Monday, January 2, 2012

Rosemary Caramels

Maybe it's a little late to say this, but rosemary is a flavor reminiscent of Christmas.
I guess it's the resiny piney-ness of it. And since I'm not accustomed to using pine needles in cooking, rosemary will have to do in this instance as a stand-in. Really, can you imagine getting pine needle stuck between your teeth? Even just a bit sounds painful, not to mention embarrassing.
(I recently saw a Scandinavian cook use some chopped pine needles in the crust of a cheesecake, so yes, somebody IS doing this. Other than that, I don't know how common it is, but it would be interesting to know.)
Yes, rosemary is different than the cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg of freshly baked anything this time of year
...but it's still Christmassy and wintry.

I was discussing savory flavors and chocolate the other day with a co-worker... actually we do it quite a bit, thinking of and talking about flavor combinations (and it could have pretty much been any day at all that we were discussing said topic).
We both really like to try new things, have some similar tastes, and enjoy the pairings of normally savory flavors with chocolate- and sometimes they can be unexpected surprises.
I think chile in chocolate is a good and fairly common one of these combinations.
Chile with chocolate is usually mild in flavor, but in the end it's warming- to me, it's more of a feeling than an actual taste.
And with the original Mayan/Aztec chocolate drink, sugar was not used, but chile was.
Thick and completely bitter chocolateyness with the heat of chiles. Tastes have changed.
While 70% chocolate is certainly edible, 99% is difficult to consume in measurable quantities.

Like chile, sage seems to have both a flavor and a feeling, the feeling being something antiseptic and  astringent, but earthy too.
Thyme has the same flavor and feeling components, but it's a musky astringency to me.
For some reason, rosemary and caramel seemed to be a great combination (lavender, too, but I haven't gotten to that yet). 
Yes, I have eaten one or two before... but they were the almost-liquid type of chocolate-coated caramels, more like a filled truffle. I most certainly hadn't actually made any rosemary caramel up to this point.
There was the problem of the rosemary flavor vs. the rosemary texture. I wanted the flavor, but not the texture. And so, it turns out fresh rosemary infused into cream prior to cooking the caramel will yield a  rosemary flavor that's not too overpowering, but still enough for someone to know there's something different in the finished product. The question is whether everyone will be able to identify what that extra flavor happens to be. 

My important recommendation of the day is that you have a good, working candy thermometer.
Candy temperatures are higher than meat temperatures, so they generally require different thermometers.
The first time I experimented with this I quickly found out that the thermometer was broken. Well, I thought it was broken, but the real truth (as I've come to find) is that it just might need to be re-calibrated.  Anyway, it was too hot for the temperature to be reading as it was, so it was cooked to long and too hot and in the end it turned out to be hard candy that called for an ice pick to break it up.  The ice pick was readily available- there was no mallet or meat pounder.
Although I should probably check to see if the ice pick is an antique (only because the ice man doesn't seem to be dropping off blocks of ice from Lake Michigan these days).

The caramels are quite nice as they are, but they're also great with a coat of dark chocolate.
Honestly, if you happen have a huge chunk of bittersweet Callebaut laying around that you happened to buy at Whole Foods once upon a time, you're in good shape.
I have to say that (to me) milk chocolate is much too sweet to be combined with caramel.
Caramel, of course, is very sweet itself, and the slight bitterness of good dark chocolate helps to counter it. Plus it makes things a little more interesting.

A pinch of sea salt or fleur de sel on top is also an option...

Rosemary Caramels

1 c heavy cream
1 1/2 T fresh rosemary, slightly crushed and chopped
1 c granulated sugar
1 c light corn syrup
1/4 c sweetened condensed milk
4 T salted butter (if using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt with the sugar)
2 t vanilla extract

In a small saucepan bring the cream to a boil over medium heat with the rosemary leaves (and any stripped branches you might have). Remove the saucepan from the heat, cover and let steep 15 minutes. Strain the cream into a medium saucepan, pressing on the leaves to make sure you remove as much liquid and flavor as possible. Add the sugar and corn syrup and stir to combine. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. 
When it reaches 230 degrees F, add the condensed milk and continue to stir and cook until the caramel reaches 243-245 degrees F. 
Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter and vanilla (which will probably make the caramel sputter a bit). Stir until the butter and vanilla are completely incorporated into the caramel. 
Pour the finished caramel into a greased and lined pan (with sides!) and let cool completely.
Cut into pieces, place on waxed paper squares and twist ends or dip in melted chocolate.


  1. With this post Natalie enters a new league. This is exceptional, of course. Natalie, you will need an agent who manages your calendar and negotiates your TV and book contracts. I am sure of that.

  2. Thank you. Yes, perhaps in 12 years or so when I've amassed enough recipes and perfected a few of them... and of course, this will have to be after I'm making enough money to pay an agent. But maybe I should get one now- at least a secretary. Organization and time management can be so difficult sometimes.
    I think I'll be needing an entourage.
    We'll see.
    Until then, this is what I'll be doing.

  3. Well, I like the pictures!

  4. These sound so elegant and refined and they look beautiful. I have a sweet treat linky party going on at my blog till Monday night and I'd love it if you'd come by and link your caramels up.

  5. Oh, and if you plan to dip caramel in melted chocolate, you MUST be careful not to get any water in the chocolate. Water can ruin chocolate. If not ruined it can at the very least impart some unsightly bloom.
    If the chocolate is tempered, that's even better for the chocolate setup, sheen, and texture... but I won't get into tempering right now- maybe another day.

  6. I love this! Fabulous flavors.
    Great photos too.

  7. oh wow these look wonderful! What a great combination! Pinning this!

  8. This is so lovely. I am currently learning how to temper chocolate, and one of my friends suggested that Callebaut was the best to start with.
    I also love the addition of rosemary!

  9. neat! Never would have thought of rosemary with this at all.

  10. Brava, Natalie!


  11. Looks really promising! I'm eager to give this one a shot!