There are less than two months until Christmas…is anybody else completely elated!? I hope I’m not the only one listening to Christmas music already. I can’t help it though…it’s getting to be that time of year when life is just so full of joy…when we remember Christ’s birth, and how miraculous and wonderful that first Christmas Gift was.
Of course, the holiday season wouldn’t be complete without all of the caramel corn and cookies and fruit cakes and other once-a-year-delectables. And it’s always so much fun to surprise friends with new treats. That’s how these adorable holiday reindeer came into existence.
WARNING: These treats may be too cute for your guests. One of my friends took a reindeer home and her son wouldn’t let her eat it!
Ingredient-wise these little guys are pretty simple. Sticking them together is more challenging, so be prepared for sticky fingers and some flops…or taste-testing pieces. 🙂
- Pretzel rods (the long, thick ones)
- slivered almonds
- baking peppermint chips (or some other red-colored baking chips)
- ¼ cup butter
- ¼ corn syrup
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla
- a few dashes salt
- 1 ½ tsp baking soda (You can add more if the caramel sauce doesn’t foam and thicken at first)
- Break the pretzel rods into body parts for the reindeer. You’ll need a long piece for the body, medium-length pieces for the legs, and short pieces for the head and neck (the neck is a little bit longer than the head).
- Spray a cooking sheet with cooking spray (this is where you’ll assemble the reindeer).
- Make the caramel sauce. (I would suggest making three small batches, using about one third each of the butter, corn syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and baking soda. This way all your caramel won’t harden before you’re done making the reindeer.) Melt the butter, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt together in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring continually so that the caramel doesn’t burn onto the bottom of the pan. When the caramel sauce is thick and bubbly, drip some into a cup of cold water. If you can roll the caramel drip into a ball with your fingers, the sauce is done. Add the baking soda and stir briskly until the sauce is light-colored, thick, and fluffy. Make sure it doesn’t overflow your pot!
- Remove the caramel sauce from the heat. Dip the pretzel sticks in the caramel sauce and press the pieces firmly together to assemble the reindeer. Use the almond pieces for the ears and tail. Use a spoon to drip more sauce onto the “joints” of the reindeer. You may be able to reheat the caramel if it gets too thick. Use to stick a baking chip onto Rudolph’s nose, or heat the chip enough (you can probably hold it against a hot spoon) so that it melts and can be stuck to the pretzel.
- Repeat until you’ve made enough reindeer. Any extra caramel can be used on popcorn (yummy!).
- Let the reindeer cool. Once the caramel has set, try to loosen the reindeer from the cookie sheet so that they aren’t so stuck to the metal. You may have to add more caramel to some of the joints if they become loose and wiggly.
- Let the reindeer harden. The tricky part is doing so without getting them so stuck to the cookie sheet that they break when you try to remove them. One trick is, once the caramel has set, put the reindeer on a layer of popcorn. You can serve them this way, too – people can eat whatever popcorn gets stuck to the reindeer and the popcorn makes it look like the reindeer are in snow! You can sprinkle peppermint chips in the snow to make it look more festive.
- Serve to your friends and enjoy!
Do you have any suggestions for nonstick surfaces? I tried waxed paper, but that was worse than the metal sheets because the waxed paper just tore and stuck to the caramel . I don’t think anybody wants to eat waxed paper….
Can you think of some friends who might need little Christmas cheer this week? Why not make them a yummy surprise?