Salted butter caramels

February 1, 2010

Vanilla pods are the kind of thing that can easily sit in your cupboard, and never get used. I was determined not to let that happen to the ones I bought in Istanbul at Christmas. So, when I saw this recipe for salted butter caramels on David Lebovitz’s blog, I knew this was something I had to try.

I’ve never made sweets before, and I have a cooking thermometer that has sat in a kitchen drawer for many months, so it was the perfect opportunity to put it (and me!) to the test.

I know any recipe that involves cooking sugar to high temperatures needs careful attention and precision, so I gathered everything together and read through the instructions a couple of times before I started. It all seemed to go to plan, and the thermometer did its job well.

The problems started when I tried to peel the set caramel away from the tin foil. It wouldn’t. Basically.

It took several visits to the freezer (which made the tin foil brittle) and some very patient peeling to get it all off – although I’m not convinced there aren’t still some tiny shreds in there somewhere. I’ll just have to be careful not give any to anyone with metal fillings.

When I told my friend Lea about my caramel trials, she said that as a child in Scotland, whenever there was heavy snow, they would make toffee and take the boiling liquid outside and pour it into the snow, making kind of home-made Curly Wurlys. That certainly sounded like much more fun than my attempts! They may taste good but I’m not sure I’m going to be motivated to make them again.

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This weekend, another purchase from Istanbul made its way into a rather English recipe in my kitchen.

The beautifully scented vanilla pods I bought at the Spice Market, I decided, would taste great with the locally grown pears I bought yesterday at Borough Market. And, a look through my cupboards resulted in the discovery of a half-full packet of ground almonds that I’d forgotten about – a perfect additon to the pear/vanilla combination.

So, I took a basic vanilla cake recipe, courtesy of David Herbert, food editor at Easy Living, and added in a grated pear and the leftover ground almonds… et voila! A warming, nutty, fruity cake.

Now I’m going to do the only thing you should do on a Sunday afternoon – put my feet up in front of the television with a big pot of coffee and a hunk of cake.