happy halloween + apple cider crème fraîche caramels!

happy halloween + apple cider creme fraiche caramels!

Happy Hallo-week!!  Do you have any plans for this Friday? Are you dressing up? The fact that Halloween is right before the weekend this year makes going out on the town tempting, but in all honesty, it’s more likely you’ll find me in the kitchen this week, wearing fuzzy socks and making sweets for the kids who live downstairs instead of going out.  I mean, I just bought these awesome new pajama pants (they have cuffs! they’re not threadbare! they don’t have holes!) and I’m pretty sure Molly’s pumpkin mini loaf cakes urgently need to be made into trick-or-treatable mini donuts.  Urgently, you know?

So I admit that I’m kind of a homebody.  (In case you weren’t tipped off by the extreme excitement over clothes that will never see the outdoors.)  It’s just that home is so awesome.  Home is free(r) drinks in a forever open bar.  It’s a brunch wonderland.  And this weekend, when B2 was suddenly inspired to buy a pumpkin and carve an impromptu Batman into it, which then inspired me to figure out an impromptu Halloween-y treat so that I could share both of them with you all, it was full of pumpkin shavings and apple-spiced fragrance.  What’s not to love?

happy halloween + apple cider creme fraiche caramels!

happy halloween + apple cider creme fraiche caramels!

After my first magical experience with caramel a few weeks ago, these apple cider caramels by the flawless Deb seemed like the perfect thing to try for Halloween, with a little twist from an abundance of crème fraîche in my fridge (for a fun giveaway coming up next month!) that needed using. (In retrospect, making pumpkin caramels might have been nice symmetry, but I say you don’t shy from a Smitten Kitchen recipe when you have an opportunity to make one.)

And, as over a thousand comments on her recipe (!) might suggest, they were amazing.  The apple cider reduces down to a spicy, aromatic syrup that itself begins to caramelize, then the addition of a good bit of sugar, crème fraîche and butter turns it into a pliable candy that tastes like chewy, melty apple pie.  These don’t have quite the rich, deep butterscotch-y warmth that plain caramels do — but instead, the apple cider and crème fraîche add a lively, tart tang to what can otherwise be a heavy treat.  If regular caramels are like sitting in front of the fireplace on a winter evening, swaddled in blankets, these apple cider ones are the joy of kicking up fall leaves in the fading dusk of a fall day, with just a hint of chill but a flush in your cheek.  Both are pretty darn amazing in their own ways.

happy halloween + apple cider creme fraiche caramels!

happy halloween + apple cider creme fraiche caramels!

happy halloween + apple cider creme fraiche caramels!

happy halloween + apple cider creme fraiche caramels!

happy halloween + apple cider creme fraiche caramels!

happy halloween + apple cider creme fraiche caramels!

happy halloween + apple cider creme fraiche caramels!

happy halloween + apple cider creme fraiche caramels!

happy halloween + apple cider creme fraiche caramels!

The other wonderful thing about Deb’s recipe is that she includes a tip for those of us (me) trying to muddle through candy-making without a candy thermometer.  Her cold water trick worked perfectly, although I erred on the side of caution and ended up with caramels that were a little too soft at room temperature.  Still, I figured it would be better to have gooey caramel than teeth-breaking ones — and they were perfectly firm out of the fridge — so I was happy with them.  If this happens to you, you can try returning the caramel to the pot and cooking it a little further, even after it’s cooled and firm.

Whether you’re kicking it on the couch with a bowl of candy on your doorstep or out on the town in full costume, I hope you all have a fantastic Halloween!  This will be me.  (It’s a talking porcupine eating a pumpkin.  Yes.  The best thing I have seen … ever.)

Apple cider crème fraîche caramels

barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen.


  • 4 cups (945 ml) apple cider
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (or more, to taste)
  • 2 tsp flaky salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 8 tablespoons (115 grams or 1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (110 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) Vermont Creamery crème fraîche
  • neutral oil for the knife


  1. Boil the apple cider in a large pot over high heat until it reduces to a dark, thick syrup, between 1/3 and 1/2 cup in volume. It should take about 35 to 40 minutes, and by the end, bubbles will begin to turn shiny, viscous, and pop more slowly.
  2. While the apple cider is reducing, line the bottom and sides of an 8- inch straight- sided square metal baking pan with 2 long sheets of crisscrossed parchment. Set aside. Stir the cinnamon and flaky salt together in a small dish, and have the butter, sugars, and creme fraiche measured out and ready to go.
  3. When the apple cider has reduced, remove it from the heat and stir in the butter, sugars, and creme fraiche, just until dissolved. Return the pot to medium-high heat with a candy thermometer attached to the side, and let it boil until the thermometer reads 252 degrees, only about 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on it.
  4. If you don't have a thermometer, prepare a bowl of very cold water while the caramel is boiling. Cook the caramel until a spoonful dropped into the water becomes firm, chewy, and able to be plied into a ball. You may want to cook the caramel at a lower heat for a little longer, to give yourself time to test the caramel before taking it off the heat.
  5. When the caramel is at the right temperature or consistency, immediately remove it from heat, add the cinnamon-salt mixture, and give the caramel several stirs to distribute it evenly. Pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Let it sit at room temperature or in the fridge until cool and firm. At room temperature, it will take about two hours; in the fridge, one should do it.
  6. Once caramel is firm, use the parchment paper to transfer the block to a cutting board. Use a well-oiled knife or a pizza wheel, oiling it after each cut, to cut the caramel into 1-by-1-inch squares. It will slice better when cold. Optionally, sprinkle each square with a bit of flaky salt. Wrap each one in a roughly 3x4-inch piece of waxed or parchment paper, twisting the sides to close.


If you don't have crème fraîche, just sub in equal parts heavy cream.



  1. says:

    October 28, 2014 at 7:14 am

    Ah, I love this Cynthia! That batman that B2 carved is …. incredible. It reminds me of something my brother would have done. He is a whiz at drawing batmans. You guys are so talented! I’ve been meaning to make those apple cider caramels for like two years … so props to you for actually doing it! Haha I hope you guys have a lovely Halloween! I found out this weekend that I’m actually going to a Halloween party on Saturday night, so I need to go figure out what to wear ….

    • tworedbowls says:

      October 29, 2014 at 12:12 am

      Thank you so much, Sara!! Those caramels are practically legend at this point, right? They definitely did not disappoint. Have fun this weekend :):)

  2. marisastewart says:

    October 28, 2014 at 8:07 am

    Hello! Happy Halloween! I think it is great that you can make something homemade and give it to the little goblins. Going out to a big box store and purchasing huge sacks of candy seems to loose the spirit. I do understand that the season has been ruined by evil non-spirited people. Oh for the day . . . I love caramels and the ones you made look fantastic. BTW — your photos are amazing.

    • tworedbowls says:

      October 29, 2014 at 12:13 am

      Thank you so much, Marisa! Making homemade treats really is so much more fun than buying it at the store 🙂 Happy Halloween to you!!

    • tworedbowls says:

      October 29, 2014 at 12:15 am

      Hahaha I love it!! Caramels are definitely kiss-able, especially homemade ones… Now all I want to do is make homemade caramel every day. Such a problem. (But such a good one.) Thank you so much for the kind words!!

  3. says:

    October 28, 2014 at 8:26 am

    OMG!!! I just realise that B2 = Batman, and that craved pumpkin is awesome!!!!
    I am with you on all aspects; I want to be home during Halloween instead of dressing up and getting so cold at the party (Why is the lady costume ALWAYS slinky!!!! Do the makers know it’s so cold outside!!!) I would rather make this caramels and watch some Thai horror movies through my hands 🙂

    Love Love Love your post, Cynthia

    • tworedbowls says:

      October 29, 2014 at 12:16 am

      omg YES you speak such truth!!!! Watching horror movies through your hands is way better than freezing your costumed tush off 🙂 Hope you and your nephew are doing well, Pang!!

  4. says:

    October 28, 2014 at 8:44 am

    Your pumpkin is awesome. I mean, you guys have pumpkin carving skills. Seriously, you do! Also, I am a total homebody too and PJ’s are the best! 🙂

    Loving the caramels. I am sure all the kids will love you for them!

  5. says:

    October 28, 2014 at 9:54 am

    These look amazing. I like apple cider anything and this is no exception. I have to try this. And that pumpkin! That is like serious art. Very cool. Happy Halloween!

    • tworedbowls says:

      October 30, 2014 at 4:33 pm

      Ahhh RIGHT I AM SO GLAD YOU LOVE HIM AS MUCH AS I DO!! He has a whole account devoted to his antics, and there are ones where you can see him running/rolling around and I just. I can’t. (And P.S. thanks for the kind words, lady <3)

    • tworedbowls says:

      October 30, 2014 at 4:34 pm

      Thanks Abby!!! B2 is seriously talented 🙂 and YAY for Halloween house parties! Those are the best!!! And def the most likely to get me out of my couch-potato-ness. 🙂 I’m sure yours is gonna be fantastic — happy Halloween!!

  6. says:

    October 28, 2014 at 10:41 am

    What a fab pumpkin! B2 has some skills! The apple cider caramels sound deeeelicious. When I finally made caramel correctly I was like I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROARRRRRR.

  7. says:

    October 28, 2014 at 11:19 am

    is that a linoblock cutter? I used to carve pumpkins with those!

    at first I saw caramels in the title and went “meh,” I’ve never been fond of those teeth-breaking grocery store caramels…then I read the description, and light, apple-y caramels sound delicious!

    • tworedbowls says:

      October 30, 2014 at 4:37 pm

      I think it’s some kind of woodworking tool! I don’t really know. xD And I totally feel the exact same way about grocery store caramels! The soft, gooey homemade ones are in a league of their own, for sure. Thanks so much for your kind words, Myriam! 🙂

  8. says:

    October 28, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    My. Mind. Is. Blown. That pumpkin is out of this world, and those caramels..well. I’m not saying that I licked my screen, but I’m also not denying it.

  9. stephanie says:

    October 28, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    love love love this! the pajama pants, b2’s batman pumpkin, and especially this: If regular caramels are like sitting in front of the fireplace on a winter evening, swaddled in blankets, these apple cider ones are the joy of kicking up fall leaves in the fading dusk of a fall day, with just a hint of chill but a flush in your cheek.

    you, dear friend, have a way with words 🙂

  10. says:

    October 28, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Ummm SO impressed with Batman Pumpkin! I have no skills and usually try to stay away from carving just because it’s so frustrating to me. B2’s is just gorgeous though! Whew! I agree with you that home is the best restaurant/bar 🙂 Especially if you can wear those delightful-looking pj bottoms! So happy you brought Deb’s caramels back to mind (and in lovely photographs!), now I just need to know where you got that insane salt. It’s so pretty!

    • tworedbowls says:

      October 30, 2014 at 11:58 pm

      I totally agree! I’ve never even gone near carving because I just know I would just poke my eye out. Thank you lady :):) I have them on right now and they are DELIGHTFUL. hahah! (The PJs, that is, not the caramels..) And isn’t that salt breathtaking? It was a super wonderful gift from Molly so I’m not sure where she got it, but the brand is Falksalt and it’s a rosemary-infused salt. Hope you can hunt it down!!

    • tworedbowls says:

      October 30, 2014 at 11:59 pm

      Thank you so much, Marissa!!! All the carving talent belongs to B2 🙂 and yes, it was definitely a hilarious adventure making candy without a thermometer!! Things were a little gooier around here but still tasty :D!

    • tworedbowls says:

      October 31, 2014 at 12:00 am

      Isn’t it? I think he only took it up til HS, so all that talent is bafflingly innate 😉 So cool. Thank you so much for the kind words, Millie!!

  11. says:

    October 28, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    That Batman Pumpkin is speaking to the comic book nerd in me. B2 changed the pumpkin craving game with that one. and these caramels.. OMG… they are amazing and should be put in a box and mailed to your home gal in Atlanta. 😉

  12. says:

    October 28, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    Those are the caramels of my dreams! And, I’m virtually fist bumping you for getting new PJ pants. I know all about wearing the pajama bottoms until they fall apart and leave you, standing in your underwear, in the kitchen. You’ve inspired me. To make caramels. And to get new pajamas.

  13. says:

    October 29, 2014 at 3:07 am

    Holiday PJ’s are the best part of Halloween–embrace it, girl! I think we’ll be doing a party or something, but that’s about it–a pretty chill time. Love the cold water trick here–happy early Halloween, girl!

  14. says:

    October 29, 2014 at 5:53 am

    That Batman pumpkin!!! How awesome is this? I mean, do you think B2 could carve a Darth Vader pumpkin as well? Omg, this is the best Halloween pumpkin I’ve ever seen!
    Your caramels truly aren’t less exciting, Cynthia! Luscious fall treats they’re. Also, do you hold photography workshops? Cause if you do, I would like to attend.

    Wishing you a great Halloween weekend <3

  15. says:

    October 29, 2014 at 10:07 am

    ohhh we want to have your new pyjama pants too 😀 sounds so cozy!! and seriously this pumpkin is amazing!! never saw something like this before!! and the caramel sweets sound so delish..could totally have them now 😀 <3
    best wishes from berlin
    nora & laura

  16. says:

    October 30, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    Hold the phone…is B2 wearing a WEDDING RING?!?! Is this your version of a people.com-style “[enter celeb name] stepped out in NYC this weekend…is that a ring on his finger?!?!” secret wedding moment? Ok, ok I’ll stop being nosy. Caramel is everything, especially in the fall. Apple Cider Caramels + Batman pumpkin + stretchy pants? That’s a perfect weekend, my friend.

  17. says:

    October 30, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    OH MY. This post is so awesome but I have to say, the porcupine takes the cake. I love him!!! Gah. He’s so so cute. And that pumpkin B2 made is amazing. Last but not least, I love these apple cider caramels. I need to try them! I love making caramels but have not attempted this version yet, and they sound (and thanks to you look) amazing!! Happy Halloween!

  18. says:

    November 1, 2014 at 2:27 am

    Seriously, B2 has great carving skills! Those caramels make me want to come all the way to the East Coast to your doorstep to trick or treat. I don’t do costumes anymore but I’d bring Snoopy over so you can play with him in exchange for those caramels 🙂

  19. says:

    November 3, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    Gosh, now you’re making me wish I’d spent Halloween at your house! I’d have eaten a whole pan of these caramels. The idea of putting creme fraiche in caramels blowing my mind. I’ve had apple cider caramels on my to-do list for awhile, but now I definitely have to add creme fraiche to them too. PS. B2: I’m impressed.

  20. Anonymous says:

    November 18, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    Damn, Bowl #2 has some mad pumpkin-carving skills! That Batman looks amazing! Did he also do the Christian Bale Batman voice and pretend the pumpkin was talking? Or is that only something weird that I would do? I’m loving these caramels too, Cynthia. Talk about a perfect fall flavoured treat.

  21. Maddy says:

    September 22, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    Have you ever used boiled cider to make these, rather than boiling the cider yourself? Do you think it would affect the end product?

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