DIY Holiday Gifts: salty & sweet

Salty and sweet in one bite — what a treat. Kettle corn is simple to make and won't stick to your teeth like caramel corn. And salted caramels are wonderfully chewy, buttery sweet with a hint of salt to hit the high note. If you want to make them extra special, flex your creative muscle by infusing the cream with your favourite flavours before making the caramels.

By / Photography By Amy Zambonin | December 17, 2016

Instructions

Salted Caramels Makes 40 to 50 pieces

2 cups white sugar
¼ cup water
½ cup corn or brown rice syrup
1 cup butter, unsalted
¾ cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon salt
sea salt for garnish
a candy thermometer

First, lightly grease an 8-inch by 8-inch baking pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom and sides of the pan. Lightly grease the parchment.

In a small pot over medium-low heat, warm the butter, cream and salt until melted. Turn off the heat and reserve.

Add the water, sugar and syrup to a medium-sized pot. Be sure the sugar has been moistened before heating. Turn your burner to medium — at this point, do not stir the sugar. Stirring may cause crystals to form in the sugar mixture causing it to not caramelize properly. Cook the sugar until it reaches 325F to 330F (this temperature will create a lighter, softer caramel. You can increase the temperature up to 10 to 15 degrees for a darker, harder candy).

Once the sugar has reached 325F to 330F, slowly pour in the butter and cream mixture (be careful, the sugar will begin to bubble vigorously once the liquid is added). Cook the caramel until the thermometer reads 240F (again, adding a few more degrees to the temperature will result in a harder caramel). Pour the caramel immediately into the greased baking pan. Allow the caramel to cool for 30 minutes, and then sprinkle with coarse salt. Cool the caramel for another 3 hours, then remove from the baking pan and using a heavy knife, cut into ½-inch by 1-inch pieces. Wrap the caramels in small pieces of parchment before giving as a gift.

Get creative: Make flavoured caramels by first infusing the cream. In a small pot over medium-low heat, add cream and 1½ tablespoons of lavender or 1 vanilla bean sliced open length-wise, 2 tablespoons of ground coffee or rum. Stir frequently until the cream comes just to the boil. Remove from the heat and strain the cream through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Let the cream cool before following the full recipe.

Kettle Corn Makes 8 to 10 cups

½ cup popping corn kernels
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons canola oil
¼ teaspoon salt

Using a large, heavy-bottomed pot, over medium low heat, add the canola oil and two to three popcorn kernels and place a lid onto the pot. Wait for the oil to heat and for one of the kernels to pop. Once that has happened, add the remaining kernels and sugar. Again, with the lid on, let the pot sit until the corn starts to pop. Now, begin to shake the pot gently back and forth to keep the popcorn moving and to keep the sugar from burning. Once all the kernels have popped, immediately transfer the popcorn into a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Once the corn has cooled, place in a container with a tight-fitting lid and consume or give as a gift within 2 to 3 days.

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