Saturday, 19 July 2014

Salted caramel

How do I know it's been a good week? I have made salted caramel twice in the last 7 days. Oh and it's also the first day of part 2 of my summer holiday, I'm not due back in the office until July 28th so there is a glorious 9 days of leisure in my immediate future. It remains to see how leisurely it will be as we are off to my Sis' graduation on Monday and after that the parental unit are coming to stay at ours for a few nights with some heavy sight seeing scheduled for the rest of the week. So if it's a bit more quiet on the blog front, it's because I'm making sure my parents see as much of Cambridgeshire and possibly more while they are here. 

But back to the main thing, salted caramel. I have tried not one, but two salted caramel recipes to bring you the best of the salted caramel world. And yes, I do have a favourite of the two, but more about that later.

So lets talk salted caramel. Salted caramel goes perfectly with apple. Or ice cream. Or cookies. Or cake. Or simply with a spoon, scooping it right out of the jar (or just straight from the saucepan, who the heck needs jars anyways). All the blogs say it's so easy to make at home, that you have no excuse to ever buy store bought  again. I was very sceptical. And I was wrong. It really IS that easy. All you need to do is to try it once, and you will know that you will always have delicious salted caramel at your fingertips as long as you have sugar, cream, vanilla and salt. Considering the speed at which this sauce disappeared from my fridge, I'm not sure this is a good thing.

The first recipe is from Sally's Baking Addiction and the second recipe is from Country Cleaver. I have not added many step by step photos as there are really good tutorials in the original recipes if you aren't sure what to do or what it's supposed to look like. Just rest assured you don't need to be an expert cook to do this. Cooking with sugar is always a bit intimidating, but as long as you don't burn it you will be ok. And you will know if you burned it, there is a very bitter smell to burned sugar, and next time you know not to cook the sugar for quite as long.

Salted caramel method 1
1 cup (200 g) sugar
6 tbsp (90 g) salted butter cut into 6 cubes
1/2 cup (120 ml) double cream
1 tsp salt

Melt sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until liquid and amber brown. When the sugar is completely melted, add the butter. Be careful as the sugar liquid will bubble when you add the butter. Stir until the butter has melted completely, about 2-3 minutes. Slowly add the cream, stirring constantly. Be careful as the liquid will bubble very rapidly and may splatter. Let cook for another minute. Take the saucepan off the hob, add salt and let cool. 

Salted caramel method 2
1 cup (200 g sugar)
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup (180 ml) double cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/8-1/4 tsp salt

Add sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil on medium heat. Cover with a lid and let boil until an amber brown colour (see the original post for step by step pictures).  The original recipe said this will take 5-8 minutes, for me it took much longer maybe because I was using a lower temperature, but I got there after about 12 minutes. Resist the temptation to stir the mixture while it's cooking as this may cause the mix to crystallise. When the colour is right, slowly pour in the cream while mixing constantly. The mixture will bubble heavily and may splatter. Let cook for another minute or two and take off the heat. Add vanilla and salt and let cool. 

The verdict:
Both recipes resulted in a very delicious salted caramel sauce. However, the first one turned our rather lumpy, so I had to sieve it to get a smooth sauce. Also, I feel like I couldn't get the butter to mix completely with the sugar. So my preferred method for any future salted caramel needs is definitely method 2. It is so simple and practically fool proof. The only place where you can go wrong is if you burn the sugar, but you will smell it if you done it. Just make sure the sugar turns amber but not dark brown. 

Not cooked for long enough yet, only slightly golden.
Sugar has turned deep amber and now is the time to add the cream.
Also be careful when you add the cream, the mixture will bubble up quite a bit. First tip, use a large enough saucepan. Second tip, use an oven glove on the hand you are mixing with, like my cool piggy oven mitt.

As you can see, the two recipes have a very different amount of salt in them. I would go on the side of caution and add salt a little bit at a time, starting from about 1/4 tsp and tasting your way to your desired level. I personally prefer sea salt as I like the bigger bits of salt in the sauce, but if you don't you can use regular table salt. You can store the sauce in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to two weeks, but there is no way it will stay there for that long if you are anything like me. It is not as runny as store bought sauce, so you need to bring it to room temperature or quickly warm it up in the microwave a bit to be able to drizzle it. I ended up just scooping it onto a spoon from the jar in the fridge and sucking on it like a lollipop. 

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