On the long, long list of things that went wrong during the creation of the (finally!) glorious Apple cider cake with salted caramel sauce, I accidentally made my first batch of caramel candy. Instead of using my usual foolproof salted caramel recipe, I’d decided to branch out and try a new recipe for bourbon caramel sauce. It seemed to be going just fine, and I poured it into a jar and placed the jar in the fridge to set up.
Set up it did — into a huge, mason-jar-sized hunk of solid caramel.
Did I curse myself and hasten off to the corner store for more cream whilst still in my pyjamas? Yes. But I was also a little intrigued because I’d just made my first batch of (accidental) candy! For years, I’d been interested in candy-making projects, but always set them aside because I didn’t own an instant-read thermometer, which is critical for candy making. But now I had a thermometer! A whole sugar-coated world was opening up before me.
(How are those January resolutions going, by the way?)
And I remembered that one of those recipes I’d bookmarked ages ago was for these intriguing caramels made with boiled-down apple cider from Smitten Kitchen. I decided that I’d give them a shot, and the results were spectacular. For such a teeny little mouthful, these pack a wallop of flavour! Each bite has the rich, butteriness that you associate with any good caramel, but also with these incredible notes of apple and cinnamon. They taste exactly like apple pie!
My plan was to give most of them away as gifts during the holidays, but I (foolishly) had kept the bowl full of caramels on the kitchen counter. I would casually snack on one, and then two, four, and so forth, until they’d almost entirely disappeared in a couple of days. I dare you to have them last any longer!
Deb Perelman’s apple cider caramels
- 4 cups (945 ml) apple cider (the non-alcoholic kind that resembled unpasteurized, spiced apple juice)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 + 1 teaspoons flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, divided
- 8 tablespoons (115 grams or 1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (110 grams) packed light brown sugar
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy cream
- Neutral oil for the knife
- In a large pot, bring the 4 cups of cider to a boil, and cook on medium-high heat for 35-45 minutes, stirring once in a while, until it is reduced to a dark, thick syrup, between 1/3 and 1/2 cup in volume.
- Meanwhile, set out your other ingredients, because time is of the essence when the candy begins cooking. Line the bottom and sides of an 8- inch square metal baking pan with 2 long sheets of perpendicular parchment. Set it aside. Stir the cinnamon and 1 tsp of the flaky salt together in a small dish.
- Once you are finished reducing the apple cider, stir in the butter, sugars, and cream. Return the pot to medium-high heat, and let it boil until the thermometer reads 252 degrees (about 5 minutes).
- Immediately remove caramel from heat, add the cinnamon-salt mixture, stir to distribute it evenly.
- Pour caramel into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tsp of flaked salt.
- Allow to cool until it's firm -- about 2 hours. Once caramel is firm, transfer it to a cutting board. Use a well-oiled knife, oiling it after each cut (Deb's invaluable advice on this), to cut the caramel into 1x1-inch squares. Wrap each one in a 4-inch square of waxed paper, twisting the sides to close. Caramels will be somewhat on the soft side at room temperature, and chewy/firm from the fridge.