Reading is Even Sweeter with Salted Caramels Inspired by 'The Giant's House'

Reading is Even Sweeter with Salted Caramels Inspired by 'The Giant's House'

Wednesday, 23 September, 2020

Food and drinks are some of the easiest ways — and the most fun— to vicariously experience another culture. When you add a great book to the mix, you've got the makings of a perfect evening. In Food+Fiction, we recommend a delicious read and a related recipe so you can try the taste of different destinations in your own kitchen.

This post is part of our Food+Fiction series.


We know that in real life, no self-respecting librarian would ever shush us in the stacks. But these caramels — miniature pillows of buttery, sugary love — are just the trick to make sure you never get a tickle in your throat.

One of the great things about this recipe is that it requires no special skills for you to triumph. All you need to make these caramels is simple ingredients, a bit of patience, and a candy thermometer.

If only it were that easy for Peggy, the librarian heroine of The Giant’s House, to get what she wants. Sadly, part of Peggy’s problem is that she can’t allow herself to be vulnerable enough to connect with her neighbors in smalltown Cape Cod.

‘People are always downstairs, talking without you,’ she thinks. ‘They gather in front of stores, run into each other at restaurants, and talk. They clump together at parties or couple up at the dinner table. They organize themselves by profession (for instance, waitresses), or by quality of looks, or by hobby, or companion (in the case of dog owners and married people), or by sexual preference or weight or social ease, and they talk.’

She’s an outsider everywhere but inside the library. And that’s where she meets James, a young boy who inadvertently busts her out of her insular world, at least for a little while.

The Giant’s House is a sweet and sad novel that will probably break your heart, but you’ll enjoy every bittersweet word. These caramels are sweet and salty, just like Peggy, and we like to think she’d keep a bowl of them at her desk to make the experience of checking out just the right book even more of a treat.

salted caramels on a cutting board
Photo courtesy of nelea33/Shutterstock.

Salted Caramels

Makes about 20 caramels. Total time 40 minutes.

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (to grease the pan)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt


Note: Before you start, you might want to check the accuracy of your candy thermometer. Bring a pot of water to a boil and insert the thermometer. It should read 212F/100C. If not, make a note and adjust as necessary.

Prep the pan. Use an 8x8-inch pan. Cut two wide strips of parchment paper to fit the pan, leaving an overhang on each side. Butter both pieces of parchment and set the pan aside.

Start the caramel. Combine the sugar, heavy cream, corn syrup, salted butter, and fine salt in a 3-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat and stir frequently, until the butter melts and the mixture starts to boil. Clip a candy thermometer to the pan, making sure it doesn’t touch the bottom. The mixture will be pale yellow and should bubble pretty energetically.

Keep going. Continue cooking and stirring until the temperature reaches 245F/118C. (This will take about 30 minutes — maybe listen to an audiobook!) Lower the heat as needed to prevent bubbling over. As the caramel approaches the desired temperature, the color will start to darken. When it reaches 245F/118C, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract. Immediately pour the caramel into the prepared pan and sprinkle the coarse salt over the top.

Be patient. Let the caramels set for at least two hours at room temperature and up to overnight. Then lift the caramel out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into 1-inch pieces; the easiest way is with kitchen shears. Wrap the individual caramels in pieces of waxed paper and store at room temperature.



The Giant's House

by Elizabeth McCracken

Space is the chief problem. Books are a bad family—there are those you love, and those you are indifferent to; idiots and mad cousins who you would banish except others enjoy their company; wrongheaded but fascinating eccentrics and dreamy geniuses; orphaned grandchildren; and endless brothers-in-law simply taking up space who you wish you could send straight to hell. Except you can’t, for the most part. You must house them and make them comfortable and worry about them when they go on trips and there is never enough room. {more}

This misfit story (290 pages) was published in July of 1997 by Avon Books. The book takes you to 1950s Cape Cod. Melissa read The Giant's House and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it. is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support independent bookstores and give back to the book community.

The Giant's House: A Romance


Top image courtesy of Rolf_52/Shutterstock.

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