Homemade caramels have always been a sticking point (pun intended) for me. Meringue – no prob! Frosting a multi-layered cake – sure, you got it – and would you like me to bring it on the subway as well? OK, see you soon! I have quite a lot of patience when it comes to kitchen projects but there was something about caramel-making that I could never quite get to work out.
My attempts always left me frustrated and disappointed, not to mention caramel-less, which may be the most depressing fact of all. That was until I had the irrational obsession with making homemade caramels for the holiday season. I told myself: they’d be perfect for any and all moments! A last-minute thank you! A office party dream! But the reality was that I was either making batch after batch of beer-infused caramel sauce or hard toffee topped with pretzels. Neither were my attempt of soft, chewy caramels.
I made too many of these unsuccessful batches before I finally broke down and tried a batch with corn syrup. That was all it took for all my caramel dreams to come true. That and I invested in a candy thermometer which I will say is also a requirement. But after that, then you really just need an afternoon and a thorough moment with the directions before beginning.
But the no-joke best thing about caramels is that one batch makes A TON (read: your food gifts are covered) AND they basically last forever (or you will eat them all first).
Speaking of food gifts – have you heard of the amazing bakery Ovenly? These ladies know what is up when it comes to both food gifts and baked goods that will bring your tastebuds to the next level. What now seems like many moons ago, I had the great pleasure of spending a season in the Ovenly kitchen, whipping up pomegranate buttercream and mustard spice cookies.
They have since moved into an adorable space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn which if you live in the nabe then you probably already know about the awesome but if you happen to be visiting NYC then it is well worth the trip. But you don’t have to live in New York to get a gift boxful of food treats. Guess what? I am giving away a Holiday Snack Box of Ovenly goodies!
The Ovenly Gift Box Giveaway includes:
- $20 gift certificate to Ovenly
- 1 bag Maple Thyme Pecans
- 1 bag Old Salties (bacon fat-roasted peanuts tossed in Old Bay seasoning)
- 1 bag Pistachio Brittle
- A recipe card for Ovenly Pistachio Brittle (so you can make it all winter long!)
- One rolling pin ornament (this may be the cutest thing I’ve ever seen!)
**All you have to do to enter the giveaway is leave a comment on this post.**
The comments will close on Monday, December 23nd at 11:59 p.m. (EST). Good luck!
P.S. This week has been bonkers exciting because on Wednesday I got to share a cookie recipe on The TODAY Show! Like THE TODAY Show. Click to watch the video and get the recipe for expresso-kissed almond chocolate chunk snowballs. Happy Holiday baking! xo!
Soft and Chewy Crushed Pretzel and Beer Caramels (Carm-ales)
Adapted from theKitchn
6 ounces (3/4 cup or 177 ml) beer (I used Brooklyn Lager)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup (236 ml) heavy cream
4 tablespoons (56 grams) butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) corn syrup
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
1/2 cup (30 grams) crushed pretzels
flaky salt, optional (for sprinkling)
Make the beer syrup and prepare for caramel-ing: In a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat, simmer the beer for 30 minutes or so, or until it has reduced to 1 tablespoon. Give the pan a swirl every so now and again and keep a close eye on it as it begins to really reduce in volume. Turn off the heat and measure out a tablespoon of the beer syrup into a small bowl. Add the vanilla and set aside. Meanwhile, prepare all your tools since once you get going you will need to work fast. Butter and line an 8×8 pan with two overlapping sheets of parchment and butter the parchment. Dig out your candy thermometer and pastry brush. Find a whisk and heat-proof spatula. Get your biggest pot down from the cabinet.
Heat the cream: In a small saucepan (or wash and dry the same one you used to make the beer syrup) combine the cream, butter and salt. Heat the mixture over medium-low heat until the butter melts, then remove from the heat, cover, and set aside.
Make the sugar syrup base: In your largest pot, stir together the sugar, corn syrup and water. Use a damp pastry brush to wipe down the sides of the pan so there are no sugar crystals above the surface of the sugar mixture. Clip on your candy thermometer and make sure it is fully submerged in the sugar. From this point on, do not stir the sugar!!
Set the pan over medium-high heat and let the syrup come to a boil without stirring. From now on you should not leave the pot’s side and you must devote the next 15 minutes to watching this sugar syrup come to a boil. Yes it is boring but yes it will make you delicious carm-ales. Watch your thermometer – at around 250°F it will begin to boil rapidly. At 320°F it will begin to darken. You can turn off the heat anytime after the mixture reaches 250°F and before it reaches 325°F. I turned off the heat at 320°F.
Add the cream: Okay, get your whisk ready and take a breath (and/or finish the remaining 2 ounces of beer). The cream will cause the hot syrup to bubble up and triple in size so be careful. While whisking the syrup gently, slowly pour in the warm cream/butter mixture. Stop whisking when all the cream has been added.
Cook the caramel and finish: Return the pan to medium-high heat and let the caramel come to a boil without stirring. Watch the thermometer closely and when the caramel reaches 248°F remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the beer syrup and vanilla until just combined. Immediately pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Tap the pan against the counter to remove any air bubbles. Sprinkle with crushed pretzels and flaky salt, if using.
Let the caramels sit at room temperature for several hours until fully set. Then remove from the pan, slice into tiny squares, and wrap each candy in wax paper. Store at room temperature.Ovenly. One entry (comment) per person please. The comments will close on Monday, December 23rd at 11:59 p.m. (EST). The winner will be contacted and announced on Tuesday, December 24th by 11:59 p.m. (EST). The winner will be randomly selected via blog magic.