different. I prefer to make treats that will standout in a crowd of holiday tins filled with chocolate dipped Ritz crackers (totally amazing btw). These Bourbon Salted Caramels are sure to do the trick. They’re salty with the faintest hint of bourbon…so that’s kind of palate cleansing, right?

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

In these caramels the bourbon and the sweetened condensed milk round out the flavor and give it a little more depth. Less butter notes, more grown up flavors! What I love about caramel making is that it really takes the littlest amount of ingredients,  with a bit of patience and some good crafting skills (hello wrapping candies!) and you’re good to go!

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

If you’re anything like me you’ll daydream about opening up your own salted caramel candy shop while you’re wrapping each delicious caramel square. Sweet/Salty/Booze/YES/PLEASE.

And we’re off!

Ingredient gathering. Not many ingredients, huh? Love that.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

First things first. You need to add parchment to an 8 x 8 baking pan. I secured the edges with binder clips.

I only had three…which means I need to seriously clean out my junk drawer.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Get your butter cut up into pieces. We want to prep as much as possible because caramel is FAST.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Let’s begin. Water, sugar & corn syrup go into a medium saucepan. You’re gonna cook it until it turns a dark amber color.

The recipe says it takes 8-10 minutes. It took a little bit longer for me. No bigs!

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Next step is adding the butter & sweetened condensed milk.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Caramel coming along. Add in the condensed milk.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Stir in your butter!

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Pop in your candy thermometer. We need to get it to 240F.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Once it’s at the right temp (look at the color!) we stir in the salt & bourbon.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Pour into your prepared pan!

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Let it cool for a bit.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Now we bring in the big guns!! Maldon Sea Salt Flakes! They are AMAZING.

It’s AMAZING on avocado toast. Just saying…. Oh and BREAD WITH BUTTER. Unnngh.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Sprinkle the top.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

OK. Now that the caramel has cooled, we are ready to cut! Trim the edges…which means EAT THE EDGES.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Cut vertically.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

Then horizontally.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

I decided to wrap mine up in waxed paper because I ran out of parchment. Totally a good option!

To make wrappers, cut the paper into 3 x5 sheets. Wrap them/twist them!

bourbonsaltedcaramels 017

They are deeeeeeeeeee-lish. Add more salt if you feel so inclined.

Bourbon Salted Caramels // shutterbean

This batch makes SO MANY!  Get your caramel on!

Bourbon Salted Caramels

makes about 75-100 caramels (depending how small you cut them)

recipe slightly adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine

  • nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1  14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Lightly coat a 8 x 8″ baking pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2″ overhang on 2 sides; spray parchment.

Bring sugar, corn syrup, 1/4 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cook, swirling pan occasionally, until mixture turns a deep amber color, 8 -10 minutes.  (It took me about 12-14)

Remove pan from heat and whisk in sweetened condensed milk and butter (mixture will bubble vigorously) until smooth. Fit pan with candy thermometer and return to medium-low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until thermometer registers 240F. Remove from heat and whisk in the bourbon and kosher salt. Pour into prepared pan; let cool. Sprinkle caramel with sea salt, cut into 1 inch pieces and wrap individually in parchment paper.

Caramels can be made up to 2 weeks ahead. Store wrapped tightly in plastic in an airtight container at room temperature. I have mine in the fridge.

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89 Comments

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  • December 4, 2013

    Gosh they look and sound wonderful! Bourbon, butter, sugar, sweet cond milk – it’s impossible to be bad! Pinned

  • December 4, 2013

    UNGH. So good. And that salt? It’s the best. I’m now craving avocado toast, and salted bourbon caramels.

  • December 4, 2013

    These look AMAZE! There’s nothing better than salt and caramel. Will have to look around for these salt flakes!

  • December 4, 2013

    Dang. These look perfect!!

  • Jane M
    December 4, 2013

    Sweeeet! The hit of any party fer sure! Can’t wait to try the recipe.

  • Woah you had me at salted caramel and then you had me all over again with the bourbon! (Didn’t mean for that to come out so dirty, apologies!)

  • December 4, 2013

    Very good idea! And the making-of photos want me to go buy a caramel thermometer and make my own

  • jenny
    December 4, 2013

    This is probably sacrilege, Tracy, but do you think it would work to substitute like a T of vanilla for the bourbon? My friends aren’t very boozy, but I LOVE the recipe other than that. Also…any thoughts on how well these would hold up in the mail to a cold climate?

    • Tracy
      December 4, 2013

      should be fine!

      • jenny
        December 5, 2013

        Thanks! :)

  • December 4, 2013

    These just made my list of must-have holiday treats! Thanks!

  • December 4, 2013

    love this. i made beer caramels for gifts earlier this year, but bourbon feels much more festive for the fall/winter holiday season. definitely adding these to the holiday gift-making marathon that is about to happen :)

    • Tracy
      December 4, 2013

      oooh! intrigued by the beer!

  • December 4, 2013

    I use that salt for everything uncooked and its delicious. Love how it falkes in your hands and to get to lick the fingers :)

  • December 4, 2013

    OMG these look amazing. I will have to give these to myself.

  • These look amazing … so amazing that they might make their way into gift bags at my annual holiday party! Thank you for sharing.

  • Amy
    December 4, 2013

    If they are wrapped individually, will they last longer than two weeks?

    • Tracy
      December 4, 2013

      Most likely!

  • It has been forever since I last made homemade caramels. There’s no time like the present, especially since we are entering the holiday season. Love that you added bourbon to these!

  • Kate
    December 4, 2013

    Those look incredible. I think I’m going to make these for people in my office, but I don’t have a candy thermometer. Can you recommend one?

    • Tracy
      December 4, 2013

      I put a link to one in the post. It’s in the step by step directions :)

  • December 4, 2013

    I am SO making these for Christmas. If only to eat the trimmed edges!

  • Amy
    December 4, 2013

    YAY! I dog-eared this, as salted caramels are on my to-do list this year, and knew that BA wouldn’t disappoint… but knowing you love them has convinced me! I’m gonna make em this week!

  • December 4, 2013

    I knew the second I saw these in Bon Appetit that I wanted to make these. Gorgeous!

  • December 4, 2013

    These sound like the best possible idea of holiday giving. Bourbon, salt, and lovely chewy caramel–what’s not to love?

  • December 4, 2013

    I can’t even read the post, all I can do is stare at the photos! ;)

  • December 4, 2013

    I made these on the weekend! Then I stuffed them inside browned butter bourbon spice cookie dough and baked them. ummmm….AMAZING!

  • December 4, 2013

    These look so yummy AND pretty easy – what a great idea for a holiday gift! This is when I know I need to get a candy thermometer.

  • December 4, 2013

    bourbon all day every day. you make these look so easy!

    • Tracy
      December 4, 2013

      cuz they are!!

  • December 4, 2013

    These look amazing! I am doing a lot of homemade gifts this year too :) Granola and candies were on the list (it’s all about balance, right?).
    I might have a go at substituting cognac for the bourbon – we have an extra bottle left over from a party :)
    Thanks Tracy!

  • December 4, 2013

    So simple, I love it! I will totally make these as gifts, thank you. They look super chewy uuuuuuuugggggh so good. Maldon sea flakes on everything ever!
    Heidi xo

  • December 4, 2013

    these are my weakness. add the booze and you have sold me!

  • Jenn
    December 4, 2013

    Tracy! Yum! I am in love with the apple cider caramels from smitten kitchen but maybe it’s time to branch out.

    (a typo, I think: in the step-by-step directions with the photos you say to add the sugar and the bourbon together… I think you mean the salt?)

    • Tracy
      December 4, 2013

      yes. thank you. FIXING IT NOW CUZ OMG.

  • December 4, 2013

    Yum! I used to work for Liddabit Sweets — we’d spend HOURS wrapping soooo many caramels (they make amazing ones in great flavors – I feel like you’d like their beer & pretzel flavor, btw), but it kind of felt worth it to be able to snack on the edge scraps. I will work for caramel, apparently…

  • December 4, 2013

    Wow! Usually caramel is not my go-to candy, but your little bourbon, salty treats look fantastic! I love that the recipe makes a tons, always great motivation!

  • December 4, 2013

    These would not last a day in my house! They look awesome! I am so making these : )

  • I usually make my grandmother’s caramel recipe for the holidays, but her recipe is missing the bourbon! I might be trying these this year. :)

  • Ashley C
    December 5, 2013

    Tracy, do you know a substitute for corn syrup? I live in the UK. Do you know if golden syrup will work?

  • Amanda
    December 5, 2013

    I brought these to a party last night and they were a major hit! Thanks for the recipe!!

  • December 5, 2013

    Oh my my, these look delicious. I have been searching for a treat to bring for christmas with the fam. this might be it!

  • fusilliamy
    December 5, 2013

    YEAH GIRL. That sprinkled salt is so pretty!

  • HP
    December 5, 2013

    I made these last night and I’m excited to get home to cut and wrap. I’m lazy though, so instead of wrapping all of them individually I’m going to use some to make the Pioneer Woman’s pretzel turtles. Two variations on one candy!

    • HP
      December 5, 2013

      oh, and now that I have pretzels I’ll use those to make your white chocolate peppermint pretzels, Tracy! …..and THEN I’ll use the leftover candy canes to make…it’s never gonna end.

  • So pretty! And I’m all about the bourbon.

  • December 5, 2013

    These look amazing and I love the way you wrapped them up in parchment paper. Makes for a great hostess gift for the holidays!

  • Kim
    December 8, 2013

    Love this…going to make these for Christmas! Thanks for posting and the witty commentary.

  • December 8, 2013

    These are amazing! Made them as holiday gifts for neighbors and for valet and front desk staff in my building and they were a big hit. Thanks for helping me to be brave enough to attempt (and succeed at) making candy. Cheers!

  • Christina B.
    December 8, 2013

    I made these last night and they are so delicious. My only question is, how soft are these supposed to be? Mine were pretty soft, even after cooling for a long time. I froze them for a little bit and then covered them in chocolate, which turned out great! But, how can I get them to be a little bit more firm? Any ideas?

    • Tracy
      December 8, 2013

      I would cook them for a little bit longer. I also have kept mine in the fridge this week. If they have a little chill on them, they’re obviously harder.

  • Maria
    December 11, 2013

    What brand of butter do you use? I was thinking or using Kerrygold.

    • Tracy
      December 11, 2013

      I ALWAYS use kerrygold.

  • nikki
    December 11, 2013

    Just made these soo good! Mine are a bit soft too but still tasty I didnt have a candy thermometer so I just did the water test bowl of cold water amd dripped it in till I found the perfect co sistancy!l yum :) I also used ameretto since I dodnt have bourbon

  • claire
    December 12, 2013

    hi tracy –
    i made these last night, and they were perfect for the party. however, this morning, i noticed the texture had turned grainy. any thoughts on why this would happen overnight when the texture was so great the night before??

    • Tracy
      December 12, 2013

      Bizarre! How did you store them?

      • claire
        December 13, 2013

        So – I stored mine at room temp and they became grainy. But i sent a bunch home with a friend who kept hers in the fridge, and she said they’re still great!

        Lesson learned – store in the fridge!

  • Kate
    December 12, 2013

    I made these this week. Rave reviews all around. The only thing is I’d say I really don’t taste the bourbon, but they are still delicious. I think I will experiment with adding an additional Tablespoon of bourbon when I make them again next week. (They were so popular, I’m going to give them out as Christmas presents.) One thing to note – I followed the recipe exactly, and when I went to cut them, they were hard – almost like toffee. After doing some research online, I decided to melt the batch down on low heat and add some water (almost a half cup) before pouring it all out into the pan again. The texture ended up being exactly right.

    • Tracy
      December 12, 2013

      Oh wow! They were pretty soft when I cut mine. Did you overcook the caramel? The bourbon taste is subtle- but I wonder if you cooked alcohol taste off?

  • Rhonda
    December 14, 2013

    Just made my first batch — you were right, they’re easy! I’ve always wanted to try making caramel. Everyone says it easy, but I think having the photo guide gave me the confidence to try it. I did replace one of the tablespoons of hootch with vanilla since I was worried it might be too boozy for a wimp like me. I think they’ll be awesome — I tried some pan scraps. Thanks Tracy!

  • Cindy
    December 18, 2013

    Heya Tracy!

    These look FABULOUS and I am going to try to make them this weekend! I love the photos detailing each step, thank you. :)

    However, I think you meant to type the word “cool” at the end of the recipe, not “cook” in this line at the end:

    “Pour into prepared pan and let cool…sprinkle with sea salt…etc.”

    Cheers,
    Cindy

    • Tracy
      December 18, 2013

      oh MY MISTAKE!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jessica
    December 20, 2013

    Yum! I made these for holiday gifts two nights ago. They were way too soft the first time around (due to my impatience). I reheated the batch to 250F, added a little more bourbon, and they turned out perfectly!

    Thanks Tracy!

  • December 29, 2013

    I love caramels, but I’ve always been a disaster making them. HOWEVER, this recipe makes me feel like I should try again because the combo of sea salt, bourbon and caramel sounds out-of-control wonderful. Thanks for sharing, Tracy!

  • Jenny
    January 13, 2014

    I would love to make these but I don’t have a candy thermometer. Any suggestions on how I can work around that? Can I use other things instead of bourbon? Amaretto? Vanilla extract?

    • Tracy
      January 13, 2014

      You should really get yourself one! You can always eyeball when a caramel is done, but there’s such a fine line! You can definitely sub in vanilla or amaretto. It’s really about the amount– too much liquid and you can mess with it setting. Good luck!

      • Jenny
        January 13, 2014

        I clicked the link of the one you bought from Amazon. $9.99 is not bad. I always thought they were more expensive so I never bothered getting one but at that price I may just bite the bullet!

  • Rhonda
    January 22, 2014

    I like these so much I made myself a batch the other night. I did figure out that my knife has to be really sharp and the caramels need to be really, really cooled in order not to fight with them too much. I think they’re totally yummy and I treat myself to a few before (and after) a run.

  • Jade
    January 28, 2014

    Hi! I just made these tonight and they’re amazing! I could see wanting more alcohol as the flavor is slight. I did also add some vanilla for extra flavor!
    I do have a question… I apparently totally messed up and I can’t remember adding the butter! Crazy right! But they seem fine! I’m thinking I’ll make another batch tomorrow and male sure I add the butter just to see…I’m just curious about them still turning out so nice. Is the butter more a flavor thing? It could also be that I’ve lost my mind and I just forgot that I added it…but I know I didn’t! I dunno..either way they’re delicious and make awesome gifts!!! :)

    • Tracy
      January 29, 2014

      Butter adds texture and flavor. The caramels are buttery! You’ll see.

  • Sherry D
    September 3, 2014

    Is it possible to use heavy cream instead of sweetened condensed milk? I’m afraid they’ll end up being too sweet for me.

    • Tracy
      September 3, 2014

      I’m concerned that the proportions might need to adjusted then. Caramel can be fickle!

  • Lisa G. Roy
    November 14, 2014

    Can you dip these in chocolate? thank you, Lisa

    • Tracy
      November 15, 2014

      You should be able to! I’d make sure they were super cold when you do it so it’s easier to work with!

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