Monday, December 3, 2012

Vanilla Passion Caramels

When I went to Paris for the first time this past summer, one of my friends gave me a list of food recommendations, and one of the most highlighted items were the mango passion caramels from Jacques Genin.  So Ellen and I made sure to make it one of our first stops in the city, and omg, was it so worth it.  You already know about my obsession with the passion fruit ice cream, and this caramel was basically the best caramel ever infused with the purified sunshine of passion fruit and mangoes.

I've been hoping to try to recreate this treat but all my web searches only turned up really complicated recipes that needed some weird ingredients or recipes for making passion fruit caramel sauce.  I wasn't confident enough to try adapting a regular butter caramel recipe since the only other time I had made caramels were the bacon fat caramels, but then I saw Smitten Kitchen's apple cider caramels post.  First I made the apple cider caramels according to her recipe to get familiar with the process and figure out how soft the caramels were.  They turned out exactly as she had promised--a burst of apple cider and buttery goodness--except that I ended up with a mouthful of cinnamony sharp salt at the end.  I'm guessing it's because I used Maldon salt (as recommended in the recipe), which has pretty large salt crystals, and you don't add it until the very end along with the cinnamon so there isn't a lot of time for the salt to dissolve.

I adapted the recipe by switching in passion fruit puree for the apple cider and using kosher salt in the beginning instead of the end.  I also decided to throw in vanilla bean to partially temper the tartness of the passion fruit and also add a little crackle from the seeds.

I'm super impressed with the results:  not only does it taste super delicious, it's also pretty easy to make, for caramels.  I love that everything is cooked together instead of caramelizing the sugar first and then adding in the butter and cream.  The latter process can get a little scary when the caramel explodes in volume, especially if you underestimated the size of the pot you're using.  I would recommend using a candy or instant read thermometer because you want to make sure the mixture cooks to 252°F, right in between the firm ball and hard ball stage.  If you don't cook it long enough, the caramel will be too soft, but if you cook it too far, it will be too hard.  I've taken pictures of what the caramel looks like every 10 degrees above 220°F to give you an idea of what it looks like, and you could, of course, just drop a bit into cold water to figure out which stage the sugar is at, but a thermometer is really just the easiest way to figure it out.

Vanilla Passion Caramel
Vanilla Passion Caramels
makes 60 pieces

1/2 vanilla bean
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup passion fruit pulp (the easiest to find is the frozen Goya brand, sometimes with the frozen fruits, sometimes with the frozen ethnic foods)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup white sugar or vanilla sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
Neutral oil (like grape seed or canola) for the knife

Line the bottom and sides of an 8- inch straight- sided square metal baking pan with 2 long sheets of crisscrossed parchment. Set it aside.

Vanilla bean
Make a lengthwise slit down the side of the vanilla bean and open it up. Scrape out the seeds and add it to a small saucepan along with the cream and butter.  (Tip:  Instead of throwing away the vanilla bean, store it in your sugar to make vanilla sugar!)

Steeping the vanilla
Heat on medium just until the butter is melted and turn off the flame. Gently stir to break up the vanilla seed clusters. Let steep for 10-15 minutes.

Reduced passion fruit pulp

Meanwhile, boil the passion fruit pulp in a 3- to- 4- quart saucepan over high heat until it is reduced in volume by half. Stir occasionally, making sure that it doesn't burn.

Adding the cream and sugars
Once you are finished reducing the passion fruit pulp, remove it from the heat and stir in the salt, sugars, and vanilla cream mixture.

242 F
Return the pot to medium heat with a candy thermometer attached to the side, and let it boil until the thermometer reads 252°F.

Pouring the caramel
Immediately remove caramel from heat and pour caramel into the prepared pan. Let it sit until cool and firm—about 2 hours, though it goes faster in the fridge.

Vanilla Passion Caramel
Once caramel is firm, use your parchment paper sling to transfer the block to a cutting board. Use a well-oiled knife, oiling it after each cut, to cut the caramel into batons about 2" long and 3/8" wide. Wrap each one in waxed paper, twisting the sides to close.

I keep the caramels in an air-tight container in the refrigerator and let them warm to room temperature before eating.  They will also last a couple of weeks at room temperature.  These are so good, I can barely bear to share them, but if so inclined, they would make great Christmas gifts!

Three years ago:  Stuffed Delicata Squash
Four years ago:  Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream


  1. Lovely! I think I'm a bit obsessed with the apple cider caramels (I've made 3 batches already). Too bad your first try wasn't a favorite. I'd definitely give it another go with a finer salt.

  2. inspiring :-). based on your tip, i found passionfruit pulp at my closest Stop & Shop, so i'll be trying this sometime.... i'd like to make them as Christmas gifts, but i don't know if i'll be organized enough =P.

  3. lovely,easy recipe. I have never made caramels with the all in one method but will give it a go. Have you thought of adding apricot puree to intensify the passionfruit flavour without increasing tartness? It's common to use it for certain fruits when making pate de fruit.
    By the way, I wondered why you did not measure in grams, rather than volume? Thanks again!

    1. I haven't thought of that; I wonder if mango puree would work similarly.

      I used just used volume because I figured more people would have measuring cups compared to a kitchen scale.