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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Apple Cider 5-Spice Caramels

Apple Cider 5-Spice Caramels
Who loves apples?  Hand raised. With authority. Who loves caramels?  me. me. me. me. me. me. meeeeeee. Who really, REALLY loves Fall and all things associated with it?  You guessed it, this girl!

And I've got all three of those things rolled into one right here, right now - today.  The first official day of Fall.  See how I'm looking out for you me you me you (I mean, you love all three of those things, too....right!?).

Apple Cider 5-Spice Caramels
These caramels are infused with a slightly sweet, entirely tangy apple cider reduction.  And as if that weren't enough of a chilly-weather boost, they're also speckled with heady, warming spices - in the form of Chinese 5-Spice powder: cinnamon, star anise, fennel, ginger, cloves, white pepper, and licorice root.  I know, I know...that's 7.  I don't think that the ginger and licorice root are in the "original". Plus, the original uses Sichuan pepper, not white pepper.  If you don't make the mixture yourself, you may find that brands vary a bit.  

I happened to love them.  My daughter likes them.  All three boys think they're gross.  What!?  A strange bunch, I tell ya.  I don't know what's not to love.  I think that, that they think, that I ruined the glory that is caramel by adding apple cider and out-of-the-ordinary (for their minds...) spices.  Apparently I'm sharing my life with a bunch of caramel purists.
Apple Cider 5-Spice Caramels
That just means more for me.  Not good.  Sooooo not good.  Because I will eat them.  If you feel the same, feel free to leave out the spices...or substitute them with apple pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice....maybe some cloves and ginger).  Now see, I can't leave my apple pie spice mixture alone either.  You think they'd have adapted by now.

Apple Cider Five-Spice Caramels
Soft caramels infused with a sweet and tangy apple cider reduction and speckled with warming spices.
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by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: approx. 1 hour
Keywords: boil dessert butter cream apple cider candy fall

Ingredients (64 (1-inch) caramels)
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Five-Spice powder
  • big pinch of sea salt
  • 1-1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons water
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed (at cool room temperature)
Pour the apple cider into a heavy-bottomed pot, and set over high heat. Bring to a boil, and allow to reduce until you have 1/3 cup of thick, syrupy liquid. This should take about 17-20 minutes. If you're anything like me, you'll over-reduce. Three times. In other words, have extra apple cider at the ready - put the already reduced stuff into a measuring cup, and then continue reducing more until you can fill it. Set aside and allow to cool a bit.

Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper, allowing it to hang over the edges (for easy removal). Pour in a teaspoon or so of vegetable oil and move it around, use a paper towel or your fingers to make sure it slicks both the bottom and the sides of the pan. Set aside.

Place 2/3 cup of the heavy cream into a small bowl along with the five-spice powder and the salt. Whisk in the mostly-cooled cider reduction. Set aside.

Add the sugar, remaining heavy cream, water, and corn syrup to a medium-large, heavy-bottomed pot set over low heat. Cook, stirring, until the sugar melts - clip a candy thermometer on the side. Simmer on low until it reaches 234° F.

Carefully lift out the thermometer and set aside for a moment; remove pot from heat. Gradually whisk in the cream mixture and the cubed butter until they are fully incorporated. Set back over the heat and re-attach the thermometer. Continue to cook until the temperature reaches 248° F (this will take around 30 minutes...roughly...give or take).

Slowly and carefully pour the mixture into your prepared pan. Allow mixture to sit at room temperature until completely cool (usually at least 3 hours). At this point, you could cover the pan loosely and refrigerate, if need be.

When ready to cut, lift the square of caramel out of the pan, using the parchment overhang. Cut in any size you like - if ijts been refrigerated for a while, let sit for 45-60 minutes to allow for easier cutting. Conversely, if they are too soft from sitting at a warm room temperature, refrigerate them for a few minutes.

I cut mine into 1-inch squares, which gave me 64 individual caramels. Wrap in wax paper and store in an airtight container at cool room temperature, or in the fridge, for up to 2 weeks (if they last that long).

Apple Cider 5-Spice Caramels