I make friends by bribing them into liking me via food. How do you do that when you aren’t on the same continent as them? Well by mailing them sugar of course.
While I wold love to send my cakes all over the world, for now I have been sticking to caramels, as they stay fresh for a long time and they travel without becoming mutilated in a mailer envelope. I first mailed caramels to Japan two years ago–but you know me, one time of making regular, unflavored caramels was enough and I was ready to move on to a new recipe and a new flavor. The next time I mailed caramels I made Earl Grey Caramels and Apple Cider Caramels–and while both had good flavors and successfully made it to Japan, the Earl Grey Caramel recipe naturally had a better/easier to handle texture. So this time I dug out my Earl Grey Caramel recipe, but with the intention of making it with a different flavor. Actually, with four different flavors.
Yes you heard me right. In two days I made four different batches of different flavors of caramel. Which is mostly rational since I had a list of about 20 people (12 of whom not living in America) to send caramel to (on account of needing to bribe them into continuing to be my friend, you see).
One word of advice? Go out and buy a legit candy thermometer. And not the crappy glass one you can find in most stores. Go get a stainless steal or whatever digital thermometer. I got so frustrated the first three batches that I dug in all of my boxes in the storage closet of my parents basement (I moved out of my apartment before I left for South Korea and there is no need to unpack everything since I’m leaving in two months for France) until I finally found my digital thermometer.
Only the fourth batch of caramel turned out the way I wanted it, even though the glass thermometer said I reached all the same temperatures. (-_-;;) My point: don’t trust your thermometer, especially if it is glass, and don’t be stupid enough to think you can simply go off of dropping caramel in a cold cup of water to determine whether it is at soft or hard crack.
So I made four flavors: Espresso, Chai, Jasmine and Matcha.
They (as I mentioned) all have slightly different textures, but even still I prefer the Chai Caramel the best. And somehow between the flavor and the texture I thought all my friends would prefer that one the best as well. However upon hearing back it seems to be an equal tie for first place between the Chai, Espresso and Matcha. (I think Jasmine is a bit too unusual, and that caramel was much harder than the others, for it to be a preferred flavor. I’m going to keep working on that because Jasmine tea is life).
This recipe, even when I ended up with varying textures from boiling it for differing amounts of time, was always easy to cut, which is part of why I love it so much–since a lot of the time spent on the caramels is in cutting and wrapping them. I just use regular wax paper when I am wrapping my caramels–cutting strips of wax paper and then cutting each strip into four pieces. And between the caramel cooperating and cutting nicely and pulling up a continuous stream of 30Rock episodes on Netflix, cutting and wrapping the caramels was quite enjoyable!
Since I used the same wax paper for all four flavors, and three of the colors were incredibly similar, I bagged the caramels separately….It took up the kitchen table for awhile 😛 But seriously, how adorable are these? And if I really took the time and went all out and tied them up with pretty ribbons and cute labels… Next time. This really makes me want to open up a bakery with a little candy section though. >_<
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons tea –> or any other flavoring (ex: 1 tablespoon coffee grounds, 2 tablespoons matcha powder)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup water
4 tablespoons butter
**You will also need a candy thermometer!
1) Line a 9x13inch, 9×9 or 8×8 pan with parchment paper.
2) Place the cream and tea/flavoring in a small sauce pan and bring to a slow simmer. After about 5-10 minutes, turn off the heat and let it rest for 10 minutes.
3) Strain the tea/flavoring and add the vanilla to the cream.
4) Place the sugars, corn syrup, honey and water into a pot and mix well. Clip the candy thermometer onto the pot and turn on the heat to medium-low, cooking until it reaches around 230 degrees.
5) Turn off the heat and add the cream. Stir to combine then add in the butter.
6) Turn the heat on to medium-low once again and boil until it reaches 250 degrees. If you are unsure, you can spoon some of the liquid into a cold glass of water. If the liquid forms a soft ball, it is ready.
7) Continue to boil for about 5 minutes. The longer it boils the firmer the caramel will be when it cools.
8) Pour the caramel into the prepared pan and let it cool completely. This will take at least two hours. (If you want to add any toppings, add them/sprinkle them over the top of the caramel once it is in the pan and before it cools).
9) Cut squares of wax paper, cut the caramel into cubes and wrap them, twisting each of the ends. (If your caramel is on the soft side, stick it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before you cut it, to make it easier to slice through).
**A special thanks to all of the lovely people who ate these and gave me feedback! I miss you all terribly!