Andrea Maunder, locovore, wine expert and pastry chef, is the owner and creative force behind Bacalao, a St. John's restaurant specializing in "nouvelle Newfoundland" cuisine.

Salted Whisky Caramels

I have been a wine lover since my parents let me have my first sip as a kid at the Sunday dinner table. And when I opened Bacalao a decade ago, and went for a tasting at Quidi Vidi Brewery, it launched the beginning of my appreciation for craft beer. I approached the tasting like wine, loved it and never looked back. But while I had the desire to appreciate whiskies and scotches, and not for the lack of trying, I’m afraid my palate was not a willing participant – until a couple of years ago. My brother, who has always loved all sorts of whiskies, and I were out for a drink and he ordered us each a craft beer with a shot of Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey. I suppose it was my “whisk-epiphany” because I was warmed by the heat, delighted by the sweetness and charmed by the complex fruity, floral and woody nuances. Since then, I have attended and hosted whisky tastings and pairings – and done a fair bit of recreational sampling.

Being of the mindset that there is seldom too much of a good thing (and that we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this month), I thought it appropriate to give you a recipe that sneaks a little whisky into delicious, chewy caramels.

Salted Whisky Caramels
5 tbsp butter
1 cup whipping cream
2 oz of your favourite whisky
1/4 tsp kosher (coarse) salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp coarse sea salt

Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper, leaving enough overhang to grip and lift out the caramels later; spray with cooking spray.

In a 1-quart pot, bring to a boil the butter, cream, whisky and salt, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla, set aside. (Don’t be tempted to use too small a pot as it could boil up and over.)

In a large pot (3 quarts or bigger) over medium-high heat, without stirring, bring to a boil the sugar, corn syrup and water. Clip on a candy thermometer, continue to cook until the mixture reaches 310°F. Add cream mixture. Continue to cook, beating with a whisk, until thermometer reads 248°F. Pour caramel into pan; cool 10 minutes to allow top to firm up a bit, then sprinkle with sea salt. Allow it to cool completely, but be careful if you refrigerate, as the caramel might become too brittle to cut. You’ll want to cut it while it’s firm but not brittle. A tiny bit of give when you press on the top is perfect – and you can feel the bottom of the pan to check if it’s completely cool.

Gripping the edges of the parchment, lift the caramel out of the pan and place on a cutting board. With a sharp knife, wiping well between cuts (it will get sticky), make 5 even cuts horizontally and vertically (creating 6 columns each way) and forming 36 squares. Place in mini muffin cups, or wrap with parchment or plastic, and store at cool room temperature in an airtight container.

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