My great friend Maggie turned me on to these amazing little candies. It was 9am on a workday, and we were meeting to talk about budgets when she pulled these out of her bag. I was a bit reticent to take a piece of candy at this early hour, but acquiesced when she said “apple cider” and “caramel” in the same sentence. I’m a candy fanatic so I try to wait until later in the day to crack the seal on the candy consumption, but this particular offer was too good. I had to have one now. These candies were homemade, they looked delicious, and we were about to start working on budgets so why not do so on a sugar high. I figured a bit of candy would kick the meeting off to the right start. And so I took a little nibble and, oh my god, they were good! I savored the flavor for what seemed like minutes. I had to have this recipe. Ten minutes later we were still talking about candy and sweets and baking and food when we realized, eek, better get to the budgets. And so, on a sugar high, we dove in deep into variances, profits, losses, expenses and fiscal years. About 2 hours later, the budget work was done, the sugar high wore off, and a little bag of caramels was tucked in my bag for later consumption. They didn’t last long, but I did manage to save a few for my boys when I got home. They loved them too.
I asked for the recipe, which Maggie got from Smitten Kitchen, and whipped up a batch immediately. The only modification I made was to sprinkle some coarse grain salt on top at the end. Here is the recipe. Enjoy and share with your friends. They will quickly become addicts like the rest of us.
4 cups apple cider (not apple juice)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsps flaky sea salt
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
Neutral oil for the knife
Boil the apple cider over high heat until it is reduced to a dark, thick syrup. You should have 1/3 to 1/2 cup in volume when you are done reducing cider. This will take approximately 45 minutes (it took me longer – maybe 50-55). Stir occasionally.
In the meantime, get the other ingredients organized because things move quickly once the cider is reduced. Line the bottom and sides of and 8×8 inch metal baking pan (crisscross parchment paper). Set aside. Stir cinnamon and salt together in a small bowl.
Once you are finished reducing the apple cider, remove it from the heat and stir in butter, sugars and heavy cream. Return the pot to the medium high heat. Let candy boil until a candy thermometer reads 252 degrees. Watch carefully. This takes about 5 minutes. Don’t have a candy thermometer, that’s okay. Deb from Smitten Kitchen explains how to check for doneness without a candy thermometer. Have a bowl of very cold water nearby. When you think it’s done or after about 5 minutes, give or take, drop a tiny spoonful of the caramal into the water. If it becomes firm, chewy and ready to be plied into a ball, it’s done.
Immediately remove caramel from heat. Add cinnamon/salt mixture. Stir to mix thoroughly. Pour caramel into prepared pan. Let it sit and cool for about 2 hours. It should firm up so that you can cut it. You can put it in the fridge to speed up the process or try to firm it up if needed.
Once the caramel is firm, use the parchment paper to lift the caramel out of the pan. Flip it upside down and carefully remove the paper. Mine was a bit sticky but it came off by pulling gently and slowly. Use a well-oiled knife to cut into squares or rectangles. You could oil a cookie cutter and make interesting shapes I suppose. That might be fun and then you could eat all the scraps around the sides of the cookie cutter. Wrap in waxed paper and store in the fridge. You can also freeze if you’d like to save some for another time.
Tuck a little zip lock bag of these in your purse and bring them everywhere. It might also be wise to bring a copy of the recipe because they will surely ask.