Still, to start the school year off on a good note, I made them a sweet treat. Apple cider caramels, packaged in a cute apple box. Yes. I need to go back to work. To much time on my hands.
I made fleur de sel caramels last week to top some cupcakes, but failed to get a picture, as they disappeared way too quickly. They were delicious, and I'll have to make some more soon. But I spotted these on pinterest, and thought that they would be appropriate for the start of the school year.
So I got a great big jug of apple cider, and set out to reduce 2 cups of it to 1/3 of a cup. Then made the caramels using a different method than the fleur de sel caramels, that took what it seems like way more time. But still. There's nothing difficult about making these candies, you just need to pay attention to what the thermometer says, and you'll be fine.
Apple Cider Caramels
Recipe from America's Dairy Farmers via Blondie's Cakes
2 cups apple cider
1 cup heavy cream or whipping cream, divided
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup real butter, cubed
Pour cider into a medium saucepan and boil on high for about 20 minutes or until the cider is reduced to 1/3 c. Set aside to cool.
Line an 8" square pan with parchment paper, making sure to leave about 1" hanging over the edges for easy removal. Coat with a bit of vegetable oil.
In a small bowl, combine 2/3 cup cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and reduced apple cider.
In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and the corn syrup. Measure 1/3 cup whipping cream and add enough water to reach the 1/2 cup line on the measuring cup and add that to the sugar and corn syrup. Cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Insert the candy thermometer and simmer until the syrup reaches 234 degrees F.
Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cream mixture. Add the cubed butter and stir until the cream and butter are fully incorporated. Return the pan to heat and re-insert the candy thermometer. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the temperature reaches 248 degrees F.
Remove from heat and pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Let the mixture cool completely at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
Cut and wrap as desired. Store in an airtight container or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
These things taste like the filling of a caramel apple pie. So freaking delicious!
The most tedious part is probably cutting and wrapping the candies. These were soft and easy to cut after sitting on the counter overnight. Warming the knife over a flame or coating it with butter was unnecessary, and I managed to cleanly cut 64 pieces out of my 8x8 slab. Next time though, I think I might cut them a little smaller, even if it means wrapping even more of them.
The last time I wrapped candies, I used wax paper. And for some reason, the candy stuck to the wax paper like crazy. So this time around, I used parchment paper, and that worked way better. Absolutely no sticking. Just make sure to cut your paper big enough, so you don't have to start over!
While the caramels were setting, I searched the internet for cute packaging ideas, and came upon this one. With a little more browsing, I found this, and knew I had found my design. A couple of hours on photoshop, a trip to the store for a new ink cartridge and many wasted pages of cardstock later, I had cute little apples to contain my apple cider caramels.
Now I don't know Cha's new teachers, but really, who can resist caramels? Here's to a great school year!