Baking for pleasure has fallen away a little in my household over the past few weeks. I’ve been busy baking baking wedding cakes, delivering biscuits and pies to local cafés, proving doughnuts in the wee small hours. Our own food has therefore been simple and unceremonious: my mum’s thoroughly inauthentic spag bol, eggs in various different guises and my old fail-safe: peanut butter noodles.
During this time, I have slowly run down my pantry shelves. Marmalades have been smeared onto round after round of toast; jams have been sandwiched between sponges, and sent out of the door. Now, I have a bit of breathing space and I’m keen to restock shelves that are looking sadly depleted.
Calling them pantry shelves actually makes them sound far grander than they are: a few bits of oiled wood I bullied my partner into erecting for me, which sit above a noisy washing machine, in the tiny space between our kitchen and yard. Here, I precariously balance big jars of jam and chutney amongst outsize cake tins, all bearing painstakingly typed Dymo labels.
I love my little pantry shelves. They make me feel like I am forging a deliberate future, one which involves pickled onions, kimchi and damson jam. One of the first jars to cement its place on those shelves was a small pot of salted caramel: thick enough to spoon out like Nutella, but once slightly warmed, silky and pourable. And, of course, properly salted – no half measures here.
I use salted caramel in all kinds of recipes – my toffee apple cake, for instance. Frankly, I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have a jar to hand. So, when the time comes to restock, it’s the first thing I make. It goes like this…
Makes: 1 0.25l jam jar of caramel
Takes: 10 minutes
Bakes: No time at all
120g double cream
1/2 teaspoon really good salt (I use Maldon)
1. First, measure out all your ingredients. Cover the base of a frying pan with a little of the sugar, and place over a medium high heat. As the sugar begins to melt, add a little more of the sugar, stirring it with a heatproof spatula, encouraging the rest of it to melt. Continue until you have used all the sugar. The sugar should be a rich mahogany colour, and just beginning to smoke.
2. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cream a little at a time, stirring it into the molten sugar. Adding it bit by bit helps it caramelise properly. It will bubble up as you add and stir it, so be careful. Return briefly to the heat and stir to remove any lumps, adding in the salt.
3. Allow to stand for 2-3 minutes, then stir in the butter. Leave to cool for 15 minutes, then decant into a jar.
4. Ta dah!
Icing on the Cake
I use this in everything: baked into crumbles and pies, and drizzled on pancakes and ice creams. Or I eat it straight from the jar, especially when I think no one’s looking.