Homemade caramels for holiday gift-giving

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By Julianne Munn

Businesses continue to fold and open and even reopen in the Citrus County area, and one that has new life is the doughnut shop on U.S. 19 just north of the Crystal River Mall.

Now named Sweet Treats Bakery, the shop was reintroduced by owner and baked goods maker Tracey Everett about three weeks ago at the site of the former Half-Caked doughnut shop.

Everett said he operated the business several years ago, gave it up and returned when the building became available this fall. There is a large variety of traditional favorite doughnuts and pastries, pies and cakes and seating at tables for about a dozen patrons, as well as carry-out and a drive-up window for quick ordering.

Everett said the shop also offers breakfast sandwiches and lunch items and a new menu will be ready soon. It is open six days a week from 4:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and to noon on Saturdays.

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Over Easy reader Mary Naumes, Dunnellon, sent me a few comments on her dining preferences:

“Every Thursday I skip the front page and go right to the food section and your articles. My husband and I both read and enjoy them.

“When I saw the Cowboy (Café) last week I looked at the pictures and thought I did not want to go there because of the very long beard. After reading the article I found out that Mr. Cochrane was not the cook.

“This is really a lead in as to why I am sending this note. I have a real concern about cleanliness and sanitary habits and have been hoping someone with influence would address this issue ... and there is one. I am not a total nut!

“Last week we went to a local place we go to frequently. As we walked in the door there was a ladies purse (about the size of an over-night bag) on an unoccupied table. The lady with the purse was seated at the table next to it. I was close to walking out. Many places do not provide place mats and we have our own way of compensating for that issue.

“Where had that purse been before the table? Maybe the restroom floor? Another time we watched a bus boy clean a table, then the seats and then the next table with the same cleaning cloth. After that he wiped a wet spot on the floor...put the cloth over his shoulder then on to another table and continued to use the same cloth. We never went back. I can only imagine where those behinds had been —-like public or private rest rooms.

“Even many of the cooks on the cooking channels wipe there hands where they sit. Jacque Pepin is the one who doesn’t. Julia Child did not do it either.

“I am really not a crazy person....just a little OCD (obsessive compulsve disorder) about a clean kitchen and food preparation. Well, thanks for reading this. Think I will go to the store and get some marshmallow cream for those Twinkies (Over Easy Nov. 28) that sound sooo good! —— Mary Naumes, Dunnellon”

I can honestly say I am a bit OCD myself about clean kitchens and food preparation, so I can emphathize with Mary Naumes.

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Who doesn’t enjoy a good piece of candy during the holiday season? Or anytime, for that matter. The latest trend is salty/sweet and DeMet’s new turtle candies are sublime with the sea salty taste.

Here is a recipe for sweet/salty homemade caramels for your holiday gift giving from the makers of Karo Syrup:

* 1 1/2 cups Karo Light OR Dark Corn Syrup
* 2 cups heavy OR whipping cream, divided
* 1 cup milk
* 2 cups sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon Spice Islands Fine Grind Sea Salt
* 1 tablespoon Spice Islands Pure Vanilla Extract
* 1/2 teaspoon Spice Islands Coarse Grind Sea Salt

Line an 8- or 9-inch square pan with foil (leave a 1-inch overhang on 2 sides) and spray with cooking spray.

Combine corn syrup, 1 cup cream, milk, sugar and fine sea salt in a 4-quart saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking (at a low boil) and stirring occasionally until temperature on candy thermometer reaches 234 degrees or small amount of mixture dropped into very cold water forms a soft ball which flattens on removal. This will take about 40 minutes.

Gradually add remaining 1 cup cream in a thin steady stream, stirring constantly. Continue cooking over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until temperature on candy thermometer reaches 244 dgrees or small amount of mixture dropped into very cold water forms a firm ball which does not flatten on removal. This will take about 30 minutes. Remove from heat.

Stir in vanilla. Pour into prepared pan. (NOTE: Do NOT scrape side of saucepan.) Place on wire rack and cool 1 hour. Sprinkle top evenly with loose sea salt.

Lift cooled candy from pan using foil. Cut into 1-inch squares. If desired, wrap individually in wax paper or plastic wrap.

Julianne Munn is the food writer for the Citrus County Chronicle. Email her at jmunn2@tampabay.rr.com.