Thought Australia was over its love affair with salted caramel? Not so, according to Remi Tremsal of Caramelicious who, with wife Breena, makes French-style artisan caramel in a domestic kitchen using quality ingredients that include Heilala vanilla and Sel de Guerande salt.
The former jockey moved to Australia from Lyon, France, to further his racing career but was forced track-side after a back injury. Indulging another passion, Tremsal turned to a family recipe passed down for five generations: a traditional caramel spread that, when warmed, becomes a sauce.
"The biggest challenge that we found when we started this business two years ago was that salted caramel was almost unknown here in Australia," Remi says.
Within six months, however, we were in the grip of the salted caramel craze that had already hit the United States, leading to the creation of wondrous salty-sweet combinations.
Darren Purchese, of Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio in Melbourne's South Yarra, makes 80 litres of salted caramel a week, which is used in confectionery, cakes and one of its top-sellers, jars of salted caramel spread. The secret ingredient? Murray River pink salt flakes. The spread has been such a smash that Purchese has collaborated with ice-cream maker Connoisseur on Murray River salted caramel ice-cream.
Donato Toce, of Gelato Messina, believes Murray River salt flakes are what makes salted caramel gelato the company's biggest selling flavour in its Sydney and Melbourne stores. "As crazy as it sounds, Murray River pink salt is sweeter than your run-of-the-mill table salt," Toce says. ''The salty sweet combination plays tricks on the mind - you're expecting sweet but you get salty. They balance each other out perfectly.''
At Melbourne bar-eatery Nieuw Amsterdam, cocktail manager Sean McGuire uses salted caramel in a playful twist on the traditional negroni. Replacing the gin base with cognac and adding a dash of caramel liqueur, McGuire finishes with a burnt espresso toffee shard garnish, one side dipped in sea salt.
But for all the salted caramel mania, Tremsal believes Australians are still to fully realise its potential. "The original salted caramel," Tremsal says of their signature best-seller, "is neither too sweet nor too salty, making it perfect for savoury cooking. Use it with roasted vegetables, as a glaze for chicken or pork, on lamb cutlets, or on a cheese platter in place of jam."
WHERE TO GET IT
Caramelicious is available at specialist food stores nationally or direct from caramelicious.com.au
Burch & Purchese, 647 Chapel Street, South Yarra, 03 9827 7060, burchandpurchese.com
Gelato Messina, Bondi, Darlinghurst, Surry Hills, Pyrmont, Sydney; and Fitzroy, Melbourne, 02 8354 1223, gelatomessina.com
Nieuw Amsterdam, 106-112 Hardware Street, Melbourne, 03 9602 2111, nieuwamsterdam.com.au
Nieuw Amsterdam's negroni has created quite a stir.
30ml Hennessy VS cognac
20ml Carpano Antica Formula vermouth
10ml caramel liqueur
coffee toffee and sea salt to garnish
1. Stir all ingredients over ice.
2. Strain into a double rocks glass over a large ice block.
3. Garnish with a toffee shard, one edge rolled in sea salt (see below).
2 cups raw sugar
1. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
Combine ingredients in small saucepan over medium heat. There should be just enough liquid to dampen but not cover the sugar.
2. Do not stir the mixture but swirl the pan. To remove crystals from the sides, use a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Check the temperature regularly with a candy thermometer. For a glass crack toffee, aim for a temperature between 148-154C. When the toffee is approaching the correct temperature it will start to thicken to a honey consistency. Don't overheat or the sugar will become bitter.
3. When the toffee is ready to set, pour the mixture onto one end of the prepared tray, pick up that end of the tray and let the toffee spread down the paper.
4. Let the toffee set 5-10 minutes. Snap into desired sizes. Store between sheets of baking paper in an airtight container. In a fridge it should keep three to five days. Before serving, roll one edge in sea salt.
Correction: The quantity of sugar in the coffee toffee has been clarified from the original version of this recipe.
10g Murray River pink salt flakes
1. Put the sugar into a heavy-based saucepan and stir in 50g water to make a slurry. Place the pan on the stove over a medium-high heat and let the sugar caramelise. There’s no need to stir, just let it do its thing.
2. After 5 minutes or so the sugar will start to bubble and 2 or 3 minutes later it will start to colour. When the caramel is a dark toffee brown, remove the pan from the stove – the sugar will be around 160C to 180C.
3. Meanwhile, put the cream in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. When the cream starts to simmer, take the pan off the heat and slowly pour into the toffee. Be very careful; if you rush this, the sugar may bubble over and the steam may burn you.
4. Stir to combine, then return the pan to a medium heat and keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved and the caramel is silky smooth. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
5. When the caramel mixture is cold, add the salt. The caramel needs to be cold or the salt crystals will dissolve. At this point your salted caramel should be thick and spreadable at room temperature. The caramel can be made ahead and stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Bring to room temperature before use.
Salted caramel, wooden boards, drinks in jam jars - which dining trend would you like to see stick around? Jump on the comments and share your thoughts.
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