Tuesday, December 22, 2009

No time to shop? Caramel to the rescue!

When you receive a last-minute invitation or realize you're a gift short, make a luscious treat yourself. Beats a tense trip to a frenzied shop or mobbed mall.

Who doesn't adore caramels, except maybe kids with braces?

This recipe for stylish, decadent
salted caramels makes enough two or three gifts.


You'll need about a four-hour window

Though they ta
ke less than one hour to produce, the candy has to cool 30 minutes before you score it, and another 2 hrs before lifting the cut caramels from the pan. Then you have to place them on squares of wax paper as shown.

Run out to a fancy grocery and buy the fleur de sel.
It will matter and you can feel absolutely confident that your candies have cachet. A candy thermometer helps but is not essential if you have some idea of what a "firm ball stage" is. (If you made fudge as a teenager you'll be fine.) Hey, if you blow it, give it as caramel sauce!

Salted Caramel
s
Makes 64 pieces, 2-3 gifts


Ingredients:

2 cups (500 mL) granulated sugar

2 cups (500 mL) whipping cream

1 cup (250 mL) corn syrup

1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt

1/3 cup (75 mL) butter

1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla

3
/4 tsp (4 mL) fleur de sel

Preparation:

1. Line 9-inch (2.5 L) square metal cake pan with parchment paper; set aside.

2. In large saucepan, stir together sugar, 1 cup (250 mL) of the cream, corn syrup and salt; bring to boil over medium heat, sti
rring constantly. In thin steady stream, add remaining cream, making sure mixture keeps boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low; boil, without stirring, for 5 minutes.

3. Stir in butter, 1 tsp (5 mL) at a time. Boil, stirring occasionally, until candy thermometer registers firm-ball stage of 250°F (121°C), 25 to 35 minutes.

4. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.
Pour into prepared pan; let cool until surface is slightly firm, 30 minutes. Score into 1-inch (2.5 cm) squares.

5. Sprinkle with fleur de sel. Let cool uncovered until firm, about 2
hours.

Remove from pan; cut into squares. Place each on squares of waxed paper (unless you have those little fluted candy cups, but who does?) (Make-ahead: Store wrapped candies in airtight container for up to 1 week.)
Present in a tin, glass bowl, or cello bag.

SOS! If you have only one hour

I'm reprinting my candied nut recipe from last year, because it takes less than 20 minutes to throw together (plus baking time) to make an addictive confection. Young children can make this. If you have only handfuls of various nuts in the pantry, use a mix– raw almonds and peanuts are also delicious.

Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts

Makes one to two gifts

Ingredients:

1/3 cup (75 mL) dark brown sugar

2/3 cup (150 mL) white granulated sugar

1 tsp (5 mL) kosher or coarse salt

Generous pinch cayenne pepper

1 tsp (5mL) ground raw cinnamon

1 pound (455 grams) raw (unroasted) walnut or pecan halves, or whole peeled hazelnuts

1 egg white, room temperature

1 Tbsp (15 mL) water

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 300F. Mix sugars, salt, cayenne and cinnamon, making sure there are no lumps; set aside.

2. Beat egg white and water until frothy but not stiff. Add nuts, stir to coat evenly. Sprinkle nuts with sugar mixture, toss till evenly coated.

3. Spread nuts in single layer on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 30 min., stirring occasionally.

4. Remove from oven and separate nuts as they cool. When completely cook, pour nuts into a bowl or mason jar for giving, breaking up any pieces that stick together. (I also like to make a cone of gift paper to hold the nuts, that way you don't even need to find a container.)


11 comments:

Deja Pseu said...

Oh, these look absolutely yummy! I may try the making the candied nuts this weekend.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family, Duchesse!

Northmoon said...

"Hey, if you blow it, give it as caramel sauce!"
I love your attitude!! So many people get caught up in the high expectations and perfection at this season. Which usually leads to more spending and more stress, less Christmas spirit. Both these recipes are delightful simple gifts. I'm definitely going to make the nuts to give a friend at her Boxing Day party.

Have a wonderful Christmas and a happy 2010!

LPC said...

Much more thoughtful than the last minute rush to Main Street that I have been known to make...

metscan said...

To be honest, with my skills, even though the recipe is simple, I´d rather buy something in advance, so I´d have something for the `just in case´situations. Maybe I could handle these, but Xmas in itself is stressful enough for me. Thank you very much for your fresh posts and opinions; have a Delightful Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Lisa said...

Thank you so much for the carmel recipe. I'm going to make those tomorrow to share with some friends. My mouth was watering just reading the recipe.

Merry Christmas Duchesse!

Duchesse said...

Pseu and Northmoon: Those nuts are foolproof and very satisfying to make and give.

LPC: When I go out at the last minute I often find what I wanted is sold out, ugh.

metscan: It's wise to have spare gifts; but being in the kitchen, with music playing, making something not too demanding, actually relaxes me.

Lisa: Thank you, Merry Christmas to you, too!

Kristine said...

I had to laugh at the topic of this post. My mother makes the best caramels known to mankind. They literally melt in your mouth. Yesterday she just delivered to us the 2nd tin of the season. These tins are not small, they are huge. Though I've never made her recipe by myself, I have helped on numerous occasions since I was a child. Mostly just cream, sugar and butter. Just plan to sit down in front of the stove and stir for eternity. From the time they start showing up around Thanksgiving, I start giving them away. I have no willpower whatsoever, and with my family, homemade caramels are merely the tip of the iceberg. Giving them away is my only defense against entering the new year as a diabetic. BTW, even my German Shepherd can't resist them.

sallymandy said...

Salted caramels! Oh, too much. This sounds divine. I wish my health care provider hadn't suggested I eliminate sweets from my diet. Oh, but once in a while is fine, I'm sure...

Thanks for these good recipes. Hope you have a lovely, lovely holiday, Duchesse. Love, Sallymandy

Duchesse said...

Kristine: I've never given anyone more than two dozen, for the reason you cite :)

sallymandy: I wish you a wonderful Christmas and a new year full of your creative endeavours, Everyone, sallymandy's Etsy store, BlueKimonoStudio showcases her wonderful designs,

Kristine said...

Sallymandy, I'm totally with you. I had allergy testing performed yesterday and I was so hoping my allergist would tell me I was allergic to sugar. Alas it was just the usual culprits, so no diagnosis to help me abstain. lol

Funny about Money said...

My goodness, that looks gorgeous.

Weirdly, I've never been able to make candy, whether with a thermometer or by judging the "ball" stages. Every time, it fails. And my mother was so good at it! (sob)

Next year I'm coming to your house for Christmas... ;-)