Saturday, February 16, 2008

gingerbread caramels

the recipe made about 150 caramels, which took forever to individually wrap

I was inspired by my friend, Michelle, to make gingerbread caramels, which taste like just like your best Christmas memory. I took them to Megan's baby shower and they were a big hit.

The recipe calls for corn syrup, which I can't buy here. But luckily, Michelle brought me a couple bottles when she was in Zurich during a short layover last year. I made a huge mess of the kitchen, not remembering how big candy boils before it cooks down. I switched to bigger pans twice, resulting in this sticky mess...

Candy requires very specific temperatures so I had three thermometers going, just in case. But all three were giving dramatically different readings as shown in the pic below. I panicked and tried a meat thermometer, dangling it into the bubbling cauldron with tongs. Of course, I promptly dropped it and had to fish it out with the tongs. Then I realized that I had attached the wrong sensors to my digital timers/thermometers. Once I switched the sensors to their proper owners, I got better readings but still a couple degress off from each other. I think I cooked the candy to 248F, which would be hard ball stage, but my candy was still quite soft. I'll cook it a little higher next time so the caramels keep their shape. But in any case, this recipe is a keeper. Thanks for the inspiration, Michelle.

Gingerbread Caramels
From Martha Stewart, my notes in green

Makes about 12 1/2 dozen

Vegetable-oil cooking spray
4 cups (2 pints) heavy cream
2 cups light corn syrup
4 cups granulated sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Coat an 18-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on short sides. Coat parchment. (Make sure parchment covers the whole pan - I left a tiny bit exposed on the long sides of the pan and I had to unstick the caramel with a knife)

Bring cream, corn syrup, sugar, butter, and molasses to a boil in a large pot over high heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. (make sure this pot is at least twice the volume of your initial mixture as it grows when it reaches a boil - I used a tall stock pot) Clip a candy thermometer to side of pan, and continue to cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until mixture reaches 248 degrees (firm-ball stage), about 20 minutes. (Some candies require that you don't stir the mix to avoid crystallization, but this recipe says to stir frequently. I didn't have a problem - the candies were super smooth)

Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla, salt, and spices. (Make sure you really stir. When I poured the caramel into the pan, a hidden chunk of spices plopped out and I had to mix them in the baking pan, which was not easy) Immediately pour onto prepared sheet, without scraping pot. Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature for 24 hours without moving.

Coat a large cutting board generously with cooking spray. Pull up parchment to unmold caramel, and invert onto the cutting board. (I did not invert onto cutting board - I simply lifted caramels and parchment onto the cutting board, cut into pieces on parchment, and peeled off pieces to wrap individually.) Remove parchment. Cut into 1-by-1 1/4-inch pieces (My pizza cutter worked well here). Wrap each in cellophane or waxed paper (I used parchment paper, but cellophane would have been prettier). Caramels can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

I'm glad you liked them! I should have mentioned in my blog that they boil so high. Lucky for me I was using my brand new 8 qt stock pot or I would been doing the pan switching thing as well. By the way, I cut probably 150 pieces of cellophane to wrap mine and they wouldn't twist right, were a total flop and so I had to cut 150 pieces of parchment. Bummer.

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