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'Tis the Season of Caramels


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With Halloween candy out of the way, my sweet tooth has turned toward a smoother, creamier cold-weather candy: caramels. Lustrous, sweet, and buttery, caramels are so simple and yet so luxurious. I remember the first time I ate a homemade caramel as a kid, and actually tasted the contrasting flavors of salty butter and caramelized sugar. I was hooked instantly.

With the holidays fast approaching, caramels are a sweet treat that are easy to transport, even if you’re flying. No matter where you’re headed, you can tote caramels with you, and when you use local honey, whipping cream, and butter in your caramels, you make your dish that much more Minnesotan.

I like this recipe. The brown sugar and honey create a subtle flavor difference from caramels made with corn syrup.

Caramel

Makes about 75-100 pieces

2 cups white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup honey
1 cup evaporated milk
1 pint heavy whipping cream (room temperature)
1 cup salted butter (room temperature)
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Coat a 12x15 inch pan with butter.

In a ridiculously clean medium-size pot, combine sugar, brown sugar, honey, and evaporated milk. Gently swirl (avoid stirring) until the sugar is dissolved. When the thermometer reaches 250°F, add the whipping cream, and butter. Simmer, stirring frequently with a stainless spoon. Don’t walk away from the pot. The temperature should not go higher than 250°F. You can brush down the interior walls of the pot with cold water to help prevent the sugar from becoming crystallized. After 15 minutes, remove the pot from the heat. Dip the pot into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process.

Stir in the vanilla. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and let it cool for about 2 hours. Sprinkle with sea salt. Cut into small squares and wrap them in wax paper for storage.

Making caramels can be a bit fussy, and perhaps you’d rather not bother. No sweat. Locally made caramels are available, and they’re good. Just this month a local caramel maker, Sweet Jules Gifts, was featured in the “Best Holiday Food Gifts” feature on More.com (#14). Founded by sisters Jule Vranian and Hope Klocker, Sweet Jules launched in 2009 from food-business incubator Kindred Kitchen). You can order online.

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Minnesota Monthly's Taste Blog answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally brings the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Learn more about the Taste bloggers.

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