Making Caramel was something I never did. Never, ever until I learned how to make it in culinary school. It’s something I regularly compare it to making Italian Meringue. No matter how many times I make it, no matter if it always comes out lovely, I always (every.single.time) get a sinking feeling in my heart/stomach. No, bakers aren’t perfect but we try to be and with our mistakes we learn even more.
What do Caramel and Italian Meringue have in common? Other than that they are absolutely delicious eaten by the spoonful, they both involve sugar cookery. Sugar Cookery is not my strong point. Bread Baking, yes. Cake Making, sure. Sugar Cookery, get me a Vodka Tonic first. I dislike it for various reasons:
- Sugar burns faster than you can say Twitter. One minute your syrup is clear glass and seconds later it’s Black Swan.
- Crystals: No, not Diamonds. Sugar crystallizes like it’s its job! Avoid these not-so-pretty crystals by adding Lemon, Cream of Tartar or Glucose. This “inverts” the sucrose, causing it to break up into simpler components and not allowing crystals to form.
- Sugar Burns Are Not Funny. I’ve never had a bad one. I’ve endured torture though. During Chocolates and Confections Class, Wade (classmate) was complaining of how hot and uncomfortable pulling sugar was. Nelly says “Wade, don’t be such a baby!”. Chef Grewling comes up to her and says, “Pull out your arm” to which he then proceeds to place HOT, pulled sugar on. She didn’t say a word. Yes, it hurt but sometimes you have to prove you’re stronger than the rest.
- I dislike the way Caramel bubbles vigourously when you add the cream to it. I see it as if it was rebelling against me. I don’t tolerate that!
Maybe they aren’t the best reasons, but they are my reasons and I stick by them. What was the point of this post? Oh yes, Caramel! I adapted a recipe from “The New Best Recipe” Cookbook by Cook’s Illustrated and made it to drizzle over Cinnamon Rolls. Here’s the recipe, and sorry I don’t have pictures of that rebellious Caramel! Make this at home and drizzle over ice cream, chocolate cake, brownies, cookies…your lover’s body? Hey, what you do in your kitchen is nobody’s business but your own! Enjoy!
- In a small sauce pot, infuse the milk with the salt, vanilla paste and cardamom. Crack the pods for more flavor extraction. Strain. Keep the liquid lukewarm.
- In a medium sized pot (remember that Caramel is rebellious, so a larger pot will allow for bubbling over. 1/2 an inch of my liquid bubbles to over 4 inches tall. You do the math!) stir your sugar and water together, making sure the sides are clear of dry sugar. This also avoids crystallization.
- Cook over HIGH heat until your sugar reaches a light golden color. Remember sugar will keep cooking, so remove from heat before your desired color. 350F on a candy thermometer by the way! This will take up to 10 minutes depending on the intensity of your heat (which I said should be HIGH!). Also, the recipe called for 1/2 cup of water which I decreased to 1/4. The less water, the faster this will go obviously.
- Light Golden Color? Turn off heat and pour 1/4 of your WARM milk into the cooked sugar. Whisk rapidly and slowly add the rest. This is the rebellion part, when my stomach is in a knot because I don’t get burned/have it bubble over/mayhem! Slowwwwly add the rest of the liquid and whisk.
- Whisk into submission. Yes, the caramel will submit to you because you are its master. As it cools, the texture will thicken and turn into a luxurious caramel sauce.
Talking about submission, why not add a dab of butter at the end? Or better yet, go all out and add a teaspoon of bacon fat to melt in it. Bacon Caramel….why not?