Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Can Caramel Preserve a Life?

Global warming be damned.  I've been waiting for the weather to turn chilly so that I might get started on some holiday preparation.  Needless to say, I find it a bit challenging to stay indoors "trimming the hearth and setting the table" with 60 degree weather.  Hence a rousing game of Frisbee golf with my honey, followed by sampling some small batch beer at a locals favorite spot was the activity du jour this past Sunday.  Toasted coconut lager was the hand's down favorite.

HOWEVER, having said that, Monday's 24 hour cold snap gave me the opportunity to stir up my first batch of Vanilla Caramels.  This recipe has become a holiday favorite, and a bit of a tradition for gifting loved ones both near and far.

So "how" you may ask, "do caramels preserve a life?" and I would have to say "a very good question!"  I've been sending my grandmother these caramels for the past 4 or 5 Christmases and it brings me such happiness because I know it brings her such joy.  Upon receiving these candies, she never fails to relate to me one of her fondest childhood memories of how her parents would give her a piece of caramel and chocolate before bed every night.  It must work, because at 100 years young she still has a piece of candy at bedtime, until recently when she suffered a stroke.

She's having a hard time eating anything but oatmeal, yogurt and fruit.  She said she thinks her taste buds suffered a stroke as well.  Perhaps these caramels will perk up her taste buds, if not lift her spirit as well?

Here's the recipe in case you want to lift someone's spirit this season as well.

Vanilla Cream Caramels
(from Joy of Cooking)

Dissolve over low heat in a large heavy pan, stirring until the mixture boils:

2 cups sugar
2 cups dark corn syrup
1 cup butter
1 cup cream

Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, to just under the firm-ball stage, 244 degrees (hose living at altitude need to adjust the temperature.  I live at 5,000 ft so I cook until the soft-ball stage, 234 degrees).  Remove from heat and very gradually add:

1 cup cream

Return to heat and cook to the firm-ball stage, 244 degrees (again soft-ball stage, 234 degrees, at 5,000 ft elevation).  Pour the mixture at once, without stirring, into a buttered pan (I use a 9x9 inch cake pan).  When firm, about 3 hours later, invert candy onto a cutting board and cut into squares.

Makes about 2 1/2 pounds.

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