I love caramel. It’s almost like a comfort food to me. It reminds me of autumn, of being a kid at home after school or on the weekend, feeling safe and warm in my house with my family around. I don’t eat it very often because it’s usually too waxy or flavorless or the consistency is weird. With caramel standards set as high as mine, I wonder why I have waited this long to make it at home.
This recipe gave me a chance to use a real live whole vanilla bean for the first time in my life. I ordered some from Amazon and was very happy with the product I received. They are plump and moist with a wonderful aroma.
Just look at the vanilla seed paste inside! This was my first time seeing it in person. It made me feel like a grown up. I don’t know why. I’m 33.
We heated the cream with the scraped out paste from part of a vanilla bean.
In another pan, we combined sugar, water, salt and corn syrup. This mixture cooks until it is the color of amber. The book notes that the caramel will continue to cook and darken even after it is removed from heat, and the Tartine cookbook does not lie. As it cooked, the mixture looked like this:
And then I blinked and suddenly it looked like this:
And I yanked the pan off of the stove so fast but I could tell it was already a little too dark. I decided to continue, hoping the flavor would mellow out with the addition of cream and a nice long chill in the refrigerator. I added the cream and the whole thing bubbled furiously for a few seconds.
Then it mellowed and I whisked it until is was nice and smooth. This recipe calls for a tiny bit of lemon juice, about which I was skeptical at first, but it is such a small amount that I threw it in.
After it cooled for a few minutes, we added the butter in chunks, whisking after each one, until it was smooth and glossy.
We whisked some more periodically as it cooled and finally it was ready to pour into a glass jar and hang out in the refrigerator. We took some out to make the Mixed Berry Shortcakes and the rest can be poured over ice cream or, more realistically, spooned out to eat plain, as I have done a few times. It does have a very very faint burned taste since I let it get too dark but it’s still delicious. Don’t forget: take it off the heat when it still looks a little pale! Do not be like me!
Next time I’ll get it right. This stuff is too good to not keep a jar in the refrigerator at all times.