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.


Peppermint Sticks

recipe from


Spiced Caramels

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.


22 Responses to “candy gifts – caramels and sticks”

  1. Alane

    What time of year is it? Candy time! Yay! These look like they would make good sticky fingers and faces.

  2. Mindy Taylor

    Too funny. I swear I do the same thing every year. All the past christmas issues come out and I start brainstorming. Just wanted to say my 2 year old and I made your best chocolate chip cookies yesterday. They were so Good I just cant stop eating them. We also added chunks of caramel in with the chocolate chips. So good!! Thanks for the always outstanding recipes!

  3. candice

    Delicious. I never thought to add spices to caramel, but I have a feeling that they’ll balance the over-the-top sweetness very well. Thank you for this! 🙂

  4. Kimberly

    Made these carmels yesterday. They are AMAZING!!! Put a little sea salt on the top before wrapping them. Sent a package of them to our daughter at WSU. We met you and Gabe at Delancey the other night. Your boys are adorable! Thanks for the receipe!

  5. Danielle

    At Humphrey Slocombe in San Francisco they sell caramels like these, but with lard. Now that you’ve shared this recipe I have no reason not to try my hand at them!

  6. Rita

    Thanks for a great recipe! These turned out absolutely amazing. I sprinkled them with a little fleur de sel as well, they look cute and the texture is just right. I’m bringing a big bag of them home with me for the holidays.

  7. Darlynne

    Eureka, I have made fire! I’ve made these caramels three times within the last month, a major accomplishment if you knew how I’d struggled in the past. Everything about this recipe is perfect and the results have thrilled family and friends. It even works beautifully for chocolate covered caramel apples. Thank you!

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