Fleur de Sel Caramels

These are to die for – sweetness balanced perfectly with saltiness.  I made some plain, just caramels and fleur de sel, wrapped in parchment paper.  The others were dark chocolate-covered, with a sprinkling of fleur de sel.  It’s hard to choose a favourite . . . but I’d have to say the chocolate ones win out.  Try it and see – it takes a bit of patience, as the cooking process can’t be rushed, but if you’ve got the time and some good music to listen to while you’re stirring, it’s totally worth it.

Listening pairing: Luluc’s album ‘Dear Hamlyn.’  Sweet and smooth like the treats you’re making!

What you need:

1 cup sugar

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 & 1/2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

fleur se sel

3 oz chocolate (I used 2 oz semi-sweet and 1 oz bitter-sweet)

parchment paper

candy thermometer – helpful but not essential (you can test the accuracy of your thermometer by placing it in boiling water – it should read 212F)

What you do:

1.  Line a bread pan with lightly buttered parchment paper.

2.  Combine the sugar, syrup, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and half a cup of the cream in a pot.  Place on medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula until it boils.  This may take a while, but make sure you don’t raise the heat to hurry it up – it needs to stay on medium.

3.  While it boils, add the cream slowly, continuing to stir.  Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to boil for 5-6 minutes, stirring little.  Add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, and stir until melted.

4.  For the next steps you need to have patience, as you will be stirring for about 30-40 minutes.  Continue boiling over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.  You will begin to see the mixture turn a more caramel-brown colour.  If you’ve got a candy thermometer, you want it to read 250F.  If you don’t have one, you can get a bowl of ice water and place a drop of the mixture into it.  When it forms a “firm ball” in the ice water, take it off the heat right away.

5.  After removing from the heat, stir in the vanilla.

6.  Pour immediately into the parchment-lined pan.  Just pour it in and don’t scrape the caramel from the bottom of the pot, to avoid crystallization.  Of course you can scrape it out into another container and eat it up!

7.  Allow the caramel to cool, then remove it from the pan by pulling up the parchment paper.

8.  With a lightly buttered knife, cut into desired shapes.  Sprinkle the fleur de sel on the ones that you won’t be dipping in chocolate.

9. Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler, or place a bowl on top of a pot of water.  Melt the chocolate, or read here for the more complicated process of tempering chocolate.

10.  Dip caramels in the melted chocolate, then sprinkle with a little fleur de sel.

11.  The caramel will stick to almost everything.  Parchment paper, however, is like magic when it comes to caramel. you can line your plate with it, or use it for wrapping the individual caramels.

I found this recipe on Not So Humble Pie.  I’ve just halved the recipe, as it was too much for me.  But it takes a long time to make, so you might want to double it – it’s not double the work until you get to the cutting and dipping.

The Easiest Tomato Sauce Ever

Here’s a tasty tomato sauce, and really really easy – thanks Chad for the recipe!  I made it to use in a lasagna, and it was fabulous . . . I would imagine there are many other uses for it.

What you need:

1 – 750   mL tin whole tomatoes

1/2 onion

1/4 cup butter

salt and pepper

What you do:

1.  Put the onion and butter in a pot with the tomatoes and cook for 45 minutes or so.

2.  Take out the onion, season with salt and pepper, and voila, a fabulous sauce.

For the lasagna I pureed the tomatoes, and I added about a teaspoon of brown sugar.

Pate Sucree Pie Crust

This relatively simple crust is perfect for a sweet pie or tart.  It is a little more like a shortbread crust than a really flakey one.  This makes enough for two large pies.

I found the recipe on christie’scorner.com

What you need:

1 & 3/4 cups flour

just less than 1/2 cup butter, cubed and slightly softened

1 cup icing sugar

pinch of salt

2 medium eggs at room temperature

What you do:

1.  Place the flour on the counter and make a well in the centre.  Place the butter, sugar and salt in the centre and mix it together with your fingers so that the butter is in fine pieces.

2.  Make a well again and add the eggs, mixing with your hands until the dough holds together.  Knead a few times, then roll into a ball.

3.  The dough needs to rest before you use it, so wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or two before using it.  You can also freeze it to use at a later date, or use half and freeze the rest.

4.  When the time comes to use the dough, roll it out to about 3mm thickness, then fill to your heart’s content.

Chocolate Dipped Chocolate-Almond Biscotti

And the people thus spake, “We have tasted of this New Biscotti, and it is good.”

And so, upon the day of the Feast of Lights at English Bay, many ate of the biscotti and were satisfied.

Thus it came to pass that the people proclaimed the recipe to be of high quality, and henceforth deemed worthy of the masses.

And so it shall be revealed unto thee:

What you need:

1 & 1/4 cups peeled almonds, toasted

1/2 cup butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup flour

1 cup cocoa powder

1 & 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

2 eggs

3/4 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon almond extract

for the chocolate dip:

5oz chocolate

2 tablespoons butter

What you do:

1.  Use a coffee grinder or food processor to finely grind toasted almonds.

2.  Mix 1/2 cup of the butter and 1 cup of the almonds, along with the salt, until it is fluffy.

3.  Whisk eggs, sugar and almond extract in a large bowl.

4.  Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder and hand-mix into the egg mixture.

5.  Add the nut and butter mixture, and stir until it is just incorporated.

6.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and form the dough into two long, flat logs. I like my biscotti to be a bit smaller, so if you want larger cookies, then make one log and add about five minutes to the baking time.

7.  Bake at 350F for 25 minutes.  When it comes out of the oven, allow it to cool on the pan for about half an hour.

8.  Slice the logs into cookies, and put them back on the parchment paper.  Bake for 15 minutes more, then cool on wire racks.

9.  Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler (I use a pot with a bowl on top).  The key here is to make sure you don’t get any water into the chocolate; it will seize up and become clumpy.

10.  Dip each cooled biscotti in the chocolate (I had to spread it on a bit), then sprinkle a little of the remaining almond flour on top of each.