Sunday, December 13, 2009

I am the queen of caramels

A few years ago, I learned to make caramels from a chef friend who trained at Le Cordon Bleu. Some sea salt adds a delicious savory touch and it's easy to make a chocolate version too. They were scrumptious and they were a great gift. Too great in fact. My friends are addicted. The holidays are always slightly crazy, and every year I think it's too much trouble to make them. And whenever I verbalize the possibility of no caramels, a wave of protests drowns me out.

But I really was thinking about not doing the caramels this year. Really. Then a friend roped me in with different scheme: a cookie exchange. Three kinds of cookies, three dozen each. I said no way. BUT, they didn't want me to bake, they wanted the caramels. And frankly, I want their cookies. So the caramel factory kicked into gear.

Here's this year's batch.

They don't look like much in the pan, but I assure you they are incredible. I was more patient this year, so I think they will be less gooey than in years past. I'm also going to make an easy chocolate pretzel recipe: melt a Rolo onto a pretzel in the oven, stick a cashew on top and voila, turtle pretzels!

For those interested in making salted caramels yourself *cough cough* the recipe follows.

Salted caramels
500 ml heavy cream
1 2/3 cup sugar
1 cup corn syrup
3 tbl butter
1 tsp salt.
Buttered pan
(2 c. chocolate chips if using)

Add cream to a heavy, deep pot, then add sugar and corn syrup. Combine. Heat over med-high heat until the liquid becomes clear. Reduce heat to low to medium low. Simmer until it reaches the "soft ball" stage on a candy thermometer, about one hour. (Or use the ice water method, dropping some into ice water. Once the candy rolls into a firm ball, it's ready.) Remove from heat, add butter, salt and chocolate chips if applicable. Pour into buttered pan. Cool.

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