Sunday, February 5, 2017

Mixed Nut Caramels

I'm back on a caramel making kick, and yesterday, I thought it would be fun to try using a mix of nuts rather than the usual straight almonds. Good call. You get a different flavor in each bite, and the caramel is dark, rich, and sweet as I like it to be. Mmm. 
I used unsalted almonds and pecans, but could only find salted macadamia nuts at Supertarget, so I reduced the salt in the recipe by 1/4 teaspoon, and I think it worked. It's actually a nice contrast to bite into one of the macadamias, because you get a little burst of salt flavor with it. Very nice.
The caramel takes almost two hours to cook, but it's worth the time and effort. For me, it's a time to sit down and relax, stirring caramel and watching it go from cream colored to a deep golden brown. So satisfying to watch the transformation.
Give it a try.

Mixed Nut Caramels
     --Adapted from KingArthurFlour.com

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • 1 cup butter, cut into one-inch chunks
  • 2 cups half and half (or 1 cup heavy cream and 1 cup milk)
  • 2 heaping cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon salt*
  • 1/2 cup (dry) roasted unsalted* macadamia nuts
  • 1/2 cup (dry) roasted unsalted* almonds
  • 1/2 cup (dry) roasted unsalted* pecans
*For each nut you use that is salted (as opposed to unsalted), reduce the amount of salt in the recipe by 1/4 teaspoon.
Instructions:
  • Line a  9x13 inch pan with parchment and place nuts in the pan. Mix nuts so they're evenly distributed. Place parchment in another small dish, like an 8x8 inch pan or a pie plate--this is where you will pour the caramel you scrape from the pan. Place on a heat proof surface, like stove burners set to "off" or on a cooling rack. Also make sure you've measured your vanilla and set it aside where you can grab it once the caramel reaches temperature. 
  • Gather things you need to entertain you for the next hour and a half to two hours and/or make sure someone is home to spell you in case you need to use the restroom or just take a little break. You've been told.
  • Into a large heavy-bottomed stock pot (like an eight-quart stock pot), put the sugars, butter, half and half, corn syrup and salt. Place the pot on a burner set to low/medium-low heat (once it simmers you want it to remain simmering at the lowest temperature possible). Stir with a silicone spatula taking care not to splash it around. When butter is melted clip a candy thermometer on the side and pull up a tall chair or stool.
  • Keep stirring gently for the next hour and a half to two hours until the caramel reaches exactly 246 degrees** Fahrenheit on the candy thermometer. Remove the thermometer, and then remove the pot from the heat and stir in vanilla extract. Carefully pour the screaming hot caramel over the nuts, which I need to tell you may shift at this time. Once most of the caramel has been poured from the pan, pour the last bit and scrape out the pan into the smaller parchment-lined pan you have ready.
  • Use your silicone spatula to make sure caramel gets to all corners of the pan. With oven-mitted hands, carefully lift and tap the pan of hot caramel to force air bubbles up and out. 
  • Allow caramel to cool completely, which will take anywhere from 3 hours to overnight. You could speed it up by cooling it for 30 minutes on the counter and then refrigerating it for two hours. You'll have to let it come back to room temperature before cutting if you go the refrigerator route. I think it's easier to let it sit at room temperature.
  • When caramel has completely set up and is firm, cut it up and wrap caramels individually in small pieces of wax paper.
  • I cut my caramels into 1 1/2 x 1/2 inch sticks, and that gave me 108 pieces.
 Makes about 9 dozen caramels


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