Friday, November 9, 2012

Sea Salted Apple Cider Caramels

We all go through certain milestones throughout the course of our lives. A new job. A promotion. Moving into a new home. Graduating from school.

For me, the latest milestone came in the form of successfully making caramel candies. I know, it sounds pathetic. How is this a milestone, you ask? Well, caramels are a tricky tricky trade. One that can turn sour, burn you, and ruin your effort at the blink of an eye. One degree too hot and that sugar is burnt, ruined, kaput. Your pot is destroyed and all that effort is for nothing! No caramel for you! But get it right? And you have just mastered something pretty friggin' fantastic. I have always been one to respect, and totally fear, the science of boiling sugar. But like all fears, it won't go away unless you overcome it.

So I did it. I bit the bullet, bought a candy thermometer, and set to boiling some sugar. After exploring a dozen trillion caramel candy recipes, I finally settled on the below combination to satiate my craving for caramels and all things apple, as this fall season comes to an abrupt halt. I mean, seriously, between that nasty gal Sandy and our latest Nor'easter in NYC, it feels more like the dead of winter than fall. Time for some apple cider caramels to warm things up.

When you find yourself feeling adventurous, and craving a little caramel in your life, try this one out! But please, for the love of all that's holy, use a thermometer.


4 cups apple cider
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
coarse sea salt, for garnish

Reduce the apple cider & ground cinnamon over stove top in a medium-large pot until cider reduces to a dark syrup color & texture, and is about 1/2-1/3 cup in size. This takes about 45-50 minutes over medium high heat. Keep a watch on it, and stir occasionally. 

Meanwhile, place a lightly buttered or sprayed parchment paper onto an 8x8 baking tray. Make sure the parchment goes a little over the edges to make for easy removal later on. Also, in their own separate bowls, measure out the heavy cream, butter, and sugar. Making sure these ingredients are at room temperature is key to the next step in the process.

Turn off and remove the pot from heat once the cider has reduced. Then stir in the butter, sugar, and heavy cream. Place the pot back on the burner, and insert the candy thermometer to the side of the pot. Bring heat to medium until just boiling. No need to stir at this point. I know, it's tempting. But just don't do it. Trust me! Let boil until thermometer reaches 250F, and immediately remove from heat. 

Let cool for a minute or two, and stir several times to combine and reduce bubbles. Be careful, this stuff is HOT. Not to be messed with. Pour caramel into prepared baking tray and let cool for 3-5 minutes. Then, sprinkle with coarse sea salt and place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 35 minutes, or up to 2 hours. Remove, and slice with a large warm & slightly buttered knife (helps to keep the knife from sticking).

Wrap each individual candy in wax paper or cling wrap. If you like them gooey, keep stored out on the counter top. If you like them harder in texture, store in the fridge. 

Or, just eat them. I prefer the eating.

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