Salted Caramel (and a reading list)

It is that time of year when I like to pretend I am an organised domestic goddess and will make gifts for people. It is also the time of year when I decide this is far too much effort and planning and resort to bracing the mad crowds of people in town. But, my sister is visiting this week and so I made a batch of salted caramel so that I could gift her a jar. (Sorry Princess, no gift surprises.)

I know that salted caramel is like EVERYWHERE and I am the first to admit that I am slightly over it. But not quite. Especially with this recipe which is a) easy and b) rather divine and c) works incredibly well in frosting.

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It sets up fairly solid so if you choose to keep it in the fridge, you’ll need to warm it through when you want to use it.

Salted Caramel

Adapted from The Violet Bakery Cookbook

250g golden caster sugar

2 tbsp golden syrup

6 tbsp water

150ml double cream

2 tsp vanilla extract

65g unsalted butter

1/4 tsp salt

Sterilise a glass jar if you intend to keep the caramel and are not using it immediately for say, frosting. (To sterilise either wash the jar and its lid in your dishwasher or in hot soapy water. Then heat the oven to 180C and heat the jars in the oven until hot – 5 minutes or so.)

Heat the cream with the vanilla in a saucepan until scalding point. Set aside. Have the butter and salt ready to add in.

Place the caster sugar, golden syrup and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat on a medium heat until the mixture starts to turn golden. Swirl the pan to distribute the sugar and prevent the mixture from burning on one side. Cook until the mixture is a dark caramel – if you’ve used golden caster sugar as I suggest, you will reach a dark caramel a few degrees sooner than the ‘caramel’ label on a sugar thermometer. As a rule, caramel is darker in the pan than in actuality but absolutely do not burn it! You will be able to smell the changing sugar!

Remove the caramel from the heat and add in the warm cream mixture, followed by the butter and then the salt. It will bubble violently and then subside. Stir with a wooden spoon to ensure it is all incorporated. If you are using it straight away, set it aside to cool. If you want to store it, pour it into your hot jar and seal. Then leave to cool. Store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. Use in frosting. Eat with a spoon. Spread on pancakes. If you’re desperate, you can freeze it.

Reading List

This was an interesting read titled ‘The ‘Myth’ of Easy Cooking‘ (thanks Jen! for sending it over). I think the call to talk ‘realistically’ about what is involved in ‘from-scratch’ cooking is a good idea. Who hasn’t felt guilty that their Wednesday night meal was eggs on toast, or *horror* a take-out from the local Chinese, rather than a made-from-scratch dish with all the latest go-to flavours? I’m the first to admit that I’ve started to stock my pantry with ingredients like za’tar and sumac so that when I do want to make recipes that call for such things, I actually have them to hand (and don’t have to risk a post-work, hangry, exhausted supermarket run where I end up buying ridiculous things and binge eating them standing in the kitchen whilst my actual dinner cooks). Dunn writes: ‘And the weight of expectation imposed by our cooking culture, which offers unrealistically complex recipes while at the same time dismissing them as simple, can be crushing’. This seems to speak of recent trends in food. We must have it all, including the homemade meal cooked at the end of a long day.

This is a fascinating story about learning a new language. I am trying to learn Spanish at the moment and it is a struggle. I enjoy the learning process but I am mute when it comes to vocalising the sounds. They always sound so much better in my head and then out comes this halting, mispronounced voice that is not mine. My teacher said recently that learning another language is also about learning how a culture perceives its place in the world, which struck me as the perfect explanation as to why conjugations and masculine/feminine rules are so hard. (I have secret plans to go and live in Cadiz a while so I can master the language.)

Christmas cookies! So much of cookies this month. I started the great cookie bake-off of 2016 yesterday with gingerbread reindeerLucky Peach details some of the cookies eaten in the Netherlands this month, and particularly around Sinterklass, whose birthday was yesterday. And Food52 have a cookie world map. I have my eye on a few recipes to try out, particularly the nanaimo bars.

The rise in demand, from China, for Ibérico ham.

I finally finished The Goldfinch! Yay! I’m still not sure what I think about it. Parts of it were quite painful to read but in the end, I was fascinated enough in Theo and his life that I read the last half in a week.

I am now reading the new Scarlett Thomas. Another favourite writer, her The End of Mr Y was one I stumbled across randomly, in the bookshop where I used to work, and then once I’d started, I couldn’t stop reading. I then made everyone else read it and read all her other novels too. This one is about gardeners, plants and seeds. And is a mystery story to boot.

I love this series from The Guardian Cook – poking around people’s kitchens.

If you’ve not read Fanny Zanotti’s blog, Like a Strawberry Milk, you really really should. She is French, used to work in London and is now living in Sweden. Her prose and photographs of the Nordic winter are wistfully romantic.