Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Beer, Pretzel, and Cashew Caramels

I mentioned the beer-themed food blogger potluck the other day, and when I first heard about this theme, I was immediately inspired to attempt these beer caramels. I had seen beer and pretzel caramels on Serious Eats, and I wondered if I could adjust the caramel recipes I’d used before to include beer and still have a good resulting texture. I’ve previously made two types of caramels from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert. The first was fleur de sel caramels which were firm but still chewy. The second version was honey pecan caramels which were softer, a little sticky, but deliciously tender and chewy. Both types were made with two cups of cream for the liquid, and I decided to experiment with one cup of cream and one cup of beer. I chose Maredsous which is a richly-flavored, malty, Belgian-style dubbel ale. When I stopped by the grocery store to buy beer and pretzels, I found Utz brand pretzels. We’ve been watching Mad Men, we’re halfway through season two, and I didn’t realize the Utz brand chips seen in a couple of episodes was in fact a real brand. I love that logo, and the Utz pretzel wheels were the perfect size to use in these caramels. With all the ingredients collected, I got to work. My first attempt ended in failure, but the second try resulted in a very edible confection.

Let me explain what went wrong the first time. I followed the same instructions for the fleur de sel caramels but used half beer and half cream. The beer and cream mixture was warmed in a small saucepan while sugar, corn syrup, and salt were melted and then brought up to 305 degrees F in a three-quart saucepan. When the sugar mixture reached 305, the heat was turned off, butter was added, and the beer and cream were stirred into the larger pan. My first lesson during round one, as I’ll call it, was that a three-quart saucepan is not large enough for this mixture with beer in it. The recipe notes, and I remembered from past caramel experiences, that there is a lot of sputtering and bubbling when the cream is added, but with beer, there’s even more bubbling. I quickly grabbed a larger pan and transferred the hot, bubbling mess. That mixture was then to have been brought up to 260 degrees F, and at that point, it was removed from the heat, vanilla was added, and it was poured into a prepared pan in which I had placed pretzels. I left it to cool and set until the next day when I discovered the caramel was rock hard. Not only did it require some serious force to break off a piece, there was no chance of being able to chew it.

I moved on to round two. The other recipe I’ve used before, honey pecan caramels, suggests taking the sugar and cream mixture to a final temperature of 248 degrees F, and that’s what I did the second time. I used the same ratio of one cup beer to one cup cream. I used sugar, corn syrup, and just a little honey which was brought to the same 305 degrees F before the butter and warmed cream and beer mixture were added. For round two, I smartly started with a five-quart pan. When the final mixture reached 248, I turned off the heat, added vanilla, and poured it into a prepared pan with pretzels and cashews. Somewhere between round one and two I decided some nuts would go well with the pretzels. I also added a sprinkling of sea salt on top. After sitting overnight, the caramels had become firm enough to cut but were still tender and chewy. They were the same texture as the honey pecan caramels I had made before. This was success with beer in a caramel. As for the flavor, I wasn’t sure how noticeable the beer would be to someone who didn’t know it was there. I detected a maltiness, and there was a hint of a little something extra in these caramels, but there wasn’t an overwhelming flavor of beer. After they sat for a day, I thought the beer flavor had become more noticeable, but it was still subtle. The color was darker than that of other caramels, and the pretzels and cashews were nice additions. This was a fun, learning experience and an interesting use of beer in a sweet treat.

Beer, Pretzel, and Cashew Caramels
Adapted from honey caramels recipe found in Pure Dessert
1 cup small pretzels, such as round Utz wheels
1/2 c roasted, salted cashews
3/4 c light corn syrup
1/4 c honey
2 c sugar
1/4 t salt
1 c cream
1 c beer such as a Belgian-style dubbel
3 T butter, softened
1 T pure vanilla extract
1-2 t sea salt

-line bottom and sides of a nine-inch square baking pan with foil and spray foil with cooking spray oil; place pretzels and cashews on foil in pan and set aside on a heat-proof surface
-combine corn syrup, honey, sugar, and salt in a heavy five-quart pan set over medium heat and attach a candy thermometer; stir occasionally with a wooden spoon until mixture has melted; cook without stirring until temperature on candy thermometer reaches 305 degrees F
-while syrup mixture comes up to temperature, place cream and beer in a small saucepan over low heat just until warm
-when sugar and syrup mixture has reached 305, turn off heat, add butter and stir to combine; carefully stir in cream and beer mixture; it will boil and sputter and then eventually calm down; turn the heat back on to medium-high and continue stirring until mixture is smooth; allow this to cook while stirring occasionally until temperature on thermometer reaches 248 degrees F
-turn off the heat, add vanilla, and stir to incorporate; carefully pour this mixture over the prepared pan with the pretzels and cashews and allow to cool slightly; sprinkle with sea salt and leave to cool and set for several hours or overnight
-invert caramel onto a cutting surface and remove the foil; flip the caramel right side up and cut into desired shapes with a serrated knife so as not to crush the pretzels; cut caramels can be wrapped in cellophane or parchment paper






35 comments:

  1. They look so yum, I want some!

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  2. Wow Lisa. I almost love caramel more than chocolate and I think the salt from the pretzels would put me over the edge with this one.

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  3. Aaaawwwwesome! What a great idea and it looks fantastic - the cashews and pretzels stand out gorgeously from the caramel. So glad your stuck to it until you found a successful recipe/method. These look delicious!

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  4. Bar food and drink in one snack. I'm sold!!!! This is such a handy idea. Pass some of that pronto.

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  5. An awesome combo! Very Oktoberfest-like!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  6. Oh my my, I never had such a treat. Sounds wonderful!

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  7. Beer and pretzels in a candy. I love it! You are too inventive. ;)

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  8. I love food chemistry! Great job at sticking to your idea and making it work!

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  9. How unique and beautiful! They really look fab!

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  10. This is truly unique, never came across such recipes before. The caramel looks wonderful, with bits of cashews and pretzels. I would love to try this! Thanks for sharing this interesting recipe.

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  11. truly unique and truly spectacular. i hd no idea that beer was capable of such greatness. :)

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  12. These are genius! Kudos to you for trying them twice. I might have given up lol! They're perfect for a beer-themed party, I must say.

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  13. Now these are a must try and look fantastic. Love the idea of adding beer to caramel

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  14. I am so making these. What I really want to know is where can I get those way cool wagon wheel pretzels?!?!

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  15. i've never tried making caramels. i'm just too scared! yours look GORGEOUS though!! and so tasty :)

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  16. What a great combo this is! I would never have thought to combine those ingredients but it looks delicious!

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  17. This would be a perfect Oktoberfest treat!

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  18. this is just beyond impressive!! my daughter would love this! :)

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  19. Sweet and salty, how delicious!

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  20. I love the combination of the pretzel and nuts with caramel, like Elra mention, salty and sweet...yummie!

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  21. Nuts, salt and beer with caramel!!! What else could anyone ask for? I love the dark color they ended up too.

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  22. This looks scrumptious! A new combination that I could never think of. These pictures are so dangerous for me right now just before going to bed.

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  23. These are divine! What a wonderful mix of flavors and textures!

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  24. Extremely interesting recipe--love the detail you provide, and love your blog!

    Jane

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  25. more beer!!! I don't usually eat pretzels but if it's beer flavoured, I think I'll gobble them all ;p

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  26. What a nice way to incorporate beer to a dessert. Thanks for sharing, this sounds great.

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  27. Lisa, I don't drink alcohol...but I can very well suck or chew it! :D

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  28. this is something hubby would love nibbling on. It looks great!

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  29. anything with beer is awesome ;)

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  30. I wouldn't have thought of beer in a sweet treat, but they sure look divine!

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  31. Hehe Lisa this is GENIUS! No longer do people have to reach over for the beer and the pretzels but they can get it all in one bite! I love this idea :D

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  32. Whoah, are you kidding? These look amazing!!! I have to make these for a Christmas party or something. Wow, thanks for sharing!

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  33. I LOVE these!! I can't even begin to describe how good they sound!

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  34. This is a very very interesting combination of ingredients. I am bookmarking this. Will have to try this sometimes.

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