Monday, August 24, 2009

Not Quite Autumn

Caramel Macchiato Coffee, originally uploaded by miss.mallory.

The seasons aren't quite ready to change. Although, a few neighborhoods in Bellingham are already sporting amber and scarlet colored leaves, and as these late August evenings roll to a close, the sun sets a little lower a bit earlier, meaning cooler evenings. My kitchen windows, which have all remained wide open each sunny day this summer, are closing a bit earlier now. Therefore I've decided to share one of my easiest, favorite, weekend fall treats; caramel macchiatos. A perfect sweet treat for a cold, slow sunday morning, or a special occasion.

First, you'll need to make the caramel. Homemade of course. Trust me on this one. It will make or break this coffee, you are not allowed to buy caramel. In fact, I'm of the belief that you shouldn't be purchasing this gooey confection period. It's impossibly easy to make, and you only need a few ingredients. One batch will last a week or two in the fridge. Outside of this coffee you can slather it on brownies, pour it on ice cream, or spoon it directly into your mouth. There is almost nothing better than the taste of sweet gooey burnt sugar. Don't fret. I promise you it's easy, and fairly cheap. Don't be scared.

Caramel Macchiato Coffee, originally uploaded by miss.mallory.

So, what will you need to make your own caramel?

1/4 cup of water
1 cup of granulated sugar
6 Tablespoons of butter (this might sound sacriligious to some, but I like to use high quality salted butter)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 vanilla bean split

To make the caramel place your water and sugar into a heavy, high sided saucepan and turn onto medium heat. Let sugar dissolve. At this point you can stir the mixture with a wooden spoon. Once the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to boil do NOT stir. However, you can swirl. For example, my gas range cooks the sugar more and less in certain places. If I just let it sit, it would burn. So, as the mixture begins to amber, I pick up the pan by both handles and gently swirl the mixture around, so that sugar mixture settles in different places. It will take your mixture, as it simmers, about 5-10 minutes to begin to turn amber (depending on how your stovetop cooks). In the end, you want it to be a nice deep amber color (like the picture). There is an art to this, but it's not complex. My first ever batch a few years ago I burned completely. The next batch I was anxious about burning and I didn't caramelize the sugar enough. It may take you a few tries to get it right. But trust me, once you've got it, you're golden (in more ways than one!) Just buy a quart of heavy whipping cream, a box of butter, and have plenty of sugar on hand, and practice (if you need to) until perfect. I hope that doesn't sound daunting. I know I can give you the logistics of how to do it, if you're anything like me though, you'll just have to play around with it until it's right. While you're waiting for the sugar to amber (don't take your eyes off for too long), scrape the vanilla bean into your heavy cream and cut your butter into small cubes. As soon as the sugar turns deep amber turn off the heat and whisk in the butter. The mixture will bubble up considerably, be careful (that's why you want to use a high walled pot). As soon as you've incorporated the butter (happens quickly) pour in the cream/vanilla bean mixture and whisk. Let the mixture cool in the pot, when it's cooled enough pour it into a bowl or jar. Recipe will make about one cup.

Now that you've mastered caramel, and you've got a bowl waiting patiently on your countertop you're ready to wake up in the morning and whip up your caramel macchiato.

Caramel Macchiato Coffee, originally uploaded by miss.mallory.

First, brew a very strong pot of coffee, or enough espresso for your drink. I french pressed a mixture of strong coffee with a tablespoon of espresso. Pour about one (to two, depending on how sweet you'd like your coffee, and how big your cup) tablespoon of caramel into the bottom of your cup.

Then fill your cup 3/4 full with your coffee, or one or two shots of espresso, whichever you've chosen.

Caramel Macchiato Coffee, originally uploaded by miss.mallory.

Top off your coffee with (I prefer organic) half and half.

Caramel Macchiato Coffee, originally uploaded by miss.mallory.

Time for the freshly whipped cream. I like to use a local creamery's heavy cream. You will likely have heavy cream left over from your homemade caramel adventure. Whip that up with a bit of your vanilla bean, and a couple of tablespoons of honey. Scoop a generous portion of this mixture atop your coffee.

Finally, drizzle plenty of your caramel all over the top. Relax, sip, and enjoy, perhaps during the late hours of this dying summer, or perhaps, during the coming weeks of a sure to be chilly autumn.

Caramel Macchiato Coffee, originally uploaded by miss.mallory.