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.