VANILLA-RUM CARAMELS

 
 

Caramels are actually my favorite food-related gift to give people during the holidays. One batch goes a long way, and homemade caramels just feel like an extra special treat. You can flavor caramels a crap ton of different ways (see also: Beer Caramels, Bourbon Vanilla Caramels, Pumpkin Spice Caramels), but I always find that a classic combo of caramel, vanilla, sea salt, and a little booze is the way to go. 

There are LOTS of ways to package these guys up, but some favorites include: (a) using empty paper towel, wrapping paper, or TP rolls, cutting them to the desired size, filling them with caramels, and then wrapping them up with cellophane wrap or wrapping paper (they're like those popper things you can find around the holidays that have a toy and a paper crown inside!); (b) using kraft paper bags and sewing them shut with bakers twine; and (c) filling mason jars and tying them with festive ribbon or fabric.

Vanilla-Rum Caramels

nonstick spray
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1  14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 1/2 TB dark rum
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
good quality flaky sea salt

Directions:

  1. Lightly coat a 8 x 8″ baking pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2″ overhang on 2 sides.
  2. Bring sugar, corn syrup, 1/4 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cook, swirling pan occasionally, until mixture turns a deep amber color, 8 - 15 minutes. You don't want to walk away from this, as once it starts to darken, it'll move pretty quickly and you don't want a pot of burnt sugar on your hands.
  3. Remove pan from heat and whisk in sweetened condensed milk and butter (mixture will bubble vigorously) until smooth. Fit pan with candy thermometer and return to medium-low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until thermometer registers 240F.
  4. Remove from heat and whisk in the rum, vanilla, and kosher salt. Pour into prepared pan; let cool.
  5. Sprinkle caramel with sea salt, cut into 1 inch pieces and wrap individually in parchment paper. Don't use foil wrappers. Sticky nightmare.
  6. Caramels can be made a few weeks in advance. Store in an airtight container at room temperature (if you're using immediately) or in the fridge (if you're looking to keep them around for a while). I keep mine in the fridge, for the most part, but leave a handful at a time in the candy dish.

FOODJAMS Vol. 5: COFFEE CARAMEL

 
 

Coffee + caramel...I can't even believe how good this stuff is. But first...

It's FoodJams Volume 5!  As always, we've (Brandon and I) chosen a food-related song to share, and a recipe to go along with it. This week's pick is:

 
 

Per usual, click the album art above to head on over to Black Porridge to read Brandon's post and listen to the song.

I'm not sure I've ever publicly admitted how much I love coffee. I'm just a hot beverage lover in general, but coffee always takes the cake. It's not even about the caffeine...I'm pretty sure caffeine does nothing for me unless I've had maybe 3 or 4 cups of coffee in a row (this almost never happens, but when it does, I go from zero to 60 pretty quickly and then, if there were such thing as negative speed, crash right back down to -20 within a couple hours). I love coffee because there are so many things you can do with it. It's lovely to drink in all variations, but it's also fun to cook and bake with. Coffee-rubbed meat is a very real, and very delicious thing. Coffee in baked goods...yes. Coffee WITH baked goods....double yes. This is also serving as a reminder that I need to share a recipe for Espresso Muffins with you soon. That said...

I don't think you're ready for this jelly...well, actually, caramel.

 
 

If you've never had it before, coffee caramel is the business. It's a marvelous balance between bitter and sweet, and in this recipe, you have total control over how much coffee flavor you want. It's smooth and creamy, with a little added crunch from the coffee grounds (if you choose to leave them in!) Coffee caramel makes the best ice cream topping, too. I'm a rainbow sprinkles kind of girl, actually, so for me this is a close 2nd place to rainbow sprinkles (and closely followed by marshmallows and mochi), but you catch my drift. Drizzle it over ice cream or cupcakes, add some to your latte, eat it by the spoonful...it's entirely up to you.

 
 

Coffee Caramel

makes about 1 1/4 cups

1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup cream (I used light cream, which is 18% milk fat, but you could use heavy cream too)
1/2 TB unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 TB fresh coffee grounds
1 tsp espresso powder (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan or milk warmer, steep coffee grounds with the cream for 15 minutes over low heat. Remove from heat once finished steeping. You can strain the grounds from the cream if you'd like, or you can leave the grounds in to add a little texture to your caramel.
  2. If you want extra intense coffee flavor, this is where you'd want to stir in the espresso powder until dissolved.
  3. Add in the vanilla, too.
  4. Set coffee/cream mixture aside.
  5. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine sugar and water. Cook over medium to medium high heat, swirling occasionally (NOT stirring!), until your sugar/water mixture reach a deep amber color. This could take up to 10-15 minutes (maybe even a little more), but don't walk away -- burnt sugar is no fun to clean out of a pan.
  6. Once your deep amber color is reached, remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the butter and salt, followed by the coffee cream mixture. Stir carefully, but thoroughly, until everything is combined.
  7. Pour your caramel into a heat-proof glass bowl and set on counter to cool. Alternatively, you can pour directly into a mason jar and leave that out (lid off!) to cool to room temp.
  8. Store in an airtight container or mason jar in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. You may need to heat it for a few seconds in the microwave to loosen it up before using.