Tag Archives: caramel

Recipe: Gingerbread Caramels

21 Dec

Christmas, oh Christmas.

I’m not religious but Christmas is  my guilty pleasure. I love the holiday season in general-that magical time between Halloween and New Year’s makes me all gooey. It’s probably all of the alcohol and baked goods you’re encouraged to imbibe. (Hey-o!)

Since my fiance joined me on the east coast a year ago, we’ve only gone back home for one holiday a year, which means picking between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last year we went home for Xmas. This year was Tgiving. And so, schmoops and I will be celebrating Christmas with our cat this year. Honestly? I’m really excited about it. I’m making epic Christmas brunch, we’re going to lay around in our pjs, open presents, and maybe go to a movie. Our theatre here has a bar inside of it so, because it’s Christmas, I’ll probably splurge and buy us movie-themed adult beverages to enjoy. You know. Live it up.

The downside of spending Christmas (almost) alone 3,000 miles away from the rest of your family is that Christmas presents begin to pose a problem. Add to that the fact that you’re broke and you’ve been unemployed for 5 months (guilty…) and you see what I’m talking about. This called for creativity. What could I send loved ones that would be inexpensive, easy to mail (to three different countries), and universally well received?

CANDY!

Specifically, caramel. Gingerbread caramel. Thank you, Ms. Martha Stewart.

Gingerbread Caramels

4 cups (2 pints) heavy cream

2 cups light corn syrup

4 cups granulated sugar

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 cup unsulfured molasses

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Vegetable-oil cooking spray

A quick note about the corn syrup-I really didn’t want to use it. I’m a giant hippie deep down inside so I think corn syrup is the devil. Also, my best friend’s little daughter is allergic to it and I wanted her to be able to eat these things. However, at the last minute I got lazy (and I had a random bottle of the stuff) that I wanted to use. If you’re interested in corn syrup substitutions, there are lots of suggestions on the ol’ interwebs. The best ones I found were to make a thick simple syrup  from water and sugar, or to use honey. I think you can also use tapioca syrup and/or agave syrup.

ONWARD.

Prepare your pans. This is what you will be pouring the hot caramel into to cool. The recipe suggests using a 12×17 inch rimmed pan, but I didn’t have one of those so I just used what I did have, and made sure that the sum of their measurements matched. The caramel is crazy sticky, so you have to grease the bottom and sides of all the pans. Then, line the pans with parchment or wax paper, and grease the paper as well. Trust me on this. You want to do it.

Bring the cream, corn syrup, sugar, butter, and molasses to a boil. Continue to cook over medium-high heat until it reaches 248˚F. The amount of time it takes to do this will vary depending on your altitude and what you put in the caramel. I swear it took me almost an hour. The thing is-it is very important that you reach that 248˚ mark. If you don’t the candy won’t be thick enough and it won’t harden properly.

Boiling boiling.

Once it reaches 248˚, turn off the heat and stir in the spices, the salt, and the vanilla.

Pour the mixture into your prepared pans. Allow to sit undisturbed for 24 hours. This is to make sure the caramel cools completely. Also, I would recommend that you lightly cover the pans with a clean dishcloth. Caramel is sticky. You don’t want any dust or..whatever else getting in it.

The next day, get yourself a cutting board and a knife. I used my pizza cutter, which, incidentally, I have never used to cut a pizza. Grease the cutting surface and your cutting implement. Turn the caramel over onto your prepared surface. You might have to use a knife to loosen the parchment overhang, but if you greased properly this should be easy. Then you’ll have to peel the paper from the back of the caramel.

Cut the caramels into 1″ pieces. I actually used a ruler and traced a light grid onto the caramel before I cut them. You don’t have to do that if you don’t want to, but I found it helpful.

Wrap the individual pieces in wax paper or parchment paper.

Twist the sides to make them look like real candy.

If you’re giving them as gifts, you can put them in fun little cellophane bags. I used a free template to print those stickers, which can be found here.

The whole process was really quite easy, if time consuming. I hand-wrapped over 100 caramels, you guys.

❤ stef

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Recipe: Dulce de Leche

14 Jan

What is dulce de leche, you ask? That is an excellent question. It’s basically caramel, but made from milk and sugar instead of just sugar. Literally translated it means “milk candy”. It’s gotten pretty popular up in the states in the last 10 or so years, but it’s a South American candy. I actually grew up with it, because my mom’s family is from Argentina and they have a dulce de leche recipe that is passed down from oldest child to oldest child on her father’s side of the family. My grandfather, Nono, is the oldest child in his family, and I am the oldest of mine. So when I was around 10 or 12 he taught me how to make dulce de leche.

My brother, sister, cousin and I were in San Diego visiting my grandparents. We were playing in the back yard and my Nono came to get me and bring me inside. I remember being a little annoyed because I wanted to be outside playing, but he brought me into the kitchen and told me that because I was the oldest he was going to teach me how to make his dulce de leche. He told me that his mother had taught him when he had been around my age (at the time) and so it was my turn to learn. I still remember that day, the kitchen tiles against my feet, the cool darkness of the kitchen. I didn’t try making it on my own until years later but that was one of the only afternoons I ever spent learning something from my Nono.

My grandparents used to eat dulce de leche on toast in the mornings. My grandparents ALWAYS eat toast for breakfast-toast with butter, cream cheese, jam, honey, dulce de leche, and sometimes a combination of the above! I always preferred cream cheese and honey, but someone always ate their pan con dulce de leche.

This being my second year as a poor-ass grad student, I wanted to give christmas gifts but could not spend much money. I also didn’t want to give crap gifts. Then I remembered that pretty much everyone in the whole world likes caramel, my friends probably haven’t eaten much dulce de leche in their lives, and gosh darnit it just sounds so exotic. Duuuulce de lechhhhe. Mmmmmmm. Also, when you tell your friends that you spent six hours in front of the stove stirring they are very impressed and think you are the best friend ever. Which I am.

Dulce de Leche

Ok, now, here’s the thing. I can’t actually give you my family recipe. Well, I could but I’ve been instructed not to. Seriously. So I’m giving you Alton Brown’s instead. Rest assured, though, I have checked it for accuracy and it is basically the same, but this will only make you 1 jar and mine made 8. Also, I’m taking out some of his totally unnecessary steps. Like, straining the finished product. Um, Alton? You really don’t need to do that.

1 quart whole milk

12 ounces sugar

1 vanilla bean, split with seeds scraped out

1/2 tsp baking soda

Mix everything together. Grab your vanilla bean, split it lengthwise and scrape all of the seeds into the milk sugar mix, then throw the vanilla pod in there as well.

In the beginning.

Now. Keep the heat at about medium low so that you achieve a very gentle simmer, and stir constantly for the next 2 hours. You really have to stir frequently otherwise the bottom of the caramel will burn. At some point take out the vanilla bean pod.

I'm sorry this picture is horrible.

This is about what the dulce de leche should look like-a medium brown caramel color. This picture is terrible because it was late and I had no natural light. The batch I made was huge so I was stirring for six hours, not two.

Allow to cool and then pour into jars.

You can serve dulce de leche:

on toast

on ice cream

as a cookie topping (alfajores, anyone???)

on pretzels (enthusiastically suggested to me by a friend the day after I gave him his jar).

on apples (pears, whatever)

with PIE

as a cake filling

etc

etc

etc

or you can just eat it from the jar.

❤ stef