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.

Plum, Chocolate and Frangipane Pie

This pie is heavenly!  Chocolate, almonds and plums work together beautifully.  I found it on christiescorner.com and knew right away I needed to try it.  I brought it to a potluck and forgot to take a picture of the finished product!  So here’s an image of it before it went into the oven.

What you need:

1 pie crust (click here for a patee sucree crust recipe-makes enough for 2 crusts)

10-12 small prune plums

4 ounces dark chocolate, shaved

1/2 cup ground almonds

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

3/4 cup whipping cream

2 tablespoons Turbinado or white sugar

What you do:

1.  Preheat the oven to 400F.

2.  To make the frangipane, combine ground almonds, one egg, sugar and one teaspoon of vanilla.  Set aside.

3.  For the custard, combine the remaining egg, vanilla and whipping cream.

4.  Roll out your pastry until it about 3 mm thick.  If you use the rolling pin to put it into place it won’t stretch – stretched pastry tends to shrink back to its original size when baking.  Cut excess pastry off.

5.  Put shaved chocolate into the pie shell, then place the frangipane over top.

6.  Arrange cut plums over the frangipane, then pour the custard over top.  Sprinkle on the Turbinado or white sugar.

7.  Place the pie plate on a baking sheet, then bake for 10 minutes.  Lower the heat to 350F and bake for about 45 minutes, or until it is set and golden.

8.  Cool completely before serving, then enjoy the decadence!

Pumpkin Spice Latte

Lots of people are drinking pumpkin spice lattes on these cooler fall days.  Here’s a homemade version to warm you up.  Just whip up a batch of the syrup, then add it to your coffee with some hot frothy milk.  I know it’s supposed to be a shot of espresso, but I don’t have an espresso machine at home, and I drink decaf anyways… but this is still really yummy, and it’s waaay less than five bucks a pop!

Oh, and there’s actually no pumpkin in it.  Just the spices!

What you need:

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 -1& 1/4 cups water

1 cup sugar

a piece of cheesecloth for straining

What you do:

1.  Bring water to a boil in a small pot.  Add the spices and boil on low for about five minutes.

2.  Line a sieve with cheesecloth and strain the liquid through it.

3.  Pour the liquid back into the pot and add the sugar, heating until the sugar has melted.  Stir in the vanilla and remove from the heat.

4.  Once the syrup has cooled you can pour it into a jar.  Use a teaspoon or two per cup of coffee, depending on how sweet you like it.

I just make some really strong coffee, heat some soy milk, add it to the coffee along with some syrup.  I froth the last bit of the soy milk, then add a dusting of nutmeg to the top.