Q.

What exotic flavors create a really special caramel sauce…?

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A.

[For example] “…Cardamon? Meyer lemon simple syrup? Rose water?”

Cardamom seems like an excellent addition to caramel sauce.  I’d probably scald the cream you’re going to be adding to the caramel with the cardamom pods or seeds (and/or any other spices you’d prefer) and steep it (covered) to flavor it, then remove/strain out the spices.  In fact, I’d argue that most whole spices can probably be used to flavor caramel sauce – the question is really what sort of flavor and pairings you’re going for.

Other spices (etc) I’d consider steeping in this fashion:
Vanilla bean (obviously)
Lavender (very carefully)
Star Anise (a little goes a long way)
Allspice
Fennel Seed
Grains of Paradise
Szechuan Peppercorns
Cinnamon
Saffron (appears in some Middle Eastern desserts, be careful not to overpower with it)
Fresh Grated Nutmeg
Chile Peppers (probably the more mild, fruity varieties)
Espresso Beans

We’ve even tried caramel sauces seasoned with cracked black pepper (in addition to other ingredients) that actually worked. And we sell an unusual-but-excellent sesame caramel sauce made with sesame seeds and oil.

 

Orange juice and zest are a nice addition to caramel sauces.  I could see meyer lemon simple syrup possibly being delicious, but I don’t know how caramelizing it would affect the lemon flavor (those are some pretty high temperatures involved).

I’m personally a big fan of rosewater and orange blossom water (used sparingly) in desserts, but have yet to try them in caramel sauce.  I’d try adding one or the other, in small amounts, at the very end (as you would an extract).

 

We’re addicted to goat milk caramel here at the Marx Foods office (and this seems to be a national trend as well) – using goat’s milk instead of the traditional cow’s milk gives caramel sauces a delightful tanginess.  In particular we have a goat’s milk caramel with 12 year scotch and vanilla bean that I’m very fond of.  I don’t know the producer’s method, but my guess is that the scotch is stirred into the sauce after it’s been made.

Other, more risky ingredients I’d be intrigued to give a test run steeping include smoked black peppercorns, candy cap mushrooms (challenging but delicious steeped in cream for chocolate truffles…use in small amounts), or dried fruits.

– Question Submitted by Candida S.




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