Bitter, Sweet, Salty, Fun!

by Mara @ What's For Dinner? on May 16, 2010

in Baking, family, friends, simple recipe

What an incredibly fun weekend its been!

Friday night, Lizz, her mom and I went to a book signing for one of our favorite authors: Jen Lancaster! If you haven’t read any of her books, you need to. Like, now. Her first book, Bitter is the New Black, was one of the first books I can remember that had me laughing so hard I couldn’t read straight! We obviously had a horrible time…

jen lancaster


I’m almost halfway through her latest book, and I can already tell its among the funniest! Never fear, a true blogger at all times, we brought her some “Bitch” brand wine and I slipped her my blog business card… she even asked me for my tag line and complimented my cupcake necklace. Brushes with fame are so fun! We followed the book signing with a visit to The Cheesecake Factory in the Hancock Center. I swear, I only go to Cheesecake Factory with Lizz!

Lizz and I both started with a lovely glass of Riesling

cheesecake factory

I got stuffed chicken tortillas, Lizz’s mom got shepherd’s pie, and Lizz got Chicken Madiera. The photos are in that order:

cheesecake factory

cheesecake factory

cheesecake factory

I love that Lizz knew to hand me the plate with the “pretty” side facing, and she even rearranged the asparagus so it looked nice. (Side note: she has also taken to sending me photos of fun meals she makes! Methinks a guest post is in order…hint, hint). We headed home after 11 p.m. and I walked in the door of our house well after midnight.


I spent Saturday running errands with Adam, and then Saturday night working on my mom’s belated Mother’s Day present. Since last week, we went to visit with Adam’s grandmother, my mom and I did Mother’s Day today, so I spent yesterday making something special for her.


Any ideas as to what that’s a jar of? Let me turn it around for you…


Still no? Ok, ok, I’ll just tell you. They’re caramels. Homemade vanilla-maple and salted dark chocolate caramels. And they’re buttery, sweet, gooey and delicious… what, you want to know how to make them?

No problem! I found a few recipes online, and they all had a few things in common: butter, sugar, cream, and salt if desired. The cooking temperature was the same: 255 degrees.

Dark Chocolate Salted Caramels

Makes about 60 caramels


  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • 10 oz. good dark chocolate, chopped (I used Green & Black Organic 85%)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 c. light corn syrup
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1/2 tsp. fleur de sel (or other flaked or fine sea salt), plus some for sprinkling
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, cut into 1 Tbsp. chunks
  • necessary utensil: candy thermometer


You’ll need a large pot and a small pot (at least 5 qt. and a smaller one). Heat the cream to boiling and then add the chopped chocolate. Allow to sit, add the vanilla, then stir well until the chocolate is melted and incorporated. Set aside, off the heat. Place the remaining ingredients in the large pot. Make sure to attach the candy thermometer to the side of the pot, then bring the sugar mixture to a boil. Don’t stir it, but every once in a while, swirl the pot. Bring the sugar mixture up to 255*F (or hard ball stage) and then slowly pour in the cream. The mixture will foam and bubble up, but then calm down. Bring it back up to 255*F, and then pour into a parchment-lined 9×13 baking pan. Allow to cool 10 minutes, then sprinkle with additional fleur de sel, and then allow to cool at least 2 hours. Cut into small sections (I used a pizza cutter) and then wrap in pieces of waxed paper.

Variations: Eliminate the chocolate, replace with 1/4 c. maple syrup and scraped vanilla bean.

Some more pictures, because I’m proud of myself…




I’m really glad I saved about 10 of the chocolate ones in the freezer for “emergencies”… Oh! And my mom loved them!! Our Mother’s Day was great fun: shopping at NY&Co, wandering around WIlliams-Sonoma, lunch at Sushi Station, and then grocery shopping at Caputo’s, the best market ever. Yes, we went grocery shopping…we both get the same goofy thrill over gorgeous produce and unique products!

Happy late Mother’s Day mom! I love you!

Last thing: The winner of the $25 Wal-Mart gift card giveaway:

Heidi of this comment:

Congratulations! You’ll be getting your gift card very soon!
I have a very busy couple of days, and a very exciting event on Tuesday that I’ve been hiding from you all for a long time… I can’t guarantee I’ll post tomorrow, but trust me. The post Tuesday night will more than make up for it!
Something to do: Bobbi is having blogger bake sale today to raise funds for St.Jude Hero’s! Head over to NHerShoes, today to bid on some delicious treats!!! I’m selling 2 dozen custom-flavored/colored/sprinkled meringue cookies!

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Angie May 16, 2010 at 7:06 PM

Wow it looks like you had a really amazing weekend! I am going to check out those books! I love a read that makes me laugh out loud!
.-= Angie´s last blog ..Facebook Fan Page =-.


Jessica @ How Sweet It Is May 16, 2010 at 7:07 PM

Love Jen Lancaster, too! That is so cool!
And OMG salted caramels…droool.
.-= Jessica @ How Sweet It Is´s last blog ..Sweet and Sour Chicken. =-.


mom May 16, 2010 at 7:24 PM

Love you too! and the caramels are delicious>>> And so is meef.


Christina May 16, 2010 at 7:29 PM

Oh the caramels look so pretty! I tried to make them once, years ago when I first moved out and did not have a thermometer. haha It’s a pretty important necessity, so I had no idea what temp they got to. They were chewy.. like, teeth-ripping out chewy. :P

Congrats to the winner!
.-= Christina´s last blog ..Smashed Green Onion Potatoes =-.


Jenn (Jenn's Menu and Lifestyle Blog) May 16, 2010 at 7:46 PM

That looks like a VERY fun weekend!! I’m going to check out Jen Lancaster’s books.

You take picture with the “pretty side” of food, too? LOL I thought I was the only one picky enough to pose plates so that the better side is upfront. :D

I love Cheesecake Factory. Their avocado egg rolls are AMAZING.



caronae May 16, 2010 at 8:37 PM

Home made caramels? You’re brilliant girl. Now I reeeaaaalllllyyyy want some. I love when friends and family members know to do stuff for the blog! Like when I’m out at restaurants everyone knows not to dig n right away so I can take pictures first, lol. Happy Sunday!


Courtney @ Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life May 16, 2010 at 8:43 PM

YUMM!! Those caramels look amazingly delicious! Caramel is my FAVE! :-D


Marianne May 16, 2010 at 11:34 PM

Mmmm, salted dark chocolate caramel. Sounds perfect. If only I had a candy thermometer.
.-= Marianne´s last blog ..Liquid Lunch =-.


Mama Pea May 17, 2010 at 12:24 AM

I know you colored your hair awhile ago, but I’m not used to seeing it dark. You look so lovely!

I love salty and sweet. Those caramels sound divine.
.-= Mama Pea´s last blog ..All American Sunday =-.


Jenn (eating bender) May 17, 2010 at 1:01 AM

SOOOOO jealous of your brush with fame! Jen Lancaster is awesome – I love truly talented authors and she is one of them :)

Sounds like a very fun weekend! Can’t go wrong with Cheesecake Factory and the caramels you made for your mom? OMG. Heaven! Love that you went grocery shopping. Can you believe it has been over a year since we went to The Fresh Market? It seems like just yesterday. Can’t wait to see you!!
.-= Jenn (eating bender)´s last blog ..10K + 6.5 Years + 5 Months = Oh My! =-.


Mara @ What's For Dinner? May 17, 2010 at 6:36 AM

I just happen to have a few more in the freezer for a certain Tuesday dinner… :)


MizFit May 17, 2010 at 5:32 AM

I love you.

that is all.
.-= MizFit´s last blog ..No Excuses! part 3 coming tomorrow! =-.


Mara @ What's For Dinner? May 17, 2010 at 7:44 AM

I love you too :) That is all.


Biz May 17, 2010 at 11:18 AM

Love that you went grocery shopping at Caputo’s – love that store! Hey, my Mom and I went to Goodwill on Mother’s Day! :D

Happy Monday!


Julia May 17, 2010 at 3:59 PM

Cheesecake’s stuffed chicken tortillas are AMAZING. And the corn cake with it, AH, drool! Both varieties of these look delish and in the cute jar, perfect!
.-= Julia´s last blog ..Mini Vegetable Terrine =-.


Quix May 17, 2010 at 4:14 PM

Awesome weekend! Those caramels look so super tasty. Salty and sweet is one of my fave combos! (chocolate pretzels…om nom nom) :)
.-= Quix´s last blog ..Snip Snip =-.


Sagan May 17, 2010 at 8:54 PM

You had me at “homemade caramels”. WOW yum! They look gorgeous, too.

I’ve heard all about those books but I have yet to read them. I really ought to because EVERYONE who has talked about the books has raved about how good they are!
.-= Sagan´s last blog ..Operation Lose Five Pounds: Painless Tips =-.


Andrea of Care to Eat May 18, 2010 at 2:54 PM

Somebody gave me the “Bitter….” book to read, but I never got around to it. I know we have similar tastes in books, so I’ll have to dig it out! I love your top, BTW :)
.-= Andrea of Care to Eat´s last blog ..Detox my socks off – Day 1 =-.


brandi May 18, 2010 at 3:39 PM

These look (and sound) incredible! One thing I ‘ve never tried is caramels. I may need to.


Heide M May 20, 2010 at 12:04 AM

So that’s how you make caramels. what a great idea for a gift. Thank you for posting this.


Melissa S. May 30, 2010 at 10:06 AM

Such a late comment but OMG i love jen lancaster! i’ve read all her books and they’re so freak’n hilarious! i’m always laughing out loud when i’m reading them!
.-= Melissa S.´s last blog ..Fabulous Meals =-.


Athina December 1, 2011 at 12:25 PM

Hi Mara! I love your caramels! I ‘ve made them and posted on my blog (it’s in greek)


Mara @ What's For Dinner? December 1, 2011 at 12:55 PM

How cool! Thanks for the heads up!!


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