Developing the Summer Collection: Caramels

It’s coming very close to the brink of scary melty chocolate season hot weather, and I’ve decided to partially fight it and partially give in to it. Fighting it means insisting on overnight shipping with gel packs and insulated boxes until mid-to-late October for all candy bar orders; only SoCal orders could still go Ground and Priority Mail.

Giving in to it means playing with a new line for BonBonBar — caramels. Like my marshmallows, they’re not ruined by heat, and last for a long time, to boot. Ironically, though, it’ll mean spending my summer standing over sweltering pots of boiling sugar (followed by lots of wrapping and twisting).

Like candy bars, I think that caramels are an under-developed area of confectionery that could be enjoyed a lot more. There are Kraft cubes, of course, as well some artisans making better ones with cream, butter, and salt and some flavors — coffee, chocolate, and some fruits (esp from Europe).

But there’s so much more than can be done! Real caramelized sugar has a complex flavor that goes with so many others flavors…. and since the majority of my bars have caramel components, they can be converted to caramels, for something like bare candy bars.

I’ve begun developing a few so far, and I think I’m going to aim for 5 flavors. And as always, I’m putting together packaging. They’ll either be candy-bar sized or bite-sized, in some form of cellophane.

My ideas so far are:

Malted Chocolate Caramels – in honor of the Malt Bar. The original malt bar actually had caramel in it, so it’s nice to bring it back.

Salted Caramel Nut Chocolate Caramels – this is like a stable version of a melted Caramel Nut Bar, with Almonds, Walnuts, Pecans, Cacao Nibs, and Maldon Salt.

Single Malt Scotch Caramels – I’ve made this with Balvanie, and it’s crazy delicious. I’m actually torn on whether or not to add salt. Unlike my Scotch Bar, I don’t think this one will involve chocolate.

Cinnamon Almond Caramels – Also. Crazy. Delicious.

Chocolate and Vanilla Caramels – A layer of chocolate and a layer of vanilla, inspired by a scoop of each in an ice cream cone. The layers could be parallel or swirled.

Rum Caramels – Maybe with Mount Gay Spiced Rum. Maybe with brown sugar, too, if it needs it.

Honey Walnut Caramels – I’m addicted to Bill’s Bees honey from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, and would love to feature one of their honeys in these (I already use their Orange Blossom for my Orange Bar)

Orange Caramels – Maybe with a layer of pecan nougat, too, like in my Orange Bar.

Pistachio-Cardamom Caramels – Possibly with apricot.

Salted Honey Peanut – If I can deal with my peanut issues (my understanding is that conventional peanuts are heavily sprayed with pesticides b/c they’re very susceptible to mold damage, which makes me a little scared of organic peanuts, too)


Any other ideas? If I develop your idea, I’ll send you a free package!

18 Responses to “Developing the Summer Collection: Caramels”

  1. Jen Says:

    How about a monofloral honey, like lavender or tupelo? Or a black tea flavor, like Earl Grey or Assam?

  2. Nina Says:

    Jen — Thanks! Very good ideas, esp the lavender, and I haven’t seen tea caramels yet. And I think I have both Earl Grey and Assam in my cupboard right now …. 🙂

    Edit 4/21 – It turns out that Bill’s doesn’t have many flavors of honey (no lavender), so I’m going to see how their Wildflower Honey goes. If not, their sage is coming out soon…. Could be interesting. I saw another honey vendor with Avocado Honey… but I’m not that bold. 🙂

    And… I was thinking of combining these ideas — tea + honey caramels could be a good twist on a classic combination.

  3. Christy Says:

    I’ve heard pretzels go well with caramel. 😉 And bacon. You have to fit bacon in there.

    But seriously…do you have to limit it to 5? Can’t you do all of those? I’m drooling on my pajamas right now. I should know better than to check your blog first thing in the morning.

    Can’t wait to order these…

  4. tommy Says:

    I like Jen’s idea of earl grey caramels. I had a dessert at clarklewis once that incorporated an earl grey caramel sauce, and it was a good combination of flavors. The tea broght a sort of smoky, astringent quality to the party that was quite intriguing (Naomi’s now at a restaurant called Beast; She’s pretty approachable, and I’m sure you could contact her via Beast’s website if you ever want to riff on the tea-caramel concept).

    And here’s an idea: how about a caramel that incorporates stout? I can imagine the flavors of caramel, salt and stout working pretty well together.


  5. Sandicita Says:

    I love the idea of the pistachio-cardamom-apricot caramels. That sounds like heaven! I think caramels are a great idea in general though!

  6. Kevin Says:

    Instead of small, individually-wrapped caramels, would you consider making a full-size, non-chocolate candy bar? Like a gourmet PayDay?

  7. Lisa Says:

    fresh ginger caramels are among my favorites (and are a big hit with nauseated pregnant women!). i haven’t paired the ginger with anything else, but the possibilities are probably fairly endless.

  8. Nina Says:

    Christy – BACON! Uncertain spoilage issues, of course, but printing “TOP WITH BACON” on the front wrapper might work. 🙂 And I’ll see how many flavors I can pull off. Matters of inventory, time mgt , and cost of getting all those labels printed… b/c yeah, I have a list of 9 flavors now that might be hard to cut… I’m doing a lot of test batches tomorrow, so maybe a couple won’t taste as good as they sound.

    Tommy – Yeah, I’m looking forward to trying it out. Thanks for the tip about Naomi. And Beast is just about the coolest name for a restaurant ever. hehe I want to call them just to hear them answer, “Hello, Beast…”

    And I’m still considering my 6-word epitaph… It’s hard!

    Sandicita – Thanks! And that’s good to hear! I realize that caramels aren’t exactly chocolate, but hopefully a lot of people will be open to interesting flavors.

    And I’m going to experiment with the apricot tomorrow, too. I have a lot of apricot jam that I made last summer, and I’m wondering if I can adjust it to be the flavor base….and then make it fresh from this summer’s fruit.

    Kevin – Yeah, spending my summer ind’lly wrapping caramels would be just about as tedious as spending it worrying about the heat affecting my chocolate. 🙂 I have an idea to cut chocolate bar-sized slabs of caramel and cut them into squares and wrap that in cellophane and seal it to so that it becomes like a pull apart candy bar. Stay tuned, I’m going to experiment with it.

    I’ve thought about adapting PayDay-style, but I can’t really figure out what the middle section would be made of… The center of the PayDay is a little funky to me. Maybe a thick caramel surrounded by nuts would work, if the nuts stay put. I’d love to have a true summer-proof candy bar, so I’m going to keep thinking about it.

    Lisa – Ginger’s a great idea — I’ll give it a try. Honey could also be interesting with it, or if it’s good plain, I’d be happy with that, too.

  9. jessica Says:

    Yeah, cinnamon and caramel are wonderful together, esp. with pecans or walnuts.

    Two ideas: lemon caramels or grapefruit. I know the grapefruit sounds gross, but I made a “chutney” yesterday with onions and grapefruit simmered in caramel (and ajwain + star anise) and it was pretty amazing. Or tangerines could also be nice. Zingy.

  10. Jen Says:

    Nina, one source for lavender honey (from CA, to boot) is here:

    Not sure if it’s cost effective to order it online (or if $14 for a 6 oz. jar is prohibitively expensive), but thought you’d like to know.

    Also, I’m probably getting carried away here, but have you ever heard of that famous Hawaiian white honey? This description of their Winter Honey mentions “a more robust, caramel-like flavor and a deeper color.” That sounds perfect for you!

  11. Verena Says:

    Oops, hope I’m not too late in commenting … I also like the idea of ginger caramels, and the sweet-salty combo is always popular. Passion fruit caramels sound great too. For something floral, how about lavender earl grey or rose geranium? I’ve had a rose geranium ice cream and enjoyed the subtle fragrance. As for the pistachio-cardamon caramels, would dried cherries work as well? Or how about a bananas foster caramel as a twist on the dessert?

    I’ve once had a caramel with dried figs and walnuts and that worked pretty well too. I love coffee and was also thinking of an espresso cognac caramel. For some added crunch, you could add crushed coffee beans or cocoa nibs into it.

    Oh, and other than caramels, you could also make some nougat bars which should stand well in the heat. Hope this helps, Nina! Good luck with more experimenting. 😉

  12. rainey Says:

    Ooooh! I had profiteroles in a caramel sauce with a tart Meyer lemon kick once at Chez Panisse. They were to die for!

  13. rainey Says:

    Adding that dried figs stuffed with caramel sound pretty good too.

  14. G Says:

    I vote against lavender Earl Grey, as I find the combination unappealingly musky. The pistachio-cardamom concept reminded me of chai spice mix and baklava. Would rose water be any good in caramel?

  15. Mandy Says:

    Definitely do the honey. My mom has an amusingly 1970’s candy cookbook, and it contains a recipe for honey caramels that includes a bit of flour. Odd, but they tasted great. The texture was a little jelly-ish because of the flour, though this would be an advantage if running/melting was a concern (they were also a little easier to handle, as I remember…). That little tang from the honey was *so* good.

    Suggestions? Coconut milk caramels. Goat milk caramels (cajeta quemada). Nibby caramels. Or perhaps something with enough fruit paste (apricots, peaches, pomegranate molasses, or passion fruit or guava paste) to be a bit sour (I think it would be refreshing!)

    And, for alternative heat-tolerant confectionery, fruit jellies and turkish delights could be nice (and the possibilities with So Cal produce are pretty exciting).

    I would vote for bite-sized (though wrapping would be more of a pain), because caramels are so densely sugary.

  16. Cyndi Says:

    I don’t even know how it would be possible, but my daughter has suggested a yummy-sounding flavor: Banana Nut Caramels. She is only 10, but just as in love with your candies & marshmallows as I am!

  17. T Says:

    I hope it’s not too late to offer some more suggestions.

    Here are some of my ideas:
    black sesame caramel
    lemon verbena caramel (or other herbs)
    miso caramel

    I LOVE caramel! =)

  18. fattypr Says:

    sounds like an awesome idea! i esp like the coffe hazelnut caramel

    you should also try teas though. earl grey chocolate, perhaps?
    or white tea vanilla?
    or even just plain earl grey.

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