For many of us, certain visuals trigger our fall food impulses: changing colors of the leaves, the crisp air, and pumpkins at the roadside stands. Now you can add a caramel tour to this list. Yes, caramel – that gooey apple dipping sauce from your childhood. The fresh dipped apples from the county fair. A simple pleasure which, in recent years, has found its way back into the embrace of culinary hands.
In St. Louis, there are great caramel resources such as the Caramel House, Bissengers and Merbs with their Bionic Apples. We found ourselves wondering where this delightful treat came from. In speaking with L’Ecole Culinaires’ resident caramel expert, Chef Bryon Grant, we learned some enlightening things about caramels. Caramel-like candy first appeared in Arabian culture around 1000 A.D. The first appearance of the word caramel was in 1725, probably derived from French and Spanish, with the product originating in the United States. Milton Hershey incorporated it into his chocolate business in 1886, increasing demand. It crossed the pond in 1880s and gave rise to the toffee business in England.
Want to try making your own caramels at home? Chef Grant was gracious enough to share his recipe for caramel here:
Before starting this recipe, you will need a candy thermometer, wooden spoon, saucepan and square pan lined with oiled parchment.
1 ½ c granulated sugar
1, 12 ounce can of evaporated milk
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
½ c heavy cream
¾ c light corn syrup
3 tablespoons of butter
½ teaspoon of salt
Combine sugar, scraped vanilla bean seeds and hull, evaporated milk and heavy cream over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mix boils. Add corn syrup and continue to cook while stirring until mixture is 230 degrees. Add butter and continue to cook while stirring until the mixture reads 240 degrees. Stir in salt and remove from heat. Pour into 8×8 inch square pan lined with oiled parchment. Cool for at least 2 hours and cut with a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Caramels may be stored for several weeks.
Consider discovering your own caramel tour in your town and let us know what sweet things you find.