Monday, September 26, 2011

Apple cider caramels


I believe the first day of Fall just passed which means it's a free for all for apples and pumpkins in baking, yum! I stumbled across Blondie's Cakes last week and saw a recipe for Apple Cider Caramels. I knew when I saw the recipe I HAD to make them, absolutely had to. I love working with sugar, especially when it involves cooking it to a temperature and something delicious is the final product. You will notice the lovely specks in the caramels in the picture above, those are from fresh grated nutmeg and fresh ground cinnamon. My mom found this cinnamon grinder at the store and picked it up for me and it's so great when you just want a little cinnamon all aromatic to spice something slightly like hot cocoa or on whipped cream on a waffle. This recipe was easy to make but just takes some time and patience. Sugar sometimes takes a while to get to temperature. I wrapped some of them up yesterday and took them to a friends house for a football game and everyone enjoyed them :). I also thought about adding some vanilla bean paste but decided against it. You can see if the picture to the right this was the sugar boiling it's way up to 234F. This recipe originally came from Our Best Bites and she recommended using the Simply Apple juice and it worked beautifully.  Both sites have different cutting methods and I just haphazardly cut strips in my 8x8 and then pulled out the pieces individually to put them on my squares of foil. I don't really recommend this method as it was probably a little stickier that what was supposed to be done but I was on a time constraint and didn't plan my caramel wrapping very well. :) I also used Brown Sugar corn syrup and that probably added a nice flavor to the caramel.

Apple Cider Caramels
Recipe from Our Best Bites & Blondie's Cakes

2 cup high-quality apple cider (Simply Apple works well)
1 cup heavy cream or whipping cream, divided
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup real butter, cubed

- Pour cider into a medium saucepan and boil on high for about 20 minutes or until the cider is reduced to 1/3 c. Keep an eye on it...it might try to run away. Set aside to cool.
- Line an 8" square pan with parchment paper, making sure to leave about 1" hanging over the edges for easy removal. Coat with a bit of vegetable oil and set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine 2/3 c. cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and reduced apple cider. Set aside.
- In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, 1/3 c. whipping cream + enough water to reach the 1/2 c. line on the measuring cup, and corn syrup. Cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Insert the candy thermometer and simmer until the syrup reaches 234 degrees.
- Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cream mixture. Add the cubed butter and stir until the cream and butter are fully incorporated. Return the pan to heat and re-insert the candy thermometer. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the temperature reaches 248 degrees.
- Remove from heat and pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Let the mixture cool completely at room temperature or in the refrigerator. I covered the top with saran wrap and left it out overnight. You could cut the caramels into 1/2" squares and wrap each caramel in wax paper, but I'm lazy so I cut the caramel into 1/2" logs, which meant that I had exponentially fewer pieces to individually wrap. Store in an airtight container or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, but I can guarantee that they won't last that long. These things are delicious!
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