Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ale and Pretzel Soft Caramels


I was recently browsing a specialty foods store when I spotted some very unusual caramels.  I was instantly a fan of the salty pretzel and sweet caramel idea, but to infuse the whole mix with beer?  Was this crazy talk or the best idea ever?  I'm always up for trying innovative treats, and it wasn't long before I was standing over a boiling pot of ale-infused caramel in my own kitchen.

After a little trial and error I finally came up with a soft, chewy caramel that is easy to make and eat (it won't stick to your teeth).  It's salty and sweet, and has a distinctive ale flavor that melds perfectly with the caramel. Very, very YUMMY!


I made the caramels in two different shapes, and both batches went into silicone pans.  I've never loved silicone for baking, but I own a few specifically for candy-making.  I made square caramels in the Wilton Brownie Squares silicone pan, and the rest of the caramel was poured  into a 9x9 square silicone pan.


This recipe uses an entire 12 oz. bottle of ale.  One part ale goes into the main caramel mixture, and the other part is what gives it an extra kick of brown (or pale) ale flavor.  Instead of using vanilla extract as a flavoring, one cup of ale is reduced on the stove-top until it is concentrated and a little syrupy. It is then added to the bubbling hot caramel right before it is removed from the stove-top. 

When I make these again I'll probably use the pretzel rods (per recipe below) versus the broken pretzel sticks I used in the square caramels. I like how the finished caramels look, and the texture is just right.  The recipe is really simple, but use care when handling the hot napalm-like caramel.  It stays scalding-hot for a long while.


One thing you must know about soft caramels: they must be wrapped!  If left to their own devices they will relax into little misshapen blobs.  Of course they'll still be yummy, but not as cute.  Wax paper works great for wrapping and it is a good kitchen staple to keep on hand anyway.


Here's something else that might go well with beer and pretzels.  It's the bromance happening between the new dog and Hubby.  We think a male must have provided whatever small amount of care he received prior to his fostering.  He loooves Marcus, and I'm just a weensy bit jealous.  He still sleeps a lot and I can never seem to get a picture of him upright!

We tried on lots of names for him; Rocky, Remi, Rugelach: (which was a fave of mine) all the names that were kindly suggested...only to settle on one of the first names we picked, Churro.  I may have to do a churro post in his honor!  Thank you so much for your suggestions.



Ale and Pretzel Soft Caramels              [click for printable recipe]

Yield: 75+ caramels

1 12 oz. bottle of brown or pale ale, divided
2 cups sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup light corn syrup
1 8 oz. package pretzel rods (can use pretzel sticks too)

1 roll of wax paper
Scissors

In a small saucepan bring 1 cup of ale to a simmer and cook until reduced and syrupy.  This will take about 20 minutes and yield about 1 tsp. of concentrated ale flavoring.  Set aside.

Butter a 13 x 9 inch pan or 2 -9x9 inch pans and set aside. Combine remaining beer and all other ingredients except ale reduction in a heavy 4-5 quart pot.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Butter will melt and mixture will begin to boil.

Continue to cook until candy thermometer reaches 244 degrees, this will take about 30 minutes.  You can test your caramel in a bowl of ice water to check the consistency.  It should form a firm ball.

When the correct temperature has been reached, stir in the ale reduction and remove from heat.  Pour into prepared pan(s) and top with pretzel rods.  Let cool for several hours or place in fridge until firm.  Remove caramel block from pan and turn pretzel-side up on a cutting board (if refrigerated, let caramel block warm up a little for easier cutting).  Cut between pretzels and then into 1" pieces.  Cut wax paper into approx. 5 x 5 inch squares and wrap caramels.

NOTES: Caramels must be wrapped or they will lose their shape over time.  Use silicone pans for easy removal.

54 comments:

Jennifurla said...

Dude, awesome.

Heather (Heather's Dish) said...

you didn't even give me a chance with this one! i don't even like pretzels but i could see myself devouring those in 10 seconds flat :)

Dee said...

basically all of those beers are made around where I live! haha. hope you enjoyed them :)

mmmm the sweet and salty combo is deadly for me. SO ADDICTIVE!

Jennifer said...

Crazy talk... I want to make them right this instant! (Thanks for yet another amazing recipe)

Lora said...

These are so clever! And I am in love with Churro. great name choice.

Vaness said...

Mmmmmm this looks so so delicious. I've had pretzels dipped in chocolate before, and this has the same salty-sweet-crunchy combination. Yummy!

veggie wedgie said...

Oh my god, those caramels look delicious! I want one!

Chef Dennis said...

I love caramels!!!! with pretzels inside...wow...what a wonderful idea!

Casco Bay Soap Co. said...

really! no! carmel pretzals? Wow! do you think I could leave the beer out?
so glad to hear that your little pal is getting better and found a pal in your hubby.
And yes, please do a Churro post!
:)
Shannon
www.cascobaysoap.blogspot.com

Kimber said...

I will be making these soon! Caramel, pretzels, and beer?! YES, please!

Raelynn said...

These look divine! I think I'll have to make these, soon!

Sue Sparks said...

How do you come up with this stuff? :)

Hooray for Churro!

the wicked noodle said...

omg - I want to try these RIGHT NOW!!

Isabelle said...

Beer, pretzels, caramel... OMG, what's not to love? I'm totally bookmarking this one for a rainy day.

Carolyn Jung said...

These are so cool! I've always loved salted caramels, so having those crunchy pretzels in 'em is even better. And with beer, too? What an inspired confection.

anna said...

I love this idea and I'm not even much of a beer fan! The caramels with the one large rod in them look pretty amazing.

cookies and cups said...

I could really get into these! They look and sound amazing!

Ali said...

The beer possibilities for this recipe...oh man.

Kat said...

That looks BEYOND fabulous.

Anonymous said...

Now lets take it one step further, use a beer extract in an ice cream batter and swirl the caramel in the IC, mix in the pretzles. Look out Ben & Jerry!

Ingrid said...

As with everything you make these are lovely to look at and I bet so yummy to taste. :)

Happy Friday!
~ingrid

bobbibowers said...

Oh. My. God. Now THIS is a candy for foodies!

Wow. Three of my favorite things all in one. Amazing!

mamawalsh said...

Made this tonight! turned out perfectly. i used pretzel "nuggets" so i didnt have to cut them but still got that big pretzel bite. sooooo good! thank you for sharing!

Natalie... said...

ohhh wow these look so good yumm!! delicious!

Stephanie said...

You had me at... Sierra Nevada! That's the favorite of my hubby anyway. He's going to love these!

Kat said...

As soon as I passed this on to my roommate, she ran out and bought corn syrup and heavy cream to make these. It's the first recipe she's followed that hasn't turned out hard or gritty. She used Lagunitas Maximus, which is a very hoppy beer. I really liked the dark, rich caramel flavor of the candies. Personally, I can't wait to dip these in dark chocolate. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

And Churro is an adorable name for a delightful looking pup!

http://starwitness.tumblr.com/post/720817230/beer-caramels-with-pretzel-sticks-made-by-m-i

dessert girl said...

Love this! You have a great site, btw!

Morgan said...

Yum! Made these yesterday and they were fantastic. I didn't get much of the ale flavor though so if I made them again I think I might double the reduction! Of course, we have a ton now (even after gifting them 3 times!) so that may be a while. :) Thanks for the recipe!

Megan said...

A caramel that wont stick to my teeth? Gotta love that!
Churro is adorable, but you already knew that. ;)

Christiana said...

I adore your photos, and caramel, well i just love caramel. Cute idea with the fork!! Very practical!

Mara... said...

oh wow, this looks fantastic. Caramel and beer...you cannot go wrong with that!!!

lisaiscooking said...

I've made beer and pretzel caramels, but I didn't think to reduce the beer to a syrup. Great idea! Have to try it.

Amanda said...

OMG I can only imagine how amazing those must be!

Isette said...

I absolutely had to try this recipe, even though I have never made candy in my life. It turned out great! It didn't really have that "beer" flavor, but the ale gave the carmels a great complexity. Even my friend who doesn't like beer (and foolishly tasted the beer reduction, yikes) loved these. I will definitely be making these again for my home-brew friends!

My Green Mouth said...

These look absolutely delicious, can't wait to make them. (And Churro is an unbelievably cute name.)

Lori said...

These are definitely going on my holiday bake/gift list. Fantastic! I never thought one could combine three of my favorite things, but I've obviously been proven wrong!

Churro is adorable! The name is perfect. We have a pug and I just can't get enough of the breed.

Stephanie - Chocolate Toast said...

You may have just cured me of my aversion to making caramels. Trouble. Major Trouble.

Ken said...

I can't taste the caramel and salty pretzels just from looking at your photos. Major drool.

Ken said...

Oops, I meant to say I CAN taste it.

karen said...

They look fabulicious!!!

Candie said...

The caramels look amazing!

My sister raises pugs so everyone in the family has one now and they are definitely people dogs. They love everyone but they pick one person and they will follow them any where. Ours chose our oldest daughter must to chagrin of her cat which now has constant aggression toward the dog.

LittlePaintedPolkaDots said...

My fiance' and I made our first batch of these this weekend. Oh...my...word... so good! We are having them at our wedding shower for our guests and needed to do a trial run since we've never made caramels before. We used Newcastle (it's a family fave) but I really couldn't tell that there was any ale in there at all. Do you think it'd be okay if I upped the amount of the reduction slightly? Thanks for this recipe. It is delicious and very easy to follow!

coffee powder said...

sleeping day

--jenna said...

Just made these as a birthday gift for the hubby and used a local Brazilian dark beer. The beer flavor is noticeable if you know it's in there, but the flavor + crunch is a real hit.

aeliareads said...

I used Blue Moon (because it is by far my favorite beer) but I let the caramel cook a little too long (whoops). Still delicious, but definitely not "soft" caramels.

Anonymous said...

When you poured the caramel into the brownie pan did you transfer it to measuring cup or something else first? I have some silicone ice cube trays that would be perfect for caramels, but I'm trying to figure out how to best get the molton hot liquid into them...thanks

by Mama B said...

Thanks for sharing. I'll be making these for hostess gifts for the holidays. A nice change from giving a bottle of wine at a Christmas party.

Wonder Susan said...

Does anyone know how well/long these can be stored? I wanted to make a couple batches for the holidays but was hoping to get a jumpstart and do it now before things get too hectic...

Thanks - great photos and sounds delish!

SprinkleBakes said...

Hey Susan!

I think I would wait until the beginning of December (at least) to make these. I worry about the pretzels becoming stale. Storing the candies in an airtight container after you wrap them would help to keep them fresh. I can't speak from experience because most of our candies were gifted. The ones we kept didn't last that long!

Thanks for your comment!

The Food Hunter said...

these little treats look so good!

Pudding Pie Lane said...

Normally I would be against this sort of man food. But I think I will make them for girls night in tomorrow ;-)

Anonymous said...

Hello - Thanks for the recipe! I just made them last evening and they are so delicious! The salty sweet combination gets me every time!

Anonymous said...

These are A-mazing ! .. i over cooked my a bit =( , so they're hard caramels now =P .... but they are great for a passive snack! =D .. awesome thank you so much.

Cheers!

Barbara N said...

Hi - This recipe look amazing! I want to try it but I have very limited experience with candy. I only have one silicone brownie pan. How do you keep the caramel liquid while the first pan of candies sets up? Do you just keep it warm on the stove? Will that overcook the caramel as a couple of people stated above?

Thank you for sharing all your talents with the rest of us. You are an inspiration!

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