For my part, I spent the week tinkering in the kitchen with batches of caramel and I have a wonderful new recipe to share with everyone. A caramel that tastes of freshly mulled apple cider. Oh yes, it's good.
Those of you going "Ppbbth, Caramels! I waited all week! Me want prizes!" I'll post the winner from last weeks giveaway of the big McCormick Halloween Goodie box too. Just zip down to the bottom of today's post.
For us candy makers, how about we get started on these apple cider caramels.
Now, just to be clear, "apple cider" around here is basically apple juice. I know it was wrong of us North Americans to adopt the term cider for a non-alcholic beverage, but we did it anyway. We just wanted to confuse everyone and I apologize. So just to be completely clear, we won't be using the fermented drink made from apples, no. Today we're working with a jug of fresh apple cider, which is essentially unfiltered apple juice. If you cannot get the fresh, cold pressed unfiltered stuff, go ahead and substitute the best quality/tasting apple juice you can find.
These caramels are a variation of my popular fleur de sel caramels, with a reduction of mulled apple cider. If you haven't tried them, you'll find that they're rich, smooth and far superior to those waxy squares you find in the supermarket.
They're not even terribly hard to make. Ninety percent of candy making is dumping ingredients into a pot and boiling away until done. Easy as pie. No, easier than pies. Provided you know when the candy is done. That's the key: knowing exactly when to pull the pot off the heat so your taffy doesn't turn into toffee. This makes a candy thermometer necessary. (Unless of course you're a pro at the cold water test. In which case, gold star for you.)
Since they're so helpful, it is worth taking a moment to talk about our friend, the candy/deep frying thermometer.
You should periodically check your thermometers accuracy. After all it does get dropped, jostled in drawers and occasionally run it through the dishwasher (a no-no). Or maybe your 3 year old used it for an hour to punch holes in a cardboard box "rocket ship".
Anyway, stuff happens, you get the idea. Often they come straight out of their packaging a little wonky, so it is worth testing.
To check your thermometer, stick it into an inch and a half of rapidly boiling water. At sea level, pure unsalted boiling water tops out at 212°F (On top of a mountain? Get your boiling point here), your thermometer should climb to that temperature and stay there. If it reads higher than that, your thermometer is off and you may want to consider a replacement. If it is only a minor deviation and you're good at math, remember the number of degrees off and take that into consideration when using it.
If your thermometer reads too low, then there are a few likely reasons:
- It can't read with only an inch and a half of the probe submerged, it reads somewhere higher up. I'm usually quite annoyed by these thermometers and have owned many. In the end, the only way to deal with it is to periodically tilt the sugar solution while boiling to cover the probe so it can give you an accurate reading. It's dangerous and I don't recommend doing it. I recommend finding another thermometer.
- The thermometer is simply off by a few degrees. That's okay it happens, these are not always precision instruments. Again, you can either replace it or remember the number of degrees off and take that into consideration when cooking with it.
- You're living on a mountain top and haven't yet realized it. Surprise! Double check your altitude and the corresponding boiling point. You'll need to knock that boiling point difference off the caramel temperature too. This is usually -2°F for +1000ft.
Ms. Humble's Spiced Apple Cider Caramels
yields roughly 81 1" caramels
2 cups apple cider
2 tablespoons mulling spices*
2 cups pure cane sugar
1 1/2 cup heavy cream, I'm using 40% ultra heavy
1 cup corn syrup**
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
pinch kosher salt
* I'm using William Sonoma mulling spices. A mixture of cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, allspice berries and citrus peel
** No corn syrup? See this post for what to (and what not to) substitute. However, since we're already adding a lot of fructose from the apple syrup, I would recommend using a glucose syrup as your interfering agent.
Start by combining the mulling spices and apple cider in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a low boil and allow to simmer for roughly 20 minutes. Once the liquid has reduced to a 1/2 cup, strain and discard the spices, then set the spiced apple syrup aside.
Prepare a 9 x 9 pan by lining it with lightly buttered parchment.
In a large heavy sauce pan combine sugar, corn syrup, salt and one cup of the heavy cream. Place over medium heat and stirring frequently with a silicon spatula or wooden spoon, bring the mixture to a boil. This will take some time. Don't be tempted to turn up the heat, candy requires patience.
Once the mixture boils add the remaining half cup of cream and the apple syrup in a slow trickle so your caramel mixture continues to boil uninterrupted. Allow the mixture to boil for 5 minutes without stirring. Then add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, stirring after each piece melts. Wash down the sides of the pot with a damp pastry brush as needed.
Now clip on your candy thermometer and allow to boil over medium/medium-low heat until the mixture just hits 255°F. This should take about 30 minutes, if your temperature is climbing too quickly you might need to reduce the heat. By the same token, if you're not hitting 255°F by 40 minutes you might want to increase the heat a bit.
Once you've hit the right temperature, quickly remove the pot from the heat and pour into your prepared pan. Don't scrape the pot. Allow the caramel to cool completely before lifting the caramel slab from the pan using the parchment.
(Tip: If you notice tiny beads of butter on top of your caramel, don't fret. Just lightly blot them off with a paper towel. This is usually from pouring the caramel into the buttered pan, not from the caramel separating (though that can happen if the candy crystalizes).
Cut the caramel slab into small pieces using a sharp buttered knife. To avoid any arrgh-caramel-sticking-to-knife-headaches, I recommend using a sawing motion, pushing lightly with your buttered knife blade. Wrap each piece in a square of parchment. Store in an air tight container for up to 2 weeks.
Enjoy and don't forget to share!
cahanbury said...Congrats! Please email me your mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll have the box delivered to you asap.
I really want to eat these. My favorite is a day-old cake doughnut with a chocolate glaze. I know...cake doughnuts already taste stale, but there ya go.
Until next time!