I Want Candy's Elizabeth Perini Teaches Us How To Make Perfect Salted Caramel.
Candy making is an old art — and one that's lost on many these days. Perhaps that's understandable. Fun as it sounds, it's also a lot of work. You have to get your cooking temperatures exactly perfect, you have to have certain little tools at your disposal and, above all else, you have to have tons of patience and lots of time.
Let's face it: It's so much easier to run over to 7-Eleven and grab a Twix than it is make one at home.
But, see, here's the kicker: If you've ever had a homemade Twix, you know that they're pretty effing amazing. Made from scratch shortbread, caramel and chocolate, these treats will — quite literally — melt in your mouth. The caramel itself is pure joy.
And, thankfully, there are lovely, talented people right here in Dallas that actually take the time to grace us with these delicacies — people like Elizabeth Perini of I Want Candy.
Don't recognize the name? More than likely, you recognize Perini's work. She's the busy bee behind some of the homemade desert noms you've indulged in from some of Dallas' favorite food trucks.
Recently, we sat down with Elizabeth to get the scoop on her sweetness and find out how she makes her incredible salted caramel. It was quite the treat. Pun intended.
When did you start I Want Candy?
I Want Candy was accidentally started on Christmas Day when I made a batch of Sea Salt Caramels as last-minute gifts. Caroline and Miley from Easy Slider loved them and, after we finished eating the whole batch, they asked if I'd make some to include in their weekday lunch deal. Before I knew it, people were coming to the truck just to buy candy. Since then, I have not been able to make enough.
Soon, all I was doing was making and thinking about candy. I realized that I've always liked the idea of candy bars — but they aren't actually that good. The chocolate is waxy, the caramel is boring and, until I read a candy-making, book I had no idea what nougat even was. I knew that, with good ingredients and some creativity, candy could be really special.
What is your favorite candy to make?
So far, my two most popular are the Salty Twix (handmade shortbread, sea-salted caramel and dark chocolate) and the Cuppa Joe (caramel, coffee marshmallow and dark chocolate).
Are you a self taught candy-maker or professionally trained?
I'm a self-taught candy-maker, thanks to a lot of experimenting and the aforementioned books. I've spent my whole life around people who cook, both for business and pleasure, and I feel really comfortable in the kitchen. Making candy has meant learning a whole new set a skills.
I love it. There's so much joy in making candy. You seriously cannot be sad when making marshmallows!
OK, this one's important: Where can we buy your candy?
You can always find Sea Salt Caramels at Easy Slider. They usually have some candy bars, too.
When you see the Sugar Derby Vintage trailer at an event, you can bet you'll find a selection of candy atop her vintage dining table. Look for more locations soon.
And, sorry everyone, but I never have any candy in my purse!
What's your favorite store-bought candy?
I usually go for a chewy candy, llike Hot Tamales or Sour Patch Kids. I like things that are a little salty and whatever chemical that sour sugar is made from, it's great.
How did your love affair with sugar start?
When Caroline [of Easy Slider] and I were kids, our grandmother had an antique store in Buffalo Gap, Texas — population 463 — and there was a long counter covered in jars filled with old-fashioned candy. Jaw breakers, rock sugar and peppermint sticks — in all different flavors.
I would never want to eat any of that now, but I love the idea of it and have such fond memories of reaching up to grab treasure out of those jars.
What is your goal for I Want Candy?
My goal is to ruin convenience store candy bars for everyone! I want to use the best ingredients to make really delicious candy that people will love.
My short term goal is to finish a candy bar I've been working on that includes bourbon marshmallow and candied bacon.
You're welcome, Dallas!
Can we have the recipe for your famous Salted Caramels? Or is it a secret?
When you guys find out how easy it is to make caramels, you're not going to need me anymore. So I hope you're all lazy.
The cream is the ingredient to splurge on; the better the cream, the more delicious and creamy your caramels will be, so get the best you can find. I make my own vanilla extract, but I'm a professional and a snob!
– 4 tablespoons of butter, chopped into small cubes
– 1 and 1/2 cups of cream
– 2 cups of pure cane sugar
– 1/2 cup of light corn syrup
– a good pinch of sea salt
– 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1. Line a baking dish with foil and lightly oil it.
2. Combine everything but the vanilla extract in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat. Stir occasionally and wipe down the sides with warm water if sugar crystals form. It will bubble and then thicken and darken.
3. When your candy thermometer reaches 245 to 250 degrees, take the saucepan off the heat.
4. Stir in the vanilla, pour into your prepared dish, and sprinkle a generous amount of sea salt on top. I prefer Maldon salt.
5. Let sit until it's cool enough to touch, then take out of the dish, peel away the foil. If it won't peel easily, pop in the freezer for a few minutes.
6. Cut into pieces and wrap in parchment paper.
They'll keep about a week. If kept in the refrigerator they'll keep even longer.
One more note on temperatures: Depending on how you like your caramels, you can experiment with what temperature to bring them to. I usually bring mine to about 253 to 254 degrees, which makes them easy to work with and helps them stand up to the Texas heat a little better. When you get up to high 250s, you're reaching toffee territory. Yeah, that's a delicious place to visit, but I suggest using a larger dish so the candy will be thinner and more teeth-friendly.