I became aware of the caramel as a thing in 2013. Is that surprising to you? Have you been eating individually wrapped caramels all your life? Good for you! I was only aware of caramel as a sauce, or a filling, or a Cadbury’s. Until that same trip to Paris on which I ate that éclair.
We left the Pompidou just as it started to rain idiotically hard, and we paced and squelched for 15 minutes to Jacques Genin. This is a chocolaterie, but don’t be fooled by that cosy word; it is nothing like Juliette Binoche’s place. It’s a gallery-like space with a few cabinets displaying little square chocolates with very fine hand-drawn designs on them.
We dribbled ourselves into the seats in the corner (square, cream, leather) and made a wet mess of the nice floor with our umbrella, bags and feet. Once we’d ordered two hot chocolates and six pieces of caramel, we shook our heads like dogs.
The hot chocolate came in teapots – thick and obscene, it flowed epically into our teacups. The traditionnel kind is unsweetened and I didn’t add any sugar because this is just one of the ways in which I am superior.
And plus, the degustation was coming! Six caramels, all different flavours. By this point we had no hope of passing ourselves off as sophisticated, so one of us took a tiny bite of the first caramel and passed the remaining tiny bite to the other.
We continued like this along our oblong plate. They were soft and buttery and smooth – not chewy like toffee or powdery like fudge. They are from the bit of the sugar thermometer that might as well just be labelled: PERFECT, STOP!
At that moment, I did not imagine I would ever be genius enough to make them! And I was right, because my sugar crystallised three times! Thrice! (Turn to this.) I used Dan Lepard’s recipe from Short and Sweet (the basics are here). Less of a recipe, actually, more a formula – once you’ve mastered white sugar, he says, you can progress to brown. You can also play with the cream – double, single, crème fraîche, clotted.
Of course, I meddled with the butter too: demi-sel forever.
A square cake tin, buttered and lined to the best of your ability (the greaseproof creases will show up)
YOU ALSO NEED:
1 sugar thermometer
1 big, heavy-bottomed saucepan
40ish, depending how you cut them
300g caster sugar, divided in half
200ml clotted cream
75ml golden syrup
TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND THEN:
1. Weigh everything out and put it all in separate bowls (including the two lots of sugar) like you’re on TV.
2. Put the first portion of sugar in the pan with 25ml of water. Mix it a bit. Turn the heat on very gently, and do not touch it again. As the sugar starts to melt, you can gently jiggle the pan, but strictly no spoons or spatulas.
3. Once the melted sugar has turned a reddish brown, remove the pan from the heat and add the butter.
4. You may stir it with a wooden spoon.
5. Add the remaining sugar, golden syrup and the cream.
6. Put it back on the heat, and bring it to the boil, being careful not to let it boil over.
7. Reduce the heat and let it simmer. Put your sugar thermometer in and turn the heat off when it reaches 127°C.
8. Let the pan stand for a minute so the caramel can stop bubbling.
9. Swirl the pan a little to smoothen it out, then pour the caramel (while it’s still hot) into your lined tin, and leave it to cool.
10. Take your slab out of the tin, cut it into pieces and wrap individual caramels in squares of greaseproof paper.