Search This Blog

Monday, December 17, 2012

Apple Cider Caramels

I spent my weekend getting ready for the holidays by wrapping presents and making candy. In addition to my favorite holiday candy (Peppermint Bark), I made these apple cider caramels. Wowza, these have some serious flavor. They taste like a bite-sized caramel apple with tiny bits of sea salt that you notice as you chew on them. Goodness, they are good. And as far as candy making goes, these were really simple and are jam-packed full of flavor. Make them! Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

4 cups apple cider (not juice)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 stick butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 candy thermometer

Pour the apple cider into a 3 quart saucepan and place on the stove over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and let reduce until the liquid measures about 1/2-1/3 cup (this will likely take 30-45 minutes). 

Meanwhile, measure out the sugars, butter, and cream and set aside. In a small bowl stir together the salt and cinnamon and set aside. Prepare an 8x8 inch baking pan by lining two strips of parchment paper on the bottom, leaving extra hanging off the top for easy removal once the caramel hardens. Set aside.

Once the apple cider has reduced, remove from heat and add the sugars, butter, and cream and stir to combine. Put back on the burner on medium-high heat and bring to a boil until the mixture reaches a temperature of 252 degrees F (about 5 minutes). Promptly remove from heat, stir in the cinnamon/salt mixture and pour into the parchment paper-lined pan. Let cool/harden on the counter (~2 hours) or in the fridge (faster). 

Once hardened, remove the caramel by pulling up on the sides of the parchment paper and place on a cutting board. Using a well oiled sharp knife, cut into 1-inch squares and wrap in parchment/wax paper, twisting the sides to keep the caramel sealed. These will keep fresh for approximately 2 weeks on the counter. You can store them in the fridge, but I found them to be too hard when cold and just perfect when room temperature. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hot Cocoa Mix

Every year around this time I try to find some type of edible DIY gift. Last year I made vanilla extract and used it as stocking stuffers for my family. This year I stumbled upon this Hot Cocoa Mix that looked delicious and decided to make good use of a work-from-home day and made a bunch of these jars to give away (but not before trying a cup of hot cocoa first!). Its a very rich and chocolatey cocoa. Top notch!

4 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 pound semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 pound milk chocolate, chopped
2 cups cocoa powder

In a food processor pulse together the sugar and vanilla until combined and smooth. Pour into the bottom of a very large bowl. Add half the chocolate to the food processor and process until completely ground (do not pulse too long, or else the oils will be released and it will start to clump together). Once all the chocolate is pulsed/ground, pour it into the bowl with the sugar. Finally add the cocoa powder and whisk to combine all ingredients. You may need to break up any small clumps of cocoa or ground chocolate as you whisk. 

Pour into jars and close tightly. Attach a note with directions on how to make each cup of cocoa. Directions are as follows: Warm 1 cup (8 oz.) of milk in a microwave or on the stove. Add 3-4 tablespoons of cocoa mix and stir together to combine. Serve and enjoy!

Will last approximately 10 months.