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When invited to a house party, I almost always bring sweets – cookies, cake, candy – and depending on the crowd, I love the chance to try something new. I lucked out when the week before a friend’s house-warming party, Smitten Kitchen announced the release of her cookbook (really hoping Santa leaves this tree this year!!) and the perfect recipe to try out for the housewarming – apple cider caramels.

Unfortunately I didn’t leave time in my schedule before the party to individually wrap the caramels for the party; instead I created layers of caramels and parchment paper in the tin. So while some guests were a little hesitant to dig in, the hosts devoured the leftovers post-party and raved.

With the holiday party season looming near, I started thinking. Easy recipe, seasonally appropriate, maximum impact, large quantity in one fell swoop. Apple cider caramels for the holidays it is!

For my second batch (and the one that made the most rounds), the only tweak I made was to add 1/2 t ground ginger (with the 1 t of cinnamon). At one party, the hostess jokingly complained that I had stolen her thunder because the only comment any of her guests had about the food was to ask for the recipe to the caramels. For the next party, I walked in with 90 wrapped caramels and planned to walk out with about 30-40. My departure ended up being sudden so I forgot to grab the tin but at last count, it was down to 20 – if that. (And note to self, they were a huge hit with the single men who loaded their pockets with ones for the road. Great way to impress a future beau!)

For the latest batch to distribute at the department holiday cookie exchange, I added mulling spices for the first 30 minutes of the cider’s reduction, one cup of dark spiced rum, some lemon juice and zest (exact amount is unknown), and then a full 1 t ground ginger at the end.

The latest batch near completion

The latest batch near completion

A fresh batch of spiced & "spiked" apple cider caramels

A fresh batch of spiced & “spiked” apple cider caramels

I have one gallon of apple cider left in the garage and I’m ready to experiment with more flavor combinations. Perhaps more lemon? Friends on Facebook have suggested adding pepper and chili powder. Ideas are percolating!

Who wants some caramel?!

Tess, the Lioness