Sunday, December 15, 2013

Apricot Caramels

Semi-sweet (well, at least not overly sweet) caramels loaded with apricots, coconut and pine nuts and flavored with almond...a perfect addition to your spread of holiday treats!

My goal with these candies was to improve on a no-bake cookie recipe that I tried last week (which seemed far closer to a candy than a cookie to me).  We don't tend to eat heavily sweetened treats in my house, so I wanted to tone down the sugar and try for a different flavor combination.  I love the flavors of almond and apricot together, and when I feel like splurging on pine nuts, I like to use them in place of almonds.  Pine nuts have a creaminess to them that works really well in these soft and chewy candies.

I used a combination of apricot syrup and dried apricots to get the fruitiness and the color I was looking for.  I've got say, this is my first attempt at making a caramel and these turned out really well.  And they were super easy to make!  Just look at how short the recipe is!  Right up my alley, especially during this busy time of year. 

Pine nuts are insanely expensive so I find myself using them about once every three years or so... But you could surely use slivered almonds in place of pine nuts in this recipe.

Apricot Caramels
Makes about 3 dozen candies, depending on size

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup apricot syrup
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter

Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup thinly sliced dried apricots
1 cup pine nuts (or slivered almonds)

1 cup sweetened coconut, divided

In a saucepan over medium high heat, stir together sugar, syrups, milk, butter and salt.  Bring to a rapid boil and cook at a rapid boil for 6 minutes, stirring.

Stir in almond extract, apricots and pine nuts.  Pour into a medium bowl and stir in about 1/2 cup of coconut. Stir for a minute or so until the mixture begins to thicken.  Spread evenly onto a parchment lined baking sheet into a rectangle about a half inch thick.  Sprinkle the top with remaining coconut while warm.  

Set aside to cool for several hours or until hardened.  Slice into rectangles about a half inch by 2 inches. Wrap individual candies in parchment paper that has been cut into rectangles about 3 inches by 5 inches.

Enjoy!  Happy Holidays!

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