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.

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Cocoa Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream

19 Sep


I’m just the slightest bit interested in caramel right now. I’m sure this minor obsession of mine will pass quickly. Like my infatuation with bacon. And oatmeal. And yogurt-covered pretzels. The ephemerality of those addictions is precisely why I weigh approximately two metric tons right now. So I’m sure this caramel fetish will be similarly short-lived.

Basically, I’m screwed.

done for

That said, you should make these cupcakes. ASAP. I brought them to a barbecue, and they were gone in under three minutes. Despite my lack of even the slightest hint of humility when it comes to my baking, I’m not exaggerating for effect. These were a little like heroin. Or bacon. Or oatmeal. Or yogurt-covered pretzels. Just in cupcake form. Which reminds me – I need to create a cupcake that combines bacon and oatmeal and yogurt-covered pretzels. The future is alive with promise.

I used a pastiche of two different recipes in order to create these monsters. The cupcakes are yet another spectacular Form V Artisan creation, while the frosting comes from a source I stumbled upon after searching for the perfect salted caramel accompaniement to the ‘black tie’ cupcakes. The frosting was delicious, and the cupcakes were moist and fluffy – they combined the most compelling characteristics of a boxed-mix with none of the residual baker’s guilt of ‘cheating’. Finally, they gave me an excuse to break out a long-coveted new purchase:

kitchen detritus

 
Ingredients – For the cupcakes
 
  • 1 & 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch 
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp corn syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

 

dry ingredients

Instructions – For the cupcakes

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line 18* muffin cups with paper liners.

2. Sift dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, corn starch, baking powder, baking soda & salt) into a large bowl. Whisk in sugar after sifting other ingredients.

wet ingredients, waving at you

3. Beat in wet ingredients (eggs, vegetable oil, corn syrup and vanilla extract) with an electric beater on medium low speed, ~ 30 seconds. Batter will be ‘crumbly’ in appearance.

4. Pour in boiling water and beat on medium-high for around 1 minute, until the batter achieves a smooth consistency.

5. Fill the muffin cups about 1/2 full with batter, and bake for around 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

* I was overzealous when filling some of my muffin cups, and so I only got 17 cupcakes out of this recipe. However, if you only fill the tins halfway full the finished cupcakes are much easier to frost – I recommend the original & vastly superior instructions…

Ingredients – For the frosting (makes enough for 18 cupcakes)

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1/4 + 2 tbsp cup heavy cream
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 sticks + 2 tbsp salted butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar

 

Instructions – For the frosting

buttercream draped in caramel

1. Bring sugar and water to boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, swirling the pan every so often to ensure even distribution,  but DO NOT stir! Continue to cook for 6-7 minutes until sugar begins to caramelize and turns a dark copper colour.

2. Remove from heat and stir in cream and vanilla, until mixture is smooth. Set aside for 20 minutes or so, until mixture has cooled.  [This recipe makes around 1/2 cup of salted caramel sauce, and I believe you could easily sub in that amount of your favourite salted or unsalted caramel – just make sure to adjust the salt content in the butter accordingly!]

sacrificial teddy graham

3. Beat the softened butter with an electric mixer  until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and continue to mix on low speed, until mixture is completely incorporated.

4. Add caramel, and beat on low until incorporated, when frosting achieves a uniform consistency. If you are frosting the cupcakes immediately I would suggest chilling it in the fridge for 10-15 minutes, as it will make it easier to manipulate when frosting.

5. Test frosting, even at the expense of your most favoured supply of snacks (see above).
not just because it's the neighbourly thing to do - you'll get fat if you don't.

make sure to share them

Chicken Paprikash

14 Sep

nestled, simmering chicken

A few days ago I decided that I desperately needed to make Chicken Paprikash. I wasn’t quite sure what chicken paprikash was exactly, but I adhere to the rule that anything Hungarian tends to be pretty damn delicious.

I formulated this particular rule a few years ago during a Christmas visit to my family, when my parents took me to their favourite little hole-in-the-wall Hungarian restaurant, nestled on a side street right off the Graben. They had warned me that the place was popular, but small and “cozy” – their euphemism for “crowded”. We strode out of the bitterly cold Viennese streets into a hot, bustling little room where tiny tables and customers’ elbows jostled for space with the rapidly pirouetting waiters and ever-swinging kitchen door.  After we ordered the waiter brought a small basket of round golden biscuits to the table. Unprepared for the transcendental experience that was about to occur, I grabbed one.

homemade pogacsa

I’ve never really fully recovered. It was what the French refer to as a “coup de foudre” or  “lightning strike”, though the term is traditionally reserved for the process of falling in love with another human being rather than a baked good.  I was so instantly smitten by the scone that I tore off a piece of the table cloth and jotted  down the Hungarian name, pogásca. Once I got back home I dredged up a recipe online, and the resulting “Hungarian Bacon Biscuits” are pretty much a guaranteed success at any event.

All of this provides a rather long backstory to my immediate and all-encompassing need to make chicken paprikash as soon as I stumbled upon the recipe. A cursory examination of the ingredients confirmed my suspicions concerning Hungarian culinary genius. Chicken. Butter. Onions. Salt. Spices. Sour Cream. All of this boded well.

Fortunately, it was a cinch to throw together. Melt the butter, brown some chicken, sautee your onions in browned chicken bits and the rest of the melted butter, add spices and chicken stock, and then let everything simmer for awhile. Add sour cream and then impress the pants off your guests/boyfriend/Hungarian exchange student/bewildered parents.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of onions (either three enormous onions or four more reasonably proportioned onions)
  • 2 & 1/2 pounds of bone-in chicken thighs or drumsticks (I used eight large drumsticks)
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 3/4 tsp hot paprika
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Coarse salt and pepper to taste
not even two pounds of onions

Don't fret, they'll cook down...

Instructions

1. Salt the chicken pieces and let them sit at room temperature while you prepare the onions. Slice onions into long strips, moving from root to tip.

2. Melt the butter in a large sautee pan (if you are an impoverished graduate student you may substitute an Ikea wok) over medium high heat. Add the chicken, and cook until skin has browned on one side, 5-6 minutes. Use tongs to turn over the chicken pieces, cooking the other side for 3-4 minutes, until the skin has browned. I will say, the one downside to using the wok was that not all of the chicken browned easily. In the future, I will make this in a larger, flat-bottomed pot and hope for the best.

onions with butter and paprika

3. Remove chicken from heat and set aside. Add your mountain of sliced onions to the remaining butter, taking care to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan to add more flavour to the dish. Continue to cook over medium heat until lightly browned, 6-8 minutes.

4. First add the sweet paprika, hot paprika and black pepper to the onions, stirring to incorporate the spices. Then add the cup of chicken stock (pausing again to scrape up the delicious bits of browned chicken from the bottom of the pan). Nestle the browned chicken on top of the onions, cover* and cook on a low simmer until the chicken has cooked through, 20-25 minutes.

*If you are an impoverished graduate student you can use another frying pan as a lid for your wok, as a functional yet ridiculous solution to your dearth of wok lids.

5. While Elise claims this step is optional, I disagree. Continue simmering until the chicken becomes tender and falls off the bone,  an additional 15-30 minutes after the chicken has cooked through.

6. When the chicken is done to your taste, remove the pan from heat. Remove the chicken from pan and stir the sour cream into the onion/stock/paprika amalgam. (I actually forgot to remove the chicken before stirring in the sour cream, and nothing disastrous or apocalyptic came of it, so if you’re pressed for time I assume you can just dump in the sour cream).

I made the dish when we had some friends over for dinner – clearly my new favourite social activity. I stored the finished Paprikash in the fridge for a few hours before hand, since I had prepared dinner in advance in anticipation of enjoying a few beers with our friends (genius). About 20 minutes before we were ready to eat, I simply put the whole kit & caboodle back on the stove over medium-low heat until it reached an appropriate temperature, and then served it over white rice. Seconds were had by all, though some chose to simply douse their rice in the sauce on the second go-around.Which meant…leftovers!

God Bless Hungary.

Apple, Blackberry & Almond Cake

7 Sep

A few days ago my boyfriend and I had another set of friends over to the apartment for dinner. This recent spate of hospitality stems from a combination of the novelty of cohabitation, getting back into town after a summer away, and having great friends who are willing to do things like watch my ridiculous cat for two months while I was away.

a slice

Given my current obsession with (read: addiction to) caramel, I had salted caramel ice cream and some dark salted caramel sauce on hand. Frankly, I was hoping to be rid of both of them given that my obsession with salted caramel is paired with an equally enormous lack of willpower around what I am beginning to believe should be a controlled substance….

Accordingly, I wanted to use up the ice cream and sauce without creating a dessert so overwhelmingly saccharine that we all developed an aversion to sugar, so I looked over some of my more trustworthy websites and found this apple blackberry cake recipe on Lottie & Doof. He had adapted it from a Martha Stewart recipe (also a trusted source). The idea of a “lighter” fruit desert appealed to me given the decadent nature of its proposed toppings. I had some blackberries on hand in the freezer, and we’re just coming into peak apple season here in Michigan, so it seemed as if the stars had aligned.

healthy. full of fiber and vitamins. unlikely virtuous enough to make up for the caramel, though.

I couldn’t resist tweaking it a bit, however. Memories of the orange cornmeal cake were still fresh in my mind, so I added some almond extract and orange zest to the batter and topped the whole concoction with toasted almond slivers. I can’t say I regret any of the decisions I’ve made – aside from the one to eat three pieces in one sitting. With the ice cream. And the salted caramel sauce. And several vats of beer. And the dinner itself, which we will discuss another time. I DIGRESS.

Ingredients

For Cake 

  • 2 large gala apples, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • 1 cup blackberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 & 1/2 cups AP Flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Zest from 1/2 large orange
  • 6 tbsp melted butter
  • 3/4 cup  packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure almond extract
For Topping
  • 1/4 cup toasted almond slivers
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Two tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 375F and spray a 9″ springform with non-stick baking spray.
2. Whisk together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt + orange zest) in a small bowl.
3. Whisk together wet ingredients (melted butter, sugar, almond extract, milk and eggs) in a medium-large bowl.
4. Whisk flour mixture into wet ingredients, and spread batter evenly in prepared springform pan.
5. Arrange apple chunks and blackberries atop batter, pressing them gently into the mixture when necessary.
6. Top with toasted almond slivers, and press these gently into the batter as well when possible. Mix the 2 tbsp brown sugar and cinnamon together, and sprinkle over the top of the batter before dotting the entire ensemble with the remaining 2 tbsps butter.
7. Bake for about 55 minutes, until the top of the cake is golden, the apples are tender, and a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Mmmm....

8. Drizzle with this:

dark salted caramel sauce

Recently Baked: The First

2 Sep

coffee ice cream & ridiculously decadent brownie chunks

So I spend a lot of my time thinking about food. Sampling food. Photographing food. Excitedly describing food to my boyfriend while he tries to focus on whatever game he’s playing on his 3DS. Turning a dress-shopping excursion with a friend into a lengthy monologue about the difficulties involved in finding good European salted butter in my town (elitist much? I know…).  Showing photographs of food to my boyfriend while he patiently pauses whatever game he’s playing on his 3DS. Explaining the intricacies of an ice cream custard base to academic acquaintances I bump into while shopping.

buttered apricot ale bread

My point is, I’m not always able to keep up to date with what I’ve been making and eating when it comes to posting recipes. So I’m creating a new category, Recently Baked, where I can post photographs or descriptions of what I’ve been up to, even when I don’t have time to write up an elaborate post of the recipe and associated photographs. This post will be something of a trial run, and if there’s any interest I’ll keep it up. Frankly I’ll probably keep it up anyways – if nothing else I love me some food photography.

decadent chocolate peanut butter cake from days of yore

I’ll try to reference the origin of the recipe whenever possible, so that it’s easy to seek them out on your own if suitably inspired by my low-quality but enticingly macro photography. Plus, if anyone is desperately interested in how I’ve tweaked a particular recipe (here’s a hint: add more cinnamon), I can always turn it into a future post! Without further ado, three things that I’ve made recently that haven’t made it onto the blog:

1. Prosciutto and arugula pizza

prosciutto + arugula + mozzarella

When I asked the voting public what they wanted on the pizza, they requested prosciutto and arugula. My initial gut reaction was this was a kind of Whole Foods yuppie, Hamilton & Meg Shaw combination, but after consuming many, many slices of the pizza I fully admit that I sit corrected on this one. I used  Smitten Kitchen’s updated pizza recipe for the crust and the tomato sauce (for what is possibly the tenth time in a row – I’ve never felt the need to try a different recipe), and the whole concoction just seeped gustatory awesomeness. I would have eaten some for lunch the next day, only there wasn’t really enough left – always the sign of good pizza.

2. Coffee Ice Cream with Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel Brownies

coffee + caramel + brownies + peanut butter

'too much of a good thing' does not apply here

I have wanted to try my hand at Elise’s coffee ice cream recipe (adapted from Lebovitz’s Perfect Scoop) for over a year now. Needing a thank you gift for a couple of friends who watched my ridiculous cat all summer was the perfect excuse. Form V Artisan’s peanut butter salted caramel brownies are my current favourite brownie recipe, and their decadent addition to an already deadly ice cream reflects the level of apologetic gratitude I felt was necessary given the utterly absurd behaviour of my cat any time she is awake (which appears to be only about four hours a day, thankfully). Needless to say, I sampled this once it was done, and the opulence can barely be put into words. Thank God this isn’t staying in my house, because it wouldn’t last the night.

I hope they like it. But if they don’t, clearly I have no understanding of humanity, and there are larger ontological problems at hand here.

3. Bittersweet Espresso Hot Fudge 

'bittersweet' was, unfortunately, all too apt a title...

I have made this hot fudge sauce two or three times before with no issues. Its most recent incarnation paired semi-sweet chocolate with a splash of bourbon when I was down in Appalachia, and it was well received by all and sundry. However, TWICE in the last two days I have tried to make it in a new apartment, on a new stove, and it has given me no end of trouble. As soon as I added the melted unsweetened chocolate and butter to the boiling water, the chocolate mixture began to burn, and with the first batch the butter separated out and congealed (mmmm….) when I refrigerated the mess. The only change that I’ve made that I can think of (besides the stove in the new apartment, which may run hot, a novelty for one used to cooking on crappy student-apartment mini-stoves) is that in my two most recent attempts I used the unsweetened chocolate the recipe calls for, rather than semi-sweet chocolate chips, which is what I customarily have on hand.

When the same issues popped up the second time around, I took commenter Amanda’s advice and added an additional 3 tbsp granulated sugar and 2 tbsp water to the cooling mixture, reheated the concoction to boiling point, and then folded in the additional ingredients. It worked like a charm, and the resulting hot fudge hasn’t separated even after refrigeration. I later added 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder to the cooled mixture, to keep with the recurring ‘coffee’ motif of desserts of late. I’d be interested to try this again using actual bittersweet chocolate rather than unsweetened to see whether or not it makes a difference. If anyone has any tips on ensuring that the melted butter and chocolate mixture doesn’t burn, I’d be grateful for them!

Chipotle Cannellini Dip

1 Sep

A few nights ago my boyfriend and I invited two of our close friends to our apartment for dinner. It was our first time ‘officially’ having people over to our new place, and I decided that I wanted to go all out: appetizers, main course AND dessert. I knew immediately what I wanted to make for the latter two categories (pizza + cornmeal cake with cinnamon ice cream), but I rarely make appetizers. Like a somewhat unambitious and lethargic superhero, I flew to my cookbooks and began to pore over them furiously. I wanted something that could be made in advance, paired well with a number of vegetables and breads, and looked easy enough that I couldn’t screw it up.

Unsurprisingly, I found it in Fresh Flavor Fast, the sequel to my favourite ‘magic cookbook’. Martha Stewart and Co. dubbed the dip “a favorite” among the editors, and so I was initially sold. While the recipe called for a food processor (which, sadly, I lack), it seemed like the sort of thing that could just as easily be made in a blender. Sold again. Finally, the only ingredient I didn’t have on hand was the cannellini beans, which I (rightly) figured would be easy enough to obtain. Triple sold.

Slightly tweaked, all you need is:

  • Two 15-oz cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice (fresh if you’ve got it, but bottled worked well for me)
  • Coarse sea salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • About 1/2 tsp of chipotle

Instructions

1. Pulse all ingredients except the chipotle in blender until smooth;

2. Place the pureed bean dip into whatever serving bowl you’re planning on using (or a storage container, if you’re just making it for yourself) and sprinkle with about 1/4 tsp of the chipotle. Add the other 1/4 tsp, and additional chipotle f you’re a brave soul who likes your food piquant.

I served this with pita chips, slivers of toasted homemade whole wheat bread drizzled in olive oil, and carrot sticks. It paired well with all of these accompaniments, but I also  think it would also be a great addition to sandwiches and wraps, or pretty much anywhere you use hummus. I hope that you like it as much as I did!

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream

1 Sep

      Occasionally, I will become obsessed with a recipe, able to think of nothing else until I finally attempt it. This has resulted in the spontaneous purchase of Oreos at a gas station, the relentless exploitation of the Farmers’ Market for roma tomatoes last fall, the (perhaps unwise) incorporation of a phenomenal set of brownies into my repertoire, and a brief, surprisingly underwhelming flirtation with the use of faux-cookie dough in a variety of culinary incarnations. However, rarely have I been so smitten with a concept as when I stumbled upon this, David Lebovitz’s famed salted butter caramel ice cream. With those five words, Lebovitz had me mesmerized.

I spent the two weeks between the end of my summer travels and the return home (to my ice cream maker, and, you know, loved ones and such) fantasizing about how soon I could make this recipe and whether it would work.

And oh, did it work!

I had only attempted caramel a few times before, but the addition of fleur de sel and the idea that your caramel could immediately be employed as a custard base in homemade ice cream had me hooked. As a caveat, this did not go entirely as planned. I can count the number of times I have made ice cream on one hand, and I was still unclear about the desired thickness of the  custard base. I aimed for an exceedingly thick custard when making this (INcorrect, it turns out), and the ice cream did not freeze properly, which has left me with something the consistency of a thick, frozen custard. I’d be more upset if it wasn’t so delicious, but unfortunately (ha!) it just means I’ll have to make another batch in the near future to remedy the error of my ways. The next day, when I made some coffee ice cream for a friend, I only allowed the custard base to thicken slightly (basically allowing for ten minutes on medium/medium-high heat after adding the warmed egg yolks back into the custard mixture, as recommended by Elise at Simply Recipes here), I was worried that the resulting concoction was too viscous, but it froze beautifully, and achieved perfect ice cream consistency that actually requires some thawing after removal from the freezer. Lesson learned – don’t overcook the custard! Without further ado:

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole milk (one will be used in the custard base, the other will be mixed in later, so separate them)
  • 1 & 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 4 tbsp salted butter (Lebovitz advises that the best butter produces the best flavour in the ice cream – as soon as I can get my hands on some Lurpak I plan to test this theory)
  • 1/2 tsp fleur de sel
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 egg yolks, very lightly beaten
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp espresso powder

the usual suspects: egg yolks, cream & milk

Instructions *

1. Fill a large bowl partway with ice and around one cup of water. Place a medium bowl atop this ‘chilling bath’ and pour in one cup of the milk. Set a fine mesh strainer atop the stacked cooling bowls. I like to keep this whole apparatus in the fridge, as it further cools the milk and allows me  to maintain valuable open counter space.

2. Spread the cup and a half of sugar evenly in a heavy bottomed sauce pan and heat over medium/medium-high heat (use your discretion) until the edges begin to melt, and then stir it with a heat proof spatula until the sugar dissolves evenly. Equipment made by Oxo or Le Creuset will likely be heat proof, but otherwise I would verify so as to not unwittingly incorporate melted rubber into your caramel. My caramel contained a large number of  lumps of hardened sugar for the first three steps of the recipe, and while I was initially perturbed, these clumps dissolved fully after the addition of the dairy products while making the custard. As Douglas Adams would advise, DON’T PANIC if this happens to you.

2. Once the sugars have fully dissolved and achieved the colour of dark copper, remove from heat and stir in the butter and salt until melted, then whisk in the cream. While I stirred furiously at this point, my caramel still seized and hardened (as Lebovitz indicated it might). This led to an abominable mess on my stovetop, but it turned out fine in the end, and as promised  the caramel melted into its former viscous state once it was returned to the burner and stirred over medium heat.

Note the mess that I have made of my saucepan. Strive to avoid this.

3. Add 1 cup of the whole milk to the mixture and stir to incorporate.

4. Slowly pour a small amount of the warm caramel over the egg yolks, whisking constantly so that they do not scramble. Once you have ensured that the eggs are not actually cooking, but have simply been tempered by the addition of the warm sauce, pour this mixture back into the rest of the warmed caramel in the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a spatula or wooden spoon.

Your custard base should be somewhat less gloppy than this. As always, let my failings be a lesson to you!

5. Once the custard base has thickened to the point where it coats the back of a wooden spoon (see above for an example of a custard base that was allowed to thicken too much), pour the mixture through the strainer into the chilled milk. Stir as the mixture cools.

caramel custard, the next morning

6. After the mixture has cooled stir in the vanilla, then allow to chill for eight hours or overnight in the fridge.

7. If that’s what you’re into, a teaspoon of instant espresso powder can be stirred into the custard immediately before it is poured into the ice cream maker. I have the ever-popular small Cuisinart that so many seem to favour, and I churned mine for around 25 minutes. While the consistency was, as previously indicated, that of a thick custard rather than traditional ice cream, I attribute this to over-cooking the custard rather than a flaw in the recipe itself. If this turns out to be a specious assertion I will update after making the next batch!

last minute addition

* I realized after the fact that I had included an overwhelming amount of descriptive verbiage into the first few steps. Essential instructions are therefore bolded, so my nattering commentary can be ignored if need be.

Enjoy!