Our story begins. Several characters. Multiple plotlines. The adventure of opening a dessert shop.
I began getting serious about baking and pastry a few years ago when I started making desserts for dinner parties. The menu would be designed around the dessert selection(s). Long after enjoying the adulation of approval, I would seek upgrades with new recipes, techniques and equipment. I became obsessed with dessert creation.
At some point during this dessert journey, I began to make tarts. Tarts are component based, precision baking. They present the dessert crafter with an opportunity to pair multiple flavors, textures, and colors in an offering that is sleek and elegant in design. Matching the shell or crust with the filling and garnish to make something that tastes and looks amazing is an art form. I was all in. tartistry.
As I shared new creations with friends and family, the idea grew of one day opening my own dessert shop.
I’ve been working in professional kitchens for the last few years in a full and/or part-time capacity to see the inner workings of successful restaurants. The mindset and skillsets are constantly evolving. The product line refining. My day is coming.
Reflected in these pages will be a wide variety of styles and techniques for creating desserts that please the palette and visually stun.
In today’s episode we will take a fleeting glimpse at caramel, one of the signature flavors in my dessert collection. To be precise we will be making caramel sauce.
Caramel sauce is prepared by caramelizing sugar and adding heavy cream. I love the addition of butter to caramel sauce. You can flavor your caramel with ingredients such as vanilla, sea salt, chocolate, cinnamon, coffee, bourbon, fruit puree, extract, and more.
Caramel sauce is easy, but comes with a warning label. Hot sugar is very dangerous. Adding heavy cream and or butter to hot sugar can result in a violent reaction.
Your caramel will change in flavor from butterscotch to toffee to caramel as it moves from light to dark amber in color.
- The right tools and some common sense will get you past the danger zone.
- Read the recipe thoroughly.
- Have all your ingredients measured out and ready before starting.
- A consistent heat source is desirable.
- A heavy bottomed saucepan large enough to handle boiling sugar and the resultant reaction when you stir in the heavy cream is recommended.
- Do not leave the caramel unattended during preparation.
- The reaction between the hot sugar and heavy cream produces steam, and the rare occurrence of splattering. If you have a comfortable kitchen or oven mitt to wear during your first few forays into caramel sauce and caramel making, by all means, wear it.
- Bring your butter to room temperature, but do not melt it.
- Heat your heavy cream until it is simmering (a temperature moving closer to the boiling sugar than cold in your refrigerator or room temperature), and you will reduce the amount of bubbling that transpires when the cream is added to the boiling sugar.
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 1-¼ cups granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup water
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
- Add the heavy cream to a small saucepan and heat until the
cream begins to simmer. Do not boil. Set aside.
- Add the sugar and water to a 3-quart (or larger) heavy bottomed stainless steel saucepan. Do not use a nonstick saucepan. Moisten all of the sugar by swirling the pan.
- Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat and reduce the heat to medium. Avoid the temptation to stir. The sugar will melt and the liquid will be clear.
- After several minutes (depending on your stovetop and the pan you’ve chosen), the sugar mixture will change from clear to light amber.
- The color will continue to darken as the water evaporates and the temperature rises. Keep a very close eye on your caramel at this point as it can move from light to dark fairly quickly, and burn.
- Once the caramel reaches a dark amber color, carefully and slowly pour the heavy cream into the boiling sugar, while stirring with a wooden spoon. (If you are more comfortable, you can remove the pan from the heat source, stir in the heavy cream, and return to the heat).
- Stir in the diced butter. Continue to cook caramel for 1 to 2 minutes, while constantly stirring.
- Remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla paste and sea salt.