Sunday, July 12, 2015

Balsamic Caramel



As a foodie, I like to keep my eye out for new food trends. And there really wasn't a bigger food trend in the last two years than the food mashups, all started with the croissant-donut hybrid called the cronut. The creator of cronut - Domnique Ansel - still gets queues that stretch several blocks. And while I myself have never liked cronuts, you have to hand it to a chef who can become so famous with just one dish.

Turns out Dominique Ansel is more than a one dish wonder because he returned this year with something that's even more fabulous than a cronut - an ice cream bar. The moment I read the description of his burrata ice cream cone at NY Times, I was fascinated. Now good, fresh burrata is tough to come by in Mumbai but I couldn't stop thinking about the balsamic caramel drizzle that went on top of that ice cream.

So as soon as I got home that evening, I set to make my own balsamic caramel sauce. It's simply my regular salted caramel sauce with some balsamic vinegar added in. But somehow that one addition makes the sauce sweet and salty and tangy all at once. It's really hard to explain how good this is so you will just have to make it yourself. Like right now! Here's the recipe.

Ingredients
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup cream (Amul 25% is fine)
2 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp salt

Recipe
In a heavy pan, mix sugar, vinegar and water to make a mortar like mixture. Put on a medium heat and let the sugar melt completely. You can stir it a couple of times to make sure the sugar melts evenly. Then step back and watch. Do not stir the pan, just let the sugar boil away on its own. After some time, the sugar will start to change color. Really, caramel making is all about watching sugar boil. Once the sugar turns deep amber, turn off the heat and pour the cream, spreading it as much as you can. The mixture will splutter and bubble so make sure you pick a large enough pan. Once the caramel settles down a bit, stir the sauce to make sure the cream is fully mixed in. If you see chunks of caramel at the bottom of the pan, put it back on a low heat for a couple of minutes for cream to mix in properly.

Immediately remove to a glass or metal bowl (never plastic) to stop the caramel cooking any more. Let cool for about half an hour, then stir in 1/2 tsp sea salt and 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar. Make sure you use good quality balsamic. You don't have to go crazy and buy the most expensive ones but if you do, check for the word tradazionale (indicating this is traditonal balsamic vinegar aged for 12 years or more). I usually go for the one with the IGP certification, which means that it's made in Modena and fairly good quality but won't break the bank.

Once your balsamic is mixed in and the sauce has cooled completely, you can use it over ice creams or pancakes. Of course, eating a spoon straight out of the jar is always an option!

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