Perhaps it was the ongoing fascination of sweet and sour that Americans had acquired, mostly through ill-prepared Chinese food, that made it stick. I still remember when four years ago I made a stop at my local Starbucks drive-in on very chilly night and saw they were offering a salted caramel hot chocolate. Keen on the combination, I ordered it at once and was not disappointed. The slight hint of saltiness added that extra kick that made the already rich hot chocolate a multi-dimensional treat. Earlier on during that same dreadful year of the global financial crisis, Häagen-Dazs had introduced their version of salted caramel ice-cream. And the craze in America had begun.
Since then, the flavor has appeared in everything sweet and savoury – cocktails, main courses, appetizers, sauces, you name it. The trend started in France’s Brittany region, where famous pattisier Pierre Hermé initially invented a salted caramel macaroon, while also spreading a few grains of fleur de sel on top of exquisitely dark, almost glinting chocolates. Going back to Nigella, she claims salted caramel is one perfect combination because it brings together effectively opposing flavours, which cause a highly positive physiological reaction in the brain.
This is a luscious recipe and it proves an elegant dessert for tea-time or the end of a light dinner. It fits into a 22mm diameter mold – roughly 8.5 inches.
Ingredients for the base:
- 270gr. Graham crackers crumbs
- 30gr. Ground almonds
- 85gr. melted butter
Ingredients for the curd:
- 450gr. Topfen
- 400gr. Ricotta
- 175gr. sugar
- 4 eggs
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 vanilla pod
- 500ml very cold cream, 36% milkfat or higher
- 1 level Tbsp. of sifted icing sugar
Ingredients for the caramel sauce:
- 250ml. cream
- 1 cup sugar
- 60gr. butter
- Fleur de sel for sprinkling
Line the bottom of a circular mold with parchment paper and lightly grease the sides with butter. From the outside, wrap it tightly with plastic wrap so that when inserted into the bain Marie water will not leak into it.
Combine the Graham cracker crumbs, ground almonds and melted butter and mix thoroughly to the consistency of wet sand. Cover bottom and sides of mold with the crust and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 300F degrees. Prepare a vessel larger than the mold of the cake and a kettle of boiling water for the bain Marie. In a separate bowl, mix the topfen and ricotta cheeses. Add the sugar and one egg at a time, combining thoroughly in between each egg. Add the salt, scrape the seeds of the vanilla pod and mix. Pour this mixture into the mold with the refrigerated base, then place it into the larger vessel and fill half way up with boiling water. Insert into the preheated oven and bake for about an hour to an hour and a half (depending on the oven). Remove from the oven when a knife inserted in the center comes out almost clean, but watch that the cheesecake does not become extremely firm (you do not want an overcooked cheesecake, trust me on this one). So watch your oven like a hawk. After baking, remove from the oven and leave to cool. Once at room temperature, place in the refrigerator at least 3 hours or – better – overnight.
Once the cake has cooled, whip the very cold cream with the sugar to stiff, in a bowl that has been previously placed in the freezer for a few minutes, along with the beaters. Top the cheesecake mold with the cream and place back into the refrigerator to stiffen.
In the meantime, make the caramel sauce by placing the cream, butter and sugar in a saucepan, stirring under low heat, until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat, bring to a boil and cook on low for 5 to 7 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Stir several times during cooking and watch that it does not burn. Put aside to cool. This will also help the sauce thicken.
|Best latte ever|
The holidays are definitely a time to indulge. So when gobbling all that fruitcake and panetonne, I suggest a salted caramel macchiato martini. Just mix in a cocktail shaker with ice:
- 2 parts of Stoli Salted Caramel vodka
- 1 part Kahlúa
- a splash of milk
|A nice salted caramel chocolate tartlette from The Fresh Market|
The holidays are THE time of the year to indulge. I have found salted caramel, as a flavour, encompasses it all. There is no better way to celebrate than by going from one side of the tasting spectrum to the other. Regardless of what your beliefs are, my wish is for you and your family that of truly Happy Holidays, full of warmth, cheer good food and, above all, good company.
- Severson, Kim, How caramel developed a taste for chocolate, New York Times, December 30, 2008