Since today is Valentine's Day, and therefore everything must by default revolve around love, I thought I'd share a new love of mine: salted caramel.
In my quest to try new things, I recently stepped out of my comfort zone and tried the Mediterranean fleur de sel (translation: sea salt) caramel gelato at Paciugo and immediately fell in love. I've never thought of myself as a caramel person. Those cellophane-wrapped squares people used to give out around Halloween when I was a kid have never held any appeal to me whatsoever--give me butterscotch any day. The gelato is admittedly pretty salty, but the combination definitely works, and it's opened my eyes to a food I never thought I liked.
This newly discovered love is what led to the Chocolate with Shortbread and Salted Caramel that I experimented with last month (and the spoonfuls of leftover salted caramel sauce I consumed that same weekend with cookies, yogurt and by itself). Plus there was the second batch of salted caramel sauce I whipped up just to snack on. Hmmm, perhaps being so proactive in trying new things was not such a good idea...
Anyhow, after reading up on the subject, it seems that salted butter caramels from France (more specifically Brittany) are generally considered to be the standard by which all other salted caramel is judged. I must try some. I just can't bring myself to spend nearly $40 to have a box of Henri Le Roux caramels shipped to Dallas, and the second I even picture individually wrapped caramels my stomach starts to feel a bit queasy and I'm not sure I'll be able to eat them, but Amazon makes it oh-so-easy to purchase a slightly more economical selection (that's another post in and of itself) so a couple of quick clicks and they were on their way. On the bright side, I figure that if I hate them Jake would probably love them. But I didn't hate them.
In fact I loved them so much that I started making salted caramel candy in my own kitchen. Talk about a recipe for disaster.
Salted Butter Caramel Hard Candy
- 2 t fleur de sel, plus more for sprinkling
- 1 t vanilla
- Give it another 30 minutes or so to harden.
One of the things I love so much about this recipe is the consistency of the candy. It's hard, but not tooth-cracking hard. It gives with a bit of bite and if left in the mouth for a bit softens enough to be considered almost chewy, but still not actually soft. It undergoes a sort of a metamorphosis that's mesmerizing and completely intriguing.
Something to consider: using different kinds of salt can change the taste a bit, though not dramatically I think unless you use a smoked salt. I sprinkled Bolivian rose salt (a very fine salt) on half of the caramel and Peruvian pink salt (a coarser salt) on the other. Both are said to have a more mineral taste than table salt or Kosher salt, though I didn't find much appreciable difference in the sprinkling; perhaps if I'd used them for the bulk of the recipe...
Things I learned from this project:
- While not pretty, caramel is still edible--perfectly delicious, actually--if the butterfat runs out of the final product.
- I should never be allowed to cook without a recipe when I'm sick. The pretty batch was actually the second of the day, as the first was burned, bitter and sans vanilla. Oops...