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Double Ginger Caramels

February 7, 2011


Many evenings as I head to class at FCI, I duck off the crowded sidewalk into [the often more crowded] Dean & Deluca on Broadway. And I can honestly say, that I have never purchased a thing. It is the land of filet mignon, fancy tins of imported salts, and an entire section of elegantly wrapped chocolate bars, most priced at $10 or higher. Although there’s very little this student can afford, a wander through those aisles is the retail equivalent of good cookbook perusing session-‐a means of stowing away a glossary of new ingredients, ideas for recipes, and overall, a way of getting me fired up for a night of intense cooking. Regardless of my blunders during the previous class session (most recently, a thoroughly overcooked pork chop), the ritual calms my nerves and calls up the love of food that brought me to culinary school in the first place. Some competitors may get jazzed up for a big match with an “Eye of the Tiger,” pre-game soundtrack-‐instead of punching sides of beef a la Rocky, I’m looking at expensive grocery items, cured meats, and bakery items. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Insights to my odd, food-transfixed mind aside, let’s get back to the caramels you see pictured above. On one recent wander through the Dean & Deluca candy section, I got to thinking about these chewy, classic sweets. The options available in store were of course, expensive. And although they may well have contained the most expensive sugars, organic cream, grey sea salt, etc., I had a hard time accounting for how 10 or 12 little sweets could cost close to $40. How hard could it be to pull them off at home?

With the key ingredients already stocked in my pantry, I decided to do some at-home experimenting and over the course of several weeks of flavor/consistency tweaking, I ended up with these little nuggets of caramel-y goodness. Deviating from the ubiquitous, though undeniably delicious sea salted variety, I gave these treats a hefty dose of spice-‐fresh peeled ginger is infused in the caramel itself and each bite studded with chunks of the sweet, crystallized variety.

This recipe makes quite a lot of candies, and thus, Quincy and I have been consuming them in quantity. In fact, most of my coat pockets are stocked with a few, to ease those long, cold waits for the bus/subway. And with a certain Hallmark holiday coming up, these could come in handy, either en lieu of or as a supplement to that heart-shaped box of chocolates.

caramels, wrapped and ready!

Double Ginger Caramels (Adapted from David Lebovitz)

Keep in mind that a candy thermometer is pretty essential here-‐definitely worth picking up before you embark on any serious candy-making adventure. The difference in a few degrees either way can make a tremendous difference in texture. If you have one in the depths of your junk drawer, it’s helpful to check it’s accuracy before getting started. Simply fit a sauce pan with the thermometer, fill with water, and bring to a rolling boil–the thermometer should read 212º F, assuming you’re at sea level. If this isn’t the case, you may want a new thermometer. A heat proof spatula is helpful as well.

3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. heavy cream
4 oz. piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
4 tbsp. butter (divided 2 tbsp./2 tbsp.)
generous 1/2 tsp. flaky sea salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 to 1/3 cup crystallized ginger, tossed with a little confectioners sugar to prevent it from clumping

Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it just comes to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the ginger and stir; cover with a lid and allow to infuse for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare your equipment (including candy thermometer, heat proof spatula or stirring utensil) and all remaining ingredients. Line a 9-inch loaf pan with parchment paper or foil and very lightly coat with cooking spray or vegetable oil.

After a half hour has passed, strain the cream mixture through a fine sieve, and return infused cream to the saucepan. Add 2 tbsp. butter and the sea salt, then reheat just to a boil, cover, and keep warm while you prepare the caramel.

Fit another heavy-duty saucepan (medium sized or accommodating at least 4 quarts) with a candy thermometer. Add the corn syrup and sugar and heat, stirring gently, until all the sugar granules have dissolved. After you’ve reached a uniform, clear syrup, continue cooking it until it reaches 310º F, stirring/swirling the pan ONLY as necessary (as infrequently and gently as possible) if mixture begins to color unevenly.

When the sugar mixture has reached 310º F, remove from the heat and stir in the warm, ginger-infused cream mixture-‐it will bubble vigorously. Once smooth, return the mixture to the heat, and cook to 248º F (firm ball). Turn off the heat, remove the thermometer, and stir in the remaining 2 tbsp. butter and crystallized ginger. Once incorporated, pour the mixture into your prepared pan. Cool on a wire rack. Once completely cooled, remove the caramels from the pan (this should be easy using the lining as a ‘sling’), remove the parchment/foil and slice into desired shape–a very sharp knife is key.

It is important to wrap these individually so they don’t stick together-‐I typically use waxed paper, though if a restaurant supply store nearby you has fancy, pre-cut cellophane wrappers, those would be lovely. Once wrapped and stored in a air-tight container, these treats can hang around for about a month.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Kevin permalink
    June 25, 2012 5:51 pm

    So, turn heat down when you’re infusing?

    • June 25, 2012 9:20 pm

      Hi Kevin,
      I just updated the procedure — thanks for pointing out that oversight! The cream should be removed from the heat completely after it comes to a boil. The residual heat will allow the ginger to infuse.
      Thanks again!

  2. Lauren permalink
    October 20, 2012 5:28 pm

    Umm is 310 degrees actually correct?? I just destroyed a batch of caramel (and my favorite saucepan) and it started burning and smoke to death at only 260 degrees. Does the pan I am using have anything to do with it? I used a stainless steel all-clad pot?

    • October 21, 2012 1:53 am

      So sorry to hear about the caramels — and the pan! I’ve made this recipe many times and have had success with the 310ºF (hard crack stage) temperature, using a similar heavy-bottomed all-clad sauce pan. That said, sometimes candy thermometers can be a be off. Before taking on a candy project, I usually check mine in boiling water (thermometer should read 212ºF, but see recipe headnote for more detail) — I’ve replaced many a thermometer that’s failed the test ;-)

      Also, be sure that the bulb of the thermometer is fully submerged when you take your temperature reading–depending on the size pan you’ve chosen, may need to tilt the pan slightly to accomplish this.

      Again, so sorry to hear it didn’t work for you.

  3. Van Webb permalink
    October 11, 2014 6:22 pm

    Is the amount of heavy cream 3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp?

    • October 13, 2014 4:33 am

      Yes, you are correct! The amount should read “3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp heavy cream.” Thanks so much for pointing out that omission. I will be sure to correct the error.


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