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Put the evening over the top by setting out these easy, impressive caramels after dessert. Or set out wax-paper bags so friends can take them home for the next day.
- Nonstick vegetable oil spray
- 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- Fleur de sel or flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Lightly coat an 8x8" baking pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper leaving a 2” overhang on all sides.
Place cream in a small saucepan and scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add pod. Heat over medium heat until cream just begins to steam, about 5 minutes; remove from heat and let cool slightly; remove vanilla pod.
Fit a small saucepan with thermometer and bring sugar, corn syrup, and ¼ cup water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil, swirling pan occasionally and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until thermometer registers 350° and mixture turns a deep amber color, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla cream and a pinch of fleur de sel (mixture will bubble vigorously, then the heat will drop quite a bit). Return to medium heat and cook, stirring, until thermometer registers 248° and caramel is smooth, about 1 minute.
Remove caramel from heat and whisk in butter, a little at a time, until smooth. Pour mixture into prepared baking pan and let cool 4 hours or overnight. Using parchment paper, lift caramel from pan; cut into ¾” pieces and sprinkle with fleur de sel before serving.
DO AHEAD: Caramels can be made 5 days ahead. Store wrapped tightly at room temperature.