Category: caramel

Worth Your Salt (Salted Chocolate Toffee Bites)

Confession: this recipe was the result of a happy accident. I was originally making a simple caramel sauce for brunch this weekend when I absentmindedly let the caramel cook on the stove much longer than anticipated. Even though i had shut the burner off, I forgot to take the caramel out of the pot. So, doing as caramel does, it continued to cook, until it reached a much harder stage, and then it cooled.  Lo and behold, when I went to serve the sauce, all I had was a pot with a brick of toffee at the bottom. I was in a panic. This was supposed to be the star of my brunch! “No problem,” said my easygoing guest. “Just dip it in chocolate and we’ll eat it later!”

Making chocolate is quick and simple, if you follow two rules: 1 – use good quality chocolate pastilles. Poor quality (cheap) chocolate will yield poor results. Uneven melting, poor taste, poor texture, etc.
2. Temper. Always, always temper. If your chocolate reaches a temperature above 50 degrees C, it burns, and though you might not see it, you’ll definitely taste it. The texture will change once it hardens, and it will have an unpleasantly bitter, charred taste.

To make these, all you really have to do is make caramel, pour it out onto a tray, let it cool & break it up into chunks. Then, you melt the chocolate, pour it on top, and let it harden. Hit it a few times with a blunt knife and voila! Salty caramel chocolate brittle.

I hear brittle and I usually think “Christmas,” but you don’t really need an occasion to make this.  It keeps for a few weeks in the fridge, so you can put some in a mason jar, wrap a piece of twine around it and you’ve got a pretty last-minute hostess gift. You can also just save it all for yourself – it makes a great snack when you’re torn between salty and sweet – that is, if you have the willpower not to eat it all in one sitting. Seriously. Make this. This stuff is delicious and dangerous and addictive and full of unadulterated happiness.

Salted Chocolate Toffee Bites
an original recipe by allison sklar

what you’ll need

caramel sauce
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
pinch sea salt

chocolate
1 cup good quality dark or milk chocolate pastilles (I used 70%)
pinch sea salt


In a heavy bottomed saucepan, warm butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar and cream. Stir with a heatproof spatula in figure 8 motion, until sugar is dissolved. Continue cooking, stirring slowly but constantly, until mixture begins to thicken, about 6 minutes. Turn heat to low and continue cooking until mixture reaches 155C, about 10 more minutes. Add salt. Pour onto parchment lined baking sheet. Mixture will spread out and harden as it cools.

Once it is cool, break up the caramel into small chunks, leaving it on the parchment.  

Melt chocolate over a Bain Marie (A Bain Marie is a bowl placed over a pot of boiling water. The steam will heat the bowl and the chocolate will slowly melt. Do not place chocolate directly on the stove, or it will heat too quickly and you’ll have a burnt, uneven result.)

Pour chocolate over caramel chunks. Place in fridge or freezer to cool about 5 minutes. Sprinkle sea salt on top only once chocolate begins to cool. You want the salt to stick to the top, not to melt in.

Once the chocolate has fully hardened, break it into brittle-sized chunks & serve. 




Stellar Brunch (Oven-baked french toast with caramel sauce)

Springtime peeked it’s shy little head out to say hello to us Montrealers this week, and I instantly felt excited & inspired. There’s just something about warm weather and sunshine that get me into a crafty mood. Quite a good time to be feeling creative, as I’ve had a lot of decorating to do recently: we’ve officially moved into our new apartment! The perfect way to settle in? A good old-fashioned Sunday Brunch!

Though bagels and lox are generally my choice brunch food, I decided to make something a little more decadent this time. Introducing Oven Baked French Toast, and her bff, Caramel Sauce. Make this for your next brunch if you’re looking for a dish that is surprisingly quick & easy, and as eye-catching as it is tasty. Bonus: the air will fill with a warm, sweet aroma as your guests arrive.

This is a decadent, salty-meets-sweet, stick-to-your-ribs kind of breakfast – definitely weekend food! Tip: to make it extra yummy, you can prepare it the night before so the bread really gets some time to soak up the eggy goodness. This is also a perfect way to use up some stale bread you have lying around – once it soaks up the egg mixture, it’ll come right back to life!

Oven Baked French Toast
an original recipe by allison sklar

NOTE: I’ve included two versions of caramel sauce here. One is a shortcut (no-fail) caramel, and the other is the traditional method that we were taught in pastry school. They yield slightly different flavours, and the shortcut method is a little more rich. If you’ve never made caramel before, I suggest you try the shortcut method first!

what you’ll need

french toast
1 small loaf of your favourite bread, sliced or cubed
(challah bread, or other fluffy, soft bread works best)
6 eggs (8 if using a large amount of bread)*
1/4 cup icing sugar*
4 tbsp milk or cream
1 tbsp vanilla
2 tbsp cinnamon sugar **
1 to 2 tbsp butter, melted

caramel sauce (traditional method)
460g granulated sugar
160ml water
240g light/white corn syrup
125ml heavy (35%) cream
2 tbsp butter
pinch sea salt

OR 

caramel sauce (shortcut method)
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
pinch sea salt

how to do it

french toast
Place all of your bread in a large mixing bowl.
Beat eggs with icing sugar until colour turns light yellow and mixture becomes fluffy.
Whisk in milk (or cream) and vanilla. Pour over bread and toss to coat. Allow to sit until mixture is absorbed, about 10 minutes. This mixture can also be prepared overnight.*

Grease a shallow, oven-safe dish with butter. Preheat oven to 325F. Lay bread mixture evenly into dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until bread is golden brown. Meanwhile, prepare caramel sauce.

caramel sauce (traditional method)
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, bring granulated sugar and water to a boil, while stirring with a heatproof spatula. Once mixture boils, stop stirring and reduce heat to medium. Continue cooking, brushing down the insides of the pot with a pastry brush dipped in water to avoid the formation of sugar crystals. Use a candy thermometer to bring the mixture up to 140C(285F). Carefully add in butter, cream and salt, stirring constantly. If mixture feels too thick, add more cream, a little at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

caramel sauce (shortcut method – no thermometer needed!)
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, warm butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar and cream. Stir with a heatproof spatula in figure 8 motion, until sugar is dissolved. Continue cooking, stirring slowly but constantly, until mixture begins to thicken, about 6 minutes. Voila! Caramel!

Pour sauce over hot french toast. Sprinkle with icing sugar or more cinnamon sugar just before serving.

Eat & enjoy!

notes
*If doing this overnight, increase the egg quantity to 8 to 10 eggs and the sugar to 1/3 cup.
** If you cannot find cinnamon sugar, make your own using equal parts of cinnamon to sugar.

Move Over, Martha!

I’ve had the most splendid week in the kitchen and I must tell you ALL about it! I began my cooking extravaganza by making my very first buttercream icing. Fun to work with, easy to make, lovely to look at, but unfortunately, not so lovely to eat. I just don’t see the appeal of eating something that tastes like a stick of butter. Deciding then to stick with familiar classics, I made the absolute best banana cake in the history of the world. Marie Antoinette, eat your heart out. My friend Lisa, an equally exuberant foodie, suggested that I pipe some butter down the centre of the cake to create a perfect “crack.” Simple trick, fabulous results. Not only did the cake look fantastic, it had an extra hint of buttery flavour throughout. Perfection. However, my ultimate kitchen success came last night when I stirred up a delightfully velvety vodka sauce – caramelized onions, crushed garlic, plum tomatoes, fresh basil and a splash of vodka to enhance all of the flavours. By special request, I served a baked brie wheel as an appetizer, smothered in a slow-cooked peppered cranberry sauce. But the ultimate show stopper was the dessert – a layered vanilla, chocolate and salted caramel mousse, as pleasing to the eyes as it was to the palate! Two things about this mousse were most exciting: the first was the creation of the caramel. As simple as you can get, this rich caramel was created by simmering sugar and a couple of tablespoons of water over HIGH heat. Yes, high heat surprised me, and scared me, as I do not own a “heavy bottom” saucepan, so I decided to put my lovely Lagostina’s life on the line. It worked like magic! As the sugar began to dissolve, a lovely cotton-candy aroma filled the air, and then, almost instantly, the colour morphed from a silvery white to an amber yellow. At this point, I poured in the heavy cream and WHISH! An unexpected bubbling and sizzling happened, and the amber yellow transformed to a deep perfect caramel colour. While I waited for that to cool, I prepared my mousse base, which consisted solely of egg yolk, vanilla, sugar and milk. Gently folding whipped cream into the base and slowly adding the flavourings created sweet toothed bliss.

Vanilla, Chocolate and Salted Caramel Mousse Cups
recipe adapted from Tartelette

What you’ll need:
for the caramel
½ cup sugar
2 tbsp water
½ tsp kosher or sea salt
¼ cup heavy/whipping cream (35%)
2 tsp unsalted butter

for the vanilla mousse base:
4 egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
1 cup whole milk
½ vanilla bean, or 2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp powdered gelatin dissolved in 3 tbsp water
1 cup heavy/whipping cream (35%)

for the chocolate:
¼  cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips

How to do it:
Prepare the caramel first, as it will need to cool to room temp.
Place the sugar and water in a small/medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to cook just until light amber color.  Watch it the entire time, the colour changing process happens VERY quickly and you must remove it from the heat immediately at this point. Once it it removed slowly stir in the heavy cream (watch it bubble!) and then add butter, stirring constantly.

Prepare the mousse base as the caramel is cooling:
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until very pale. In the meantime, in a large saucepan set over medium heat, bring the milk and the vanilla bean (split open and scraped over the milk) to a boil. Slowly pour the milk over the yolks, whisking constantly. Make sure you do not pour too quickly, as this will cook the eggs. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan over medium low heat and cook until the cream coats the back of a spoon. Add the softened gelatin and stir until melted completely into the cream. Let cool to room temperature.

Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks and fold it into the cooled cream base. Divide the base into three equal portions. One portion is the vanilla mousse.

For the caramel mousse: fold a little bit of one portion of the mousse base into the caramel. Slowly add the rest of the base, folding lightly. If you find the mousse is too watery (as mine was), whip a little more cream and fold it in until you reach your desired texture.
For the chocolate mousse: melt the chocolate chips in the microwave for one to two minutes on high. Add the allotted mousse base to the melted chocolate chips and fold.

Layer the three mousses into glass serving dishes as demonstrated in the photo. The caramel mousse should be on the top as it is the lightest. Garnish with a sprinkling of cocoa or chocolate shavings. Freeze for an hour, then serve, and succumb to heaven in your mouth. (Can also be frozen for future use, just remove from freezer and thaw for 15-20 minutes before you serve it.)