A week or two ago Julian's preschool began to post signs stating the last day of preschool before the Holiday recess would be December 18th. I noticed the signs and somehow conveniently forgot that meant I needed gifts for all five of his teachers almost a week before I was planning. Actually I am not sure I really forgot, it is more like I was a cross between repressed panic and full on procrastination. In previous years I have given preserves that I canned over the summer but this year I don't have enough, (unless I want to give everyone crushed tomatoes). Somehow baking bread for all five of them seemed daunting. Our budget does not allow to buy them all something they would actually enjoy, so I conveniently ignored the problem until it was almost too late.
Then I found a recipe for caramel chocolate sauce that stated it would make old boot leather taste divine. Some people are drawn to recipes by photos of the finished product, personally I want to be seduced by words. Tell me why I want to put everything down and run to my stove and start cooking. Those words were enough to send me, and Julian once I clued him in to my plans, to run to the kitchen. Over Thanksgiving Sebastian was telling his Graunty Eva (my aunt) about the knife skills I am teaching him. When she asked Julian what he is learning to do in the kitchen he said, "I am learning to stay away from hot pans." For this recipe he also poured sugar and water, before staying away from hot pans.
It really is a very easy recipe, one that is very hard to mess up. Unless of course your 4 year old assistant starts trying to pour himself a glass of milk from a very full gallon jug as the caramel starts to turn. Consequently the first batch is good but has an almost, but not quite, burnt sugar taste to it. A flavor that is often prized in high end kitchens, but not really what I was going for. I have made the sauce again and to avoid the almost burnt sugar taste, just do as it says and remove from the heat as soon as it starts to smoke, instead of pouring milk and missing the moment. The difference with today's batch is now I am searching for old boots, before I just served it on ice cream.
Dark Chocolate Caramel Sauce
adapted slightly from The 1997 Joy of Cooking
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into Tablespoon sized slices
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 ounces finely chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp kosher salt or more to taste
Place sugar in a small heavy saucepan and pour water over the top. Place the pan over medium high heat and gently swirl the pan by the handle until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is clear. Do not let the syrup boil until the sugar has completely dissolved. Once the sugar is all dissolved turn the heat to high and cover the saucepan for 2 minutes, the syrup will boil. After 2 minutes uncover the saucepan and continue to boil, swirling the pan occasionally, until
it begins to get dark around the edges. Once it starts to darken swirl the pan continuously until the syrup is deep amber and starts to smoke. Immediately remove the pan form the heat and add the butter.
Gently mix the butter in with a heatproof spatula or whisk. Once the butter is fully incorporated stir in the heavy cream. If the sauce becomes lumpy, heat over very low heat while stirring until it is smooth and promptly turning off the heat when it is smooth again. (Mine became lumpy but rather then heating I just kept stirring and it smoothed out).
Add the finely chopped chocolate and stir until it is melted and incorporated. Stir in the vanilla and salt. Serve warm on ice cream, cake, fruit, poached fruit, crepes, waffles, a spoon or old boot leather. If refrigerated it can be re-warmed in a microwave oven or with the storage jar set in a pan of simmering water. Should keep in the refrigerator for 1 month.
To make chocolate caramel truffles reduce the butter to 4 Tablespoons and refrigerate the sauce. When cold spoon out teaspoon sized balls and roll them in cocoa powder.