Cashew nuts grow in the most unexpected way. The fruit of the cashew tree resembles a pear-shaped apple. At the bottom of the red and yellow fruit, a hard, gray cashew-shaped pod grows. This pod contains the cashew kernel, the part we eat. There is a Filipino fable explaining the provenance of the strange appearance of the cashew fruit. According to the tale, the cashew seed began nestled safely inside the fruit. But one day, upon hearing the merrymaking of the creatures in the forest, the cashew nut wished to be outside. A passing fairy, hearing the nut’s desperate pleas, granted its wish. After some time on the outside, long after the party was over, the nut realized that the weather in the jungle can be harsh and begged to be back cozy inside the fruit. But the fairy wouldn’t grant the wish, insisting that the nut get comfortable with where it was.
Perhaps these cashew nuts could learn to be cozy buried in a chewy caramel? That’s where I put them. Cashews and caramel make an excellent pair. The salty nuts are both crunchy and creamy. They punctuate the spiced caramel with bursts of roasted flavor.
Lyle’s Golden Syrup is a thick, honey-like syrup made from sugarcane. I use it instead of corn syrup because I prefer its toasty flavor. You can find it in the baking aisle of a well-stocked supermarket, or online.
Lightly oil an 8-inch square baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides. Lightly oil the parchment. Cut sixty-four 3-inch squares of parchment or wax paper for wrapping.
In a small pot, or in a microwave-safe bowl, heat the cream and butter together until melted. (But don’t let it boil over!)
Attach a candy thermometer to a medium saucepan and heat the sugar, syrup, and the water over medium-high heat until the sugar turns deep amber and the temperature reaches 310°F, swirling the pan to caramelize the sugar evenly, 6 to 8 minutes. In order to get an accurate reading, make sure the bulb of the candy thermometer is submerged in the sugar mixture. You may have to hold the pot tipped to the side while the sugar cooks. Remove from the heat and add the cream mixture. Be careful. This will bubble up and sputter.
Return the pan to the heat. Cook the sugar-cream mixture over medium-high heat until the candy thermometer reads 248°F, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the cashews, cinnamon, and salt and pour into the prepared pan. Let cool slightly and refrigerate to harden for about 2 hours.
Using the parchment, lift the block of caramel out of the baking pan and set on a cutting board. Sprinkle with flaky salt and cut into 1-inch squares with a long, sharp knife. Wrap each piece in a square of parchment paper.
The caramels keep their shape best when stored in the fridge. I think they are delicious cold. Bring them back to room temperature before serving, if you prefer.
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Reprinted with permission from The New Sugar and Spice, by Samantha Seneviratne, copyright © 2015, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.