These candies are a concentrated burst of rich apple cider and cinnamon. Top with flakey salt to balance the sweetness of the caramel.
I'm popping in for a minute to share this recipe for salty apply cider caramels. They're perfect if you're in need of last minute gifts or just looking for a special addition to your dessert table. I seem to make a batch every week weeks from October until now, keeping them in the fridge and taking a few along here and there for hostess gifts or setting a couple out after dinner.
Speaking of gifts, I recently stumbled on this article which I think is a worthwhile read for any parent. It outlines a study that supports the idea that kids are more creative and develop a better attention span when they have fewer toys. I don't want to sound like the Grinch here, but I do think it's a good thing to keep in mind during the holidays when there is so much pressure to spend, spend, spend. Since becoming parents, Nate and I have tried to take a more minimalist approach to what we buy and keep in our home and we're all a lot happier for it. Consider it before you drive yourself nuts trying to get in that last minute shopping run this weekend.
But back to the caramels. They start with a quart of fresh apple cider, which gets reduced down into a thick syrup. Your house will smell divine. You might want to get an extra quart just for drinking, because the scent will be hard to resist. You'll need to use some corn syrup. I've tried many versions of the recipe with other substitutes, but it's pretty difficult to get *just right* without it so for the sake of everyone having successful caramels, let's just stick with the real deal. You'll also need to get your hands on a candy thermometer. You can probably pick one up at any local kitchen store or even a hardware store. I really love this Taylor version, which is super versatile and also has a handy scan function.
Salty Apple Cider Caramels
1 quart fresh apple cider
1 cup light corn syrup
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
flakey sea salt
In a large, heavy bottom pot (I use my Le Creuset Dutch oven) bring the apple cider to a rolling boil. Reduce to a very low simmer and continue to cook, uncovered, until the cider is reduced to a thick syrup. Because the cider will be more viscous while hot, you may want to test by putting a small amount on a spoon and allowing to come to room temperature. It should be about the consistency of maple syrup. This process takes me about 90 minutes on my stovetop.
Add the corn syrup, cream, sugar, and butter and bring to a rolling boil, stirring to combine the ingredients and dissolve the sugar. Try to avoid splashing too much of the granules of sugar onto the sides of the pot, or they won't become fully emulsified. Reduce to medium heat and continue to cook without stirring until your candy thermometer reads 250F. You can take it a bit further to 252F if you want a harder caramel, or 248F for a softer caramel. While the caramel is cooking, line an 8x8" baking pan with a parchment paper sling and lightly grease with butter or non-stick spray.
When the caramel reaches your desired temperature, remove from heat and stir in the salt and cinnamon. Pour into the prepared pan. Allow to come to room temperature and sprinkle with the sea salt flakes. The salt may still dissolve into the caramel, but you'll taste it.
I like to refrigerate my caramels for about 24 hours before I slice them. When you're ready to cut, use the parchment sling to lift the entire block of caramel onto a cutting board. Let stand for 10-15 minutes, and then use a ruler and a very sharp knife to cut into 1" squares. Wrap in squares of waxed paper. I like to store mine in the fridge for a few weeks, removing them an hour or so before serving, but they will keep at room temperature for about two weeks.
Adapted from King Arthur Flour