Blood Orange Caramels

by Matt on February 10, 2010

If you heard a giant thud last week or a heavy sigh sift through your window then chances are it was me. I apologize for the interruption. You see, I just managed to wrap up two cookbook projects within the same week, a feat that has surprised even the most doubting me. I suppose this is what happens when you work with amazing people. They will forever have your back.

One book involved sandwiches, and boy, do I mean sandwiches. The other was a lovely vegan cookbook from a woman that is sometimes known as one half of the skinny bitch empire. Although I know the B word is used solely as empowerment it’s not a word I’d use to describe her. Sweet, funny, gentle, hot, yea, those words, anything but bitch. And I really can’t wait for this book to hit the stands as the recipes were ridiculously delicious. More about that in a few months.

On the last day of the shoot my dear friend Cindie (who is also an amazing food stylist) brought candy to the shoot. I have the world’s smallest sweet tooth (you wouldn’t know this from things that I enjoy making) and I don’t usually freak out over sweets. However, Cindie told me that she whipped up this recipe for Blood Orange Caramels because she needed something to do with the oranges. And when my pal Cindie says she needs something to do it’s best if you create a clear path and step aside. An exquisite crafter, a notorious organizer, a brilliant designer and gifted knitter (her dog Peanut proudly wears monogrammed sweaters, thankyouverymuch), Cindie is destined to create. I love that about her. Anyway, these caramels. Oh my god, these caramels. Soft and chewy, the initial stickiness gives way to buttery and tart citrus flavors before ending with tiny salty fireworks once the crystals have had time to dissolve on your tongue. The whole shebang ends with a crunch of the toasted nuts, and before long you realize these caramels have sent you over the edge with very distinct flavors all working together harmoniously.  I saved a few to take home to Adam and it was nothing but torture.

It turns out the other half reacted the same way I did. You have one and then you want another. You keep thinking about that citrus tang combined with those heavy caramelly flavors. I could stand it no longer. I grabbed my phone and texted her (I even used some harsh language, I don’t like the “kill” metaphor but I was exhausted and feeling dramatic, fyi). And being as wonderful as she always is she said yes! Have I stepped over some unwritten blogging etiquette rule by re-blogging about something she just did? I’m sure of it!  But you’ll just have to forgive me because I love these candies, damnit!

Cindie’s Blood Orange Caramels with Toasted Almonds and Sea Salt
Could you use regular oranges? Perhaps. I wouldn’t. Blood oranges are very special and I’m quite fond of them. And they are in season right now. Cindie says if you prefer a tart candy you can cut the brown sugar in half. I happen to think they were just perfect as written.

3 cups blood orange juice, strained
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup toasted almonds
2 teaspoons sea salt flakes

Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper. Butter parchment paper and set aside.

Place blood orange juice in a 4-quart heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Let boil until liquid is reduced to 1/3 cup.

Remove from heat and stir in sugars, butter, and cream. Return to high heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Turn heat to medium and let boil until a candy or deep fat thermometer reads 248 degrees F (or when a half teaspoon placed in a glass of icy cold water turns into a firm, chewy ball), about 17 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Scatter almonds on bottom of parchment paper. Pour caramel over almonds. Let sit until cool and firm, about 2 hours. Remove from baking dish and sprinkle salt flakes over top. Cut into 1-inch pieces.

Thanks to Cindie and Denise over at Food Fanatics. You know I’m teaching another workshop with them at my studio in March, right? Make sure to click on over there if you’re interested.

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