Caramel may be my favorite substance on this entire blue marble of ours.
Especially when the weather turns cold, I want it in every form, on everything.
The richness of the slightly burned sugars and butter and cream are lent a depth and complexity with the addition of a black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon and clove-infused apple cider syrup and spicy chai. Then we add a bright but earthy acidity that comes from a dash of raw and unfiltered apple cider vinegar.
All of these flavors are pricked up and made to sing with a sprinkling of mineral-rich pink Himalayan salt right at the end. In short, these caramels are probably the best thing you will put in your mouth this winter.
I have been cooking more and more with tea this winter since the hubs started working at a tea shop while he’s in school. And now I picked up this amazing book, Culinary Tea, which has loads of amazing recipes, all with tea in them. This book is going to get a workout this winter.
Chai Apple Cider Caramels with Pink Himalayan Salt
Yield: Makes 117 caramels
- 3 3/4 cups apple cider
- 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seed scraped
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp whole cloves
- 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
- 1 1/2 tsp green cardamom pods
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/3 cup light corn syrup
- 1 Tbsp chai, ground fine
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 12 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1 Tbsp chunks
- 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- Neutral-flavored oil
- Whole pink Himalayan salt
- Waxed paper squares
- Toast cardamom pods, black pepper and cloves over medium heat in a small skillet until fragrant, about a minute.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the cider, vinegar, toasted spices, cinnamon stick, and vanilla bean pod (seeds reserved for later use) to a simmer over medium heat until it is reduced to 3/4 cup, about 30 minutes. Strain and set aside to cool.
- When cool, mix in cream, milk, and chai mixture.
- Line a 13×9 inch baking pan with non-stick foil. If using regular foil, spray well with cooking spray.
- Add sugars, syrup, chai and salt to a large, heavy bottomed pot, stirring until mixture comes to a boil over medium-high heat.
- When boiling, add butter chunks slowly, waiting for each to melt before adding the next.
- Add milk and cream mixture to sugar mixture very slowly so that the pan mixture never stops boiling.
- Cook, stirring almost continuously (mixture can burn easily), to firm ball stage (245 F) on candy thermometer, about 20-30 minutes. Make sure the bottom of the thermometer is in the mixture but not touching the bottom of the pan.
- When mixture reaches the correct temperature, remove from heat, stir in 1 Tbsp vinegar, vanilla bean seeds, and vanilla.
- Pour caramel into greased pan and cool for 5 minutes. Once the pan has cooled slightly, place pan in the fridge to harden further.
- Once hardened, lift the whole piece of candy out onto a cutting board peel off the foil backing. Grind a light layer of pink salt on top.
- Cut caramels into 1-inch squares with an oiled knife, oiling between cuts as necessary. As the caramel comes to room temperature it softens and becomes harder to work with, so work quickly when cutting.
- Wrap the caramels in cut wax paper rectangles and twist ends to close.