In 2008 I first attempted to make caramel. It was part of a caramel swirl ice cream I was hoping to make. The caramel sauce attempt was sheer disaster. I’m sure it’s documented somewhere here. I spent hours trying to turn sugar and water into amber deliciousness and every attempt turned out the same: evaporated water and recrystallized sugar. Caramel has been my Everest. I’ve tried a few times since then, always with similar results. It’s become enough of a thing that I added it to my List of Things to do before I’m Dead.
Several weeks ago I made this mudslide cake:
Mudslide cake had a caramel like drizzle, as you can see in the photo. It wasn’t exactly a caramel sauce, but it was caramel sauce adjacent.
For some reason, as I was frying bacon yesterday morning, that caramel adjacent sauce came back to me. Had a whole list of things to do yesterday, but I decided to do some tweaking and see if I could make caramel.
Spoiler Alert: I totally did.
Here’s what was finally different – completely different ingredients. Yes. I’ve always tried with water and sugar (like every recipe starts with). This time it was butter and brown sugar and a bit of cream. I let the brown sugar and butter bubble away for a while, pulled it off the heat and added a splash of cream, and then stirred vigorously. I also threw a pinch of salt in it.
As I eat breakfast I think about what i’m going to do with the caramel. (Keep in mind I have maybe half a cup with which to work here). My initial thought is brownies with a salted caramel swirl. That would require me leave the house to get either eggs or a brownie mix. Leaving the house was not an option. What can I do with what I have on hand? Tart shell! The plan is coming together. I have a bush full of raspberries outside, I have caramel, I can make a tart shell.
I halve the recipe for my go to pie crust recipe. I decide this effort doesn’t require me getting out the full rolling pin. I use a mug.
Then I have to think about what kind of pan to make these in.
My actual first thought was that I was surprised I don’t have individual tart pans. All the kitchen stuff I have and no mini tart pans? So I start rummaging. I could make tiny tarts in the mini muffin pan. I could use ramekins. I had some mini loaf pans left over from the zucchini bread adventure of last summer. In the end I decided to try a few tiny tarts in the mini muffin pan and a rectangle tart shell in the mini loaf pan.
Next thing to solve for was pie weights. In my last apartment in STL I had a stash of dried beans I used for pie weights. I did not pack and move them to Ohio. And I have no dried beans in the house. I did have almonds! Figured that would work AND I would have some toasted almonds when it was all said and done! Genius.
While tart shells are baking I run outside, in what is basically a scene out of Noah, to pick more raspberries.
I baked up all the tart shells and at that point realized that using almond flour in the tart crust would have been amazing. Next time.
Finally – assembly!
I’m funny in that when I decide I want to make a pastry, I find a way. Where is that persistence when I decide I need to organize the basement?
Anyway – time to cross making caramel off the list!