Another caramel thing, but who’s complaining? I’ve wanted to try this recipe for years and here it is: soft golden caramels with a cosy apple flavour.
It’s coming up to Bonfire Night, which is when British people set things on fire when it is cold (as opposed to summer, when we set our food on fire to make the most of the heat). It’s all about, er, somethingsomething monarchy something Catholics mumble remember remember, which means we set things on fire and watch the sky explode. Bonfire Night foods are, as you can imagine, things which keep a crowd warm, baked potatoes, burgers and sausages, stews and soups, while the sweet treats are homey syrup-based items like treacle toffee, toffee apples, and parkin, an oat and treacle gingerbread cake from the north of England. In recent years, very American s’mores have been a welcome addition.
Well, I know this because I look on food websites. I haven’t actually attended a celebration in years because I am a sad loser, basically. I do like cosy homemade food and cooking with sugar, though, so I make it my business to know these things. For example, if you’re looking for a homemade marshmallow that stands up better to roasting and hot chocolate, look for a recipe with egg white. Maybe this one will satisfy?
As for a homemade attempt at classic toffee apples, well, I’ve always loved the look and idea of them–so round and glossy! a crisp, full-flavoured apple with a sugar carapace!–but have never actually enjoyed eating one. I don’t know. Maybe I’m doing it wrong. But these apple caramels are more than enough.
Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen. If you’re cooking in the US, follow the original recipe.
If the choice is available to you, pick a full, tangy apple juice–it would balance well against all the dairy and sugar–but anything will be good!
900 ml cloudy pressed apple juice, not from concentrate, such as Copella or Chegworth Valley.
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tsp fine sea salt or 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt e.g. Maldon
100g unsalted butter, cut into chunks
200g granulated sugar
110g light brown sugar
80 ml/5 tbsp + 1 tsp double cream
Neutral oil for the knife
Sugar thermometer (I have a £6 metal one by Tala which works perfectly for candy making and deep frying)
Baking paper for lining the tin
Plenty of greaseproof, waxed, or more baking paper for wrapping the caramels
As with my last post, I don’t want to be a patronising arsehole, but I’ve been painfully blistered by sugar syrup scalds and have read about other smart food bloggers sticking their fingers into hot caramel, so set up your work space nicely and brook no distractions as you boil the sugar.
Boil the apple juice in a medium saucepan over medium – high heat until reduced to a small amount of dark, thick syrup which coats the bottom of the pot, between 4 – 5 tablespoons (60 – 75 ml) in volume. It takes about 6 – 10 minutes to come to a boil, then about 35 – 55 minutes to reduce (closer to an hour for me; it’ll depend on your stove and pot). Stir occasionally, adjusting heat as needed to keep it at a lively boil without frothing over.
Meanwhile, set up everything else, since you won’t have time once caramels are properly underway.
Line the bottom and all sides of straight-sided 21 – 20 cm square metal baking pan with 2 crisscrossed slings of baking paper (you could use a glass or ceramic pan but since they really hold heat, they’d possibly make the caramels slower to cool and set). Set aside.
Stir ground cinnamon and salt together in a small dish and have it handy. Have a plate or something by the stove so you can rest your sticky stirring implement and, later, the candy thermometer.
Once apple juice is reduced, remove pot from heat and stir in butter, sugars, and cream. Return pot to medium-high heat with a candy thermometer attached to the side, and boil until the thermometer reads exactly 120 degrees C (hard ball stage), only about 5 minutes. Watch carefully: it’ll go slowly then shoot up. (If you lack a thermometer, have a bowl of cold water ready to test the mixture; a droplet should form a ball that is rather firm but still malleable. See here for more info on sugar temperatures.)
Immediately remove caramel from heat, take out candy thermometer, and quickly whisk in the cinnamon-salt mixture. Pour and scrape caramel into the prepared pan, again being careful of splatters. Be advised the pan will heat up, too. Leave completely alone to cool and firm—about 2 hours, though it goes faster in the fridge.
To cut the caramels, use a long, sharp, well-oiled knife, re-oiling with each cut. Cut into 1 x 1 inch squares or thereabouts. You could also try briefly freezing the caramel slab. It’s up to you.
Wrap each caramel in a 4-inch square of greaseproof or waxed paper (or just more baking paper), twisting the sides to close. This takes a good hour on your own; I put on a episode of The Adventure Zone.
I prefer these at room temperature, soft and a touch chewy, but if you prefer tooth-wrenching caramels, keep refrigerated.