This is the third and final post in my “How to throw an epic beer-themed birthday” series. Having covered the basics, and how to make awesome candied beer nuts, this post will show you the second party favor I handed out — salted caramels made with beer.
After a lot of online digging, I finally settled on this recipe from the Food Network. It had some good reviews and seemed simple enough to fit into my timeline. If I make these again I might do something more adventurous like these, but this time around I went for a straightforward recipe.
It called for only a few ingredients: a bit of butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, heavy cream and, of course, beer. I chose another Oregon brew for this project: Gilgamesh’s Vadar, a black IPA aged with coffee beans. I wasn’t sure of the coffee flavor would come through (it didn’t), but it still sounded like a great beer to use in a dessert.
Because I was paranoid that they wouldn’t turn out, I did the caramels in two separate batches just in case. The first I brought to the suggested temperature of 235 before salting them liberally and allowing them to cool.
The first thing I noticed upon my taste test was that the texture was a bit off — they were just a touch too squishy and soft. Rolling them was a pain and I had to keep popping them in the fridge to prevent them from sticking to everything.
The second batch I brought closer to 240 — these ones were almost perfect. Chewy but not overly sticky. I think it would be worth trying them closer to 245 though, just a little bit longer to help them firm up for rolling purposes.
Texture aside, the flavor was the element I was most concerned with. At first I was a bit nervous — though both batches were equally creamy and sweet, they had a slightly bitter aftertaste. I was worried I had burnt the sugar but then it hit me that yes, beer is bitter and these taste like beer, which was the whole point.
Sometimes I just get over-anxious when I make candy — good thing there was leftover beer to calm me down!
Once the second batch had cooled, I cut and wrapped the caramels and then popped them in the goodie bags with the beer-candied pecans. I attached two tags to each bag: one saying “Thanks for making my birthday extra hoppy” and the other with a(n adorable!) beer sticker and a description of what was inside.
Then they were ready for distribution. I’m pleased to announce that this birthday I remembered to hand out more than half of the bags (a new record!). The rest I delivered over the following week, including one that I mailed in a plastic pint container to friends in Vancouver, WA. I like keeping the USPS on their toes!
Feedback was good — my friend Oliver said the linger flavor made it seem like he had just taken a swig of beer. I don’t think it can get more authentic than that!
This next picture I’m including because it made me laugh. Here I was, trying to do a photo shoot in my backyard with the caramels and the Big Beer balloon, but the wind was gusting up to 30 mph. After about 15 frames that looked just like this I gave up and moved inside.