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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Toffee/Caramel/Dulce de Leche

Okay, one of the challenges for me in this blogging thing is that I'm not much of a recipe gal. I read cookbooks and magazines mostly to generate ideas and then I kind of do my thing. You'll have to bear with me as I struggle to describe pesky details like how long something should simmer or how you know something is "done." I don't know, you just know. It looks right, feels right, smells right, makes the right sound when you touch it a certain way (ooh, things just got weird.) So, anyway, I'll do my best in these pages to be specific. By the way, this "you just know" trait is endlessly frustrating to my mother. Which makes me snicker. just a little.

So I showed some pictures before and talked a little bit about the sweetened condensed milk gig.

You can make caramel by simmering sealed cans of sweetened, condensed milk.
Remove label(s) from can(s). I recommend doing 2-3 cans at a time as they keep a long time in the pantry and who doesn't want caramel at the ready?

Place cans in a deep pot and cover with water. You want to cover them by a couple of inches and you need to monitor the water level the entire time. Do not attempt to take this on unless you are going to be home and nearby for the next several hours.

Okay, so your cans are covered. Bring water to a boil and reduce to a simmer, keeping the pan partially covered. The cans need to be fully submerged in the water at all times OR THEY CAN EXPLODE. all I'm saying is...monitor the water level.

In a little over two hours, you have made syrupy caramel. In three hours, you have made some stiff, pudding like caramel.
For this tart, I recommend taking it out around the two hour mark. DO NOT OPEN THE CANS. The cans must cool completely. Overnight is ideal.

Blind bake your favorite tart shell. I like the enriched crust from Mark Bittman's book, How to Cook Everything.
Smear 3/4 of a can of caramel on the crust. Arrange apples or pears artistically. At this point, you may choose to brush the fruit with a glaze of heated, strained apricot jam (or not).

Bake at 350 until the fruit is soft and the caramel is bubbling. I don't have a good picture of mine as my caramel was too thick when I made the tart. If your caramel is too thick for what you want to do, I recommend thinning it with a little milk or melted butter.

You can also make apple crisp as usual and toss the apples with some of the caramel before baking...yum.

We used some caramel in my "little dipper" which is like a tiny one quart slow cooker on Halloween. Put some sliced apples and skewers out for dipping and a small dish of chopped nuts or coarse sea salt. YUM.

I've seen other blogs do something complicated with opening the can and microwaving it, but to this I say pish-posh. They are making it more complicated than it needs to be. I also think this method would involve some unwanted evaporation and shorter shelf life that you don't get with the simmering a sealed can method.

I have also been taking a spoon straight to the container in the fridge when I've had a hard day. What else could we do with the magical caramel?

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