Saturday, April 2, 2011

Caramel Love

I have fallen in love with caramel. I find the the whole process, from making it to savoring it, really therapeutic and rewarding. Being a part-time chocsmith I've come into the lives of quite a few chococrazies, and there is nothing quite like the thrill of satisfying a true chocolover. Chocolate makes them happy down to their bones, and creating something that can make people that happy, for even a few minutes is really fun. I like chocolate, at certain times during the month I love it, but I am not a chocoholic, at heart, I am caramellow.
After spending more money on salt at Williams Sonoma than is logical, and really rocking out those creamy salt caramels, I was hooked. I had caramel on the mind. The taste of the Purim sweets lingered; at first it's a saltiness that flowers into the most luscious, heartwarming, homemade mellifluence you can imagine. The flavor then melted into a creamy sweetness and at the end had the slightest hint of burnt sugar. For someone who believes baking/candymaking = Love; messy, salty-sweet caramel is the ultimate expression of love. It begins with simple kitchen ingredients: white sugar, water, a little fresh lemon juice. A high flame melts it down to a clear syrup, and it bubbles and boils until it goes from clear to light yellow to golden and then deep amber- kind of like love. Just before it gets bitter and burnt, you remove the caramel from the high flame and cool it off and relax it by mixing in cream and give it a tight pinch of salt and then you butter it up a bit. Stir it a little, let it get softer and watch the color change again to a warm shade of...caramel. Admire it's glossy smoothness. Offer another kiss by dribbling in some vanilla extract. Dip your index finger tentatively, it's hot- but taste it anyway. Yummmmlove.

It was in this headspace that I came up with another truffle flavor for a small order. Chocolate Caramel Nocciola: hazelnut flavored caramel covered in dark chocolate ganache with a light sprinkling of chopped hazelnuts. So far feedback (Hub) has been very positive. I'll really find out what people think next week when the chocolover in Florida recieves her Easter box. I will also serve some at the Wine Tasting we're hosting for the PTA, that will get me a whole crossection of sweettooths. Hopefully there'll be a few caramellows mixed in with the crazed choco-fiends. I always strive for a diverse crowd.

Hazelnut Caramel

1/2 c. + 1 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. water
1/4 tsp. fresh lemon juice
3/4 c heavy cream
1 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. hazelnut extract

in a med. saucepan stir the sugar, water, and lemon juice together. Let sugar mixture melt into a clear syrup, don't stir-swirl the pan. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, undisturbed until the sugar syrup begins to color around the edges. Swirl pan to even out color and cook until it becomes a deep amber color, about 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Keeping the saucepan away from your body, stir in the cream. Return pan to heat and bring back to boil (about 30 seconds). Reduce heat to low and let simmer for approx 5 minutes. Stir in butter and hazelnut extract. Let cool for a minute or two.

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