Food trends come and go. Take the “cronut”, for example - a cross between a croissant and a doughnut, once said to be the next big thing from America. It made some waves but didn’t seem to really stick around for very long. Burgers and “gourmet” hot dogs have lasted a little longer, and wildly flavoured popcorns are definitely back in, for now.
Salted caramels, however, have been a traditional treat in French Brittany for years, and once the flavour combination hit the big time in American high-end ice cream parlours and coffee shops in 2009, it’s not looked back.
Most of us will be familiar with hot drinks combined with salted caramel – I’m certain the salted caramel latte will soon be making a reappearance on Christmas coffee menus. But you can also now enjoy salted caramel chocolates, cupcakes, brownies, cookies and cheesecakes, to name just a few ways to get your salted caramel fix. I once chanced upon a dessert menu offering a molten chocolate pudding with a liquid salted caramel centre, which in my book is the very definition of indulgence.
In order to replicate some of these taste sensations at home, I’ve been putting a homemade salted caramel sauce to the test. I couldn’t think of a better time of year to try this, as even the leaves in our garden have turned golden! It’s thoroughly enjoyable watching sugar melting in a pan and turning into a form of liquid gold – almost like kitchen alchemy. Adding the double (or heavy) cream just at the right moment transforms your caramel from a stained-glass tint into something with a slightly more subdued, comforting colour. And for that all-important pinch, I can’t recommend enough using a good-quality sea salt.
Once prepared and cooled, your salted caramel sauce can be stored in a sterilized jar ready to be used in all manner of creations. At a fraction of the cost, you can recreate your favourite salted caramel latte at home by steaming some milk and adding a shot of good espresso along with a teaspoon or two of the salted caramel sauce. Or, you could mix the sauce into a warming cup of hot chocolate complete with a shot of coffee to create a salted caramel mocha.
If you prefer something colder, you could use your salted caramel sauce to dress up an ice cream sundae or, better still, blend it with some vanilla ice-cream to make a salted caramel milkshake. You can see why I’ve enjoyed experimenting with salted caramel quite so much, and that’s before I’ve even started on the salted caramel martinis…
Homemade salted caramel sauce recipe
- 80ml water
- 250g golden caster sugar (fair trade if possible)
- 1 tsp vanilla bean extract
- 120ml double (heavy) cream
- 25g unsalted butter
- Pinch good-quality sea salt
Put a medium, non-stick pan over a high heat and pour in the water. Carefully pour in the sugar and bring it to the boil. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the sugar starts to turn golden brown – you don’t need to stir but you can gently swirl the pan to make sure all the sugar melts.
Once the sugar has melted and bubbles form all over the surface, take the pan away from the heat. Mix the vanilla bean extract into the double cream and carefully pour it into the pan (be careful to avoid hot splashes). Whisk in the butter and add a good pinch of sea salt.
Leave the salted caramel to cool and transfer into a sterilized jar – it will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.
To use the caramel sauce, either warm up slightly, adding a little water to thin if required, or simply spoon it into a hot liquid, such as milk.
Salted caramel drink ideas
To make a salted caramel steamer, spoon a couple of teaspoons of salted caramel sauce into some warm milk. Add a shot of espresso to make a salted caramel latte.
To make a salted caramel hot chocolate, add a few squares of good quality dark chocolate to some warm milk, stir in two teaspoons of caramel sauce. Add a shot of espresso to make a salted caramel mocha.
To make a salted caramel milkshake, blend two tablespoons of salted caramel sauce with two scoops of vanilla ice cream and a few ice cubes. Blend and top with a drizzle of salted caramel sauce.
To make a salted caramel martini, shake 50ml of vodka with two teaspoons of salted caramel sauce, then pour into a chilled martini glass.
For a quick, autumnal pudding, bake some Bramley apples and pour over some of your caramel sauce – or have a go at Jamie’s version stuffed with dried, spiced fruit.
For more indulgent recipes, check out Jamie’s new comfort food section here.