I love Pinterest. I really do. It’s as addictive as Facebook. I’ve pinned hundreds of recipes I’ll never try, redecorating ideas I’ll never enact, quotes I’ll never remember (thank goodness Pinterest reminds me when I try to post one I’ve already posted), and crafts that I’ll never have time to make. It’s a great repository of someone else’s achievements and luscious pictures of great-looking food.
I have found some very good recipes there, and yesterday I tried a seemingly simple one: Fleur de sel caramel sauce. Fleur de sel, meaning flower of salt, flaky, delicate sea salt, combined with caramel, what’s not to like about that? Four ingredients: sugar, butter, heavy cream, and fleur de sel. Couldn’t be simpler, right? Wrong!
My first mistake was deciding to double the batch. Most recipe authors include a warning if this is a bad idea, but there wasn’t one, so I figured I might as well get it over with in one mess. Second mistake was in not tripling the size of the saucepan, instead of doubling it. Third mistake was not letting my butter and heavy cream completely come to room temperature, and by room temperature, I mean close to the boiling point of the cooked sugar.
In the recipe, the author did give very detailed instructions. and what to watch out for. What they didn’t say was this is going to be extremely messy and time-consuming, not to mention that the failure rate is probably extremely high. They make it look so easy in the perfect photos.
The moment I started cooking the four cups of sugar (doubled, remember?), I knew I was in trouble. The whisk that they said to use was useless. I needed to use a wooden spoon, but by this time the sugar was starting to clump up in the whisk, and I didn’t want to lose any of it. Ha! If I had only known!
It took forever and a day for the sugar to liquefy and finally to turn the amber color that I was supposed to look for. Meanwhile, I’m whisking furiously to get out all of the clumps of undissolved sugar. There’s sugar cemented to the sides of the pan that I know is never going to dissolve, but at this point I just had to go for it. I decided to stick my finger in a little to make sure it didn’t taste burned. OMG, not a good idea!!! Ouch, ouch, ouch! Hot, burning, taffy sugar! I knew this, and still did it, because I’m a moron and forgot this would happen.
Then it was time to whisk in the three (yes, three) sticks of butter. This is where getting the right size pan is crucial. It does not incorporate willingly. The butter was sloshing everywhere, including all over the pants I was wearing. Good lord, will this experiment never end??? Of course, this step takes forever, too. Next comes the heavy cream. I knew when I picked up the container and felt a bit of coolness that my trouble was seriously going to intensify, but I was in too far now, and had to continue. Oh, lordy, what a mess! The mixture seized up, as you probably had already guessed, because that’s what hot liquid sugar does when it comes in contact with cool liquid. More furious stirring and whisking, trying to get out all the clumps, which, by the way, never completely happened.
I finally managed to get it fairly smooth, actually pulling out some of the larger clumps of solidified sugar, then I let it settle for a few minutes. I filled five half-pint jars without too much of a fuss with only minor sediment at the bottom. The teachers who are the recipients of this incredibly awful, but incredibly wonderful tasting concoction, will just have to deal with it. Maybe they’ll just think that it’s salt crystals in the bottom.
My kitchen looked like a caramel bomb had exploded in there. The cleanup was so much fun, and I kept finding little bits of caramel all day that I had to l
ick wash. Even the top of the coffee maker. What?
The caramel sauce does taste amazing. Will I ever make it again? No. Way.
See you soon,
Addendum: Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who had the same trouble with their sauce. I went back to the post and read some of the 200+ comments, and there were several whose experiences sounded exactly like mine. I was a little peeved that these concerns weren’t addressed by the blog authors, but anyway, I guess they’re too busy coming up with other seemingly simple recipes to post. 🙂
I will try it again, using a couple of adjustments that I gleaned from an old recipe of mine, because I don’t like a recipe getting the best of me, and after eating some warmed over vanilla ice cream, I was blown away by its deliciousness (see my reply to Natalie in the comments.) Mainly, I will add a small amount of water to the sugar prior to cooking. I’m pretty sure that will solve the clumping issue in that stage. Also, I will make sure that my butter and cream are at a warmer temperature. My room temp is probably much cooler than is required, and hopefully this will cure the problem with the seizing up.