In the corner of our living room there are stacks and stacks of December issues of Martha Stewart Living.
There is the December ’05 issue with a wreath studded with red glittering birds that hangs on a door painted the color of mint ice cream. December ’01- the cover is marked with an interior shot with everything inside brilliantly gold. Oh and a personal favorite of mine – December ’97 – a parade of Gingerbread animals covered in colored sugars walking through a fresh patch of white sugar snow. I’m pretty sure they are all on their way to a Holiday party.
My butter and chocolate loving 3 year old came downstairs the other morning thrilled to find the colorful magazines that littered our floor. He immediately began flipping through the pages of the special Holiday issue (’07). He saw all the cookies and candies and decided he wanted to make something for Christmas.
“I want to make these!” He proclaimed pointing to a picture of wax paper wrapped caramels. Before I had a chance to protest – which I wouldn’t because who doesn’t love caramels? – he was moving his baking stool up to the counter.
I measured and he dumped. He tasted the sugar to make sure it was okay. Once it passed inspection it joined the pot and soon we had a bubbling pan of sugar slowly transforming into a vanilla and spice scented caramel.
While we waited for our caramel to cool we munched on the peppermint sticks we made the day before.
An agonizing 8 hours later we were finally able to sample our candies.
We were not disappointed.
Biting into our soft and chewy candies we were greeted with a rich sweetness and a soft saltiness. Our mouths were warmed with the spice and comforted with vanilla.
While licking our sticky fingers we congratulated each other on a job well done. Then we had another piece.
Let’s just hope some of these treats actually does end up in the hands of our friends and family.
Now you see it.
Now you don’t.
2 cups sugar
1 cup corn syrup
2 cups heavy cream
3 oz butter
1/2 vanilla bean
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
Prepare a 9″ inch square baking pan with pan spray. On the bottom cover with parchment then another fine covering of pan spray.
Combine the sugar, corn syrup, cream, butter and vanilla bean in a large pot. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Watch closely so that the mixture doesn’t boil over. Continue to cook over medium-high heat, stirring often until you reach hard-ball stage (250*). This should take about 15-20 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in salt, cinnamon and ginger.
Pour caramel into the prepared pan. Let cool and stand until completely set. About 8 hours – this concept may be difficult for a 3 year old to understand – speaking from experience.
Invert the caramels onto a parchment covered cutting board then cut them out into desired size. Individually wrap the candies in cellophane or wax paper – or if the recipient of these treats is really lucky you can dip them in tempered chocolate.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 weeks.