Each year I make a mix of cookies, the same cookies. There is comfort in the sameness. They are my grandma’s recipes, passed down and savored, cherished, loved. Still, when I think back to the tins my grandmother used to pack, I remember the same three cookies year after year and then variety. She was constantly changing the second string players in the game, swapping them out, and trading up.
Last year I decided it was time I did the same. Caramels were added to the menu.
I have a soft spot in my heart for caramel. I love it as an ice cream flavor or over spooned a bowl of vanilla ice cream. I will use it to pour over cheesecake, and I’ll add it unnecessarily to anything I think I can get away with it on. When no one is looking, I’ll steal spoonfuls of caramel sauce from the refrigerator.
These caramels combine my love for that smooth, chewy treat with the one of my favorite Christmas flavors: gingerbread. The rich caramel melts in your mouth while ginger and nutmeg and cloves sing tiny little Christmas carols. Yes, really. Plus, they are fun to share and easy to send as homemade gifts in coffee mugs, added to tins of cookies, stuffed into stockings.
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1 cup butter, unsalted
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Line the bottom and sides of a 9×9 or 8×8 pan with parchment paper. In a large saucepan over low heat melt the butter. Once the butter is added add the cream, brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, and molasses taking care for the sugar not to touch the edges and sides of the pan as you’re adding it. Increase heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently.
Reduce the heat to medium. Continue to cook until the sugar reaches 244º F, just to the firm ball stage. The temperature will not increase at the same rate, so be sure to keep stirring frequently and watching the candy thermometer closely. This can take 30+ minutes.
Remove the sugar from the heat and stir in the spices and the vanilla. Pour into your prepared pan and allow to cool completely.
Cut into small squares using a pizza cutter or a lightly buttered knife. Wrap in parchment paper and eat.
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|Shaina Olmanson is the home cook and photographer behind Food for My Family and the author of Desserts in Jars: 50 Sweet Treats that Shine. She is a contributor to Babble.com’s Family Kitchen Blog and the food channelon Lifetime Moms. Shaina can usually be found cooking, at the computer or behind the camera.|