Two years ago I was gearing up for a solo exploration to an entirely unknown territory - the pacific northwest.
This Virginia-raised girl was armed with an unquenchable appetite, an extensive list of donut shops, and a heart heavy with wanderlust. I made my rounds and joyfully ate my way through the quirky city of Portland, but one of my most memorable discoveries happened in a tiny, closet-sized shop called Quin's.
Clear bags of caramels - handcrafted caramels - lined the single wall of this petit shop. These topaz confectioners were studded with an array of pantry stuffs, including popcorn, waffle cone shards, and pecans. Fifteen minutes later I walked out of the shop, arms heavy with my gleanings.
Caramel is not strictly a fall food, but there is certainly a cozy vibe about its burnt sugar flavor. My memories of that long past trip to Quin's and afternoons of making these beloved treats with my mother became my inspiration for these summer-to-fall transitional treats.
In order to pack as much flavor possible into these confections, we have to concentrate. No, really, I mean we have to make a concentrate. A pineapple and ginger concentrate, to be specific.
These flavors compliment each other so beautifully. The spiciness of the ginger is perfectly balanced out by the acidic tang of sweet pineapple juice.
While candy making can be intimidating, caramels are absolutely approachable. The only "special" equipment required is a candy thermometer. In truth, every kitchen should include one, so this would be a fantastic time to add it to your reinforcements if you have not already done so.
Just look at that little square of happiness.
These make such fantastic teachers gifts or "just because" presents. That is, if you can stand to part with them.
No need for fancy wrappers, just grab yourself a roll of wax paper and start cutting.
Wrap one, eat one, wrap one, eat one... You'll develop a pattern in no time.
The sweet fruit of summer alongside the irresistible spice of fall all in one tiny candy. Hello, lover.
Pineapple Ginger Chewy Caramels
makes about 30 1-inch caramels / recipe loosely adapted from Smitten Kitchen
4 cups pineapple juice
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into 6 pieces
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
Prepare an 8x8 baking pan by coating with nonstick spray and lining with parchment paper. Set aside. Cut thirty 4x4-inch squares of wax paper.
Combine pineapple juice and fresh ginger in a 3-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat just slightly and simmer for about thirty minutes; until the juice has reduced down to 1/2 cup. Remove from heat and use a slotted spoon to remove and discard the pieces of ginger.
Stir in butter, sugars, and heavy whipping cream. Whisk until the butter has melted and the mixture is smooth. Return the pan to the heat and attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.
Cook, without stirring, for 5-8 minutes, until the mixture has reached 250 degrees F. This will happen quickly so keep your eye on it! Immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir in ground ginger and sea salt. Pour the hot caramel directly into the prepared pan.
Cook's Note: Once the caramel has reached the proper temperature, you will have to work quickly. Make sure you have a spoon standing by and your ingredients pre-measured.
Transfer the caramel to the refrigerator and allow to cool for 2 hours; until set.
Use sides of the parchment paper to lift the block of caramel onto a cutting board. Dip a paper towel into vegetable oil and rub it along the edge of a sharp knife (repeat this step after each cut) and cut the caramel into 1-inch squares.
Wrap the caramels in the prepared wax paper wrappers and store at room temperature in an airtight container or zip-top bag for up to two weeks - as if they will last that long. Enjoy!