The best part about cooking is that there are no rules. Yes, there are techniques and steps to follow in order to make specific things… But when it comes to flavors, the boundaries are limitless.
Here I’m combining cardamom, caramel and citrus to make delicious and BEAUTIFUL little candies. While most of the time I’m cooking dinner or some kind of meal, it’s nice to spend a couple hours in the kitchen just playing around. When I make something like candy, I look at it as more of a project. The result is something that doesn’t all get eaten right away, but can stay in your kitchen and get picked at all week long. Caramels are buttery, rich and decadent. They’re the perfect project to get working on! The best part is that they are easier to make as you’d think.
The trick to making caramels is getting the mixture to the right temperature. While I usually judge it by eye, looking for a deep amber color, it’s always useful to pull out the ol’ candy thermometer. You want to let the caramel cook to what is known as “firm-ball stage” in candy making. The temperature range for this stage is between 245°F and 250°F. Cooking it to within this range will create the beautifully soft, chewy texture you expect from caramels once they cool. I add a little cardamom and vanilla to mine, plus I use honey in them instead of corn syrup. I love the flavor of honey and it adds an unexpected deep sweetness. Playing around with flavor combos led me to make a candied grapefruit garnish. Spice from the cardamom, sweet from the honey, tang from the citrus…all you need is a little pink Himalayan salt to bring out all these flavors. Enjoy!
- ½ oz thinly sliced grapefruit peel (see Kayla’s notes)
- 1 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 cup water
- oil, for baking pan
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
- sea salt, to garnish (I use pink Himalayan)
- Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add the grapefruit peel and boil for 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, remove the peel to an ice bath (just a bowl of ice and water). While the peel cools, combine the sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 3 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the peel from the water and add it to the simple syrup. Simmer it for about 8-10 minutes. Transfer the peel to a wire rack to dry. Toss it with a tablespoon of sugar to finish.
- Brush the bottom and sides of a 9x13” baking pan with oil. Line the pan with parchment paper, making sure to leave an overhang (you’ll use the paper to pull out the caramel). Lightly coat the parchment with oil as well.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, brown sugar, butter, honey and cream. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring just until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for about 15-20 minutes, undisturbed, until the caramel reaches 250°F on a candy thermometer. It will be a deep amber color. Remove the caramel from the heat. Stir in the vanilla extract, salt and cardamom. Pour the caramel onto the baking sheet and garnish with sea salt and candied grapefruit so they settle into the caramel. Let cool overnight in a cool place (not the refrigerator). Use the parchment to lift the caramel out of the pan. Cut into bite-size pieces. You can wrap the caramels using wax paper.
- To make the strips of grapefruit peel, first cut off both ends of the grapefruit. Lay one of the flat ends down, and start cutting the peel from top to bottom, working your way around the grapefruit. Once the peel is removed, slice it so that you end up with thin strips.