Sunday, October 19, 2008
Back to Pastry School
Ok, I had a very very busy week. As a matter of fact, I did not even come home from Wednesday until yesterday. I know the previous blog was a bit of a cop out, and I intend to make it up to you. With something I have saved for this very occasion. Taking into consideration that 1. You deserve a treat, and 2. It is the season for treats, I have decided to bypass all of my good recipes reach into Annika's box of so-amazing-you-can't-stop-stuffing-your-face recipes.
Just like any other school, pastry school has a detailed, outlined curriculum of things that students need to know and master upon graduating. On that list are many components- pastry cream, genoise, meringue, etc...- that make up the basic structure or nearly any desert a person could make. Caramel is on that list. Caramel by definition is actually just plain old sugar heated to 320-350 degrees. When it cools it becomes very hard and not all that much fun to eat.
Add a little butter and heavy cream to that caramel, and you have an amazing and delicious sauce that you can't stop dipping anything you can possibly get your hands on- fruit, fingers, utensils. You think I'm exaggerating, but you're wrong. Someone mentioned recently that the ultimate measure of good comfort food is whether or not you would lie down in a vat of it. I agree. I also know that if I could I would go swimming in caramel sauce.
Caramel intimidates people, and rightfully so. It deserves a certain amount of respect, seeing as the sugar gets so hot that you could do some serious damage if you are not careful. Really, though, all you need are certain guidelines to follow, and if you are kind to the caramel it will be kind to you in return. And once you master it it becomes so easy that it is a great idea for Christmas gifts (on second thought, scratch that. Don't give caramel for Christmas gifts because I'm going to).
First of all, my recipe has corn syrup in it to make your life much easier. NOT the high fructose corn syrup that my preachy blog has forbidden, but plain old light corn syrup that you can get at the grocery store. There is a difference between the two, and although regular corn syrup is not very good for you either, I do allow it in a choice few things that really need it (being caramel, molding chocolate, and pecan pie).
Second of all, it goes quick. You have to have all your ingredients out and ready, lest you burn the caramel and it doesn't taste very good after that.
So here is your recipe. I suggest serving it with honey crisp apples, and when those are gone, cookies are fun to dip, and when those are gone it's also pretty darned good by the spoonful.
Annika's Fool-Proof Caramel Sauce
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
Put the sugar in an at least 2 quart heavy bottomed sauce pan. Add 1/2 cup of water to the sugar and the corn syrup. Stir once and put over high heat. Meanwhile, put heavy cream in the microwave for about 45 seconds.
Caramel is ready when it reaches about 320 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer, it should be a medium amber color. Remove caramel from heat and wait three seconds before adding butter. Pour heavy cream in slowly while stirring constantly. Let cool and store in fridge for up to 2 weeks.