October 2016 in Review, and Christmas Cookie #10
A favorite photo…
A few highlights…
- The tree house begins
- Family Fun night with all of us dressed in flamenco style
And a cookie recipe to go with it!
These are the Christmas treat that Nathan requests the most. When they turn out correctly, they make a lovely green and red addition to a cookie plate or a popular gift item. The temperatures are tricky, however, and I have had plenty of failed batches amidst the successes.
Line a loaf pan with aluminum foil, covering bottom and sides completely. Spray lightly with cooking spray and set aside.
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the 1 cup sugar and the corn syrup. Cook over medium-high heat until boiling, stirring often with a wooden spoon for 3 minutes to dissolve sugar. Carefully clip on a candy thermometer.
Cook over medium heat (mixture should boil at a moderate, steady rate over the entire surface), stirring occasionally, until the thermometer registers 280 degrees F (soft-crack stage), about 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, in another heavy bottomed saucepan, combine juice, pectin, and baking soda. Mixture will be foamy. Bring to boiling over medium heat, stirring often. This should take about 2 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and set aside.
When sugar mixture in first pan has reached soft-crack stage, remove from heat. Remove candy thermometer. Return pectin mixture in second pan to boiling.
Gradually pour the hot sugar mixture into the boiling pectin mixture, stirring constantly. This step should take 1-2 minutes. Don't rush! Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 more minute.
Remove saucepan from heat. Pour candy mixture into prepared loaf pan. Let stand until firm--overnight is best.
While candy cools, make the flavored sugar. Place 1/2 cup sugar and the zest of the lime or grapefruit in a food processor. Pulse several times to combine well. Transfer flavored sugar to a bowl or lidded Tupperware.
When candy has set, use foil to lift it out of the pan. With a wet knife, cut candy into strips and then cut each strip into cubes. Toss squares in the flavored sugar to keep them from sticking together.
The gumdrops (if they turn out) keep well for several weeks.
Katya’s favorite fall treat has now been made 4 times this season! It turns out that these cider caramels are pretty popular, and the more we hand out as gifts the more requests we get. Katya helped me make the first batch, learning a lot about both the waiting and the rushing that goes into home candy making. Katya left the cooking of subsequent batches up to me, but both she and Nathan had a wonderful time handing out these delectable treats to teachers and friends. Yum!
(And no, there are no leaves in the caramels–the photo shows Katya licking off the caramel spoon in one hand while doing a wax-leaf dipping project with the other. Crazy kid!)
Apple Cider Caramels
These delicious homemade caramels have a slight spiced cider flavor that makes them particularly special. The temperature of candy making is always a bit tricky, but even if they turn out harder than desired they can be broken apart with a mallet and enjoyed just the same.
Pour cider into a medium saucepan and boil on high for 15-20 minutes or until cider is reduced to 1/3 cup. Keep an eye on it--it goes from thick to burned pretty fast!
Line an 8 inch square pan with parchment paper. Coat with a bit of cooking spray or rub with the butter wrapper to grease. Set aside.
While the cider is boiling, get out a second saucepan. Pour 1/3 cup whipping cream into a glass measuring cup. Add enough water to make 1/2 cup. Pour that into the empty saucepan. Add sugar and corn syrup. Cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Insert candy thermometer and simmer until the syrup reaches 234 degrees. (At my altitude, it is actually 222 degrees).
While sugar mixture heats, keep pouring the apple cider into a clean glass measuring cup until it is only 1/3 cup. When it has reduced enough, pour it into that measuring cup and let it cool. While it cools, stir in remaining 2/3 cup cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Mix well.
When the sugar mixture has reached temperature, remove it from heat and slowly whisk in the cider cream mixture. Add the cubed butter and stir until everything is melted and mixed.
Return the pan to low heat and re-insert the candy thermometer. Cook, stirring frequently, until the temperature reaches 248 degrees (236 degrees at my altitude). This part can take a really long time--sometimes 20 minutes or more!
Remove the mixture from the heat and pour into the prepared pan. Careful, it is a bit tricky to pour! Let the caramels cool completely at room temperature. It takes several hours, so try just leaving it overnight.
Hopefully the caramels are soft enough that you can use kitchen shears to cut them into long strips, and then cut them into 1/2 inch squares. You can try to individually wrap them in squares of waxed paper, or put them into mini muffin papers which is much easier!
Recipe from Our Best Bites: http://ourbestbites.com/2010/11/apple-cider-caramels/
Sometimes my caramels set up unusually hard, and I have to break them into bite-sized pieces with a kitchen mallet. Sometimes they are a bit soft and when I put them in the mini muffin papers they gradually take on the shape of their container. Either way, they taste good and are totally worth the work!