“Just because you fail once doesn't mean you're gonna fail at everything.” - Marilyn Monroe
You might be wondering about the “fourth attempt” addition to the title? On this blog, I don't only want to talk about my successes, but also my failures, and this was definitely a failure. I adore salted caramel sauce. It’s salty, sweet , and has a nutty essence, that works beautifully drizzled over a bowl of ice cream. What I hate is spending money on ingredients, getting half way through the recipe, only to find out the recipe is bad or I made a minor, “no-turning-back-now” mistake, and having to start over. In a 24 hour period, I had attempted the sauce four times, and finally succeeded after countless dirty pans, sticky counters, and disappointing scowls. Also, the sugar, which had the consistency of concrete, then had to be scraped, chiseled, and otherwise finagled out of the cookware.
Last week, my friends and I were celebrating a close friend’s birthday. David (who you read about last week in my Friends with a person who stutters post, which he so kindly wrote for the blog) was turning 20 years old on Friday (*an emphatic amount of cheers and the sound of confetti cannons are heard*) . Some of my friends and I were going to be hosting a little birthday coalition of sorts during our Friday lunch hour to celebrate. I asked David what he wanted me to make him for his birthday. I suggested a plethora of specialty cakes and desserts to celebrate the occasion. From Triple Decker chocolate cake to Crème Brulee, I offered it all. His answer: apple pie cookies.
This post was supposed to be paired with those very cookies themselves, but I wasn’t pleased with how the pictures turned out after editing. That recipe will be coming very soon, don’t you worry. When making the cookies, I was simultaneously learning how to make a salted caramel sauce to pair with them. I thought the salty-sweetness from the caramel sauce would pair exquisitely with the sweet, buttery undertone of the cookies. I wasn’t prepared for the agonizing struggle I would have to endure to achieve the perfect caramel sauce.
Take one: I brought sugar and water to a boil (this particular method is called “wet” method, which sounds a little dirty.), waited until it turned an amber color, poured in the cold cream and watched in horror as the sugar instantaneously crystallize and hardened, sticking to the bottom of the pan and the whisk. Angrily, I grabbed a new pan and started over. Take two: repeat sugar, water, boil, but used room temperature cream. The result: a hard, sticky pan, a sigh in my voice and a frown upon my face. Same results, same mess.
I quickly went to the Internet for answers. Failing to find an answer to my hard caramel catastrophe, I choose to just use a different recipe. With nowhere else to turn, a bright ray of light shone down upon the URL of Food Wishes.com where a salted caramel sauce recipe was just waiting to be found. In addition to the help from Chef John, I also referenced my recently purchased copy of The Professional Chef textbook. This over one-thousand page textbook is written by the Culinary Institute of America and has everything one needs to know about food and preparation. Everything from the variations of herbs and spices, type cuts of meat, the perfect temperature for baking baklava, and to how to make soufflé without failing. This is the bible for the culinary world.
Take three: I performed the new recipe exactly as instructed, but decided to add a pinch of salt too much and the sauce was instantly inedible. Fearing the worst, I tried to overcompensate by adding in more heavy cream. This genius move just made the sauce taste flat and failed to thicken up to my desired viscosity. Infuriated by my almost perfect attempt, I sulked in self-pity before getting another go at it. It was quite an academy-award winning, theatrical performance done in three or four acts, I unfortunately lost count.... Take four: Success! The sauce came out rich, luscious, and with an intense depth of flavor. Fourth times a charm, right? Isn’t that how the saying goes?
I had a full post written up, but fate had a different story planned. I’m not perfect (sometimes I think I am though). I’m a 19 year old college student who is learning to cook while simultaneously running/growing a food blog. I look at all the popular, award-winning food bloggers and find myself getting discouraged. I hear myself asking questions like; “Why can’t I cook like that?”, “Why don’t my photos look like that?”, “Why don’t I have millions of followers?”, “Will I ever be that good?” When I start thinking those kind of thoughts, I have to mentally breathe and take a break for a while. No other blogger, photographer, chef, or whoever else is like me, and I’m like nobody else. My goal for this blog and with my cooking is to share my love of food with the world while learning how to cook, photograph, and write it all along the way. I’m not a professional photographer. I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a guy who loves food and finding creativity and spontaneity within it.
Salted Caramel Sauce
1 cup white sugar
5 tbsp butter, cut in slices
½ cup heavy whipping cream
Pinch of salt, to taste (any salt works)
Step One: In a medium sauce pan, heat up the sugar. This particular method is called a “dry” method of caramelizing. The dry method presents a nutty, roasted flavor characteristic. The hardest part about this recipe is waiting for the sugar to melt. Be patient, and whisk every so often until the sugar begins to brown, clump up, and soon dissolve into a caramel-like sauce. The longer the sauce is let cooking, a deeper and more biting taste will be achieved. I prefer a lighter, nuttier profile than the other.
Step Two: Once the sugar has been liquefied, take it off the heat and let rest for 30 seconds. This will give the sauce a chance to stabilize before proceeding. Carefully add in the butter and whisk until combined. Be careful, because the butter is colder than the sugar, the caramelized sugar will begin to splatter some. Gently add the heavy cream and whisk until combined. Finally, add a pinch of salt. Let cool, about 10-15 minutes, before transferring to an air-tight container for storage.