There is something wondrous and cozy about the aroma of warm vanilla, sugar melting in a pan, and butter bubbling away, especially on a cold and blustery rainy evening. If feelings translated into colors, this one would be candlelit orange with generous tinges of yellow! This Thursday evening – an early one back from work, with a long weekend ahead – was a perfect occasion to muster courage to take my first shot at salted caramel sauce. Thirty minutes later, we were tucking into honey and praline ice-cream wholeheartedly drizzled with caramel. Worth every single calorie!
Today, because of an aborted attempt to make whipped cream for a cake (that’s another story) I found myself with some cream (with a dash of vanilla and some icing sugar added to it) which I needed to use. And that is how the caramel sauce can now cosy up to the butterscotch in the fridge. I am hard-pressed to choose between these two as my go-to sauce. The butterscotch is way easier to make, but the caramel is just so warmth-inducing.
Salted Caramel Sauce
Made from the recipe at Two Peas and their Pod. David Lebovitz (it is bit embarrassing to mention “my hero” each time I think of him, but he so deserves it) has some excellent tips on making dry caramel (the method I followed in which you begin with plain old sugar).
1 cup heavy cream
12 tbsp or 170 gm unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 tsp salt – I used a combination of coarse sea salt, and contrary to all advice a touch of table salt
2 cups caster sugar
- Get all your ingredients ready, measured and waiting
- Take the biggest, heaviest pot/saucepan you have (because the addition of butter and cream results in a fair bit of foaming) and heat the sugar on medium-high. David suggests not stirring the sugar, but anxious-me could not keep stirring the sugar from very the first moment in order to avoid burning it.
- You will think that the sugar will never become liquid, but soon enough, it will start liquefying (déjà vu, mysterious experiments in the chemistry lab which I lumbered my way through). At the partial liquid stage, encourage the rest of the sugar to join the liquid gang by stirring it in. I used my balloon whisk for all of this, not possessing a flat one. Note to self: next time use the rubber spatula
- Once all the sugar has melted swirl it around. Watch carefully, as at some sudden point, the pale liquid will take on golden hues and become amber (chem experiment part II).
- As soon as you have your sugar amber enough, turn down the heat, whisk the butter in. Do not be alarmed by all the furious frothing and bubbling the butter insists on. Once the butter has melted in, turn the heat off and take the pan off the stove
- Add the cream in (I did this in batches, with plenty of whisking in between)
- Add the salt in small amounts. Gingerly taste the caramel, off the spoon, with the tip of your pinky, as you do this.
- Heave a sigh of relief, wipe off the sweat, and let the caramel cool for ten minutes before transferring it to a jar. Cool completely before refrigerating.
I gifted the jar you see in the picture, to someone I like very much. The rest of it (the recipe makes a LOT of caramel) should last us another month and add to the romance of the monsoons.
This was truly made while lunch (a big pot of Biryani for four) was cooking on the side. So you can imagine how easy it is to put together.
Ingredients (I doubled Deb’s recipe in order to use all the cream I had)
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup or 113 gm unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 cup brown sugar
½ tsp regular salt
3 tsp vanilla extract
Since my cream had some vanilla added to it already, I used a just a splash towards the end, and added a used up vanilla pod while the sauce was being cooked, which I later fished out.
- Take a heavy bottomed pan, and melt the butter on medium heat. Whisk in the sugar, cream and salt.
- On medium heat, bring to a gentle boil and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for five minutes, stirring in between.
- Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla to your taste.
The jar of sauce (in the picture) will be duly gifted tomorrow to my baby niece, who quite flatteringly, has the sauce with everything, including plain milk. The rest is pleasantly resting next to the butterscotch in the fridge.
A note on the flowers
My first love will always be origami, my favorite form of paper art (in which, contrary to the chemistry experiments, I know exactly what I am doing and why). My sister in law’s sister in law (I know, complicated!) got in touch a couple of weeks back as she wanted to figure out ideas for an origami themed birthday party. Thanks to her, I dusted off some of my old books and spent a few pleasant evenings, this last week, watching crime shows on TV (and memorably, Commando) and folding these flowers.
You will find a simpler version of the flowers on the freely available instructions on the web. The ones I made (pictured here) are the traditional form introduced by Megumi Biddle. They are what I call ‘fiddly’ as in tiny with many folds and which take a fair bit of time to make. But hard work seldom remains unrewarded, as these flowers demonstrate.
To quote from Steve and Megumi Biddle’s The New Origami book
“In pre-modern Japan (about AD 500 to 600), it was custom on 5 May to collect iris flowers and to sew them around a pot-pourri of herbs. This sweet smelling decoration (kusudama) was then given as a gift, signifying the wishes of the giver was that the receiver should enjoy good health. Nowadays, the kusudama is made from paper or origami flowers, 5 May is celebrated as Children’s Day, and the wishes of good health are passed on to children”
Since I began the post with aromas, let me end it with commenting on the scent of paper. Many people have told me that they would never completely switch to e-books as they would miss the smell of new books (or old). To add to this thought, the fresh smells of colorful origami paper/sheet of newspaper/ craft paper as you fold it into something which you never imagined existed in the square to begin with, is enough to help you connect with a little bit of happiness.