I’ve always been more of a chocolate girl than a caramel lover. Milkshakes, ice cream toppings, whatever. I mean, come on, it’s chocolate! What could beat it?
I’ve overlooked caramel for too long; it is a sweet indulgence. Which brings me to salted caramel. Not just a flavour of the year, salted caramel seems to be here to stay. Salted caramel can be traced back to France. Pastry chef Henri Le Roux invented salted butter caramels and sold them at his shop in Brittany in the early 80s. In the 90s it spread with the invention of a salted caramel macaron by Parisian patissier, Pierre Herme. From there it gained popularity in America, starting on the dessert menus of high end restaurants, in gourmet treats and then oozing into the great mainstream – Starbucks, Walmart and Haagen-Dazs.
It’s not surprising that it rose to popularity in the US; salty and sweet rolled in one might sound odd, but it more than works– Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup anyone?
For caramel connoisseurs, salt takes everything up a notch. Salted caramel is not particularly difficult to make, and once made can be used in a range of delicious desserts.
- 2 cups white sugar
- 170g reduced salt butter, chopped, room temperature
- 1 cup thickened cream, room temperature
- 2-3 teaspoons (approx) sea salt/fleur de sel/rock salt
- Place medium saucepan on medium heat and add sugar.
- Whisk as the sugar heats up; it will start to granulate into lumps.
- Continue to whisk and it will eventually melt to liquid, turning an orange colour.
- When the liquid turns a deep amber colour, gradually add the lumps of butter. Remove pan from heat. Be very careful as the liquid can bubble violently at this stage.
- Carefully add the cream. It will bubble again so add gradually. Whisk or stir mixture until smooth.
- Add salt to taste. If 2 teaspoons is not enough, add another half and half again if you think necessary.
- Most salted caramel recipes call for fleur de sel, which is basically fancy sea salt from France. I used Himalayan pink rock salt because it was all I had on hand and it worked fine; any good quality sea salt or rock salt should suffice. The key to success with caramel is keeping strict watch on it as it only takes seconds to burn.
Salted Caramel Milkshake
Add 2-3 spoonfuls of salted caramel, 1-2 scoops of ice cream and 1 cup of milk to blender and blend. For an extra bit of deliciousness, throw in a few caramel biscuits like Crowns or Caramel Tim Tams.
Salted Caramel Popcorn
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan or pot. Add ½ cup or so of popcorn kernels and put lid on. Shake the pan as the kernels pop, continuing to shake until they are all popped. Lightly salt your popcorn then drizzle with 2 tablespoons or so of your hot salted caramel.
Peanut butter and Salted Caramel Sundae
Put 2-3 scoops of ice cream into a bowl. Heat 2-3 spoonfuls of peanut butter in the microwave until it is runny (Around 30-60 seconds should do it). Spoon hot peanut butter over ice cream and drizzle over 2 tablespoons or so of hot caramel. Crush a small handful of peanuts in a mortar and pestle and sprinkle over sundae.
Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate
Heat up 1 cup milk and 40-50g dark chocolate (roughly 2 rows of a standard chocolate block) in saucepan. Once chocolate has melted and milk is hot enough, remove from heat and pour into mug. Add 2-3 tablespoons of hot salted caramel and stir well.
Raspberry Pancakes with Salted Caramel and Banana
Top pancakes with one sliced banana and drizzle with 2 or 3 tablespoons of hot salted caramel. Dust with icing sugar if you wish.
This would work with any pancake or crepe recipe you have on hand; the easiest option would be store-bought pancake batter. I used this raspberry pancake recipe to add a bit of tartness to the sweet combination.
For the Pancakes:
Mix ⅔ cup of flour (sifted), a pinch of salt, ¼ tsp bicarbonate soda and 2 tsp of caster sugar in medium bowl.
Separate two large or three small eggs. Whisk ¾ cup of milk or buttermilk, 40 g butter (melted) and egg yolks together until combined. Add to dry mixture and mix well.
Beat egg whites until soft peaks form, then fold into mixture. Add ½ cup of raspberries (fresh or frozen) and mix in.
Melt an extra knob of butter in large frying pan on medium heat. Ladle or pour portions of batter in to pan. Once mixture starts to bubble on top, flip and cook for a further 30 seconds or so.
After using the caramel on all of the above treats, I found there was still some left over. Do with the leftovers what you will; if that means eating it directly out of the jar… well.