While cooking, listen to this: You Know I'm No Good - Amy Winehouse
Ah, fall. The changing colors of the leaves, the infamous PSL, the crisp sweater weather, the flannel.
And if you're in the Jewish community, a fuck ton of holidays.
There are five, to be exact, within a like, one month period. Insanity! And one of them is seven days long! Think of how many meals that is - all those soups, salads, breads, desserts. What can start off as a season of joy and company can end with hiding in your house with a jar of peanut butter, in dire need of alone time and a secular day and a dish-free sink.
The key to staving off holiday fatigue, I think, is to go for recipes that are easy to make but still feel celebratory and special. Apples and honey are traditionally eaten on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year and the kick-off of the holiday madness, to represent the sweetness we hope will follow us into the upcoming year. So, naturally, many recipes for Rosh Hashana involve apples and/or honey: apple cake, honey cake, apple and honey cake...you get the picture. These are all delicious, but we wanted to try something different, something we hadn't ever done before, which is candy. And it actually worked! The miracles of the universe are vast, friends.
These apple cider caramels are adorable, and are easy to make in advance of any meals you might have on the docket. They only require a few ingredients, patience and courage. They're the perfect excuse to head to a farmer's market for some fresh apple cider, and to pretend that you are a master candy maker in a small village on a mountain somewhere. Or maybe that's just us. Definitely get the fresh cider, though.
As one of Alyssa's co-workers put it, these are like apple pie but less messy. Seriously accurate! They taste deeply of apples and cinnamon, and the sea salt keeps them from being cloyingly sweet.
When I was in rabbinical school, we would sometimes have moments where we would go around and give blessings or well wishes to the people around us. Religious or otherwise, I think this is a beautiful practice. So, wonderful reader, regardless of personal religion or belief, my wish for you as the leaves change and the PSL takes all of our money, is that you encounter sweetness in this new season of life, and that you have people in your life to share it with.
Love and meows, Rina
APPLE CIDER CARAMELS
Yield: approximately 50 caramels
Prep Time: 5m | Cook Time: 40-45m | Setting Time: 2h
Category: Sweet, Candy, Celebrate, Rosh Hashana, Fall
Source: smitten kitchen
Special Equipment: candy thermometer (optional, see instructions), wax paper
4 cups apple cider*
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons flaky sea salt/1 teaspoon finer salt
1 stick/8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
⅓ cup heavy cream
Neutral oil for the knife
*a note about apple cider: this is different from apple juice or those hard ciders you might have drank in your parent's basement in high school. This stuff is literally just pressed apples, and can be found in most grocery stores, but I like to get mine from the farmer's market across the street from Columbia on Broadway and 114 - it definitely tastes the best.
Create the apple cider syrup: in a large saucepan, pour in the apple cider and place on high heat until it's reduced to a thick, dark syrup and is now between ½ cup and ⅓ cup in volume. For me this took about 40 minutes, but it might take more or less on your stove. Just keep your eye on it and stir it every once in a while.
Create your mis-en-place: which is how the French say "get your shit in order." Line the bottom and sides of a baking pan with two long sheets of crisscrossed parchment paper. Deb uses an 8-inch straight-sided square metal baking pan. I had no such thing, and mine turned out just fine. If you have this kind of pan, great! If you don't, improvise! Next, add your cinnamon and salt to a small bowl and stir. Set aside.
Prepare your caramel if you were prepared and had a candy thermometer: once the apple cider is reduced and thick and smells AMAZING, take it off the heat. Stir in the butter, sugars and heavy cream and put back on medium-high heat. Put a candy thermometer on the side of the pot, and boil until the temperature hits 225 degrees. This only takes like 5 minutes so watch out!
Prepare your caramel if you were unprepared and did not have a candy thermometer: oops! Never fear, because Deb is here. Follow the steps until the candy thermometer bit. Right when you put the caramel on the heat to boil, fill up a bowl with really cold water. Cook the caramel for a few minutes, and spoon a tiny amount of caramel into the water. If it becomes firm, chewy, and can be rolled into a ball, you're good to go. If not, cook for another minute and try again.
Set the caramel: immediately take the caramel off the stove and add the cinnamon-salt mixture. Stir a few times to distribute it evenly and pour into the parchment-lined baking pan. Let it set for about 2 hours, until it's cool and firm; you can put it in the fridge if you'd like, which will reduce the setting time.
Cut the caramels: once your caramel is set, take it out of the baking pan by using the parchment paper sling to transfer it to a cutting board. Using a well-oiled knife, oiling it after each cut (SERIOUSLY, do not skip this or you will be very sad), cut the caramel into 1-by-1-inch squares. Wrap each caramel in a 4-by-4-inch wax paper square, and twist at the ends to close.
To keep: I dare you to keep these in your house for this long, but in a tightly-sealed container or zippered bag these will keep at room temperature for a week or two.