Only a few days left until New Year’s Eve!
In our previous post, I mentioned that I’ve long since run out of money and have been making candy ever since, but I should also mention that I’ve never made candy before. In fact, I’m inexplicably bad at cooking sweet things of any kind – that’s Sarah’s territory. The first batch of caramel I made tasted like gasoline. So did the fourth one.
And that’s exactly why I’m not going to tell you how to make caramel!
Instead, I’m going to let some other wonderful bloggers describe the process to you and provide some ideas to customize them so they suit your tastes; or as the case may be, suit the tastes of whichever gracious host is letting you pass out on their couch this New Year’s Eve.
The first recipe can be found over at Good Life Eats. In this recipe, the caramels are spiced gingerbread style, but I wound up removing most of the spices for a subtler flavor. That way they better leant themselves to being covered in espresso-chocolate!
Chocolate Coffee Covered Molasses Caramels
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 8 tablespoons butter
- 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or fleur de sel
- 1.5 bags semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 tbsp. espresso powder
- Coffee beans for garnish
How to Put It in Your Mouth:
- Make the caramels, but exclude all spices except for salt, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Let cool until completely set (at least 3 hours), and cut into squares.
- Put 1.5 bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 45 seconds. Stir, and if needed, microwave for additional ten-second intervals, making sure to stir each time.
- Whisk in 1 tbsp. espresso powder.
- Let the chocolate cool until it’s slightly warmer than room temperature. This is to ensure that you don’t melt the caramels and distort their shape.
- Roll the caramels in the chocolate and place on parchment paper to cool. Top with a whole coffee bean.
A few side notes:
(1) If your caramel is a little liquidy after the second simmer, you can keep it on the stove until more water evaporates – just make sure it doesn’t go above 245 degrees.
(2) If you’re unsure about whether the caramel is done or not, spoon a little bit into a bowl of ice water. If it doesn’t harden, keep simmering until more liquid evaporates and try again.
(3) Don’t try to change or swap ingredients! I know it’s tempting to use what you have on hand to avoid a trip to the grocery store, but believe me, you won’t feel that way when you set your smoke alarm off for the sixth time.
White Chocolate Pear Caramels
This version takes considerably more work, but it’s very, very rewarding. This can be done with any fruit that you can candy, or if you prefer to skip that process altogether, you can buy dried fruit from the store. The recipe for the caramels can be found over here at The Kitchn.
Ingredients for the Caramel:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup corn syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1.5 bags of white chocolate chips
Ingredients for the Candied Pears:
- 2 pears
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract.
Step One is to make the caramels and let cool until completely set (at least 3 hours) and cut into squares. The move onto the pears…
How to Put It in Your Mouth
For the Pears:
- Pre-heat oven to 225 degrees.
- Cut the pears into 1/4 inch slices or wedges and remove the seeds and skin.
- Combine 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water in a wide pot and bring to a boil.
- Turn heat to medium and simmer for 8 minutes, until syrup is slightly thickened.
- Turn heat to medium-low, submerge the pears in the syrup, and add the vanilla extract.
- Simmer for 8-10 minutes until the pears begin to look translucent (not completely see-through, but when it starts to look more gelled than solid).
- Remove from the syrup, place on a parchment lined sheet pan, and bake for 15-20 minutes to allow some extra water to evaporate. Be careful, as the sugar is very easy to burn. Check often and remove early if the sugar begins to caramelize.
- Let cool on a rack for at least an hour.
- Cut the candied pears into squares to match the shape of the caramels.
- Place the white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 45 seconds. Stir, and if needed, microwave for additional ten-second intervals, making sure to stir each time.
- Let the chocolate cool until slightly warmer than room temperature. This is to ensure that you don’t melt the caramels and distort their shape.
- Place the candied (or dried) pear on top of the caramels, place on a fork, and spoon the chocolate on top until covered.
- Place on parchment paper to cool.
We put our chocolates in plastic sleeves (found at Michaels or other arts & crafts stores) and tied the top with a piece of ribbon, but you can also wrap them individually and put them in jars to give away.
…Or, you know, you can just eat them.
Photography by Sarah Alice Photography (sarahalice.net)