Incredible edible holiday gifts
Simultaneously sweet and savory, nuts are a particularly good choice. (Emma Christensen/TMS)
Butter a sheet of foil and press it into an 8-inch by 8-inch pan so the foil hangs over the sides. Butter any exposed sides of the pan. Set this near the stove.
Combine the cream, butter, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Warm just enough to melt the butter. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
Combine the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves in a small bowl. Set this near the stove as well.
In a 4-quart or larger saucepan, stir the sugar, corn syrup, water and molasses until they come together into a uniform paste. Avoid splashing sugar crystals on the side of the pan; if you do, wipe them away with a pastry brush or cloth dipped in water. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.
Turn the heat to just above medium. Bring the sugar mixture to a boil and cook to 310 F. Whisk the cream mixture slowly into the sugar. The sugar will bubble and triple in bulk before settling again. Stop whisking and cook the caramel to 245 F for softer caramels or 250 F for firmer caramels.
Whisk in the spices and pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Do not scrape the bottom of the pan because this sometimes contains crystallized sugar. Allow to cool completely overnight.
To finish: Pull the caramel block from the pan using the foil. Cut the caramel into strips and then into individual squares. If candy is sticky, spray nonstick coating on your knife. Wrap each caramel in wax paper.
Caramels keep for a month in an airtight container.
Spicy honey-roasted nuts
Makes 3 cups
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (substitute: chili powder)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 teaspoons salt