Sticky Situation

As you might have read, one of the gift ideas for this year was “Apple Cider Caramel.” I planned on wrapping them in adorable little gift boxes and labeling them using the Goddess Martha Stewart’s printable labels.

After dragging myself out of bed this morning, I reluctantly took a shower and began my day.  I made myself tartines for breakfast, ran a few miles, did a little yoga, prepared lunch and then went grocery shopping. I spent a while roaming Von’s aisles, then headed to Williams-Sonoma where I spent way too much time and money. When I got back my temporary roommate (my cousin), appeared excited to see how the caramel was going to turn out.

I got down to business setting out the ingredients in pre-measured ramekins and began by boiling the apple cider. Let me tell you something about reducing 2 cups of apple cider to 1/3 cup of apple cider, it takes forever. I was constantly checking the cider using a measuring cup and I realized I needed to buy a reduction pan.

I'm not sure why I took the photo this way...

The cider took almost 45 minutes to reduce all the way and part of the way through I transferred it from the copper lined saucepan to a glass one.

The other concoction you see in that photograph is the cinnamon, butter, heavy cream mixture. I had boiled it before I fired the cider so that way it could set. The entire house smelled amazing while I was cooking. The cinnamon + apple cider smell permeated every room and even when I went upstairs I could smell it. I made a note to myself that if I ever sell this house, I need to make this same caramel when potential buyers arrive.

Now, at this point in the post I should tell you that I mixed the reduced apple cider and the cream mixture, whisked well and started the sugar mixture. However, this is also the turning point for the entire process. Right as I began stirring the sugar, I was called into the hospital and I had to hand the reins over to my cousin. The conversation went something like:

Me: Hey, I need you to watch this sugar. Just pay attention to the thermometer and when it reads 315-320, you need to pour this pan into the sugar mixture. For no reason should you mix those two until the thermometer says “Hard Crack, 315-320.”

Cousin: Ok…

Me: But you will need to make sure that you stand away from it a little, because it might splatter. Then you will stir it and watch the thermometer again until it says 260.

Cousin: Ok…

Me: Can you watch this for me?  Is this ok?

Cousin: Yea, sure. Hard crack. Aren’t you making caramel..?

Me: Hard crack, 315-320. Then, 260 when they are mixed. Got it?

Cousin: Yup.

At this point I headed into work and was gone for about 30-35 min. When I returned I found the caramel poured into the parchment lined 8×8 pan. I was momentarily relieved, until I looked at it….

Ugghhhh

Firstly, the parchment paper had not been properly laid in the pan, even though I measured them. Secondly, it was way too light. The caramel had an apple cider reduction in it and the sugar was boiled to hard crack.

So I asked my cousin at what temperature she took the pan off the stove:

Me: Ummm….did the thermometer say ‘Hard Crack’ when you poured in the cream?

Cousin: Uhhh, no. It said soft ball and I knew that caramel is soft. I figured you just told me wrong.

I was, to say the very least, devastated. The preparation for this caramel had been so time intensive and now it was ruined. I was furious with my cousin, so I poured myself a glass of wine and I did the only thing I could do.

I started all over.

I melted the butter into the cream and cinnamon mixture, again. I reduced the cider, again. I then waited another 45 minutes for the cider to reduce enough to add the cream.

Yummy

When the cider reduced again, I started the process of boiling the sugar to a hard crack stage. This requires a lot of time and patience, so I read some of my book (love my Nook, by the way) and listened to Stimming.

The entire time I kept thinking, "This would suck if I dropped this or spilled this on myself..."

After the sugar reached 320, I poured the cider cream into the molten sugar. This produced Molten Cider and it smelled amazing. I do recommend that you do this at arm’s length, however, as it does splatter a bit. Make sure that you add a little at a time, as I don’t know what the outcome would have been if I would have dumped the entire pan in (not a good one, I will tell you that).

The reaction the sugar had when I poured in the cider cream was both awesome and terrifying!

After mixing the cider cream into the sugar, you will need to get the temperature back up to 260 degrees F. When you add the cream, your sugar temperature will drop pretty quickly. It did take longer than I assumed it would for the mixture to reach the 260 mark.

As soon as it reached 260, I turned the heat off and poured the molten mix into a properly parchmented 8×8 pan. I let both of the caramels sit for a while (hours) and went to wrap presents. When I returned, I laughed out loud at the incredible difference between the Failamel and the Caramel.

Can YOU tell which one is the wrong one?

The dark pan on the left is the correctly prepared candy. The light pan on the right is the monstrosity that results when you fail to take into account that your cousin can not cook to save her life. As you can see, I tasted the….whatever it is, in the bottom left corner. The mixture was gooey and slightly oily. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what it resembles. I did scoop it out of the dish and save it though. I’m debating on using it to make some sort of apple pie filling or drizzling it over cookies/blondies.

I am refrigerating the proper caramel overnight. Tomorrow, after work maybe, I will slice them and wrap them individually. I plan on making another batch for my colleagues when it is closer to the holidays.

Lesson learned from this kitchen adventure: Never EVER let someone else take the reins of my recipes.

The recipe I used is from Make It Naked:

Apple Cider Caramels (recipe adapted from David Lebovitz and here)

Ingredients:

2 cups apple cider (I used spiced cider)
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 lb salted butter (1 stick)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1½ cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper.
  2. Boil the apple cider in a saucepan until it reduces to about 1/3 cup. This took about 30 minutes for me. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, add the cream, butter and cinnamon to a saucepan and heat on medium until butter is melted. Stir. Add the reduced cider to the cream mixture.
  4. In a saucepan (I used the one that the cider was in after wiping it out), combine the sugar, honey, water and salt. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Once dissolved, stir as little as possible. Cook until a candy thermometer reads 310-320 degrees. Tilt the pan to get an accurate reading.
  5. Slowly stir the cider mixture into the sugar mixture. Be careful and watch for splattering. Cook until the combined mixture reaches 260 degrees.
  6. Pour the caramel into the prepared dish. Let cool completely. And I mean completely.
  7. Lift the candy out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into squares. Serve at room temperature.
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