These chewy salted caramels are an easy, homemade holiday gift for family, friends, neighbors, teachers, and most importantly, yourself. They're soft and chewy, creamy and sweet, with a healthy dusting of flaky sea salt for the perfect sweet-savory bite.
Line your baking dish with parchment paper, leaving enough hanging over two opposite sides to easily lift the cooled caramels out of the pan. Liberally grease the parchment with butter or cooking spray.
Combine the white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup,heavy cream and butter in a 6-quart dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot. Heat over medium heat and stir continuously until all ingredients are melted and blended together.
Affix a candy thermometer to the side of the pot, about 1" below the surface of the mixture, but not touching the bottom. Turn up the heat to high and bring the sugar mixture to a boil.
Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium low and let the sugar mixture simmer with slow, medium-sized bubbles until the candy thermometer reaches 248-252*. You can stir every once in a while to incorporate the sugar crystals from the side of the pan back into the mixture. It will take 40-45 minutes to reach the correct temperature. Watch the thermometer carefully after it reaches 230-235*, as the temperature increases pretty quickly after that point.
Once the mixture hits 248-252*, immediately remove from heat and pour in the vanilla. The mixture will vigorously bubble. Stir in the vanilla until evenly incorporated, then pour the caramel into the prepared baking dish. Use oven mitts to protect your hands and wrists from any splatter (it's extremely hot!). Allow the caramel to cool at room temperature for 15-20 minutes and then sprinkle half the sea salt over the caramels.
Allow the caramels to cool at room temperature overnight. The next day, sprinkle the remaining salt over the caramels. Lift up the caramels by the parchment paper flaps and transfer to a cutting board. Cut the caramels into 1" x 2/3" rectangles with a sharp, non-serrated blade. I occasionally spritz the blade with cooking spray (does not affect the taste) to ease the cutting process. Wrap the caramels in 4" x 5" squares of wax paper.
The caramels are good for 2-3 weeks if stored in an airtight container. I gift these in 1-lb gift boxes in 1.5 dozen increments.
Calories represent two salted caramels. Cooking time doesn't reflect at least 2 hours for cooling time in the fridge, or up to overnight at room temperature. When doubling this recipe, reduce the butter by 2 tbsp to prevent the final caramels from being too greasy.