This week is turning out to be a very mellow week, and it’s a nice change of pace from the past month. I just finished reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, and I was quite proud of myself as this was the second book that I’ve read in about a year and a half. (The other book I read, I am embarrassed to admit is Bree Tanner, yes, of the horrid Twilight Series – don’t ask.) Elephants was an easy read and quite entertaining, especially because it was the first book that I’d ever read about the circus.
I’ve been to the Ringling Brother’s Circus, “The Greatest Show on Earth,” perhaps two or three times in my childhood, all of which were family outings organized by our Japanese School. As I was reading Elephants, I tried to remember my own childhood experiences and I think what I enjoyed most was watching the animals do tricks, the acrobats, and the cotton candy. What I liked least were the clowns. I imagine that I was probably excited about attending the circus and enjoyed it quite a bit, but I’m certain it wasn’t something that I loved. Bebe Dada mostly only has negative things to say about the circus but I’m hoping he’ll be willing to take Bebe E when she’s old enough, just once, so that she has a chance to experience it. From what I understand, the circus still has annual shows at the Staples Center and likely the Honda Center too. I wonder if there is straw thrown on the ground….
These days, when I think of the circus, I think of Cirque du Soleil. I’ve seen most of their shows in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but by far, my favorite is “O” at the Bellagio, followed by “Ka” at the MGM Grand. Although I wasn’t introduced to Cirque until young adulthood, I imagine Bebe E will likely have the chance to experience Cirque sooner than later, given the number of performances that are readily available throughout the year in Southern California.
Getting back to reading… When I finished Water for Elephants, it made me realize how much I miss reading. I admit that most days, I’m too tired to read and just want to vegetate on the couch with our TV remote in hand, either watching the Food Network or a recorded show on our DVR, but I enjoyed the quietness I experienced while reading. I think more quiet time would be good for me, and it’s something that I’ve missed. I already have a fiction series in mind that I’m going to read next, but if anyone has any good book suggestions, please leave me a comment!
Reading and the circus have absolutely nothing to do with caramel, and in all honesty I was in the mood to post real food (such as a meat dish), not candy, but I need to get through some of the holidays goodies that I made this season! In addition to the chocolate crunchies I featured in my last post, I also made caramel for our family and friends.
I’ve always loved caramel, but I probably appreciate it more as an adult, rather than when I was a child since I don’t have the luxury of enjoying it as often as I would like these days. Most of my favorite childhood candies involved caramel, including Snickers and Twix. Although I don’t recall eating Twix very often, it was one of my favorite childhood candy bars and I’m certain I used to beg my parents to buy this for me whenever we went grocery shopping together. I loved the soft and gooey Twix caramel over the crunchy cookie, all wrapped up in milk chocolate. Super sweet, and super delicious.
I also loved See’s Candies caramels as a kid. The solid square of chewy caramel covered in milk chocolate has always been a favorite. Every Christmas I looked forward to seeing a white and black See’s Candies box (or two) around the house. My parents usually received a box or two over the holidays and I remember I got in trouble many times for taking a small bite out of several pieces of candy and putting them back in the box after I discovered it was something that I didn’t like (coconut, maple, and at the time, nougat) and NOT caramel. I usually got in trouble by my Mom for exercising such poor manners, and I’m pretty sure that it was my Dad that quietly ended up eating the ones that I had “investigated” and abandoned. While I rarely indulge anymore, I prefer to make my own 1-pound box filled with only those See’s Candies that I love – strawberry creams, almond buds, butterscotch squares, scotchmallows, rum nougat, milk butterchew and of course, the milk patties and molasses chips.
Big Onechan is also a HUGE fan of caramel, and over the past few months she has been making homemade caramels. Her first few attempts were interesting as she presented us with flat caramel, hard caramel, and really chewy caramel – like – fudge (or maybe that was fudge). However, most recently, she made a great batch of delicious, soft and chewy caramel as well as a batch of hard, almost toffee-like caramels. Both were yummilicious. Over the holidays, I decided to do my own research and try my hand at homemade caramel!
TIP: You must use parchment paper because it prevents the caramel from sticking to it. Wax paper and plastic wrap won’t work.
This caramel is sweet, rich, buttery, soft and chewy. I quietly left the container of caramels out near the desserts at our Christmas lunch and my Auntie Sumiko was the only one that found them and was brave enough to open the container and quietly eat a few pieces, all by herself. I’m not sure if anyone else tried these but I can tell you that the ones that were leftover slowly disappeared at our house. I’m fairly certain that Bebe Dada and his sweet tooth have been dipping into the candy jar.
Have a great weekend!
Judy | bebe mama
Fleur de Sel recipe compliments of Gourmet Magazine
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 teaspoon fleur de sel (French sea salt)
- 1½ cups sugar
- ¼ cup light corn syrup
- ¼ cup water
- Cooking spray
- Parchment paper
- Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Lightly spray the parchment with cooking oil. NOTE: You must use parchment paper because it prevents the caramel from sticking to it. Wax paper and plastic wrap won't work.
- Bring cream, butter, and fleur de sel to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.
- Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a separate medium saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. The caramel needs your constant attention so don't try to multitask (something I tend to do while cooking which results in burnt food). Next, boil the liquid without stirring and instead gently swirl the pan until the mixture is a light golden caramel.
- Carefully stir in cream mixture (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 248°F on thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes. NOTE: The longer you cook the caramel and the hotter the caramel becomes, the harder your candy will be when it cools. Big Onechan tested this theory when she ended-up with very hard caramel-like-toffee.
- Pour into baking pan and cool 2 hours. Cut into 1-inch pieces, then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.