Apple Cider Caramels
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
- 4 cups (944 ml) apple cider
- 2 teaspoons fleur de sel, or other flaky sea salt
- ½ teaspoon (0.5 teaspoon) ground cinnamon
- ½ cup (113.5 g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (110 g) light brown sugar
- ⅓ cup (79.33 ml) heavy cream
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
Did you make this recipe?
Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!
I made these last year and am making them again this year. Unbelievable delicious. Like a Carmel apple, so good.
Absolutely tearable, followed the recipe exactly, spent an entire hour over the stove and turned out tasting bad, not solidifying and waisting food.
We made two batches, and both came out far too firm and too sticky. The flavor is amazing, but hitting 252 feels way too hot. They stuck to the waxed paper, so you end up eating paper. They aren’t so hard that it’s hard tack candy (if they were maybe they wouldn’t stick so much!) — sad waste of home pressed apple cider.
I LOVE this recipe! I’ve used this and the ones that call for corn syrup. This is much tastier and I’m on my 3rd year using it. My only pro tip is if your apple cider/ juice has any pulp to it to go slower when reducing. The solids can scorch or foam over. Super tasty!
Can I use my insta pot to make The Apple cider syrup?
Also, can the caramels be frozen to preserve them for longer than two weeks?
I’d like to try making these tomorrow so any advice or help you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Thank you
Hi Judy, I don’t use an Instant Pot, so I’m not sure about making the apple cider syrup in there. I think freezing the caramels would work. Enjoy!
I was nervous to try and make candy. But these came out great on the first try! So good! Thank you!
Can I substitute the heavy cream for milk to make it healthier.
I have tried this recipe twice in two days. They are delicious, but the temperature is too hot on the candy. I haven’t made one that seems soft enough yet, and I did 252, then 250. If I try again, they’ll be coming off at 240-245. That’s what’s listed as “soft ball” stage on my thermometer. The first batch I blitzed in the food processor to make apple caramel sugar crumbles. The second batch I was able to split apart, but you have to hold them in your mouth to warm up before you can chew them.
I made these yesterday using bottled boiled cider. I was really nervous about the 252 degree temperature, so I took them off at 249. Oops, they were too soft to hold a decent shape at room temp. Undaunted, I popped them in the fridge to firm up and then dipped them in chocolate.
I might just cook them to 249 on purpose from now on, because chocolate covered cider caramels are now an official hit at the office. The only thing I noticed is that there was some crunchiness in the caramel, which I think might have been from the salt. I might add the salt at the beginning next time so that it dissolves properly. Thanks for the recipe!
I would like to try a vegan version of these. Would coconut oil be a good butter substitute and coconut milk work in place of heavy cream?
I’ve made these several times now, the flavor is fantastic! I used some homemade apple cider a couple of years ago, which gave them a softer, almost gel like texture. No one else got any of those… Thanks for such a great recipe.
Absolutely the best spin on caramel !!
Made it & took it to work & my fellow co-workers in the kitchen were Speechless !!
Thanks for sharing & careing !!
I’m a bit concerned with the 252 degree final temp. Generally I pull my caramels at around 245 degrees so they stay soft, but those are fresh cream caramels with minimal butter (just a finishing touch). Do these stay soft enough or can I pull them off the heat earlier? I don’t like a firm caramel unless I’m dipping them in something.
Hi Wendy, These are definitely soft caramels. Enjoy!
Made these last night with a little less salt (my preference). They are spectacular. Thinking of actually cooking another 1-2 degrees to get a little firmer, then dipping in chocolate! Thanks for the reassurance on the temp Michelle – sometimes I have to force myself out of my comfort zone.
I made these for the first time today (first time ever making caramels).
The recipe was easy to follow and everything came together well as I had every ingredient measured out and ready to go when needed.
After letting them set up, they were very soft. They cut with little trouble as long as I kept the knife coated with Pam.
The taste is like the perfect apple pie!! I will make these again!
What apple cider is it? Is it apple cider juice or apple cider vinegar?
Hi Laura, Well it’s just plain apple cider, which I guess is closest to a juice, but still different. Definitely don’t use vinegar!
Have made these caramels several times and they are awesome. I substitute apple pie spice for cinnamon, and I like them soft so I pull them at 244°.
I have been making these caramels every year for the holidays since I first saw it here on Brown Eyed Baker. They are fantastic and always a huge hit! I happened to be looking up the recipe as I was making the first round for this year’s festivities and decided to tell everyone if you are thinking about making these just take the plunge and do it because they are soooo worth it!
I made these last week with boiled apple cider from King Arthur Flour. They are super easy to make and so delicious!
love the recipe but the cooled caramel still sticks to the parchment paper. Any advice?
Oh no! Try lightly greasing the parchment, although it might keep them from staying twisted shut.
my apple cider got dark but not thick…I hope this still works.:(
Is 252 degrees at sea level. Because I am a mile high and from what I read I should reduce about 10 degrees
If using KAF boiled cider, would you still use the 1/3 to 1/2 cup that you use for reduced cider? These look amazing! Thanks!
Hi Linda, I haven’t used that product and am not sure how concentrated it is, but I would think you could substitute 1:1 for the reduced cider.
These are amazing! I’ve never tasted anything like it:)
These were easy to make, and EVERYONE loves them. I had a bad experience making caramel before, but this is easily my new annual treat. I cut them into modest-sized pieces so I could mail them out to a lot of people (accidentally 144 plus the pieces I ate before counting…) and they were still a good mouthful.
I found these and couldn’t wait to make them! I was visiting my grandma, so she and I decided to give them a shot. Overall, very easy to make! Once the apple cider boils down, it’s a breeze! I will say though, WAY too salty for both of our tastes. I’m planning to make another batch this evening with my roommate. I think I may up the cinnamon content and add a pinch of nutmeg. I will reduce salt by at least half. I may also add a touch of vanilla (I’m a big believer in the added vanilla flavor in all baking!)
I ended up sprinkling more salt on top. I LOVE SEA SALT oh man. I’ll take your extra half ;D
Can you make the recipe in a way that doesn’t include heavy cream? Heavy cream doesn’t exist in Sweden :(
Hi Evelina, I don’t know of a way, unfortunately. Heavy cream is a staple ingredient in both caramel sauces and candies.
Do you have whipping cream? That what I use.
Vispgrädde! Super Swedish.
Mine stuck horribly to the wax paper even after I sprayed it with cooking oil. Any suggestions for the future so I can prevent this?
Elizabeth, Are you talking about inside the pan, or the wrapped individual pieces? The pan should be lined with parchment paper, not wax paper. The caramel will be so hot when you pour it into the pan that it will likely fuse with the wax paper, which is what sounds like happened.
That’s exactly what happened! Oh we’ll live and learn. What I was able to salvage was absolutely delicious and I will definitely be making again shortly. I did talk to a buddy of mine who is a pastry chef. He recommended for really sticky candy using a Silpat ( or any silicone baking mat) or heavy duty foil that’s been greased. Thanks for your help and happy holidays! :)
I had trouble getting mine to solidify as well. The top layer did, but the bottom portion did not. Any thoughts about how to fix this? I used the proper size pan and everything, so I don’t think that is the problem. I also did not make any changes to the recipe.
Hi Sarah, Unfortunately, if it doesn’t set up, the likely cause is that it wasn’t cooked long enough/to the correct temperature. You’ll want to make sure that whatever thermometer you are using is properly calibrated.
Would I need to start over or is it possible to try to reheat it to the proper temperature and then have it set again?
Hi Sarah, Unfortunately, I have never tried to reheat caramels back to a liquid state and am not sure that it would work. You could certainly try it, but you might end up needing to start from scratch.
I had the same issue on one of my batches. Instead of throwing out, I scraped the too soft caramel into a jar and reheated as an awesome caramel topping for ice cream.
Wow those are great and sooooo easy to make!! I made a batch today and my husband is stealing them all to give to his coworkers… Guess I’ll have to make another batch very soon… Thanks!! :)
Tried out this recipe as a trial run for Christmas gift baskets, texture and color were perfect but mine came out way too salty :( I used fleur de sal but I might have mismeasured or something. Super disappointed because everything else about them came out perfectly, but that’s why I do trial runs! Can’t wait to try this one again!
I thought they were too salty as well. If I make them again I’ll probably just leave it out all together.
As for the waxed paper squares. Just tear off the waxed paper at about 3 inches, then cut in thirds. I make a different caramel recipe and that’s what I use for those. You can cut 3 or 4 layers at once. I am going to make these NOW! They sound fantastic.
The flavor of these caramels is wonderful, but I shouldn’t have gone clear to 252 degrees, too long so they are harder than I like. 8 sec. in the microwave softened one up enough to eat!
Mine didn’t set ! Y?
Hi Nicole, If it didn’t set, it’s because it wasn’t cooked long enough/to a hot enough temperature.
I made these this evening! Overshot the temp on the last step just a hair and ended up with some really, REALLY chewy caramels. :( Additionally, these were very salty-I’m wondering if I used the wrong kind of salt! If not, I’ll cut it in half next time. Other than that, they were delicious, and I’m looking forward to making them again (right, next time)!
Hi Allison, Did you use a flaky sea salt, like fleur de del or maldon?
I finally got around to making these… and they wouldn’t come off the paper when it was time to cut them. I had to throw the whole batch out :(
Candy is one of my favorite things to make, especially caramels but I find most of the recipes don’t fully set up so if I don’t store them in the refrigerator they are soooo sticky. Can’t wait to try this recipe!
Couldn’t resist making these….they were fabulous, and easy to make. Sweet, sour and salty all @ once! I boiled the cider down and then refrigerated it for a few days. Once that step was done, they came together really quickly. I love the texture….I just might try stuffing a cupcake or muffin with these delicious nuggets.
Would parchment paper work instead of waxed paper? Or do you need waxed for it to stay put when you twist them?
Hi Hannah, I don’t think parchment paper would work, because I don’t think they’d stay twisted.
I bet if you put a little dot of hot glue at the base of each twist they’d really stay put.
Hi! I always cut parchment squares for caramels. I just cut the squares big enough to account for extra-tight twisting. I prefer parchment to waxed paper for wrapping caramels since some caramels (especially soft ones that have been wrapped for a few days) seem to want to stick to and tear the waxed paper.
Yes, and King Arthur sells parchment squares, see my comment above. http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/parchment-squares-1000-pieces
Hey I tried making them but in the last step where I’m supposed to leave the mixture on medium high heat till it reaches 252 Farrenheit, is been boiling for over an hour now and I only reached 230. I have no idea what to do..
Hi Mariam, Oh no! It should certainly not take that long, 5 to 10 minutes, at the absolute most. Is your thermometer calibrated correctly? Since it’s actually boiling, I assume the issue is not with your stove? Did you make any changes to the recipe?
Yes I think it’s calibrated and no I didn’t make any changes to the recipes..I followed it exactly..also ofcourse my caramels are still soft they didn’t hold up free two hours I couldn’t cut them..
I really wish I could do this right I have no problem trying over and over again..do you have any idea what might have went wrong..also if I boil it for too long like I did is that the reason why the candy didn’t hold..
I also have to say they taste amazing..
I made caramels before and the same thing happened. I threw everything back into the pot and cooked it longer and they turned out perfectly.
What can I use in place of the fleur de sel, live in very small town with only one store, which do not carry even sea salt. Also can I just boil down regular purchased apple cider?
Hi Katie, You could use a pinch of kosher salt. Also, yes, the directions in the recipe call for boiling apple cider.
What kind of thermometer do you use?
Hi Courtney, I just got a ThermoWorks ChefAlarm, which I used for these: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EHNH3JC/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00EHNH3JC&linkCode=as2&tag=broeyebak-20
I looked at the ChefAlarm, the reviews on it were great. Does it have a clip for hooking it on the side of the pan? Or did you just drop the probe in and leave it?
Hi Mary, It comes with a clip to put on the side of a pot. Love it! I just used it again today while warming up milk and water for bread.
They look so delicious! I live in Denmark and we don’t have apple cider though.. Is apple cider most similar to apple juice or more like apple vine? Hope my question even make sense :-)
Hi Andrea, I’m not sure what apple vine is, but apple cider is close to apple juice, however it is not filtered or sweetened like juice is.
I just made these and they are delicious-I cant wait for them to cool. Happy Halloween everyone!
This sounds awesome! I don’t have a fleur de sel can use Kosher salt and how much do I use? Thanks!
Hi Ela, I would use only a small pinch.
I made these for my co-workers for a Halloween treat. They were a huge hit and many of my co-workers asked for the recipe! Definitely adding these to my “MUST MAKE ALL THE TIME” box of recipes! ^^
Do you cut your own wrappers? Or is there someplace that supplies those wax paper squares? I make my grandmother’s recipe for toffee every Christmas, and wrapping them is the hardest part. I bought some squares from King Arthur, but they are a little large. It would be great to find some already cut.
Hi Lynne, I did cut my own wrappers from a roll of wax paper. I haven’t found pre-cut ones, although I haven’t admittedly ton a ton of looking.
This is what we used from King Arthur: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/parchment-squares-1000-pieces
We (and when I say we, I mean my husband) folded the wrappers around them vs. twisting because they are a bit stiff. I thought that they were a little big, but a search shows me that most wrappers are at least 4″x4″, so they aren’t that much larger. The other benefit is that you can use these for other purposes.
I bought clear ones from amazon, they are called caramel wrappers with a count of 800-1000 for around $26. They are not wax but work wonderfully with caramels and way cheaper then the packs of 50 foil ones I was buying at Michaels.
I’ve had the same thing happen to me with caramels, one batch too hard one to soft etc. I have made a recipe similar to this and loved it, so I assume this would be a hit at my house too. Lovely photos :)
This recipe just convinced me to BUY a stupid thermometer and give this a try. Thank-you!
If it tastes like apple pie- I am all in. Sounds like deliciousness in small packages! Love your simple ingredients and recipe! Beautifully captured too!
I am not a fan of caramels or apple cider but my kids are so I made this for them. They loved these caramels and they were a cinch to make. The most difficult part was cutting the waxed paper and wrapping them.
Thanks for sharing the recipe!
Made these tonight as I just couldn ‘t resist..they are fabulous.Took me 2 hours beginning to end,but it was worth it!!! Thanks!
These caramels look and sound delicious. They might be the first caramels I ever make myself :-)
These look really fun to make! I’m not sure I’ve ever made caramels before but they sound delicious :)
I made caramels last year and they were delicious. The hardest part for me was cutting and wrapping them.
I’ve never made my own caramels. These look so delish!
Look super delicious and love love carmel!!
These look awesome! I’ve always been scared off by making candy like this as there always seems to be some ingredients I can’t get in the UK, but these would!! Hoorah! Thanks for sharing xx
These look great! Yum!
I really need to make these. I opened a carton of apple cider recently to make oatmeal but haven’t decided what to make with the rest.
These have been on my radar for awhile now, I am going to have to try them!
I love your recipes. I just wish you had some pictures for the old recipes.
Oh my goodness gracious, these look absolutely divine. I am usually scared of making candy/caramels but I think I would risk my pride for these! :)
These look so perfect and so good!!
Wow, you got these perfect!! They look awesome!
I’ve never tried to make caramels. You have given me the inspiration. I love caramels and apple pie, the perfect combo!
These look perfect!!
I find making candy very intimidating! Especially the thermometer. I know weird. These pics make me want to try it!!
Not weird at all Nancy – candy thermometers are a nuisance! I used to avoid candy, caramel and chocolate making for the same reason. Then I took a chocolate tempering class and the chocolatier was using a laser thermometer gun (Raytek Mini Temp) to check the temp. You just point the gun at whatever you are cooking, melting, etc. and click the trigger and it shoots out a beam of light and gives you a precise reading instantly. No contact with the food = no cleanup of a messy thermometer. Also useful for checking the temperature of your oven to ensure accuracy. They aren’t cheap (about $40 online) but well worth the cost.
These look just delicious! I have never made toffees like these but am so tempted to have go, perfect for Hallowe’en.
These sound interesting! Would make lovely presents, they’re so pretty!
Aw I love your presentation of these =)
Those caramels sound amazing! I love recipes that involve apple cider. I definitely want to try these this fall.
When I read the title, I thought, hmmmm, did she make Deb’s caramels? I’ve had my eye on this recipe for 18 mos now in her book. Ive never done it b/c I have a microwave caramel recipe that is foolproof and you dont need a thermometer and I’m with you, candy making can be hit or miss – and 10 degrees can mean soft and chewy or chip a tooth. Yeah, been there. These are gorgeous! Pinned!
I love caramels, these look so good!
Is this recipe from Annie’s Eats?
No, it’s from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, as stated at the bottom of the recipe.
It’s the same recipe, both taken from the same source.