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Chocolate Caramel, How Do I Love Thee?

March 20, 2013

In the run-up to Easter and its bunnies and marshmallows, there's another dentist's dream, which falls today: National Chocolate Caramel Day. Anticipating the occasion with me last week, senior editor Kemp Minifie set forth a challenge I couldn't resist: trying my hand at Gourmet's four-fork, 1oo%-would-make-again Chocolate Caramel Sauce. "It's my invention, and we all loved it so much that we included it on the cooking test for prospective food editors," explained Kemp, a master cook who ran Gourmet's test kitchen before coming to Epicurious. "It involves making a dry caramel, which takes a bit of skill. Not too much, but a bit." I'm proud to report that the first round went so well, I saw no point in stopping. First time around, I followed the proportions precisely, except I tossed in the entire Lindt Bittersweet bar I was using, since what could be bad about an extra half-ounce of chocolate. And indeed it was fantastic--intensely chocolate-y straight off the spoon, but over vanilla ice cream, the caramel came through, too. When it comes to caramel--a relatively recent taste obsession--I've got the zeal of a convert, especially when it comes to mingling salt with this sweet. So the second time I made the sauce, I wanted to bring the caramel flavors forward. Focusing on the sheer alchemy taking place in my pan, I watched as a few grains of sugar set to dancing along the edges, then the whole thing suddenly sprang to life as melting ribbons the color of a serious single malt. This time, I boosted the salt by not quite double, skipped the vanilla (the ice cream would take care of that, I figured), and tossed in a token half-ounce or so of chocolate. The chocolate looked a bit streaky in the sauce, and the texture didn't quite match the silken original, but this sublime stuff disappeared so fast I hardly noticed. Speaking of fast, my entire experiment benefited tremendously from a tip Kemp gave me: If you heat the cream and keep it quite warm (but not quite boiling) before adding it gradually to the caramel, stirring all the while, the caramel will dissolve easily into the cream and you'll cut the prep time in half. Let me count the ways to enjoy these chocolate caramel sauces: on ice cream; from a spoon; the chocolate-y one cooled and rolled into a gooey sort of brigadeiro, perhaps; the intensely caramel one swirled into some kind of supernal blondie? What's your favorite chocolate caramel creation? Photo: Gourmet

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