One of my favorite things to do during the holidays is make care packages filled with cookies, scones, muffins, and whatever else I think I can safely send through the U.S. Postal Service. Not only do I love giving my friends and family delicious Christmas treats, but I get to spend time in the kitchen listening to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin while not having to worry about gaining 8 dress sizes – ff you give it away, you don’t have to eat 5 dozen cookies by yourself.
This year, I have a candy thermometer and I plan on using it to add candy to my care packages. Caramels are relatively easy to make, and this recipe is particularly delicious. The addition of pretzels adds a fabulous layer of crunch, and the beer is a tasty addition to the creamy sweetness of traditional caramel. Plus, if you buy a 6-pack of beer, you’ll have 5 bottles left to enjoy. This recipe is slightly adapted from a recipe I found in “Oktoberfest Dinner,” Food Network Magazine, October 2011 issue.
Beer Pretzel Caramels
1 12-ounce bottle brown ale or porter
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chopped into small pieces
1 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
7-ounces heavy cream
1 1/4 cup coarsely crushed pretzel sticks
wax paper for wrapping caramel
1) Pour beer into a glass and let sit for about an hour, until it goes flat.
2) Grease an 8-inch square dish lightly with canola oil.
3) Pour half of the flat beer into a small sauce pan, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until it has reduced to 2 tablespoons. This should take about 10 minutes.
4) Meanwhile, in a large sauce pan combined corn syrup, brown sugar, remaining beer, butter, and heavy cream.
5) Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer reaches 235DEGf. This is the hardest part for me, staring at the thermometer – 10 minutes feels like hours. Be patient and drink one of the other beers from your 6-pack.
6) As soon as the mixture reaches 235°F, remove from heat and stir in reduced porter and pretzel pieces.
7) Pour into prepared dish (it will be hot, so I suggest placing a hot pad under the pan). Chill in the fridge until firm, at least 1 hour.
8) Cut into pieces and wrap using wax paper. Store in an airtight container.