A mouthful of a candy in more ways than one, these Salted Mexican Chocolate Caramels with Chili were my only real holiday candy project. Although I am sad I didn't have time to make fudge or many cookies this year, these caramels turned out so amazing I can't really complain.
They start with the same irresistible pairing of salt, chocolate and caramel as regular salted chocolate caramels, but they quickly turn on the tongue, becoming warmly spiced, the cinnamon and chilis combining to create a complex and smokey undertone. As the candy melts away, the mild heat of the chili appears on the back of the tongue.
Like my candy thermometer? It's ever so helpful! Good thing I know the cold water test (which is much more reliable than temperature for these sorts of things anyways).
Despite the fancy boutique flavors, this is no more difficult than any other caramel, and it can easily be made in a busy afternoon. I'd been wanting to experiment with Mexican chocolate and chilis in these caramels for some time now, and I'm glad they turned out well enough to share the recipe! Caramel is so adaptable, I've got a dozen other flavor combinations waiting in the wings...
Salted Mexican Chocolate Caramels with Chili
Adapted from Epicurious' Salted Chocolate Caramels
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2-4 small dried red chilis, broken into pieces
- 1 tsp cinnamon, or to taste
- 5 oz fine-quality dark or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 5 1/2 oz Mexican chocolate, such as Ibarra, Abuelita, or if you are lucky, Taza, also finely chopped
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup Lyle's Golden Syrup or light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
- 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt such as Maldon
Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch straight-sided square metal baking pan with 2 long sheets of crisscrossed parchment.
The first step is infusing the cream with chili. I like to do this in parts, in case your chilis are more or less hot than you expect, but if you are feeling confident, by all means infuse in one step! Bring 1 cup of cream to a boil and add half the chili pieces. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 30 minutes. Test the cream for spiciness — it should be a little spicier than you'd like the final candy to be. If it is too spicy, you can dilute it with the rest of the cream. If it is right, or too mild, strain it and repeat the process with the rest of the cream, adding more chilis if needed. If you can't get it spicy enough, you can supplement with a pinch of cayenne, but use a light hand and incorporate it well.
When the cream is as spicy as you would like, return all the strained cream just to a boil in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over moderately high heat, then reduce heat to low and add both kinds of chocolate and the cinnamon. Let stand 1 minute, then stir until chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat.
Bring sugar, syrup, water, and regular salt to a boil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, uncovered, without stirring but gently swirling pan occasionally, until sugar is deep golden, about 10 minutes. Tilt pan and carefully pour in chocolate mixture (mixture will bubble and steam vigorously). Continue to boil over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture forms a soft ball when cooled in water (Epicurious suggests 255°F). Add butter, stirring until completely melted, then immediately pour into lined baking pan (do not scrape any caramel clinging to bottom or side of saucepan). Let caramel stand 10 minutes, then sprinkle evenly with sea salt. Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 2 hours.
Carefully invert caramel onto a clean, dry cutting board, then peel off parchment. Turn caramel salt side up. Lightly oil blade of a large heavy knife and cut into 1-inch squares.