New to my holiday candy-making repertoire this year are honey caramels, made with local honey, of course. I used Golden Meadow from Reseska Apiaries, which, incidentally, is offering a honey and beeswax candle CSA in the spring. But there are also likely to be several small batch producers in your area, so ask around.
These caramels are sticky, creamy, and buttery, just the way I like them. Extra salt makes them super-addictive. The honey gives them a more complex flavor than your typical caramels, not to mention a taste of your local terroir (i.e., purple loosestrife, black locust, basswood, and buckthorn in my area). What better way to celebrate the bees’, and possibly your own, hard work this year?
Happy holidays, Everyone. See you next week.
You will need a candy thermometer for this. There’s nothing to be afraid of. It goes in the pot.
1½ cup sugar
½ cup honey
1 cup heavy cream
4 Tbsp. butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 scant tsp. kosher or sea salt
Line a 9x12-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
Add sugar and honey to a large, non-reactive pot. On medium heat, let the sugar and honey melt and come to a boil. Meanwhile, heat the cream in a small pot until gently simmering (don’t let it boil over).
Cook the sugar mixture, stirring occasionally, until caramelized to a medium to dark amber color, but don’t let it burn. If you’re having trouble judging the color through all the foam, use the sniff test (but don’t get too close—caramel will give you a nasty burn). The longer caramel cooks at this stage, the more bitter the flavor becomes. You want some bitterness to counter the sweetness, but not too much. Give a smell and see what you think.
When you get it where you want it, whisk in the butter 1 Tbsp. at a time until well mixed. Then add the heated cream and salt, and whisk until smooth. Clip on your candy thermometer at this point and cook until it reaches 242°F (for a sticky caramel) up to 250°F (for a firmer one).
Quickly pour into the parchment-lined pan and let cool at room temperature. Chilling soft caramel in the refrigerator makes it easier to handle. Cut into small pieces and wrap them up in parchment or wax paper, twisting the ends. You’ll have to experiment with shapes and sizes of the caramels and papers to get a combination you like. Make sure you have some time on your hands. Wrapping them can take a while. Store in refrigerator until ready to gift.
Source: Adapted from Chez Pim.
Addendum: MidLifeMama tried this recipe over the weekend and had some trouble with the caramels setting up with my original temperature recommendation of 236°F, so I've revised the temperature range to 242°F-250°F. Keep in mind that there can be vast differences in outcomes when making caramel even when altitude isn’t a factor. The time it takes for the sugar to melt and then come to a boil, as well as how much you stir it and the humidity in the air, may all play a role. Furthermore, if you live at a high altitude, subtract 2°F for every 1,000 feet above sea level. I’d say aim for the middle to top of the temperature range (before you do your altitude math) to be on the safe side. If the batch doesn’t set up, you’ll still have some awesome caramel sauce to put in little jars for gifts. Anyone else have anything to add from experience?