Sorry guys, but I’m not over the bacon trend yet. Ever since I learned to cure my own bacon, I just can’t get enough! Maybe someday I will, but not today. And to be honest… I’m totally ok with that because the salty chew that bacon lends to the crust of these caramels is friggin heavenly. It’s like bacon and pretzels were destined to be together at the bottom of a luscious, spicy caramel lake. Divine intervention may have been responsible for the creation of these Cayenne Caramels with a Pretzel Bacon Crust.
I’m really struggling to find the right words to accurately describe these treats today. I just want to make delighted grunts and other happy unintelligible sounds and hope that my love for them translates through the screen, but that would be weird. So, let’s start with the caramel! This caramel is a generations old family specialty.
I can’t remember a Christmas that my Aunt Barb didn’t make this. I can still picture her cozy kitchen with a bowl of these golden morsels lovingly wrapped in wax paper sitting on the counter. My sister has since picked up the tradition and she is the Aunt Sarah that my kiddos adore with the yummy caramels on her counter. Sweet, delicious memories. That same caramel recipe plays a starring role in these jazzed up caramels I’m sharing today. It’s old school, but totally unbeatable. Add in the subtle heat from the cayenne and these caramels will rock your Santa socks off.
The perfect, chewy cayenne caramel is drizzled over a buttery, sugary, savory pretzel bacon crust. The crust at the bottom adds the most amazing crunch and texture to the caramels. It’s like a salty surprise that hits you right at the end of the bite and then melts into the warm heat from the cayenne. It also makes these already addictive caramels completely irresistible. Be prepared to eat half of the pan by yourself while you are wrapping the rest up as gifts. Hallelujah.
Oh, PS, these make the absolute best neighbor gifts on the planet. Reason being, they are spicy so the kids don’t want them and the adults actually get to enjoy the treats. Ha! If you are feeling like being accommodating, you can just make a separate batch of just the plain caramels (sans cayenne) for the kiddos.
- 1 cup margarine or equal amounts butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 lb bacon cooked, drained, and crumbled
- 1 1/2 cups mini pretzels
- 4 tablespoons butter melted
- 4 tablespoons brown sugar
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a large food processor, pour in the pretzels, bacon, brown sugar, and butter. Pulse 10-15 times until the pretzels have broken down to very small pieces. Press the crust into an even layer on the bottom of a 9x13 inch glass pan that has been coated in non-stick spray. Bake for 15 minutes and then remove from the oven to cool.
While the crust is baking, begin making your caramel. In a large 3-5 quart mixing bowl combine the margarine, sugar, and corn syrup. Microwave for 5 minutes.
Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon and slowly add in the can of sweetened condensed milk. Continue stirring until the milk is well combined.
Microwave for and additional 12-18 minutes, stopping the microwave to stir the caramels every 3 minutes. Stir the mixture each time until no more bubbles appear. Temperature test the caramel each time if comes out of the microwave. Your target temperature for the perfect chewy texture is 245-250 degrees F and the color of the caramel closely resembles a brown paper sack. Use a quick read digital thermometer to take your temperature readings.
If your caramels are close to the correct temperature, but not quite done after 12 minutes, return to the microwave in 1 minute intervals until the correct temperature is reached.
When the caramel is done cooking, stir in the vanilla and cayenne pepper. Carefully pour the hot caramel over the pretzel bacon crust and allow to cool for about 6 hours before slicing into 1 inch squares and wrapping in wax paper. You can let them cool in the fridge to speed up the process and have a firmer caramel, but cold caramels are harder to slice than room temperature.