So I recently bought myself a candy thermometer and have been pinning a bunch of ideas for caramels and other candies. The apple cider caramels from Smitten Kitchen have been getting a lot of attention and look amazing, however the urge to make something came over suddenly the other day and I couldn’t find raw unpasteurized cider in my neighborhood. Plus, I knew if I made them they would be perfect as-is and thus not really require a separate Hungry Bear blog post. What I did have on hand were some frozen cranberries, which I decided was worth a try in adapting to the SK recipe. Overall I think they were hugely successful. The texture came out perfect, and the color is pleasantly surprising (kind of a mauve) for a caramel. They also taste great, though less cranberry-y than I would have expected given how tart the syrup is. If I make these again I might use less sugar to compensate for the sugar in the syrup. The final product is rich, but subtle, and I think a great alternative to regular caramel or toffee, perfect for this time of year. Enjoy! (Recipe to follow after the pics)
*Adapted from Smitten Kitchen apple cider caramels.
-One batch of cranberry syrup, via Smitten Kitchen. *Optional: add 1 tsp of vanilla while simmering for a subtle added flavor.
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or apple pie spice, alternatively)
1 teaspoons flaky sea salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
Vegetable oil for knife and parchment
First whip up a batch of the cranberry syrup. I followed the SK recipe (plus 1 tsp vanilla), strained it through a small metal strainer, and was left with just shy of a half cup of syrup (if you get more than half cup I would discard the extra or even cook it down a little further). *Bonus: the cranberry bits you strain out make about 1/3 cup of yummy cranberry relish that would be great to save and use on pancakes, in oatmeal, with turkey, etc.
Before starting the caramel, prep the ingredients and assembly. Line the bottom and sides of an 8- inch straight- sided square metal baking pan with 2 long sheets of crisscrossed parchment, and brush with oil. *Warning: do NOT use aluminum foil, as I did, or you will spend an hour picking out the bits that stick to the finished product (even if you butter/oil it). Set it aside. Stir the cinnamon and flaky salt together in a small dish.
Get your butter, sugars, and cream ready. Now you can pour the cranberry syrup back into the pot you used to make it (just make sure there are no chunks left), and heat it on low for a few minutes to warm it up again. Stir in the butter, sugars, and heavy cream. Heat on medium- high heat with a candy thermometer attached to the side, and let it boil until the thermometer reads 250 degrees. *This should only take 5-10 minutes, but I strongly advise you don’t guesstimate if you are lacking a thermometer. It’s worth the $10 to have one around. If you do go ahead without a thermometer, you can test it by dropping a spoonful into cold water. If it is firm, but malleable, it’s ready. But be warned, the process goes fast, and if you leave your mixture boiling while testing, it may get to hot and become hard when it cools.
At 250 degrees, immediately remove caramel from heat, add the cinnamon- salt mixture, and stir to combine. Pour caramel into the prepared pan. Let it sit until cool and firm. This takes a few hours, or you can speed things up in the refrigerator (if left too long it will be hard, but softens up again in room temperature). Once cool, lift the caramel by the parchment paper onto a cutting board. Use an oiled knife, re-oiling as needed, to cut the caramel into a size/shape of your choice (I used a pizza cutter to finish up). Wrap each one in waxed paper or plastic wrap, twisting the sides to close.
Gift idea: I used some decorative paper to make little folded boxes to put these candies in as stocking stuffers/party handouts. I used this video tutorial , adjusting size to a 25x25cm paper, for a 5x5x5 cm box. Also, in the last steps, instead of closing both ends, I closed the bottom side, and pinched the top together, punched a hole, and tied a bow. The fit about half dozen candies in each. So cute!