Ah, my love of apple cider caramel. It’s just so much better than regular caramel with it’s tart edge, especially in the fall when you want everything cider and spiced!
If you have been here for a while you’ve already seen this recipe but only as an addition or a topping to another bake (pavlova, ice cream, cheesecake, cookies, etc).
But she’s just so special she needed her own moment. And, truthfully there’s a lot to discuss when it comes to caramel, and I want to cover it all with you. Let’s get into it.
Fresh Apple Cider: sold in the juice section of your grocery store, you’ll find it between September and January. It is the unfiltered juice of the apple. Importantly: not apple juice (which is filtered and has had sugars added) and not apple cider vinegar. Start with two cups of fresh cider, and boil it until much of the water has evaporated and you only have ¼ cup left. Honeycrisp apple cider is more tart and flavorful. When you are boiling to reduce it, consider adding mulling spices to flavor it.
Alternatively, boiled cider: This is cider that has already been reduced, and quite a bit more than you can do at home. It’s a lot darker and thicker. You can find it here.
Sugar: Most often I use fine granulated sugar. You can also use organic sugar.
Butter: Unsalted (so we may control the salt added). Use american or european style with its higher butterfat percentage. Baker’s choice.
Heavy cream:. The same as heavy whipping cream. Don’t substitute with half & half which has less fat.
Salt: Fine sea salt. Table salt, too salty in flavor, isn’t good here.
Vanilla: Either vanilla extract or vanilla paste. If you like you can slit open a vanilla pod and scrape it adding the scrapings and the bean to the sugar as it caramelizes. Remove the bean once the caramel is done cooking.
I use the dry method to make my caramel which means, I caramelize the sugar straight onto the pan without adding water (the wet method).
I do this because it gives me more control over the liquid ingredients that go into the recipe; if I want it to taste of more cider than water or if I want it creamier.
So to start: set the sugar in a deep pan and add some acid. I usually do a couple of squeezes of lemon but for this specific caramel I might add ½ tsp apple cider vinegar.
Then turn the heat on and begin cooking on low. The process takes time so be patient.
At first, the sugar will begin to melt (with some pans there will be hot spots of the pan so you’ll see it unevenly melting) then begin to turn amber colored. You want a wooden spoon here, stir the sugar frequently so it caramelizes evenly.
As you keep stirring, most of the sugar will melt and you’ll have rock-shaped bits of sugar. Press those clumps out with the back of the wooden spoon but don’t stress too much, they’ll melt too.
Once all the sugar has melted and is a smooth liquid, add the warmed heavy cream slowly and stirring as you do. It will bubble up quite a bit.
Once the heat is off, add the cider and seasoning and stir to combine. Pour it into a heat-safe jar to store it. Keep it in the fridge. It’ll last about 2 weeks.
There’s a reason this caramel needed its own post! I use it in quite a few recipes on the site such as:
Serve with this Apple Cider Cheesecake
Swirled into the buttercream of these Gooey Pumpkin Bars
Atop any ice cream, especially this Apple Cider Caramel Ice Cream (the caramel base is of no relation to this caramel recipe!)
Pour into a little mason jar, tie it with a ribbon and gift it a la this Cranberry Caramel
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