Making caramel the old fashioned way is a labor of love. Deciding to make it happen depends on how badly you want it. There are plenty of short cut recipes for sauces and dips that taste similar, but they can’t compare. Once making caramel this way, it’s really hard to turn back to store bought versions, that tend to be thin, runny and lack real flavor. I like the thick texture and richness of the real thing.
To avoid running out, I typically make big batches and put the goodness into sealed glass jars. I’m going to share the recipe that was passed down to me for making caramel apples or to store in glass jars for later.
Once you take the time to make the caramel, all of the hard work is behind you. Warming it up into a sauce once stored in a jar, takes only 30 seconds in the microwave! Caramel is candy. It requires both work and precision for the right results. It’s amazing.
I’m giving the recipe and showing what it takes to get the candy to “Soft Ball,” or 240 degrees. This is the temperature and texture I use for canning and for setting onto caramel apples. One of the beautiful thing about this sweet concoction is, once it has reached the stage/temperature you wish and has been set and cooled, you can bring it back to a pot and cook it for not much longer, to achieve “Hard Ball” or “Soft Crack,” to be used as wrapped candies or to set other flavors to it. (I’ll share tricks for candy caramel in a future post.)
All right, let’s get to work!
Caramel Recipe for Canning and Caramel Apples
Here’s what you’ll need:
2 cups light corn syrup
4 cups granulated sugar
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 and 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup butter (2 sticks) salted butter, cut into pats
1 teaspoon vanilla (Reserve for after caramel has reached “Soft Ball” stage.)
Tools: one large pot (the taller, the better), long wooden spoon, clip-on candy thermometer
Before you get started, plan ahead with the understanding that you will have to tend to stirring the pot for approximately 3 hours! You might need a good helper or two to take over from time to time. Otherwise, you are guaranteed to have soar feet and possibly soar shoulders/arms if you aren’t used to constantly stirring in the kitchen. As I mentioned above, you have to really want caramel to make it! xox
Here’s a little math so that you can plan ahead, based on what you are hoping to use the caramel for. I tend to make at least two batches at a time, but what I’m sharing with you is a single batch. It will make about 64 oz of caramel, that can be placed in the size of glass jars that you see fit or can be used to dip apples as soon as it has reached the “Soft Ball” stage. When giving a gift, I pour it into pretty 4oz. glass jars. When keeping it in jars for my pantry, I tend to use 8 oz jars and there’s nothing fancy about them. It takes between 1.5oz. – 2 oz. of caramel to cover one standard sized apple for caramel apples so you should be able to dip about 32, if that’s what you are going for.
Here’s what you’ll do:
Combine all of the ingredients, except for the pure vanilla extract, into a large pot and place at medium heat. Clip on the candy thermometer. Cook and stir constantly until candy thermometer reaches 240 degrees, or “Soft Ball” stage. Seems simple and it is simple. It’s just that some good things come to those who wait and this project requires a lot of time and patience.
Here’s what to expect:
Making caramel this way takes planning ahead and some serious time-dedication. It can actually be a really fun tradition and around this time of year, it’s a family-activity. Be prepared for a lot of stirring.
When the butter melts and all of the ingredients are starting to heat, the thermometer will read 200 almost right away. The mixture will be a creamy white color. You’ll notice a warming of color when the mixture reaches 220. However, it will stay at 220 for what seems like an eternity! All the while, you need to stir with the wooden spoon. It can overheat and come over the top of your pot if it is not large enough, so make sure that there is ample room in the pot when you first pour in your ingredients. You don’t want a messy or dangerous accident. You can’t leave the caramel cooking by itself, so make sure you have a caramel-buddy to hang out with, in case you need to leave the room.
When the caramel finally starts to reach above 220 degrees, you’re in the home-stretch. It will take about 30 minutes more to reach “Soft Ball.” You are going to think to yourself two hours into it, ‘It must be ready . . . it looks like caramel!’ But trust me, the thermometer is your friend and without it, this job is almost impossible. If you shut it off too soon, you won’t have the result you were hoping for.
You will feel thrilled and accomplished when you see it has reached 240 degrees. Remove from the heat right away. Allow it to stop bubbling and to cool for a few minutes. Add the teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Use the wooden spoon to combine.
If you are placing the caramel into glass jars, do so when the caramel is hot. Line up the cans and use a ladle to pour in the caramel. Cover tightly with a metal lid. Within moments, the heat will create a seal that you can hear. It will only work if you are using new lids that are not punctured and are meant to fit perfectly with the jar. You can use either a mason-jar type lid or other metal lid. You will know it’s sealed because you can hear it close and there is no air to pop the lid. You will only hear the lid after the seal has been broken or it has been opened.
Label the container and be sure to add the expiration date. You can give the caramel a one month shelf life if they have set and sealed properly. Once they are opened, or the seal is broken, the jars must be refrigerated. To be safe, you can give as a gift, and write “keep refrigerated.” Add the expiration date as one month after the made-date. If always refrigerated, it should last up to six weeks, but that is assuming that it doesn’t disappear after the first taste.
If you are making caramel apples, you’ll want to have your apples ready to go as soon as the caramel stops boiling and has reached the 240 degrees. I recruited some little hands to help clean and dry Granny Smith apples. To be safe, we made the skewering a team-effort. These were the only jobs my 7 year old son wanted to do, or could do without getting hurt.
I use prepared, 5.5″ wooden skewers but you can use any wooden dowel, as long as they are cut to size and there there is one end with a sharper side. The easiest way to create the point is with an electric pencil sharpener. As long as the sharper side is not totally blunt, it will work. It’s not a good idea to make it too sharp, so be careful.
If you are using the entire batch of caramel for dipping caramel apples, you’ll be able to make about 32, depending on the size of each apple and how much you want to dip them. I like to go toward the top and if I’m not completely dipping the apple, I always make sure the center, where it was skewered, is covered with caramel. Doing so keeps the apple sealed and fresh and the extra little collection of caramel at the top is an extra special treat. Caramel apples are swooped up and enjoyed right away with this caramel, but I like to be sure that they they are enjoyed within two days of making them. You can go up to 4-5 days, if wrapped and kept at room temperature. Of course, they would last longer in the refrigerator.
Here’s what to do if you are making caramel apples with canned caramel:
Use a spatula to remove the caramel from the glass jars, and place into a pot, with a candy thermometer attached. Place at medium heat. It will only take 10 minutes for the caramel to return to reaching the “Soft Ball” stage of 240 degrees. (As promised, all the hard work from making caramel the old fashioned way is behind you!)
Dip the apples right away. If you want to remove some of the access caramel, use a metal spatula or butter knife to take it from the bottom and then place onto a matt of some sort. A waxy or parchment-type of bottom would be best if serving open or wrapping in cellophane. Although the doilies were very pretty, the ones I used didn’t have a waxy finish, so the caramel had a hard time separating from the paper. If you aren’t packing them to share and want to eat them right away, you can allow them to cool onto aluminum foil before serving or placing directly onto a plate.
I loved giving my little nephew his first caramel apple! He loved it too!
Real caramel can take any dessert over the top, and to another level of awesomeness. It’s a staple in my pantry, as I use it for a bunch of different treats: cupcakes, frostings, cakes, breads, fillings and to drizzle onto vanilla ice cream. If you’ve made my banana caramel cake before, this is the caramel you should use for drizzling. To create a sauce from the caramel that has been canned, simply place it in the microwave for 30 seconds first and then an additional 10 seconds at time. A 4 oz will become a sauce in 30 seconds.
If you are bold enough to make caramel with the notes and recipe I posted, please let me know how it goes! Thanks for being here!
Take care and big hugs,
As soon as I met Lizzie, I liked her. She came into the shop at MiaBella one day, and I was there, working on orders in the kitchen. We scheduled a tasting/consultation and it was all as easy-breezy as could be.
Lizzie enjoyed a wedding reception with her husband Nick, at the Red Barn located at Walnut Grove Park in San Marcos. They were going for a rustic and beautiful feel, and they had a touch of fun in their desserts, that weddings don’t typically have. They wanted desserts that they liked best. They wanted a party! (I was all in.)
Flavors: Her dad had already had and loved my Churro cupcakes, and told her before our meeting that it was a flavor-must have. (My kind of dad!) She was totally cool with it and happy about it. Her husband-to-be loves funfetti and simple flavors, so she wanted me to create a marbled version of my Birthday Cake flavor, with vanilla-chocolate swirled buttercream and half-dipped in birthday cake sprinkles. (I loved that she just wanted him to be happy too!) She also ordered classic Red Velvet with pretty white pearls and something special for a fruity-option: Vanilla Mango, with mango reduction-drizzle. I loved how decisive she was!
I’m so glad that Lizzie and her mom took my advice to have an etiquette sign at the dessert table. It’s so helpful since anything “out” can be thought of as a buffet. It’s super important that a wedding dessert table not be touched before the bride and groom see it and before the cake cutting ceremony is complete.
They had their pre-order picked up at the MiaBella in Vista and delivered by Andi of Now That’s a Party. They borrowed my cupcake tower, decked it out and had their caterer set each one. They added touches of lace, wood and burlap.
I really love how it all turned out! I am always honored when someone has chosen me to create desserts for their special occasion, especially their wedding. It’s so nice when they take the time to share their photos with me too, because if they know me at all, they understand how much I cared about creating their desserts, just for them.
I made them a blank-canvas cake – clean and as simple as could be on the outside, since their florist would be placing the arrangement onto the cake, onsite. (I’ve asked Lizzie again, for the name of the florist, to give him/her credit!) Inside were three layers of funfetti cake: Vanilla Birthday Cake at the bottom, Chocolate Birthday Cake at the top, with a middle layer of Marbled Birthday Cake, all filled and covered in smooth, vanilla buttercream frosting. (I told you, they were fun!) The cutting cake was the perfect size (6″) for them to enjoy to themselves, for the cake cutting ceremony.
Photographers, Kaitlin Cooper and Nathaniel Kam, did such a beautiful job with the photography!
Lizzie looked so beautiful! I’ve seen Lizzie since, while working at the shop, and it is a treat for me. I love saying hi to my friends/customers, by popping my head out of the kitchen, when I’m there. I hope to make sweets for her and her hubby again, one of these days soon.
When we made plans to visit our friends for dinner the other night, I wanted to bring something special that I knew they would enjoy. I remember them mentioning how much they love cherry pie. I also knew that for the last couple of years, my friends’ husband has been avoiding all gluten products, as a health-conscious choice.
I can totally understand and respect the need and even the desire to avoid certain ingredients, and decided to give myself a baking-challenge: bake a totally gluten-free pie, with from-scratch crust. It’s what I did and as promised, if it worked out really nicely, I would share the recipe.
First, I’ll share my gluten-free pie crust recipe, that can be used for any and every pie you make. From there, I’ll share my recipe for my from-scratch cherry pie filling, that I’ve been making for my family and friends to enjoy, for the last 10 years or so.
Mili’s Sweets Gluten-Free Pie Crust Recipe
Here’s what you’ll need:
2 and 1/2 cups gluten-free, all purpose flour (I used Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend, all purpose, gluten-free flour)
2 sticks salted butter (1 cup, cold)
1/3, plus 2 tablespoons cold water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Tools: pie tin, pastry cutter, parchment paper or silpat mat, bowl, standing mixer, rolling pin
for egg wash (optional): 1 egg white, whisked and applied with a kitchen-safe brush
Here’s what you’ll do:
Cut the butter into tablespoon-size pieces. In a bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Place the butter in the bowl and and use your pastry cutter to push into the butter, cutting it into small, pea-sized pieces.
Place this mixture into the bowl of a standing mixer, and place the standard paddle attachment. Add the water and mix at medium speed until the dough completely lifts from the bowl.
Use your hands to form the dough into a ball.
Place the dough onto a silpat mat or parchment paper that has been dusted with the gluten-free flour.
With a rolling pin, roll the dough flat, until it’s smooth and about 1/4″ high.
Using the mat or paper, invert the rolled-out dough into your pie pan.
The dough is very similar to shortbread so it’s elastic and super easy to work with. You can fill in any spaces or mistakes with your hands and like magic, it comes together beautifully.
Once your pie pan is prepared with the dough, set it aside. Form another ball with the remaining scraps of dough and re-roll out the rest, that will be used for the top of your pie.
If you like to use an egg wash, for a golden-brown finish to the crust, simply take one egg white and whisk it in a small bowl. Use a kitchen safe brush to apply it onto the inside and all around the crust. It would be best if you do this just before pouring in the prepared pie filling.
Now it’s time to prepare the cherry pie filling. This is so delicious and is definitely amazing in other desserts besides pies. For example, it is over-the-top served with vanilla bean ice cream, used as a filling for cupcakes or as a topping for cheesecake. The list goes on and on. . . (I hope you really enjoy this and tell me if you do make this pie. This recipe, like all of my recipes that I share with you on my blog, is a personal treasure.)
Mili’s Sweets Cherry Pie Filling Recipe
Here’s what you’ll need:
6-7 cups (or about three, 12oz. bags) of dark, sweet pitted cherries.
1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons all purpose flour (When making gluten-free pie, I substitute with Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons salted butter (added after pie has been filled)
Here’s what you’ll do:
Please note that you can find dark, sweet, pitted cherries in the frozen fruit section of your local grocery store. There are also organic varieties. If you have the tools and the time and can pit the many fresh cherries needed for a single pie, then I am amazed! I love the fresh-frozen option and you’ll find that there are better brands than others. I honestly do not want to pit fresh cherries, in fear that I might leave a pit or two in a pie.
Over medium heat, place all of the ingredients (except for the butter) into a large saucepan, including: 6-7 cups of cherries, sugar, cornstarch, flour, salt and water.
Stir to dissolve the sugar. More water will created in the pan as the cherries start to cook. I typically use my wooden spoon to do all of the mixing for fruit pies. Bring the mixture to a boil. Once you see small bubbles forming around the edge of the pan, it’s time to continue stirring. From start to finish, it will take a total of 30 minutes to cook the cherries down to a nice thickness, perfect for pie filling.
Once it’s done, pour the hot prepared filling into the prepared pie crust. Now is the time that you’ll add the two tablespoons of butter. Make little pats and place the pieces all around the top.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Next, you’ll cover the pie with the remaining dough. You’ll notice that the dough is delicate, compared to dough that uses shortening. It will make it a little more challenging to lift strips for a lattice. You should have enough remaining dough to either cover the top completely, or to make a lattice.
Brush the top of the dough with the egg wash and if you wish, sprinkle the top of the entire pie with granulated sugar.
I placed the pie in a cookie sheet, in case some filling decided to seep out during baking (which usually happens). It helps to keep the oven clean.
Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to completely cool before serving.
Some people (like my husband) prefer a cold pie. If that’s what you like too, then cover with plastic wrap and serve when you are ready. Vanilla bean ice cream makes the perfect pair with this dessert. I prefer to eat pie without any sides.
I topped the pie with a fake-lattice design, by simply leaving the top strands at the top, without weaving them over and under the bottom pieces. No one noticed, but of course I did. After tasting the pie, I didn’t care either. The crust is light, flakey and absolutely divine. It takes the pie to a whole other level. No one would even care or notice that it’s gluten-free. It’s that good!
Here’s a recipe re-post from exactly two years ago. Mom always knows best, so this is yet another reason why, I always listen to her!
It’s time to take cake and ice cream to another level, and make my favorite dessert using left overs. I’m going to tell you about one of the easiest and most beautifully-awesome ways to put it together: Baked Alaska. My mom kept telling me to make Baked Alaska. I had never had it before or made it before . . . She explained that you bake ice cream on top of cake with meringue on top. I thought, ‘How could ice cream be baked onto a cake, without it melting or becoming a hot-mess?’ I’m glad I always do what my mom tells me to do. Even when I’m in-doubt, she will always be right. xox I did some research and found that there are many different takes on making this dessert. I came up with my own simplified version. This was a test and the first time I would ever make it. It’s so fun and easy, that it will not be the last!It’s actually pretty cool. It tastes amazing, cuts as perfectly as an ice cream cake and pleases the crowd just as well. Here’s how you put it together. Give it a try and let me how it goes! Mili’s Sweets Baked Alaska Here’s what you’ll need: Cake – You can use any cake at all. In fact, you can use different cakes. I used the extra cupcakes and slices saved from when I made Peach Cobbler. (If you’d like to make this and have some extras, please link to my recipe.) Ice Cream – I bought an organic, nut-free vanilla bean ice cream. Meringue – Please find this recipe below. If it sounds familiar, you might have seen it when I posted my Lemon Meringue Pie recipe. Tools – An oven safe edged plate or pan that holds the amount of cake you have reserved, offset spatula spoon, standing mixer, piping bag and tip, oven.Here’s what you’ll do: In an oven safe dish or pan, place your extra cake slices or cupcakes. Smash them a bit to set them down and together. Next, scoop ice cream on top. Use an offset spatula to fill it in and smooth it out. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 3 hours. When you are ready to serve your dessert, it’s time to make the meringue. (It might be a day after or two weeks after you put it in the freezer.) First thing is first, preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Mili’s Sweets Vanilla Meringue Recipe Here’s what you’ll need: 3 egg whites 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar 1/4 cup granulated sugarHere’s what you’ll do: In the bowl of your standing mixer, place three egg whites, pure vanilla extract and cream of tartar. Use your whisk attachment and gradually increase the speed to 10, or the highest speed on your mixer. After about 30 seconds, gradually add the sugar, while your whisk is spinning. Be careful. You can do it this way, or add in the sugar before you start mixing. The results are similar and up to what you prefer. When the kids make meringue, I have them place the sugar in before the machine starts. When the mixture peaks and your whisk comes up, holding the meringue, it is done. It will take about two minutes.Once the meringue is made and the oven is at 500 degrees, you can finish putting the dessert together. Pipe the meringue onto the top of the prepared, frozen cake and ice cream. You might want to double the meringue recipe (above) so that you have plenty. Traditional Baked Alaska is topped with a large amount of dome-shaped meringue. However, with my square plate, and desire for easy serving, I went with piping one, nice and even layer, using a star tip. It’s probably an unnecessary step, but after it was piped, I placed the plate onto a baking sheet. Since I had never made this before, I wasn’t sure if ice cream or condensation was going to drip in the oven and I didn’t want to risk it. It baked clean, but I’m a nerd and will probably do it the same way next time. Bake for 3 minutes. That’s it! The meringue is perfectly golden and the ice cream is still melted.The chef that invented this was so smart! For a little history lesson, the name “Baked Alaska” was coined at Delmonico’s Restaurant by their chef-de-cuisine Charles Ranhofer in 1876 to honor the recently acquired American territory. Thanks Chef Ranhofer!There are so many “best parts” of this dessert! I love that it’s super easy to cut and serve. I love that it’s absolutely beautiful and takes barely any effort or time. I love that it my left overs that would have been thrown away or given away can be used for another day, when I feel like serving something special. I especially love how much how cool my kids think it is, and therefore how cool I am for making it for them. xox
I had the pleasure of catering, setting and styling a special baby shower dessert table, in a gorgeous home, tucked away inside the beautiful hills of Escondido.
The mother-to-be chose four different flavors of cupcakes, including Very Strawberry, Lemonade, Brownie Bliss and Churro. I created labeling to match the baby shower invitation.
We went with a clean and lovely look and feel with blue accents on the table, in the form of hand painted, tiffany-blue mason jars, filled with succulents. (These jars and arrangements were hand-finished by WKND PRJCT.)
I placed a set of three at each end of the dessert table.
At the center of the table, I placed a larger, box succulent arrangement with two smaller boxes to even out and fill the table with beautiful, living plants, also provided by WKND PRJCT.
I used simple, clean and modern-looking white pedestals and plating to set the cupcakes. The plates were filled with 80 all-together, on a nine foot long, dining room table.
I love that she wanted an abundance for her guests, so that they could enjoy more than one flavor at the party if they wished, or they could take cupcakes to-go, if they wished. (It’s always best to have too many than to have too few.)
I was fortunate to be able to set and cater and to stay as a guest with my daughter. It was such a lovely afternoon! The best part was seeing all of the reactions to the table and how much the ladies loved the way the cupcakes looked and tasted.
No one can deny that one of the best parts of any baby shower, is looking forward to enjoying dessert! (I love my job.)