Reading this collection of absurdly challenging recipes from actual cookbooks (via Kottke.com) made me laugh out loud (‘20 grams of marine phytoplankton’!). Reason is that to me, home cooking is about everything but this fiddling around.
Coming home after work and making something to eat (not counting opening a bottle of wine and a bar of chocolate) often feels like an achievement in itself, especially if you count in that it is not that early after you’ve ran some errands, fought the elements on your cycle (it is windy and wintery here in Frankfurt!), went to the gym and maybe even did some groceries or had a drink on the way home.
For me it means that I do a lot of large batch cooking in the weekend, meaning that our menu seems to be dominated by lasagna (I could think of worse) or roasted vegetables with aioli (idem!). I’m lucky enough to have a flatmate that seems to think that this is brilliant.
Having said this, it doesn’t seem to be logical that I am writing about laborous (no excuses there) salted ginger caramels, covered in tempered (!) dark chocolate and even decorated with a dusting of this and a swirl of that.
But I do have an excuse, all of this sweet snacking is namely done in the name of research (ha!). I would love to make our wedding favors ourselves and am trying to figure out what is tasty, can be made in advance, will look nice after a short transport in a little bag and what will not melt in a bit of sunlight.
I have tried Chocolate Truffles (squishes), Caramelized Macademia Nuts (don’t hold up longer than a couple of days), Peanut Butter Cups (perfect!), Almond Clusters (breakable) and these Ginger Salted Butter Caramel Chocolates (perfect!) in search of perfection.
I love that this takes quest takes me quite a bit out of my comfort zone (which would be an easy cake), as it turns out that I actually really like these bitesize desserts (or gifts).
So in case you find yourself with a little time on your hands and up for a little project, I would be happy to encourage. In case you are tired after a long day of work: please just feel free to break out the wine and chocolate.
Have a good weekend!
- 230 grams of sugar
- 200 mililiters of double cream
- 70 grams of butter
- 160 grams of ginger syrup (alternatively you can use 100 grams of golden syrup, or 90 grams of honey - please note that these will hold less water and that it will reduce the cooking time of the caramels, which might be useful in case you have less time)
- 2 tablespoons of Vanilla Extract
- ½ teaspoon of sea salt
- ½ teaspoon of ground ginger
- 250 grams of melted and tempered dark chocolate (I used chocolate with 60% cacao to off-set the sweetness of the caramel)
- optionally: edible gold dust (I bought mine from Dr. Oetker), 50 grams of melted white chocolate to drizzle over.
- First note: it turns out that these are taking quite some time to make as there are two steps in the process, but do hold up well if you temper the chocolate properly. In case you are serving these straight away I would go as far as saying that you might want to save time on that and just melt the chocolate without being bothered by the tempering directions.
- Start off by melting the sugar in a large dry pan with a heavy bottom. Do not be tempted to use an anti-stick pan as the upper layer might burn due to the heat of the sugar mass. The pan needs to be rather large as the mixture will bubble up quite a bit.
- Let the sugar turn brown by not moving and not stirring. This is tricky as it might be smoking or looking a little threatening from time to time. These extensive instructions from David Lebovitz are very helpful in case of doubt or panic.
- After the caramel has a beautiful cognac color, add the cream and ginger syrup. Be careful as the caramel is really hot at this point and all might bubble violently.
- Let all come up to a boil and wait for the mixture to become visibly thicker. I usually try to see how big the bubbles are, when they are the size of a large coin I will start to test the texture of the caramel. I usually have a silicon form ready to spread out the caramel in after it done.
- I also use this to drop a little bit of caramel on. If this cools into a soft little ball that holds it shape but becomes flat when you squeeze it is right. I am an avid fan of making things as uncomplicated as possible and am therefore not using a thermometer, in case you have one you want to reach a temperature of 115-120 degrees Celsius.
- After reaching the ‘soft ball’ stage, add the vanilla extract, salt, butter and dried ginger to the caramel and let it all come back to a boil for around 5 minutes.
- Pour the caramel into silicon forms (I simply use ice cube trays and a cake loaf silicon form for this).
- Let the caramels cool down and place them into the fridge.
- This will make them extra firm and easier to handle when dipping in the melted chocolate.
- Melt the chocolate in short intervals in your microwave or au bain marie.
- Place a small piece (around 50 grams) of chocolate in the molten chocolate to temper it in a very amateur-ish way. In case you would like to do things a little more thoroughly, I find this a very helpful link.
- Take your caramel shapes out of the trays (in case you are using a square form, simply slice the caramel into rectangles) and dip them in the chocolate on a fork, while trying to shake off the excess. Place them on a sheet of baking paper.
- Dust them with a little gold dust for extra wow effect of make little stripes with melted white chocolate.
- These keep well for around 2-3 weeks in a airtight storage tub. That is in case you don’t want to eat another 20 of these immediately.