No time to shop? Caramel to the rescue!
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 take 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!
Makes 64 pieces, 2-3 gifts
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
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, stirring 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.
Makes one to two gifts
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
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.)