I love spending time in the kitchen and making new things, but one thing I admittedly don’t make very often is candy. I love a good caramel just as much as the next person, but for some reason things like that never jump to the top of my to-do list. I tend to be seduced by mounds of frosting and triple-chocolate anything, and then lose focus. It’s a weakness. When I do get around to making candy, I’m always amazed at the delicious results and vow to do it more often. I can honestly say that I have not fallen head-over-heels for a caramel candy recipe like I have for this one. The caramels are perfectly soft, yet maintain their shape, and taste like a piece of apple pie. Seriously. Apple pie.
I’ve had my share of misses when it comes to making candy – batches that refused to set, batches that turned rock-hard, and batches that just flat-out didn’t work – but this was an absolutely perfect recipe. I had bookmarked it as soon as I got The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook last year, and couldn’t wait for fall to roll around again so I could make them. The apple cider is reduced down to a syrup for the caramels; I bought apple cider from a local orchard that is available at a nearby grocery store, but if you don’t have access to fresh apple cider, you could purchase boiled cider and use that in place of the reduced cider.
As long as you have an accurate thermometer, these are a breeze to make. It’s also helpful to have all of the ingredients out, measured, and ready to go since things can move quickly when making candy. If you need to stop and measure, it could mean the difference between perfectly chewy caramels and break-your-teeth disaster.
I have a feeling we are going to go through many batches of these perfectly spiced, apple-infused caramels in years to come. A wonderful fall tradition, don’t you think?!
One year ago: Apple Fritter Doughnuts
Three years ago: Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Apple Cider Caramels
Yield: 64 caramels
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
These caramel candies are made with boiled apple cider and taste just like apple pie!
4 cups apple cider
2 teaspoons fleur de sel (or other flaky sea salt)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
⅓ cup heavy cream
1. Boil the apple cider in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan over high heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a dark, thick syrup, between ⅓-cup and ½-cup in volume. This could take anywhere from 35 to 40 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper, leaving excess hanging over the sides. In a small bowl, stir together the fleur de sel and ground cinnamon.
3. Once the apple cider has finished reducing, 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 of the pan, and let boil until the thermometer reads 252 degrees F, only about 5 minutes or so.
4. Immediately remove the caramel from heat, add the cinnamon-salt mixture, and stir several times with a wooden spoon. Pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Let sit until cool and firm, about 2 hours.
5. Once the caramel is firm, use the parchment overhangs to lift it out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Using a very sharp knife (or large pizza cutter - my secret slicing weapon of choice) coated with non-stick cooking spray, cut the caramel into 1-inch squares. (You may need to re-spray the knife or pizza cutter multiple times while cutting.)
6. Wrap each caramel in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting the sides to close. The caramels can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
(Recipe from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook)