Candy

Gingerbread Caramels

by Shawnda on November 29, 2012

in Candy,Christmas,Holiday Favorites

Gingerbread Caramel

This is a very exciting Christmas on the “Christmas as a Parent” scale. The first Christmas was all about watching your sweet bundle of drool staring hypnotically at the blinking tree. That’s also the one where you learn that no matter how awesome or noisy or flashy that toy is, the box or bag or wrapping paper that encased it is a thousand times better.

No – 10,000 times better.

The second one is when you learn that those glass ornaments you’ve used for the last 4 years have to go back into the attic for the next 16. But they’re far more excited about play kitchens and trains and puzzles and slide-erasable etch-a-sketch thingies than they are the paper it was wrapped in.

Christmas Christmas
Christmas Christmas

But this Christmas, this is the one where she is just old enough to start to understand the concepts of the holidays, from Tebowing in front of the Christmas tree (not really; but what’s up, Kim), to celebrating with family (I see my Gia and PaPaw?!), to celebrating the birth of Jesus (we make cake for Jesus burt-day party?), to Santa Claus (Mr. Boogie scare Santa?).

And until a week ago, the only thing that my daughter could tell you about Santa Claus had to do with The Nightmare Before Christmas. Oops.

But we get to start fun new traditions this year. Like listening to Bing Crosby while we put up the Christmas tree in our pajamas. And frothing milk for hot chocolate with Shrek the Halls on in the background. Hanging stockings, decorating the mantle, and reading The Elf on The Shelf (I caved and conformed) with the smell of gingerbread filling the house.

Gingerbread Caramels

The fastest way to get into the holiday spirit is to put up a bunch of plastic decorations, set out a creepy toy elf, and make your house smell like gingerbread.

True story.

I whipped up a batch of my favorite caramel recipe the other night and spiked it with a generous dose of gingerbread spices. Mom’s gingerbread was always spiced with plenty of black pepper and plenty of cloves. The warmth from those spices really set her cookies (and bread, and cakes) apart. And it’s just not Christmas without it.

Gingerbread Caramels

Chewy, buttery caramels full of warm gingerbread spices makes a great grown-up Christmas candy.

Ingredients

  • For the homemade gingerbread spice mix:
  • 1 Tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp fresh finely ground black pepper
  • For the caramels:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 tsp vanilla or vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp gingerbread spice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp light corn syrup or Lyle's Golden Syrup
  • 2 Tbsp molasses
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 tsp cloves (optional)
  • Finely ground black pepper (optional)

Instructions

  1. Stir together the ingredients for the gingerbread spice in a small bowl until mixed well, making sure to press out any lumps with a spoon.
  2. Leftover spice can be stored in a small airtight jar or a zip-top bag.
  3. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with buttered parchment paper.
  4. Bring cream, butter, vanilla, salt, and 1 Tbsp gingerbread spice just to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Boil sugars, corn syrup, molasses, and water in a 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Attach a candy thermometer and continue boiling without stirring (just gently swirl the pan occasionally) until mixture reaches 310-315.
  6. Carefully pour in the cream mixture into the caramel (take care, mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 246.
  7. Around softball stage (~240), I took a small spoonful of caramel sauce, cooled it down in a small bowl of ice water, formed it into a ball, and tasted it - I decided I wanted more cloves and a few more grinds of black pepper and just sprinkled those over top.
  8. Pour into baking pan and cool completely (about an hour).
  9. Cut into 1-inch pieces (a buttered pizza cutter or very sharp knife is your best friend), and then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.

Notes

Yields: 64 candies

Adapted from Sea Salt Caramels with Vanilla Bean

Estimated time: 2 hours

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Pumpkin Spice Caramels

by Shawnda on October 7, 2012

in Candy,Pumpkin

Chewy Pumpkin Spice Caramels

It is the first weekend of October and I haven’t bought a single bag of [airquote] halloween [/airquote] candy. Air quotes required. Because any bag of candy purchased on October 6th probably won’t live to see October 11th around here. And by probably, I mean definitely.

And by around here, I mean around me.

(Side note: Are there people that can buy candy in early October and really still have it hanging around a month later? Is that will power contagious? Please?)

Last week, we had the Candy Talk. Rather than throw the feed store-sized bag of candy into the cart, I countered with a “How about I just make something.” Because I know my limits and they don’t stop at Blow Pops or Tootsie Rolls. [sigh] Or even Smarties. Or those off-brand M&Ms that fool no one but they’re still almost chocolate and sometimes there are days where that almost counts.

I quickly began to ramble about how I really wanted to do something fun with pumpkin or apple and started twirling my hair and blinking. Anything to distract him. (Almost anything, I’d hate to be shame-escorted out of HEB. Again.)

(Kidding.)

Instead, I just got The Look. You know the one, it’s part, “Why can’t you just pick up a pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins like a normal girl and call it a day?” and part “I love you but I swear to the heavens that I’ll never put another dirty sock into the hamper for as long as I live if I find a stashed bag of those crappy orange & black candies in the house.” Peanut Butter Kisses have never gotten the respect that they deserve.

Chewy Pumpkin Spice Caramels

I settled on making caramels to appease Jason – they’re his favorite non-Reese’s candy that don’t come in cattle feed-sized bags.

I took his favorite caramels and gave them a fall makeover with brown sugar, molasses, and some homemade pumpkin pie spice. The cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and allspice really add a nice warmth to the caramels that really compliments the richness of the molasses. Of course, adding molasses to the mix does make it a little trickier to know when to add the cream and spices (this is done when the sugar mixture turns amber… but it starts out amber in this recipe) so make sure you have a candy thermometer handy. They’re inexpensive and will save your caramel from dying a scorched, smokey death.

And if you’ve never tried the sea salt caramels, you must! They really are the perfect combination of chewy, sweet, salty, and buttery. And candy. If that’s your thing.

And for another treat, make Pumpkin Spice Caramel Syrup – rather than cooking the caramel mixture to 248, you simply add the cream mixture as directed below, let it bubble, stir it to mix well, remove from heat, and let it cool. Just add ice cream! Coffee! Or hot chocolate. Or anything else you’d drizzle caramel syrup over. Like those fake M&Ms. Because that’s the only way those things are edible.

Pumpkin Spice Caramels

Homemade pumpkin pie spice gives these chewy, buttery caramels a makeover for fall.

Ingredients

  • For the homemade pumpkin pie spice:
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp allspice
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 3/8 tsp ground cloves
  • For the caramels:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 tsp vanilla or vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp light corn syrup (can sub Lyle's Golden Syrup)
  • 1 Tbsp molasses
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions

  1. Stir together the ingredients for the pumpkin pie spice in a small bowl until mixed well, making sure to press out any lumps with a spoon.
  2. Leftover spice can be stored in a small airtight jar or a zip-top bag.
  3. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly butter parchment.
  4. Bring cream, butter, vanilla, salt, and 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice just to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Boil sugars, corn syrup, molasses, and water in a 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Attach a candy thermometer and continue boiling without stirring (just gently swirl the pan occasionally) until mixture reaches 310-315.
  6. Carefully pour in the cream mixture into the caramel (take care, mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 246-248 on thermometer. 246 will give you a softer caramel that will stretch when you bite it but is easily squished or flattened, especially in a warm house. 248 will give you a firmer, still chewy caramel.
  7. Pour into baking pan and cool completely (about an hour).
  8. Cut into 1-inch pieces (a buttered pizza cutter is your best friend), and then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.

Notes

Yields: 64 candies

Adapted from Sea Salt Caramels with Vanilla Bean

Estimated time: 1 hour 45 minutes

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Homemade Honey Roasted Peanuts

To me, the appeal of any recipe has always been that it was created with a good, solid base, allowing me to easily swap out a few ingredients and transform the dish into something completely new. Adaptability. Variability. Riffability.

(I’ll concede that one of those might not be a real word.)

One recipe I’ve been playing around with lately is honey-roasted peanuts. They’re sweet, salty, and addictively crunchy “plain.” But add crushed red pepper flakes (like the nuclear hot stuff we made from our serrano explosion) and you’ve got a sweet & spicy treat. It’s pretty much legal crack.

Add the warm flavors of pumpkin pie spices (stay tuned) and you get a crunchy snack perfect for fall snacking. Substitute almonds for peanuts? You’ve got a whole ‘nother ball game (and a healthier one, too).

But perhaps best of all, there are fewer (4! Maybe 5) and less-processed ingredients than its store bought counterpart and the names of all of those ingredients? They can be probably pronounced by your average 2nd grader or your incredibly gifted 1st grader.

Homemade Roasted Peanuts

The honey roasting process is simple. Peanuts are coated with honey before being tossed with sugar and salt and roasted in the oven. I changed the method just a bit to produce a crunchier, coarser texture on the peanuts – the coating on the peanuts accounts for 56.3% of the fun!

The trickiest thing about making the peanuts in my oven is preventing them from burning before the sugar and honey caramelize enough to produce a beautiful golden brown crunchy coating. Enter the Silpat.

Homemade Honey-Roasted Peanuts

My favorite rinse-it-off-and-wipe-it-clean baking mat keeps the temperature even and makes honey-roasting clean-up a breeze. If you’ve been around here long enough, you know that I’m a huge Silpat fan. I’ve used them for years – cookies, scones, macarons, salmon roulade, bread! – and have given a few of them away along the way.

Congratulations to commenter #352 – Ashley P! Please check your email for instructions on how to claim your prize.

And we have another one to giveaway today! Silpat has provided a “half” sized baking mat for a lucky reader, just in time for fall and holiday baking. The half size is made to fit the large jelly-roll style baking pans.

To enter the giveaway, tell us in the comments below: What are you looking forward to baking most this fall?

You can earn up to 5 bonus entries by:
– Leaving a separate comment that you’ve tweeted about the giveaway. It’s simple – just click here!
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Good luck!

The fine print:
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm (Texas time!) 9/24.
– Winner will be selected by one of those cold, soulless, unfeeling random number generator thingies and announced on this post after selected.
– Winners will receive a Silpat Half Size baking mat (maximum retail value of prize = $30).
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– Official giveaway rules can be found here.

Homemade Honey Roasted Peanuts

Homemade honey roasted peanuts couldn't be easier to make with only 4 ingredients. Adding crushed red pepper makes a sweet and spicy (and addictive) snack.

Ingredients

  • 16 oz cocktail peanuts
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Line a baking sheet with a silpat.
  3. Place peanuts in a medium bowl (large enough to stir the peanuts).
  4. Microwave honey and crushed red pepper in a bowl for 30 seconds and pour over the peanuts.
  5. Add half of the sugar and the salt, stirring well.
  6. Spread onto the baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, making sure to stir the peanuts on the edges in to prevent burning.
  7. Let cool for 2-3 minutes and then stir the peanuts, scraping the honey from the silpat to coat the peanuts.
  8. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp sugar and stir again.
  9. Sprinkle with remaining sugar and let cool completely.
  10. Break up the peanuts into single/smaller pieces and store in an airtight container.

Notes

Yields: ~3 cups

Adapted from The Kitchn

Estimated time: 35 minutes

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