I hope everybody had a great New Year and is starting 2011 off with a bang.
That being said, I’m going to be doing a little back-tracking with this recipe. I made these yummy little caramels for Christmas presents this past season. I was on a pretty tight Christmas budget but I wanted to still do something nice for loved ones. So I made a variety of sweet treats for my friends and family and packaged them in cute gift baskets. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of said gift baskets to show you here but, trust me, they were cute. And more importantly, they were filled with delicious candy! Like these little cuties right here:
This was my first foray into caramel making. I know, pretty gutsy making something for the first time when I’m intending to give it as a gift. I assure you if these hadn’t turned out very good, I wouldn’t have given them as gifts. But lucky me, they were amazing! The salty/sweet combo of the pretzel and the caramel is perfect. And the beer adds a nice depth of flavor that you can’t really identify as beer. It’s sort of a little bitter but deep caramel-y flavor.
I just love the way the caramels look before you cut them into individual pieces.
They take a bit of time but are well worth it; one recipe yields a lot of caramels. I mean a lot! So they are perfect for giving away, because you still have some to keep for yourself.
Ale and Pretzel Caramels
Adapted from Sprinkle Bakes
Makes 90+ caramels
- 1 12 oz. bottle of brown ale, divided (I used Newcastle Brown Ale)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1 12 oz. package pretzel rods (you will have some leftover, chocolate dipped pretzels anyone?)
- 1 roll of wax paper
In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup of ale to a boil and then reduce to simmer. Continue to simmer until ale is reduced to about 1 tsp of concentrated ale flavoring, about 20 minutes. Be careful to watch when you get close to 1 tsp because the ale goes from syrup to burnt nastiness very quickly. Set the ale reduction aside.
Liberally butter a 13 x 9 inch pan and set aside.
In a large heavy-bottomed pot fitted with a candy thermometer, combine the remaining beer, sugar, brown sugar, butter, heavy cream, and light corn syrup. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. The mixture will come to a boil and foam up so make sure you use a large pot. Continue to cook until the candy thermometer reaches 244 degrees, this will take about 30 minutes.
At this point, stir in the ale reduction and remove from heat. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and top with the pretzel rods (be very careful, it’s hot). Allow the caramel to cool for several hours or or over night until firm.
While waiting for the caramels to firm, cut wax paper into 5×5 in. squares.
On a large cutting board, remove the caramel from the pan and turn pretzel-side up. Cut between pretzels and then into small pieces (I found that each pretzel rod divided nicely into 8 pieces). Wrap the pretzels in the wax paper. If you don’t wrap the caramels, they will lose their shape.