Apple cider caramels, made from scratch! This is a small batch recipe, so start here before committing to a large batch of caramels!
One more chewy, sticky sweet square thing; I swear.
Pastry classes at Tante Marie
A few moons ago, I used to drive to the city (the city being San Francisco) and take the occasional pastry class at the Tante Marie. I had read a lot about it and become obsessed with it, and I wanted to experience the magic that is Tante Marie.
It was always a different group of people each Saturday, though this I never understood. Most people do not bake because of all the dishes. But, in cooking school, someone else does the dishes for you. I mean, really–I couldn’t get enough of this life!
In my own kitchen, I wash bowls in between prep steps because I have this tiny 1920s house with what must be a black-market miniature dishwasher. At cooking school, there was a polite lady who not only washed your dishes for you, but did it with a smile. She graciously accepted my pile of dirty dishes at the end of each 4-hour cooking session. I loved that lady. I wanted to kiss her every time I handed her 5+ spatulas and sticky bowls that should have been soaked from the get-go.
So, one day in school, I wrapped up my pear frangipane tart early (though, it was a mistake I’ll get to in a bit), and I headed over to join a girl making Meyer lemon caramels. One of the many things I loved about Tante Marie was that the teacher of the class shopped at the farmer’s market that very morning for ingredients. It didn’t get any fresher. She had a heaped pile of Meyer lemons in the bowl, and the scent was downright intoxicating. So, we read the recipe through and thought ‘it can’t be this easy to make caramels, can it?’ Wow. Ok, let’s get started. In no time, we poured the molten sugar in a greased glass dish and high-fived each other for our work.
At the end of class, we went around the room (while eating desserts) and talked about what we had made. My teeth were stuck together with caramel when the question was asked: “who didn’t peel the pear for this pear tart?’ Guilty. I thought the purple skin looked pretty against the yellow frangipan custard? I was wrong, apparently. But, I didn’t care because I had caramels.
Apple Cider Caramels
So, while I will stop inundating you with homemade caramels recipes on this site, I will not stop making them behind the scenes. I am in love. The married kind of love, not just infatuation.
When one of you requested that I scale down Smitten Kitchen’s apple cider caramels, I jumped at the chance. As expected, Deb’s recipe is flawless, though it made too many caramels for a small household. I roughly cut the recipe in half and used my trusty loaf pan.
I wound up with about 20 pieces of caramel. Well, 19 because the dog ate one.
Apple cider caramels have all the things we love about caramels: sweetness, stickiness, and chew, but with the addition of punchy apple. Use the best quality local apple cider you can find, because we boil it down to condense its flavor. When it’s stirred into the caramel mixture, the acidity and apple flavor remains, and brings new life to the party.
A little sprinkling of coarse sea salt brings out the nuanced flavors of caramelized sugar and apples, but you can skip it if your’e not a salted caramel person. But if you are, have you seen my small batch caramel sauce?
- 2 cups fresh apple cider (non-alcoholic)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (plus more for garnish)
- In a 2-quart saucepan, boil the apple cider until it reduces to 1/4 cup. It should take about 30 minutes on high.
- Meanwhile, line a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, and spray it with cooking spray.
- Once the cider is reduced, lower the heat and add the butter, sugars, and heavy cream. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to 255-degrees Farenheit over medium-high heat. Use a candy thermometer to ensure the proper temperature.
- Immediately stir in the cinnamon and salt. Then, pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan.
- Let the mixture chill for 1 hour in the fridge. Slice it with a knife into bite-sized pieces.