Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

cremefraichecaramels500.jpg

Since last year, there has been a craze for something called nama kyarameru (生キャラメル, raw caramel) in Japan. The demand has been so great that people form long lines to buy it, and at least at the beginning of the fad there were frequent reports of sell-outs and long waiting lists. Raw caramel means meltingly soft caramel candies that have been made with fresh milk, fresh butter, and no additives. It’s been a great marketing ploy for some dairy farmers in Hokkaido.

Given that getting nama kyarameru from Hokkaido is not that easy for me, and believing firmly in the superiority of Swiss dairy products, I set about to make my own version. After many attempts, here is my version of raw caramel. They have a very slight fermented-sourness from the crème fraîche, and the pure salt flavor from the fleur de sel. And the sugar component is made richer by using golden syrup.

I have a feeling I will never buy caramel candies again.

Before you proceed: Some notes about making sugar candy

Melted sugar can get very very hot, and since it clings it can burn you very badly. Be very careful when making candy. Do not have little kids running around you when you are cooking candy - let them enjoy the results afterwards.

  • Keep your pan, spatula and so on dry. Don’t let water splash into a bubbling pot of sugar syrup - it may spit at you.
  • When adding liquid ingredients like cream, take the pan off the heat before adding. The liquid ingredients should also be at room temperature; cold liquid straight out of the refrigerator has a bigger chance of bubbling up violently and spitting when added to boiling hot sugar syrup.
  • Never, ever, leave a pan of boiling sugar syrup unattended.
  • A candy thermometer is useful to have, but not absolutely necessary.
  • A digital scale is good to have to measure your ingredients accurately.

Recipe: Melt In Your Mouth ‘Raw’ Crème Fraîche Caramels

Makes a slab of caramel about 25cm / 9 inches square, to be cut into as many pieces as you like. The quality of your ingredients will really shine through, so get the best, freshest butter, crème fraîche, etc. that you can.

  • 160g / 5.6oz granulated sugar
  • 150g / 5.3oz Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup or clear runny honey (see notes)
  • 70g / 2.5oz unsalted butter
  • 200g / 7 oz. crème fraîche, or the same amount of heavy cream (NOT sour cream) with two tablespoons of a yogurt with active cultures, heated up to lukewarm (see notes)
  • 1 tsp. fleur de sel, or similar sea salt

Equipment needed:

  • 1 small heavy bottomed pan
  • Another pan, for heating up the cream
  • Wooden spatula
  • 1 25cm / 9 inch or so square brownie or baking pan
  • Kitchen parchment paper
  • A bowl or large glass

Make ready a bowl or large glass or measuring up filled with ice water.

Line your baking pan with the kitchen parchment paper. I just use one large sheet, and fold in the corners. No need to grease the paper.

Heat up the crème fraîche or the heavy cream-yogurt mixture in the secondary pan until it’s lukewarm. Set aside.

Put the sugar and syrup into the main pan. Over medium heat, stir until it is all liquified. Lower the heat to a simmer, and keep stirring. The syrup will get progressively darker. Periodically put droplets of the syrup in your bowl or cup or ice water, and scoop out the little balls to see the texture. Once the balls are of the consistency of hard candy, the sugar syrup is ready. You can continue cooking it a bit longer for caramels with a more assertive flavor, but do not let it burn. Note that this part goes rather fast, so check the sugar syrup in the ice water several times.

Once the sugar is of the darkness and consistency you want, take the pan off the heat. Add the salt, butter and cream, and stir until well blended.

Return the pan to the heat. Cook over low heat, at a gently foaming/bubbling state, stirring continously. This stage takes a while - 20 to 30 minutes. This cooking stage is what determines the softness of your caramels. Let it cook down until the syrup is very thick. When you draw your spatula firmly across the bottom of the pan, the syrup will part for a split second so that you can see the pan bottom. At this stage, put droplets of the syrup in the ice water (you may have to change the water if it’s gotten too warm) and test the consistency. When it reaches the stage where when the cooled syrup rolled between your fingers it forms a soft yet cohesive ball, it is ready. (If you’re using a candy thermometer the temperature should be around 120°C / 250°F.) You can cook it a bit longer for a firmer caramel - keep testing the consistency every couple of minutes. (Note, you can stop the cooking at a softer stage for the most amazing caramel syrup or jam.)

Carefully pour the caramel syrup into the lined baking pan. Let it cool until the caramel is firm - when you touch it, it should not stick to your fingers. Cut it into strips, then cut the strips into squares. I like to cut it into tiny little squares, resulting in about 120 or so squares from this amount, but you can cut them smaller or larger. Any ragged edges on the cut pieces can be gently smoothed over with your finger.

For gifting purposes, wrap each piece in little cut squares of cellophane, wax paper, or kitchen parchment paper. You may want to keep this in the refrigerator if it’s very hot where you are right now, but do not keep longer than a month or so (if that will ever be an issue).

Notes

I have specified Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup (also known as Lyle’s Golden Syrup), which is a boiled down pure sugar syrup. Using this makes the initial part of the sugar cooking process go very quickly and without hitch. If your local supermarket, Whole Foods etc. doesn’t carry it, you can get it from Amazon Grocery in the U.S. I’m assuming it’s no problem to get it in the UK or Australia/New Zealand. (In Switzerland you can get it from Britshop or any place that caters to the Brit expat community.) If you must use a substitute, use a liquid (not solid) honey. Do not use corn syrup or pancake syrup.

If you can’t get a hold of crème fraîche, use heavy cream with some active-culture yogurt instead. Sour cream is not an option, since it can curdle when heated.

Variations

  • Add a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract for vanilla caramels.
  • Experiment with different flavored honeys.
  • Try using molasses or treacle instead of golden syrup - be very careful of burning the initial sugar syrup in this case though. This will make something very similar to, and more intense than, “Black Sugar Caramel” (黒糖キャラメル), a popular kind of caramel from Morinaga. (If you don’t want to bother making your own, J-List sells it by the individual pack or the caseload.)
  • Melt half a bar of dark chocolate into the caramel syrup near the end of the cooking process for chocolate caramels. To make them even more chocolately, dip the cut caramel pieces in melted chocolate. (This is a messy process though.)
  • Add a tiny sprinkle of fleur de sel on top for salt caramels.
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33 comments so far...

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yum!

Hello! I love this blog and you're probably too important to respond, but just wanted to say it is absolutely fabulous! :) I look to your site for inspiration.

Michelle | 4 February, 2009 - 00:26

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

pff, me important? No way. Thank you for reading and for your kind words :)

maki | 4 February, 2009 - 01:33

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

do you have any tips. I make homemade caramels. several local shops want to sell them. however, even when stored in the refrigeration they crystallize and turn fudgey after a short while. is there any thing I can do?
any cooking tips? any additives I can add to make them ast longer? they are fine when just made!

swosshie | 6 January, 2011 - 00:46

mouthwatering!

I went to my fridge to get some leftovers from yesterday.. and I found out that I still had heavy cream from cream puffs I made the other day.. So I gave the recipe a try! It was a little messy, but it was WELL WORTH IT! I'll bring them to work tomorrow, everyone will like it for sure! THANKS FOR THE RECIPE :) And I was wondering, do you have a good recipe for
タンタンメン? I've never really bothered trying to make it, because I always ate it at ramen stalls..

mika | 4 February, 2009 - 09:12

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

Actualy its russian/soviet union invention. you can buy those it in most russian or central asian shops.(just ask for iris or iriska) sometimes with choco or vanile taste.

hohohoh | 4 February, 2009 - 10:20

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

I think a lot of countries have caramels like this. It seems that the inspiration for those dairy farmers in Hokkaido was 'caramel moue' from Brittany in France.
maki | 4 February, 2009 - 18:28

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

That would be "caramel mou"; "moue" is also a French word but it doesn't really mean the same thing.

Lionel | 6 February, 2009 - 14:32

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

well actualy Hokkaido has more russian tourists and immigrants than britons. (aside that massive trade business going on japanese-russian borders.)

anon. | 7 February, 2009 - 11:28

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

Don't you know that French pastry making has the biggest influence in Japan for European style sweets? I think maybe Hanabatakekojo got influence from France, but maybe it's original idea too. (My english is not good, sorry orz)

anon. | 7 February, 2009 - 22:00

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

Great foodie blog!

We'd love for you to join our recipe card swap!

http://www.swap-bot.com/swap/show/30141

Share your favorite recipes and get some new ones to try! Check it out! Tell your friends!

Emily | 4 February, 2009 - 17:03

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

Oh WOW. I've never tried making candy before, but this will be the recipe that sends me over the edge. Boy howdy, does that sound wonderful!

The Cheap Chick | 6 February, 2009 - 02:08

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

Maki,

Wow! This is a great recipe. I absolutely love raw caramels and adding the salt is a great way to convince people that mixing salt with sugar is really quite delicious.

I had a question about ingredient substitution. As opposed to using Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup you said that honey can be used or perhaps molasses, but not corn syrup, in place of the golden syrup. I am not sure if it is widely available in Europe or not as to my knowledge Agave only grows in Mexico, but a popular syrup here in the states is 100% pure Agave Syrup. There are a few different grades of it, and I almost always have the dark stuff on hand. I am thinking about trying to make these caramels this weekend, and I was just wondering what your thoughts were on using Agave Syrup.

-Eric H.

Takshaka | 6 February, 2009 - 23:26

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

I haven't experimented with agave syrup, since it's pretty expensive here. You could certainly try it. The problem with corn syrup is that it has a rather high water content, compared to golden syrup, or what you might use in Japan which would be mizuame, or syrup made from malted rice or potatoes. In theory though, any high-sucrose content syrup should work here, but the amounts may differ. Anyway, if you do try out the agave syrup please let me know how it went!

maki | 7 February, 2009 - 10:45

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

Maki,

I went ahead with the 100% agave syrup and it worked out perfectly. I also used the heavy creme/yogurt combo that you recommended as I could not find Crème Fraîche anywhere, Whole Foods and the high end grocery store near me did not seem to sell it.

I have never made soft caramels before and this was quite a good experience. I will definitely have to experiment with this a bit more. I picture myself adding nuts and coating in chocolate to make little candy bars.

Thank you so much for this recipe.

Btw, to anyone thinking of making these I strongly recommend investing in a candy thermometer. I was lucky to have one leftover from my home-brewing days.

-Eric H.

Takshaka | 10 February, 2009 - 17:11

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

That sounds great. Thanks for reporting back Eric! I'll have to try agave syrup sometime.

maki | 10 February, 2009 - 20:24

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

You can make your own for quite cheap....

1 Quart of Heavy Cream
1/2 Cup of Buttermilk (I assume yogurt would work, though I've never tried it.)

Mix together in a metal container, cover with cheese cloth, and place in a warm draft free are for 2-3 days, untill thick. Refridgorate, and use within a few days.

red | 23 February, 2009 - 19:59

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

These look pretty tasty.

I can't begin to tell you how giddy I got when I came across your blog tonight! It's like a new one-stop site for all the good Japanese food I aspire to make (I own Tsuji's, Japanese Cooking- A simple art) but find it's difficult to find the ingredients I need to make even a decent dashi in our little Norwegian town. I think it's so great that you have such a broad culinary background and I adore your photos.

Keep up the good work! I'll be checkin back in frequently.

siri | 9 February, 2009 - 23:07

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

OMGOMG!! You are so in my mind!!! I live in Tokyo and I discovered Hokkaido raw caramels last weekend when I chanced upon a store in Ginza that sells Hokkaido products! The ones i love need to be kept below 10C, they are soooooo addictive and the taste is soooooo superior to other types of caramels.

anon. | 10 February, 2009 - 03:07

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

WOW these just look perfect! i can use a couple right now. :)

kim | 10 February, 2009 - 03:17

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

I just want to thank you for your blog. Its fantastic! I have learned so much about Japanese cooking from visiting just this one place! I took live near Chicago and took your basics list to the Mitsua mall and stocked up, came home and had my very first miso soup, and made my Japanese essence in a bottle which caramelized my first tofu in my brand new wok perfectly, served over my first (and successful) attempt at sticky rice! I am beside myself happy that I discovered you and your easy to follow guide into a food that is completely new to me. You have so much information I think I'll never get through it all. Once again, many thanks!

pinkbowl | 12 February, 2009 - 02:54

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

I don't eat a lot of sweets but I am going to have to make these. Chocolate is my favourite sweet but I get homemade caramels from an Amish grocery store just an hour's drive from home. (I live in Central Illinois) They are oh so good and made with local cream and butter!!! Now I'll be able to make my own! ***squee*** I have been cooking Japanese style food since I lived in Hawaii 25 years ago ( O_o ). I had a very dear Japanese roommate there and learned a lot from her! Here in Central Illinois, The Japanese Kitchen by Hiroko Shimbo is has been my inspiration. She makes Japanese cooking so approachable gives a good description of techniques. You have such a fun site here and at JustBento. I have learned so much from you, both in new recipes but even more so, I have learned how to construct bento - how to "think" bento, if you will. I have started creating my own dishes, both Western & Japanese style and take my lunch to work 3 to 4 times a week thanks to your help! You are so friendly; I look for to chatting about recipes and bento for a long time to come! ^_^ Aloha! Laurel

LaurelRhaen | 12 February, 2009 - 23:05

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

In New Zealand, although it is possible to get Lyle's Golden Syrup, Chelsea is the local brand. Don't know what they have in Australia.

bronwyncarlisle | 13 February, 2009 - 05:33

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

Hello! I just finished making these caramels based on Maki's recipe and would like to report back with my results. I used ghee instead of "regular" butter, and brown rice syrup instead of honey. As far as flavor goes, they are delicious--very light, buttery and not overly sweet. I think I cooked the mixture about 5 minutes too long because they came out less chewy than I would have preferred and cutting them was a bit of a challenge. Overall, I am very happy with the outcome and will probably make them again in the future with the same ingredients. Thanks for the recipe/instructions Maki! :-)

mache | 23 February, 2009 - 04:40

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

Yay, I am happy to have found a caramel recipe that doesn't have sweetened condensed milk and brown sugar, thank you. :)

Just FYI as fermentation is a side-hobby of mine - a better substitute for the cream/yogurt would be mixing a teaspoon or so of sour cream or buttermilk in with the cream and letting it sit for 1-2 days until thickened. This is because the cultures for yogurt are different from the cultures for creme fraiche/sour cream/buttermilk - they are thermophilic (heat-loving, yogurt grows best at 105-120 degrees F), whereas the others are mesophilic (they like room temperature).

When you add the mesophilic cultures to the cream, you are not making a substitute for creme fraiche, you are *making* creme fraiche, which is even cheaper than buying it at the store. :x

Norai | 27 February, 2009 - 23:06

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

I tried this recipe twice. Once with honey and once with molasses. I tried to get that soft, chewy texture that your posted picture showed, but as it turns out, I always wound up making hard, toffee-like candy. They tasted great (although the caramels made with honey tasted more like butterscotch than caramel) but I still can't seem to get the caramels to get that chewy softness.

Wingyi | 7 March, 2009 - 06:37

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

It's during the second stage of boiling (after you add the butter and cream) that the eventual softness of the caramel is determined. You probably need to stop cooking it a bit earlier than you have been. You should stop when some droplets of the mixture dropped in cold water form a soft ball that just about holds together in your fingers, rather than a firm ball.

maki | 7 March, 2009 - 11:34

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

Oh, first there was the sukiyaki recipe, and now after a long-needed revisit there's the yatsuhashi and THIS? Oh, man, oh man. I need a week or so to play in the kitchen now.

I love reading your recipes--still swear by the one for okonomiyaki!

Jess | 17 March, 2009 - 19:23

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

Hi Maki!

Thank you so much for your wonderful site. I have a question about transporting the raw caramels. I wanted to send them cross-country to a friend and I know you said "don't keep them for more than a month" but do you think it will be a problem if they undergo some temperature fluctuations during shipping? I really want to make them but I'm a little nervous my gift will end up as a big lump of goo... thank you!

Julia | 17 April, 2009 - 17:06

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

If you want to send them in the post, I would wrap the pieces individually in cellophane (if you can't find them locally, try a mailorder place such as this), and use the fastest shipping method you can afford. Don't send them during very hot months...or if you do, you'll need to find some kind of refrigerated packaging solution.

maki | 17 April, 2009 - 20:27

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

Hi, I tried this recipe yesterday. I made creme fraiche with cream and 2 tsp of sour cream, as someone suggested here, and it worked perfectly, it did not curdle at all. I used half brown and half white sugar, and honey instead of syrup, and I also melted some chocolate in half of the mixture just before pouring it onto a baking sheet. I had a bit of a problem with it cooling and becoming solid, as it was still very soft after being cooled completely, but I solved this by putting it in the fridge. (I guess it is too hot here after all, 30°C with the kitchen facing north...) The caramels are wonderful, I love chocolate but cannot decide whether they are better with or without it :-) Thanks a lot, I'll send you the bill from my dentist :-)

Thilwen | 28 August, 2009 - 09:42

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

This might be blasphemous but I was wondering if you were aware of a microwave version of this recipe. I've seen tomy's Nama pot "toy" which only uses milk,cream, and sugar but it's $40. I know this can be done without such an expensive contraption but have been unable to find a recipe. Thanks!

anon. | 23 November, 2009 - 18:13

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

They really look delicious. I looked this recepie up right about now since i really felt like making toffee and browsed through this earlier. Anyhow my shop is allready closed :(
I have a question too, i know in asia you use a lot of condensed milk. Is there any recipe for toffee made on condensed milk? I really would love that. So if you have any, please share your knowledge with us readers! <3
Ps. i tried to cook the whole can of condensed milk once to make toffee, but what it turned out to be was toffee-sauce. Very tasty tough.

Zandra | 15 August, 2010 - 19:57

Re: Melt In Your Mouth 'Raw' Crème Fraîche Caramels

Does anybody have any ideas to make Japanese Strawberry Milk Caramels? (Like the kind they make in Hokkaido) I found a couple recipes in Japanese http://cookpad.com/recipe/834816 but they call for strawberry au lait (= strawberry milk I think?) and I was hoping to make something with real strawberries. I hope this is not too off topic...

cactus | 24 June, 2011 - 07:38

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