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Battle Royale: Salted Caramel Sauce

22 Sep

I haven’t made any salted caramel sauce for at least two or three weeks now. Typing that makes my soul twinge with a frisson of  sorrow akin to the “standing chill” in Larkin’s Aubade.

Actually, the Larkin reference is particularly appropriate here given that the standing chill felt by his speaker symbolizes man’s response to acknowleding his own mortality. Much like Larkin’s dolorous speaker, I too was forced to acknowledge my own mortality, in that I could not carry on producing such excessive amounts of salted caramel without succumbing to an early death.  A death that likely would have resulted from some dreadful combination of obesity and malnutrition. Thoughts like that can drive one to drink…or eat spoonfuls of salted caramel directly out of the container.

What is more important than my current suite of unhealthy addictions is their catholic nature. I have not one, but two favourite salted caramel recipes, drawn from two equally esteemed sources. The first, which I tend to think of as more of a golden salted caramel filling, comes from Form V Artisan‘s acclaimed brownie recipe. One of its most compelling characteristics is its amenability to admixture with other fattening treats; you can easily melt it together with equal amounts of peanut butter to create human kryptonite: peanut butter salted caramel sauce.

a worthy opponent I do not recommend this tack if you value your life. Or your current clothing size.

The second contender is a darker, more viscous salted butter caramel of European descent, brought to you by the Smitten Kitchen after her love affair with a Parisian varietal. Because it doesn’t contain corn syrup, I suppose that you could argue it is less heavily processed than its opponent. However, given the basic unholy equation of [caramel = ( heat x sugar )+ (butter + cream + salt)],it’s tough to argue that a lack of corn syrup lends the Smitten Kitchen contender any purportedly ‘health-related’ clout in this contest.

However, dear readers, you will have to decide that for yourselves. Without further ado, prepare to confront your own mortality:

Golden Salted Caramel Sauce

boiling the sugar

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp corn syrup
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt or fleur de sel

Instructions

1. Pour sugar evenly into a small saucepan and add the corn syrup and water. Bring the mixture to boil over medium-high heat.

the perfect hue

2. After the mixture begins to boil,  reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the sauce turns a deep amber in colour. Swirl the pan so that the caramel cooks evenly, but resist the temptation to stir! [Consult my baking tips and David Lebovitz’s sage advice for assistance in figuring out when you have achieved the perfect amber hue].

3. Once the mixture has achieved the desired colour, remove the saucepan from the burner and immediately stir in the cream until it has achieved a smooth consistency.  Pour caramel into a heat-proof bowl and stir in vanilla extract and sea salt.

Dark Salted Butter Caramel Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tbsp salted butter (the more fanciful & expensive the better)
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp room temperature heavy cream.
Instructions

1. Melt the sugar over medium to medium-high heat in a 2-3 quart sauce pan. This time you may stir the sugar so that it melts evenly. How generous of me.

2. One your sugar reaches that dark copper/amber/golden hue,add the butter in one fell swoop, stirring it into the melted sugar.

3. Turn off the stove-top and add the heavy cream. During the first ten seconds or so the addition of the cream will cause the caramel to foam up like an irate and cantankerous rabid dog, but do not fret! Hold your ground and whisk until  the mixture is smooth.

4. Do not sample the caramel until it is cool enough that it won’t burn your mouth. I am well aware that this is a Herculean feat, but strive to conquer your baser instincts.

Both caramel sauces can purportedly be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks.

I wouldn’t know.

For the sake of your health, please share this with someone.

Berry Syrup

17 Aug

I know, I know. I’m a little bit berry obsessed right now. I had a pot luck to attend a few days ago, and I wanted to bring a topping for the pound cake that I was making. I had a 1/2 cup of crushed blueberries left over from making jam the day before, and I bought some strawberries and raspberries to round out the sauce I planned to make.

It’s actually a really good thing that I made it, because the poundcake turned out to be quite dry, and was far less than the sum of its parts when it came to ingredients (I added both lemon zest and vanilla extract, and got a dull-tasting, dry cake). However, the syrup is delightful, and I plan on adding it to vanilla ice cream at the slightest provocation in the next few days.

The ingredients are as follows:
•    2 c. Strawberries (whole)
•    1 ½  c. Rasberries (whole)
•    1 c. Blueberries
•    Juice from one lemon, seeds removed
•    ¾ cup white sugar
•    1 tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch
•    1 tbsp maple syrup
•    1 tbsp vanilla extract
Delicious, right? I read a number of syrup recipes before concocting this, and the vanilla combined with the maple adds just the right touch of sweetness. The ingredients even look amazing:

(1) Crush all of the fruit, either by hand or with a mixer.

(2) Heat the mixture in a large saucepan over medium to high heat, stirring constantly.

(3) Stir in sugar, lemon juice, maple syrup & vanilla extract.
(4) As syrup begins to bubble, add cornstarch. Stir mixture fairly regularly to prevent syrup from adhering to sides of pan.
Once the syrup begins to thicken, it’s done! In my case this took about 10-15 minutes. Pour into a sterilized mason jar, and serve warm over ice cream or use it to imbue a particularly uninspiring dessert with flavor.

The former is of course always my preference.

Blueberry Jam

17 Aug

So I was up in Northern Quebec recently, ostensibly working on a project, but in reality spending the majority of my time picking blueberries. I devoted at least a good hour every day to gathering fruits to put in breakfast porridge and pancakes, and before I left I spent three hours in a field on a rocky hillside so that I could bring several large containers of them home. However, I couldn’t simply freeze the vast multitudes since I move in about a week, and I didn’t even want to think about the possibility of bowls of melting blueberries or slowly going bad on the lengthy car trip. I could, I suppose, have made ten different types of baked goods, but the weather here has been hovering around 31 every muggy, miserable day this week, and that much time spent in front of the stove seemed less than desirable.
Accordingly, I made jam.

The jam itself was actually fairly simple to make. The two steps that took the most time were (1) picking over and washing the ten odd cups of berries that I had collected and (2) sterilizing the infernal mason jars, which are quite pretty to look at, but far more trouble that you would expect. A friend of mine suggested that I look for a packet of Certo, which is a type of pectin product, which comes with a leaflet chock full of recipes and suggestions for the novice jam maker.

Once you have:

  • 1 packet of Certo
  • 4 medium sized mason jars
  • Around 8 cups of whole blueberries (4 cups crushed fruit)
  • 5 cups of sugar
  • 2 tbsps lemon juice

then you’re set to start making your jam.

After getting all of your ingredients together the process is even simpler – measure out the sugar, measure out the lemon juice, and mash up the blueberries.

I used a potato masher to crush the fruit.  Some people apparently prefer food processors, but I like to be able to taste individual chunks of fruit in my jam, so I’m slightly biased towards the less mechanized approach. Once you’ve got all of your ingredients ready, sterilize your mason jars. The method that I used can be found here, but the next time I make jam I think I’m going to try to sterilize them in the oven. What is most important is that you never put the glass directly into a high heat environment – you have to let the jars warm up with the air or water around them.

Once your jars are happily bubbling away (possibly waiting to burn your hands when you pull them out of the pot with barbecue tongs as mine did, but I digress), empty the 4 cups of crushed blueberries into a large saucepan or pot.  Then,

(1) Stir the lemon juice and pectin crystals into the blueberries.

(2) Bring to a boil over high heat – you might want to wear an apron. I got splattered blueberries all over the shirt that I was wearing, because they tend to get a bit overexcited when heated.

(3) Once they’re boiling, add your five cups of sugar.

(4) The Certo recipe says to allow the mixture to boil for another minute, but I let mine boil for a few more minutes and it was still fine.

(5) Remove the pan from heat, and allow it to cool while stirring fairly continuously for the next five minutes.

(6) Pour the still warm mixture into the mason jars that you have deftly removed from the pot of water in advance, without burning yourself.

(7) Put the sterilized tops on the jars, and screw on the caps. The jam will take a few hours to set – at least until the jars cool.

(8) If you are like me, you might want to write the date that you made the jam on top of the jars. Certo promises that they can be stored (unrefrigerated & unopened) for up to a year.