The Child wants to give gifts to her teachers and friends. We do this – like most people – every year, distributing things on the day before winter break. In years past, we have gotten quite elaborate with teacher gifts, as The Child was fortunate to have a superb teacher – the same one for three years, in fact – and we couldn’t help but want to do something very special for her. I would have sent her to Hawaii if it was in my power and budget to do so.
The Child started middle school this year, though, and what that means – apart from more homework – is that she now has eight teachers, an advisor, and assorted other school staff that she considers to be gift-worthy. She wants to give something to the head of school, she tells me, because sometimes he joins her gaggle of girls at lunch in the cafeteria. You get the idea. It’s a long list.
I ask her what she had in mind to give people, and as I’m headed out to Costco, she tells me: Gift cards. For everyone.
Everyone like Starbucks, she says. Do that.
I actually consider this a viable option until I spend a half-hour wandering the gift-card section at Costco and discover there’s not one gift-card bundle available at all for Starbucks, or for less than $25 per card for anything else.
I come home and suggest to The Child that maybe it’s better if we make something. She likes that idea and remembers the Spiced Apple Cider Caramels I made last year.
My class loved them and my teacher did too, she says. All my teachers this year will love them.
It’s a great plan, and I pick up some heavy cream and plan to make the caramels the day before, so they’ll be fresh. There’s only one small hitch: The recipe was from another blog, and it isn’t there anymore. I’m sure I printed it out, but I can’t find it, and I don’t have tons of time.
If only Google could search my house for me.
I find another recipe for Spiced Apple Cider caramels, but it seems, I don’t know – off. So I search Pinterest for “caramels” to see what appears that looks workable and doesn’t involve another trip to the store. Someone has pinned a Martha Stewart recipe for Gingerbread Caramels, which sound delightful and seasonal and involve four cups of heavy cream – which I have, but, really Martha? – as well as a vast amount of corn syrup, which I don’t.
This time, Google is more helpful, and I find this recipe for Gingerbread Caramels on Good Life Eats. The recipe was simple enough, and the caramels were soft and chewy with the perfect notes of molasses, ginger, and warming spices. It was hard to send them all off to school, but send them I did, in little baggies trimmed with Christmas paper.
I’ve made some minor adjustments to the original recipe, giving the exact spice quantities I used; my cooking times also varied from those originally stated, but what’s important with candy-making isn’t the time, but the temperature.
I learned the temperature lesson when I made a batch of the Spiced Apple Cider caramels from the new recipe. It indicated cooking the syrup to a temperature of 255 degrees, resulting in a too-hard candy, which was also unfortunately a bit too sugary-sweet.
I finally found the original Spiced Apple Cider Caramel recipe buried under a pile of recipes I’ve been meaning to try. I’d blame the Elf on the Shelf for hiding it there, but I don’t have one, as far as I know. They kind of scare me, and it’s not like I need any help misplacing things.
Happy Holidays, everyone. Thank you for joining me this year!
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- 8 tablespoons butter
- ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon allspice
- ⅛ teaspoon cloves
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1¾ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup molasses
- ½ cup water
- Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly oil parchment.
- Bring cream and butter to a simmer in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.
- Pre-measure the spices and salt out into a small bowl. Pre-measure the vanilla into another small bowl. You will need to access these ingredients very quickly at the end of the recipe.
- Combine the sugar, molasses, and water in a large heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until all of the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is a deep amber color.
- Turn heat to low. Carefully stir in cream mixture (mixture will bubble up). Return heat to medium to medium-high and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel temperature registers no higher than 248°F on thermometer. Turn off the heat and immediately whisk in the vanilla, salt and spices. Pour into prepared pan.
- Once the mixture has cooled slightly but is still tacky to the touch, sprinkle the tops very lightly with additional kosher salt, if desired.
- Allow the caramels to completely cool before cutting. Wrap in squares of parchment or wax paper.
This is my contribution to Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Why not swing by and see what other sweet treats await? There are no calories if you just read. I hope.