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An Edible Gift: Coffee-Spice Caramels

December 27, 2010

I’m taking a baking break. The holidays brought a lot of occasions to make delicious treats, and though I never grow tired of preparing or eating them, my waistline is going to suffer if I keep this up much longer! (Don’t worry– knowing me, this hiatus will probably only last a day or two. Who am I kidding?).

Last week I devoted an entire day and a half to making homemade treats to give as Christmas gifts to friends and family. It took awhile to decide on a recipe since my new Bon Appetit Desserts cookbook is chock full of tempting ideas. But I’d never made homemade caramels before and it seemed like the perfect excuse to try. Besides, I just graduated from culinary school and I wanted to impress people with my cooking prowess.

Was it more work than I anticipated? Yes. Was it worth it? Definitely. There is nothing that delights me more than watching someone’s eyes light up when they bite into something I’ve made with my own hands. And the good news for you? Though there were struggles during the process, I’ve worked out the kinks so you can avoid them. I know Christmas is over, but New Year’s Eve would be the perfect time to impress guests with a plate of homemade candies. These caramels are dark, slightly spicy and very sultry. Perfect for a chilly winter’s night!

Coffee-Spice Caramels

from Bon Appetit


  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
  • 1/3 cup packed freshly ground coffee
  • 20 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces (use kitchen scissors)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 lb bittersweet chocolate, chopped


  1. Line an 8×8 inch square baking pan with aluminum foil and rub with butter to coat.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine 1 1/4 cups heavy cream, coffee, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, then cover and remove from the heat. Let steep for 30 minutes. Return to a boil, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat and strain into a glass measuring cup. Add enough cream to measure 1 1/2 cups.
  3. Rinse out the saucepan, then return the mixture to it. Add the sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt. Stir over medium heat until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan (If you don’t own one, you can use a digital probe thermometer as long as it registers over 250 degrees F. I’d recommend the clip-on thermometer though so you don’t have to hold the thermometer over the pan the entire time).
  4. Increase heat to medium and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until the thermometer registers 242 degrees F, about 20 minutes. (The mixture tends to linger at about 215 for some time before quickly spiking to 242. Though it’s tempting to walk away from the pan, don’t. Flip through a magazine if you must, but keep an eye on that thermometer!). When the mixture reaches 242F, remove from the heat and pour into the prepared pan (do not scrape out the saucepan).
  5. Chill the caramel for at least two hours or overnight. Before cutting, place in the freezer for 30 minutes until firm. (This is a crucial step to keeping your sanity! Sticky, soft caramel is impossible to work with).
  6. Line a cutting board with wax paper and fill a pitcher (or another tall vessel) with warm water and place a large, sharp knife in it. Get a cube of butter handy, too. Once firm, lift the sides of the aluminum foil from the pan to remove the caramel. Flip upside down on the cutting board and carefully peel off the foil from the back.
  7. Use a ruler to measure 3/4-inch spaces along the top and bottom edges of the caramel (or make them whatever size you’d like!). Remove your knife from the warm water, wipe dry, rub the butter along the edge (carefully!) and cut the caramel into strips along the marks, rewarming and buttering the knife if it starts to stick. Once the caramel is in strips, measure 3/4-inch marks along the length and cut into cubes. Place cubes on a wax paper-lined sheet pan and chill in the fridge. (If the caramel starts to get soft at any point in this process, return to the freezer to firm up again. Trust me, it’s worth the extra time.)
  8. Once all of your cubes are cut and chilling in the fridge, you’re ready to dip them in chocolate. Line a second sheet pan with wax paper. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water) to 115 degrees F. Remove from the heat. One at a time, drop each caramel in the chocolate. Use a small fork to turn the caramel to coat all sides, then lift from the chocolate and tap the fork on the side of the bowl to shake off any excess chocolate and smooth the coating. Use a toothpick or small knife to nudge the caramel off the fork onto the wax paper. Continue with remaining caramels, rewarming the chocolate to 115 degrees as needed. Set the coated caramels in the fridge until the chocolate hardens.
  9. Now you can package up your beautiful creations however you please. I set mine in some small paper baking cups (like mini cupcake liners),  placed them in small boxes, tied them with a ribbon and ta-da! Beautiful gifts!

Those of you who received some of these, what did you think?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 28, 2010 5:31 pm

    Had fun watching you make these. The carAmel was so yummy, too. Delicious!

  2. April 21, 2011 8:57 am

    YAY I am making these right now! So excited to eat them.

    • April 22, 2011 10:07 pm

      Awesome! I’d love to hear how they turned out!

      • May 1, 2011 7:03 pm

        Mine didn’t turn out very well, sadly. The texture was great, but my flavor was too strong. I wonder if maybe the coffee I used was too strong (I used espresso roast Starbucks kind) or if the spices were too potent. Those were great tips about freezing the caramel by the way. DEFINITELY can’t pull it off without freezing it!

      • May 1, 2011 9:29 pm

        I’m glad my tips helped and I’m sorry you didn’t like the flavor! Perhaps it was the coffee– I used a fairly mild, inexpensive coffee, but I would still say they had a very strong coffee flavor. Next time maybe try less coffee to make them more mild? So glad you gave the recipe a try, though!

  3. Kayla permalink
    December 8, 2011 9:14 am

    Help! I’ve tried this recipe twice now. The first time I think I let it get a little too hot– it hit about 248 before I removed it from the heat an poured it. The second time I was more vigilant and removed it promptly when it hit 242F, and it still came out way too hard. I’m worried it will break people’s teeth. Should I heat it to an even lower temp next time? The flavor is phenomenal, I just can’t seem to get the texture right.

    • December 8, 2011 1:20 pm

      I’m so sorry you’ve had so much trouble with the recipe. I cooked mine to 242 as the recipe said and the caramels were soft and chewy. I’d guess that the problem is with you’re thermometer. Try calibrating it by sticking it in ice water (should be 32degrees) and in boiling water (should be 212). If it’s off, try a new thermometer.


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