Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Apple Cheesecake Caramels #12WksXmasTreats

I've always been a sucker for cheesecake. I remember the first time I snuck a taste of my mom's cherry-topped slice at a restaurant - my eight year old self thought I had found nirvana. Since then, I've tried many variations on the theme... New York style with all sorts of fruit toppings, caramel brownie (my favourite), chocolaccino, Italian ricotta-marscapone mixtures and even the (not so good) low fat "Weight Watchers" type with pureed cottage cheese. When I started to bake my own cheesecakes, I discovered a "secret" ingredient to prevent cracking and maintain the luxuriously silky texture (silken tofu) and I've never looked back.

The past couple of years, though, I've been turning my attention to the realm of candy-making - mostly due to the host of inspiration I found when reviewing The Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook. It was this book that drove me to make Nut and Seed Nougat for the holidays last year, and more recently gave me the impetus to get messy with Soft and Chewy Chocolate Candies. Eventually I got around to scanning the plethora of caramel options, causing me to find their ricotta-laced variation. With the abundance of apples (and lack of the original figs) in our kitchen, I remembered the Apple Butter Cheesecake from a few years ago and decided to try recreating it - in a bite sized, chewy caramel form.
Apple Cheesecake Caramels
I began by making a batch of Richer Ricotta, which I then pureed with buttermilk powder, salt, sugar and an ingredient normally foreign to my kitchen - Baboo milk from Natrel. This dairy product is essentially a super-fortified milk, containing cream, whey powder, milk and extra vitamins, and comes in a tetra-pak. It's billed for children transitioning from formula to standard dairy milk, and when I received a coupon for a free box in the mail I was surprised (not having, nor planning to have, children) but decided to check it out. The fat content was slightly lower than heavy cream but high enough to stay homogeneous with heat, so I picked up a container to cook with. I have to say, it made some darn good caramels - and never risked scorching like it's pure dairy cousins.

The caramel mixture also got kisses of flavour from local honey, salted cultured butter and a concentrated apple flavour, which cooked to a rich toffee brown before coating home-dried apples and being poured onto a graham cracker base. The finished candy was a blend of crisp and chewy, sweet and tangy, fruity and creamy - a perfect harmony for Fall which made it into my Halloween "loot bags" for the teachers at school and one that I'm going to do again for our Christmas dessert table!

There are only three weeks left in the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats hosted at Meal Planning Magic - yikes! Be sure to check out all the offerings from the season - you're sure to find a few favourites!



Apple Cheesecake Caramels

Apple Cheesecake Caramels 
Makes 64
280 g Baboo milk (or heavy cream)
30 g buttermilk powder (optional)
6 large graham crackers
60 g ricotta (I used Richer Ricotta)
170 g sugar
4 g kosher salt
88 g corn syrup
85g honey
29g salted butter
½ dram concentrated apple flavour (like LorAnn’s Oils)
50g unsulphured dried apples, diced
  1. The night before making the caramel, combine the cream and milk powder in a blender. Pulse until well combined, but do not whip the cream. Place in the fridge and chill overnight.
  2. Line a parchment-lined 9” pan with graham crackers (you can break up larger ones to fill the gaps, just try to keep them more or less whole).
  3. In a small blender or food processor, puree the ricotta, cream mixture, sugar and salt together.
  4. Place in a large, heavy pot and bring to a boil.
  5. Stir in the corn syrup and honey and cook to 232°F / 111°C, stirring often.
  6. Add the butter, apple flavour and dried apple pieces.
  7. Stir in well and continue to cook, stirring, often, to 252°F
  8. Pour over the crackers in the prepared pan.
  9. Cool completely, then lift out and cut into squares.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 35.4
Total Fat: 0.8 g
Cholesterol: 2.6 mg
Sodium: 18.4 mg
Total Carbs: 7.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.1 g
Protein: 0.4 g