But Sugar is Sweeter

Candy

Apple Cider Caramels

IMG_5537

I know you are probably up to your ears in left over Halloween candy, and the last thing you want to think about is making your own candy….but I promise you, these are worth it!  This recipe has been circulating the internet for over a year, and despite coming from THE Smitten Kitchen, I was still a bit hesitant as to whether these would actually taste like apple cider.  Well my friends, I can attest to ahhhmazingness of these caramels.   Somehow, magically, they do indeed taste like apple cider. (Or maybe not so magically….you do use an entire quart of the stuff and boil it down to a mere 1/3 cup to infuse the caramel with cider flavor).

I actually had made these for our pumpkin carving party, but because of the unpredictable nature of intern year (and medicine in general), I was 2 hours late to my own party….  so instead, I have been enjoying these myself for the past 2 weeks.  (Good thing I’m not the dentist in the family…)  I also insist that everyone who comes to our house tries at least one – and the response is always the same….”ahhhhmazing.”  So before cider is gone until next fall, make these. You won’t regret it.
IMG_5542

Apple Cider Caramels

Makes 64 caramels

  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, or less of a finer one
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup  packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup  heavy cream

Boil the apple cider in a 3- to- 4- quart saucepan over high heat until it is reduced to a dark, thick syrup, between 1/3 and 1/2 cup in volume, stirring occasionally. This took about 1 hour on my stove.

Line the bottom and sides of an 8- inch straight- sided square metal baking pan with 2 long sheets of crisscrossed parchment, then butter. Set it aside. Stir the cinnamon and flaky salt together in a small dish.

Once you are finished reducing the apple cider, remove it from the heat and stir in the butter, sugars, and heavy cream. Return the pot to medium- high heat with a candy thermometer attached to the side, and let it boil until the thermometer reads 252 degrees, about 5 minutes. Do not take your eyes off it as it burns quickly.

Immediately remove caramel from heat, add the cinnamon- salt mixture, and give the caramel several stirs to distribute it evenly. Pour caramel into the prepared pan. Let it sit until cool and firm—about 2 hours, though it goes faster in the fridge. Once caramel is firm, use your parchment paper sling to transfer the block to a cutting board. Use a well- oiled or buttered knife to cut the caramel into 1-by-1-inch squares.  Sprinkle with additional flaky sea salt if desired. Wrap each one in a 4-inch square of parchment or waxed paper twisting the sides to close. Caramels will be somewhat on the soft side at room temperature, and chewy/firm from the fridge.

Caramels keep, in an airtight container at room temperature.

Source: Smitten Kitchen


Chocolate Covered Butter Toffee

IMG_2251
I know Christmas is going to be hard for our family this year,  but I have been trying to keep busy -both at school and in the kitchen.  I have a habit of going a little cookie crazy this time of year.  I realize that  it would be much easier to make one or two kinds of cookies and to make a lot of them, but the problem is that everyone seems to have a favorite so I want to make them all.  The hardest part about this is that I also happen to love trying new recipes, so every year seems to bring a new favorite that I just have to make again the following year.  Hence how this toffee came into being.  As a Skor bar lover (the better version of Health), I knew as soon as a saw this recipe that I had to try it.  It has easily become my favorite dessert of all time, and if it weren’t for the fact that I could eat the whole tray in one sitting alone, I would most definitely make it other times than Christmas.  It is great for so many reasons that I feel the only appropriate way to get my point across is to list them…

  1. It is so buttery that it melts in your mouth the way no other store bought toffee could ever hope too.
  2. You can make a double or triple batch without the extra effort it would normally require to make a double or triple batch of individual cookies.
  3. It is covered in chocolate….need I say more.
  4. It has simple ingredients that are all delicious – butter, sugar, vanilla, chocolate
  5. It’s easy enough that you could make it today (Christmas Eve), and still have it ready for Christmas.
  6. You can cover it in just about anything that you want including crushed peppermints, sea salt, or nuts.  I have to mention that after my mom tried the sea salt covered toffee, she exclaimed “This  might be the best thing I’ve ever eaten.”  No biggie :-).

IMG_2254
Now if your intimidated by making candy, I completely understand your point of view, but please don’t let that stop you. I would say to just be patient, watch the color of the candy (it starts off yellow, as below, but you want it toffee colored  – not brown), and don’t try to rush the cooking process.  If you make a big batch, it might take up to 30 minutes to heat this to 298°, but it is well worth the wait.
IMG_2167

Chocolate Covered Butter Toffee

– Makes one standard baking sheet

  • 1 pound Butter, Melted
  • 1 pound granulated sugar (by weight)
  • 3 oz  fluid Water
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla Extract
  • 18 oz weight of semisweet chocolate chips, melted*
  •  Chopped Topping: finely chopped nuts (1/2 lb), Candy Canes (1/2 lb), Sea Salt (sprinkle), Etc.

*If you want the chocolate to look really professional, use good quality, tempered chocolate.  If you don’t mind if the chocolate looks a little dull (like mine), chocolate chips will work fine.

Combine butter, sugar, water, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. It will heat slowly at first, but once all the water has evaporated the temperature increases quickly.

Cook over medium high heat, stirring gently, until candy thermometer registers 298 degrees, but no higher than 310°.  Undercooked toffee is chewy and sticks to your teeth, but on the flip side it can burn if it gets to hot.

Once at ~300°, remove from heat and stir in vanilla until well combined.

Pour the mixture onto a silicone baking mat or good parchment paper, (last year I used tin foil because it was all I had, and it still worked).  Use a heatproof rubber spatula or offset spatula to spread quickly before the toffee sets. Thinner is generally better.

Allow toffee to cool completely, at least 30 minutes (while you go wrap some presents).  Blot  with paper towel to remove excess oil from the surface. Coat surface with half of the melted chocolate and immediately sprinkle with topping.

When chocolate has totally set (you can place it somewhere cold to help the process), carefully flip over (your going to break it apart anyways, so it’s okay if this happens now).  Then coat the other side with the rest of the chocolate and sprinkle on topping of your choice.

Allow to set, then break into bite-size pieces.

Store in an airtight container.

Recipe from Lia via The Pioneer Woman
IMG_2259