Monday, 18 March 2013

Maple Caramel Apple Slices with Fleur de Sel

Toasting our 100th blog (or: The most shameless selfie I have ever taken)
       Does anyone else miss the brazen and cavalier attitude of your youth? Maybe that’s a maudlin way to start our 100th (!) blog, but it’s true!  Or, maybe it’s an appropriate theme for our centennial post.

The reason I bring this up is that I tried not once, not twice, but three times yesterday to make caramel sauce. Now, I am not trying to say that I’m some sort of culinary genius who expects to get these things right on her first try every time, but thrice over for me is unusual. And not just because I get discouraged and give up on things quickly. This was particularly disturbing because I have actually made caramel sauce before. And I did this with no recipe, when I was about 22 years old, and I just had it in my mind that it was sugar and butter. So I made it. It was great. Not only did I make it purely from my mind’s eye, but also I made it in the kitchen of my old apartment-if you could even call it that. It was more of a room with this side panel they called a kitchen.

This apartment was hilarious. The kitchen was about ten feet long, but only about a foot wide. Every appliance was from the original build (1954) and functioned at any given moment somewhere between 30%-50% effectiveness. For example, the freezer was built into the fridge and had completely iced over- so much so that if someone wanted ice for their drink, I used to get out a screwdriver and hammer and chisel chunks off the ever-growing ice floe that was my refrigeration unit. The stovetop worked, but the oven I turned on exactly once, which promptly filled my entire apartment with smoke, luckily (but rather frighteningly) not setting off the smoke alarm. After several days the place aired out and no longer smelled like burning asbestos.
What a nice spring treat!

It was with this set up that I haughtily made caramel off the top of my head one evening. Now, what went wrong yesterday? I can tell you. I knew I wanted to film myself doing it, and therefore wanted it to be perfect on the first try (seeing as I have yet to understand how to edit videos). Being now cautious at the age of 27, I thought perhaps I should Google a recipe and make it like that. But both recipes I tried to use started me with a “wet” caramel, meaning you need to boil off the water before the sugar starts to caramelize. My advice? This is silly. Let us be bold- “dry” caramel is where it’s at. Just concentrate. Focus on what you are doing, be mindful, and take a lesson from our youth (and Nike)- just do it.

These apples are a special spring treat. Pretty and easy, it’s the kind of thing you can whip up (because almost everyone has apples, sugar, and butter in the house) at the last minute if you need to make a quickie dessert. Start by slicing your apples. I like Granny Smith, and the tartness goes well in this recipe. Here is a very important step (the kind you cannot skip). Squeeze lemon juice over your apple slices when you cut them. This prevents them from going brown- and no one would want these pretty slices to get brown. Set aside. Now, it’s time for the caramel.

Put a large frying pan on the stove and spread a layer of sugar in it- not too thick. Turn your heat on medium high. If you watch the video, you’ll see I say, “Let the butter melt”. But by butter I mean sugar. But I was focused on what I was doing, and not the narration of what I was doing, so sorry about that. You’ll see with your eyes though that clearly it is sugar that’s melting. Let it get a nice caramel colour, and just before it begins to burn (QUICKLY- pay attention) add a hunk of butter. Stir. Add cream. There you have it- no need to overthink anything here, people.

Happy Spring!
Now dip your slices in the caramel (let it cool slightly, and you may want to do two coats). Once the slices are dipped, go back and sprinkle a little fleur de sel on each. Don’t do this while the caramel is too hot, you don’t want the salt to dissolve, you want it to look like sprinkles. Set on wax paper and chill. Serve on something pretty. Enjoy and happy eating! Thank you all so much for your support of us- we can’t wait to serve you 100 more recipes!

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