The greatest mistake of my life - well it wasn't actually my mistake, but that's beside the point - was when a kitchen intern accidentally put four times the amount of salt in an ice cream base I was having her make. Rather than throw the batch out we tweaked the recipe and turned into a deep caramel colored ice cream that was sweet, and salty. I'm definitely a believer of a pinch of salt in everything pastry, but extra salt with buttery, creamy caramel is out of this world. Salted caramel is certainly not new, as the French in Brittany have been making it for ages. However, the love for the flavor of salted caramel has grown exponentially this past year.
It's been weeks since I've been to Paris (yes, you can hate me that I can jump on a train and be in Paris in two hours) and I'm out of my favorite Parisienne CBS caramels (Caramel au Beurre Sale).*** But, Chez Pim reminded me that I can try and recreate the flavor at home. Oh, and the sables she uses as a vehicle to eat the salted caramel I don't have to make because the best part of Paris has a location in London.
You must be wondering what the best part of Paris is? Poilane Bakery, of course. You've got to check out their whimsical website and if you are in London or Paris anytime soon, their bakeshops are a must. Poilane started baking bread in 1932, but their Paris location in Saint-Germain had been the basement bakery of a 17th century monastery. Poilane bakes bread in the same tradition of this bakery, which was producing wood-fired sourdough loaves during the time of Marie Antoinette!
A few of my favorites, aside from the bread, at Poilane, is the apple tart, with huge chunks of apple so you know exactly what you are getting into...
And a lovely, not too sweet vanilla custard cake (in the middle)...
Almost as famous as their bread are these little, buttery cookies called punitions. Punishment in French, and you can eat an entire box before realizing what you have done. These are ridiculously expensive to have shipped, but smitten kitchen has provided a solution to this matter.
So, back to where I started - salted caramel. I used good French butter, but it wasn't salted, so I added a 1/4 tsp of salt to the recipe. Chez Pim makes chocolate ganache to keep the caramel from oozing out, though once the caramel cooled to a certain temperature it stayed put. This would be lovely over vanilla ice cream if you don't want to bother with the sables.
SALTED CARAMEL (adapted from Chez Pim)
- 120 g sugar
- 60 g unsalted butter
- 100 ml or 1/4 c + 2 Tbs cream
- 1/4 scraped vanilla bean
- 1/4 tsp salt (omit if you are using salted butter)
Melt sugar over medium heat. Cook till sugar turns amber. Add cream (microwave or heat the cream so it is warm... this will help to avoid the major spitter spatter of hot sugar) and mix well. Add bits of butter, vanilla bean and salt. Make sure everything is well combined and set aside to cool. Spoon onto sables, or whatever shortbread you might have and sandwich.
*** C.B.S. or Caramel au Beurre Sale is hands down the most divine thing I have ever tasted. I even walked for hours flipping my map every which way near the seedy Moulin Rouge to procure what has been rumored to be the best salted caramel in the world. P.S. It is!
C.B.S. caramels by Henri Le Roux can be found at A l'Etoile d'Or - Denise Acabo at 30 rue Fontaine, 75009 Paris
Poilane in Paris: 8 rue du Cherche-Midi, 75006 or 49 boulevard de Grenelle, 75015
Poilane in London: 46 Elizabeth Street, SW1W 9PA