There are a couple (food-related) things that usually do not work out for me: 1. dough-y stuff and 2. caramel-y stuff. I don't know if it's the recipes I follow, or my own lack of skill, but there have been so many batches of caramel that have burnt, or seized, or what have you. It's a bit ridiculous.
But I decided to face the challenge once more, because I saw a box of ginger caramels one day at TJ Maxx (the Home Goods store seriously has the most awesome collection of things?!) and just had to make them myself.
In order to get the ginger into the caramel, I decided to swap out the water for ginger juice (basically ginger that I ran through my juicer). For people who don't have access to a juicer (I have a friend who comes by sometimes just to juice bottles of ginger), I think boiling lots and lots of ginger slices in water and then straining (and maybe boiling it down a little?) would get you a decently strong ginger liquid as well. You could also grate a ton of ginger and then press out the juice, but that seems a bit excessive. There's also this caramel recipe here that uses ginger extract, but apparently some extracts aren't as strong as others, so be careful if you choose to go that route.
The ginger gave the caramels a nice warmth and depth from the spice, but isn't so strong that non-ginger lovers will be put off by it. A jar of these would be a great homemade gift for the holidays!
Next up: trying to figure out how to make the caramels super-duper gingery. Ideas?
Springboarded off from The Kitchn
1 cup heavy cream
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup ginger juice (from a 4-inch piece of ginger)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
equipment: candy thermometer
Line an 8x8 square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving the extra paper to hang off the ends like flaps. Lightly oil/butter the parchment paper and sides of the pan, or spray with nonstick spray.
In a small saucepan, melt the heavy cream, butter, and salt over medium heat until the butter melts. Remove from heat.
In a 3-qt+ saucepan, stir together the sugar, corn syrup, and ginger juice until a thick, grainy paste forms. Don't stir the sugar after this point. Cover*, and cook over medium to medium-high heat until boiling. Immediately uncover, and stick in your candy thermometer. You can move on to the next step anywhere between 250-325F.**
Turn off the heat. Slowly whisk in the warm cream/butter mixture. The caramel will bubble up rapidly, so be careful not to pour too quickly, especially if you've got a smaller pot. Stop whisking when all the cream has been added.
Return the pot to medium to medium-high heat, and let the caramel come to a boil without stirring. Remove from heat when it is 245-250F.
Quickly whisk in the vanilla extract, ground cinnamon, and ground ginger, before immediately pouring the caramel into the prepared tin. Do not scrape the bottom or sides of the pot, as there are often burned bits. Knock the baking pan against the counter a few times to help get the bubbles out.
Let the caramels set for two hours, or up to overnight. Once they're set, lift them out of the pan with the parchment paper flaps and onto a cutting board. Cut using a very sharp knife (I had better luck with a pizza cutter), slicked with nonstick spray or oil if it's sticking to the caramel. Wrap pieces individually with wax paper, and twist the ends closed.
Caramels will keep at room temperature for about 2 weeks.
*The lid will help trap the steam and dissolve any sugar crystals on the edges of the pot. Alternatively, you can brush down the sides with a damp pastry brush.
**According to The Kitchn, cooking your sugar mixture to 250-275F will get you a lighter-colored, taffy-like caramel, while cooking to 300-325F will get you a darker-colored and firmer caramel that is also less likely to crystallize (I'm assuming she means seize?). I brought my sugar mixture up to 280F, and it worked out great.
Makes about 56 (4x14) caramels