I made you some Cali-Belgique IPA Soft Caramels for the first of the year. Yes it is my sole goal in life to utterly ruin any diet related New Year’s resolutions. Muah ha ha.
Any one nursing a hangover from those outrageous parties? Or are you like me, and prefer to stay in on crazy nights such as NYE? Yea my man and I enjoyed a relaxing evening at home, vegging out on the couch and sharing a bottle of 2006 Etude Cabernet. Definitely my kind of celebration.
Anyways! How was everyone’s Christmas? Hopefully merry and bright and inordinately full of decadent dishes and desserts designed to delight even the most hedonistic epicurean. (You like my little alliteration nested in there?
Needless to say, I did my fair share of cooking and baking. In fact, I may have annoyed a few people with how many sweets I made (it’s not my fault if you have no self-control!).
Here is a little treat that I actually made a few days after Christmas. As you know, I’ve been on a candy kick lately, and, since I had some leftover beer from my Christmas party, I decided to make these little puppies: Stone Brewing Cali-Beligique Soft Caramels.
(No puppies were harmed in the making of these candies)
So here is the story behind these candies. My mom recently “discovered” beer. As in, she finally tasted a beer that didn’t taste like every other nondescript, mass-produced lager. Specifically she tasted Inversion IPA, and, for once, really enjoyed a beer. Now I am of the school of thought that no one truly dislikes beer. In most cases, a person who claims to dislike beer has really only been exposed to brews like Bud or Miller or, at best, Blue Moon. AKA swill water (actually I don’t mind a Blue Moon on a hot day but you will never, ever, catch me with a Budweiser, not even to cook with).
Getting back to the story, my boyfriend thought it would be a good idea to bring a growler (2 liter bottle) of Stone beer to my family’s Christmas party. My uncles enjoy good beer and we thought it would be fun to introduce my mom to a brew from our favorite brewery. As I’ve mentioned before, Stone packs one hell of a punch, both in terms of alcohol and hops, so we decided to go with one of their more “moderate” beers. Their Cali-Belgique IPA, while still heavy on the hops, is at least drinkable, even for a non-hop head such as my self.
Do you have any idea how much beer is in a growler? Well, yes, 2 liters. But it was a rhetorical question. It’s a lot more than you think. Especially when there are only 8 people drinking and 5 or 6 open bottles of wine.
Well, my family is more of a wine family. So those 6 bottles of wine were easily finished. But the Cali-Belgique remained. Well you certainly can’t waste that.
Candy time! In this recipe, I followed a standard two-step caramel recipe but simply substituted the beer for the water. I also made some readjustments to the ingredient list in order to make vegan candy (cause, why not), so I have included those changes as well.
These candies turned out great. The hoppy beer adds a bitter bite to the otherwise sticky-sweet candy. The effect is somewhat similar to adding salt to caramels. The bitter-sweet combination creates a harmonious balance that enhances both flavors.
So I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year and I hope you enjoy my caramel candy recipe!
Cali-Belgique Soft Caramel Candy (adapted from Soft, Chewy Caramel Candies)
Makes 1 8×8 pan of caramels, approximately 64 pieces
1 cup coconut milk (or heavy cream)
5 tablespoons vegan butter substitute (or unsalted butter)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup agave (or light corn syrup)
1/4 cup Cali-Belgique IPA or another light-colored, hoppy beer
- Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper. Leave some overhang so you can lift the caramels out with the paper. Lightly butter the parchment paper with margarine or real butter.
- In a medium, microwave-safe bowl, combine coconut milk, butter substitute, and salt. Microwave for 1-2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until butter has melted.
- In a large 4-quart pot, combine sugar, agave, and beer. Give it a quick stir; the mixture will resemble a thick grainy paste.
- Cook sugar syrup over medium heat, without stirring, until mixture reaches 260 F on a candy thermometer. *NOTE*
- Once the sugar has reached temperature, remove from heat and slowly whisk in coconut milk/butter mixture. The mixture will bubble up and double in size. Whisk only until well combined.
- Return pot to heat and continue to cook, without stirring, until caramel mixture reaches 250 F. *NOTE*
- Once the caramel mixture reaches temperature, immediately pour in to prepared baking pan. Don’t scrape the bottom of the pan! You don’t want any of the hard or burnt bits at the bottom.
- Let caramels set for at least two hours, up to overnight. You can put them in the fridge, but keep in mind that you will probably have to let them warm up a bit to cut them.
- Once caramels have set, lift them out of pan using the parchment paper overhangs. Cut caramels with a sharp paring knife coated lightly in cooking spray.
- Wrap caramels in parchment or wax paper, twisting the ends.
Its a good idea to have a reliable candy thermometer for this recipe. Too hot and your caramels will turn out too hard. Too cool and your caramels will never set. However, if you really want to make this recipe without a candy thermometer, use the cold water test. I recommend this site as a tutorial for using the cold water test.