Who knew a little burnt sugar could be so popular? Add the word “caramel” to any menu item and it’s an instant best seller. A versatile component of a dessert plate, caramel can elevate any candy, ice cream, tart or cake to heavenly status.
Salted, dark or spice-infused are some of the delicious ways caramel can get dressed up, although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having it plain, especially today which the National Confectioners Association lists as National Caramel Day.
If you’re in San Francisco, Bi-Rite Creamery is the place to celebrate this national holiday. In their new cookbook, “Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones,” owners Kris Hoogerhyde and Anne Walker are such big fans of caramel, they joked that they “should have just named the shop ‘Caramel.’”
If you can’t make an emergency trip to San Francisco, a few of the most drool-worthy recipes from the book include caramelize banana ice cream, salted caramel ice cream and brown sugar ice cream with a ginger caramel swirl.
Before you run to the kitchen, make sure to follow these tips:
1. Be careful! Sugar burns are the worst, so make sure you have all your ingredients prepared and are focused on the task at hand.
2. A bowl of ice. If you suddenly realize the caramel is a little darker than you wanted, dipping the bottom of the pan in the ice will slow down the cooking process.
3. Grab a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula. The last thing you want is your plastic spatula melting into your caramel. If you’re not sure, opt for a wooden spoon which won’t conduct heat.
4. Choose your method. Decide if you want to use the wet sand or dry sand caramelizing method. The dry sand method is faster but more difficult to monitor. For this method, sugar is added to a pot and heated. For the wet sand method, water is added to the sugar in the pot so that it caramelizes evenly. Although this method is slower, it’s a better way for a beginner caramel cooker start.