Caramel month roundup

It seems as quickly as it started, it has finished.  Caramel month.  It has been a busy few weeks as I have navigated my way through caramel in many forms.  CrunchyCreamyClear

Sherry Yard has been my chief ‘instructor’, guiding me through the fundamentals of caramel via her book, The Secrets of Baking.  This is one of the most frequently referenced tomes in my collection (primarily due to its instructional nature), and has been invaluable in steering me through this syrupy affair.

Caramel quite simply starts with cooked sugar.  Most professionals use the ‘dry’ method to make caramel – an approach that requires a very good eye to gauge temperature.  A more foolproof approach is the ‘wet’ method that incorporates water with the sugar.  The addition of corn syrup or lemon in to this mix – which is common in many recipes – also assists in minimising the development of sugar crystallisation.  The ideal temperature to cook sugar is roughly between 160-180C (or 325-350F).  It quickly can burn, so is essential you watch it the entire time.  No multi-tasking!

The master caramel recipe of cooked sugar is used to produce crunchy caramel creations – praline, spun sugar, caramel decorations.  Add cream, and you have caramel sauce.  Add a liquid like wine, juice or water, and you have a caramel glaze.  Best of all, with this master caramel formula, you have an indispensable range of recipes at your disposal.

Mr Mélanger remarked I must be tiring of caramel.  Not at all.  Having only scratched the sugary surface of this caramel wonder, my fascination has only just been piqued.  But next month is a new theme.  And I am excited.  Any guesses?  Stay tuned!  In the meantime, here is a summary of the caramel recipes I tackled during caramel month.  I hope you enjoyed some caramel of your own this month, too!

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caramel cake:: Triple Caramel Cake ::
It is bold.  It is unashamedly rich.  And it superbly showcases caramel in many forms.  From the caramelised cake, to the soft caramel sauce infused buttercream, to the crisp hazelnut praline that crowns this four layer wonder.  { Recipe here … }

 

pear:: Belle Hélène ::
A simple, yet elegant dessert.  The refreshingly light chocolate ice cream combines faultlessly with the pears – the star of the dish – that has been deliciously infused with a simple lemon-vanilla syrup.  { Recipe here … }

 

creme caramel:: Lavender Honey Crème Caramel ::
The sweet floral of lavender is quite the perfect match for the spicy, sweet honey in this twist on the classic crème caramel.  Bake in individual dishes or as a family style flan for a more relaxed dessert.  { Recipe here … }

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ice cream:: Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream ::
Deep, rich caramel infused ice cream.  The ice cream is creamy, yet with an edge.  Enjoy by the spoonful whether it is 30C, or 30F, outside.  { Recipe here … }

 

cupcakes:: Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes ::
The salted caramel harmoniously melds with the rich chocolate cake and dark chocolate frosting.  Lightly sprinkled to finish, the grey flakes, light and almost pearlised, look misleadingly innocent.  { Recipe here … }

 

macarons:: Salted Caramel Macarons ::
A classic French macaron flavour.  The sweet and salty overtones of caramel perfectly cut the sweetness of the macaron shell.  A sprinkling of fleur de sel on top seals the salty fate.  { Recipe here … }

 

dulce:: Dulce de Leche ::
Caramel at its richest.  Slow cooked milk and sugar produces the stickiest, creamiest and more-ish caramel treat. Eat straight from the jar or on bread, sweet biscuits or any accompaniment. Highly likely to be consumed within 24 hours.   { Recipe here … }

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brioche:: Brioche Tart with Caramelised Fruits ::
This egg rich bread is filled with creamy custard, topped with a tangy sabayon sauce, and served with caramel poached fruits.  Enjoy as a sweet weekend breakfast alternative to the typical pancake or waffle options.  { Recipe here … }

Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes

How did Fleur de sel attain such widely held admiration?  One minute it was a speciality product celebrated only by those in the know, next minute it became practically mainstream.

Like many people, I grew up with plain, old table salt. Then, over the years, I have been exposed to sea salt, kosher salt, pink salt, black salt, and Fleur de sel.  I understood the necessity of incorporating salt into baking.  But not until tasting Fleur de sel did I fully appreciate the virtues of salt – and value how extraordinarily well it enhances taste.

From the very first punch of flavour, I was sold.  Hook, line and sinker.  Sprinkled on an indulgence such as caramel or chocolate, one bite and you are simply captivated.  As the taste of the sweet starts to dissolve in your mouth, you are exposed to the light, salty overtone of the salt.  The flavour is aromatic, smooth and distinctive.

These cupcakes are no exception.

During my caramel or chocolate vote, although caramel was crowned the clear victor, there were many requests for a chocolate and caramel combination.  Chocolate and caramel is like a marriage made in heaven, and so caramel month would certainly feel incomplete without it.

All frosted up, these cupcakes are deceptive.  The generous pool of caramel remains concealed until that first, unanticipated bite.  The salted caramel harmoniously melds with the rich chocolate cake and dark chocolate frosting.  Lightly sprinkled to finish, the grey flakes, light and almost pearlised, look misleadingly innocent.  When you savour the taste, the irresistable flavour faintly lingers urging you to immediately go back for more.

With ample supply of Fleur de sel de Guérande in the pantry, I suspect there will be more baking experiments to come.

{ Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes } recipe by Martha Stewart

* Ingredients *
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup warm water

* Directions *
Preheat the oven to 180C or 350F. Line mini muffin tin with paper liners. Whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, add eggs, buttermilk, oil, extract, and the water; beat until smooth and combined.

Spoon the batter into liners about two-thirds full. Bake approximately 15 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Transfer tins to wire racks and allow to cool for 10 minutes; turn cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 1 month in air tight containers.

To finish, use a paring knife to cut a cone-shaped piece (about 1/2 inch deep) from the centre of each cupcake and throw away the pieces. Spoon 1 to 2 teaspoons warm Salted Caramel Filling into each hollowed-out cupcake. You will notice the caramel will sink into the cupcake a little, just fill it up a bit more. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over filling.

Use a pastry bag with a medium open-star tip and pipe Dark Chocolate Frosting onto each cupcake, swirling tip and releasing as you pull up to form a peak. Garnish each cupcake with a pinch of salt. Cupcakes are best eaten the day they are filled and frosted. Store at room temperature in airtight containers.

Salted Caramel Filling

* Ingredients *
2 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, preferably fleur de sel

* Directions *
Heat sugar with the water and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan over high, stirring occasionally, until syrup is clear; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan and stop stirring.

Cook until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush as needed. Boil, gently swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is caramelised and just reaches 185C or 360F. Remove from heat and slowly pour in cream; stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in salt.

Use immediately; if caramel begins to harden reheat gently until pourable.

Dark Chocolate Frosting

* Ingredients *
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon boiling water
2 1/4 cups (4 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds best-quality semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

* Directions *
Combine cocoa and boiling water, stirring until cocoa has dissolved.

With electric mixer on medium-high, beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add melted and cooled chocolate, beating until combined and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the cocoa mixture.

Frosting can be refrigerated up to 5 days, or frozen up to 1 month in an air tight container. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat on low speed until smooth again.