Caramels with Sea Salt

Caramels with sea salt are absolutely my FAVORITE treat from the local chocolate shop, and ever since I saw them on Cupcakes and Cashmere, I knew I had to try them. So when I finally got my hands on a copy of Ina Garten’s new cookbook, Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That? and saw her Fleur de Sel Caramel recipe, I knew I had to try them out. (Although I’m not a huge fan of the book as a whole, I still prefer Barefoot Contessa: At Home.) 

Originally, I messed these up because I didn’t let the sugar/corn syrup mixture boil long enough. I was using an organic sugar, which is darker in color, and the recipe said it was ready when the sugar mixture turned a “warm golden brown,” which it was the entire time. I am also terrified of burning sugar, spoiling chocolate, the likes, so I was being careful not to overheat it. But the second time, I’m proud to say, the recipe worked! It was also super-easy and doesn’t require a lot of ingredients. I used Sicilian sea salt in the recipe, though, because I couldn’t find fleur de sel in the grocery store. 

The only annoying thing about this recipe is cutting the caramels afterwards…maybe I did something wrong when I was making them, but they melt within minutes of being taken out of the fridge and get very sticky and shapeless. Which is fine, because they still taste delicious! …Very buttery and rich. I would also recommend cutting them into way smaller pieces (the recipe only calls for 16 servings!) – I probably had around 35 or 40 decent-sized caramels at the end. 

{They’re very sticky when you first make them, but after a few days they unwrap perfectly!}

Fleur de Sel Caramels

From Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That? by Ina Garten (recipe here)
Ingredients
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon fine fleur de sel, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Directions
  1. Line an 8-inch-square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing it to drape over 2 sides, then brush the paper lightly with oil.
  2. In a deep saucepan (6 inches wide and 4 1/2 inches deep), combine 1/4 cup water, the sugar and corn syrup and bring them to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until the mixture is a warm golden brown. Don’t stir — just swirl the pan.
  3. In the meantime, in a small pot, bring the cream, butter and 1 teaspoon of fleur de sel to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  4. When the sugar mixture is done, turn off the heat and slowly add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. Be careful — it will bubble up violently. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees F (firm ball) on a candy thermometer.
  5. Very carefully (it’s hot!) pour the caramel into the prepared pan and refrigerate for a few hours, until firm.
  6. When the caramel is cold, pry the sheet from the pan onto a cutting board. Cut the square in half.
  7. Starting with a long side, roll the caramel up tightly into an 8-inch-long log.
  8. Sprinkle the log with fleur de sel, trim the ends and cut into 8 pieces. (Start by cutting the log in half, then continue cutting each piece in half until you have 8 equal pieces.) It’s easier to cut the caramels if you brush the knife with flavorless oil like corn oil.
  9. Cut glassine or parchment paper into 4-by-5-inch pieces and wrap each caramel individually, twisting the ends. Store in the refrigerator and serve the caramels chilled.

the best crêpe recipe

I’ve had this crêpe recipe for quite a few years now. One of my old French teachers used to make these for our class (and let us make them with her as well), and they were always a treat! I always had mine with a little lemon and sugar, but the wonderful thing about crêpes is that you can get creative with the toppings. As long as you start with a good base crêpe (the freezer ones — if you can find them — just don’t compare), the final result will be delicious.

According to the Word doc I’ve had saved on my computer all these years, the recipe is from La Technique by Jacques Pépin.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 sticks butter (melted)
  • 1/2 cup water

Preparation

  1. Wisk until smooth: flour, eggs, sugar, salt and 1/2 of the milk.  Add remaining ingredients and stir well.
  2. Use a teflon-lined pan, 5″ to 6″ in diameter. Heat skillet on a medium to high flame. You do not need to grease the skillet. Hold pan slightly tilted and pour about 3 tablespoons of batter onto the pan, quickly rotating it so that the batter has a chance to cover the hot pan. (The thinner the coating the better the crêpes.)
  3. Cook crêpes on medium heat for about 50 seconds, then loosen the crêpe with a wooden spatula, flip the crêpe over and cook approximately 30 seconds on the other side.  You will notice that the side which has browned first is nicer than the other, stack them with the nice side down so that when they are rolled or folded they look nicer.

These are honestly quite easy to make. Although a crêpe pan would be ideal for making these, I just use a regular skillet and that always works fine. And if you have to scrap a few (or more than a few) crêpes in the beginning, do not be daunted! Flipping them takes some time to get used to, and the first couple usually get thrown out regardless of one’s culinary skill.

Finally, what would be the purpose of crêpes without filling? Try experimenting with your own — almost anything is possible — or try some of the ones my French teacher suggested:

  • Fresh-squeezed lemon juice and sugar (my personal favorite)
  • Chocolate — Hershey’s, Nutella (yum!), etc.
  • Jellies in any flavor
  • Fresh fruit (try mixing with whipped cream!)
  • Ham or chicken & cheese
  • Tomato & cream cheese

Enjoy!

{ Source: Images used in collage (clockwise from top right) from foodnetwork.com (separate recipe included), closetcooking.blogspot.com, vanillabasil.blogspot.com, and taste.com.au }

hibiscus and hazelnuts


OH YES.

About a week or so ago, I had my first adventure in the ice cream making world, and let me tell you — I am never looking back on store-bought ice cream. The Cuisinart Ice Cream maker (which works just as well for frozen yogurt, sorbet, etc etc) had been sitting in the kitchen for months unused — I suppose simply because no one really wanted to put in the effort (or time) to figure it out. But recently, I hauled it out (and legitimately had to dust it off) with the intention of making some ice cream/gelato to accompany my favorite chocolate cake for a dinner party. (And just for the record: I swear by this chocolate cake — it’s absolutely to die for. It’s incredibly easy to make and the leftovers in the fridge 3 days later — if there are any, of course — still taste delicious.)

I chose two recipes from  Sweet Scoops by Shelly Kaldunski, a book that has been lying around the kitchen for approximately the same amount of time as the ice cream maker. First up: lavender ice cream with honeyed pine nuts (page 58 in the book … I haven’t reproduced it here due to copyright issues but you can always email me if you want it). I didn’t have any lavender (or so I’d thought — I found some after I’d finished making the ice cream) so I decided to use dried hibiscus instead and nix the pine nuts for a more citrusy ice cream. The result was a very smooth and creamy ice cream. The texture and consistency was perfect. The flavor itself was a little too sweet for my liking, and I think the hibiscus got lost a little in the 1/4 cup of wildflower honey in the recipe, so next time I’ll be cutting back on the sweetness factor. But overall — a definite success.

I did not have as much luck with my second recipe: mascarpone-hazelnut gelato (page 46 in the book), which was somewhat disappointing considering hazelnut gelato is one of my favorite foods of all time. Instead of the traditional egg yolks, this recipe called for 3/4 pounds mascarpone cheese. The process was simply enough: throw all the ingredients in a blender for prep, chill them, and then put them through the ice cream maker. However, the author neglected to mention that “mascarpone can become grainy if overwhipped” until the paragraph after the blender was used. I suppose I should have read through the recipe more carefully before I started or perhaps somehow known mascarpone was liable to revert to grain-like tendencies? But I’m not even an amateur chef; what do I know?

Because I had destroyed my recipe with a mere 20 seconds in the blender, I was extremely careful the second time around and probably didn’t end up mixing the ingredients enough. But the “gelato” tasted delicious enough, even though it wasn’t nearly as smooth or creamy as the hibiscus ice cream — in fact, it tasted more like “ice cream” than the first recipe did. It was very nutty and a little coarse (the hazelnuts in the gelato weren’t fully ground), but that was fine with me — I ADORE hazelnuts. However, I think I might have been the only one at the table who actually consumed all their hazelnut gelato despite the small size of the scoops on each plate … maybe this is a taste only I am partial to? Perhaps a re-make is in order.

Have you ever made ice cream at home? How did it churn (ha!) out?

{ Source: Images by me … feel free to use as long as you leave a credit/link! }

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