Salted butter caramel: a sinfully good Breton delicacy
This article is in English. Click here to read it in French.
Easter is over and having eaten our fill of chocolate – perhaps the time has come to move on to other treats like salted butter caramel? Although relatively simple to make, following the recipe for Breton salted butter caramel still requires a combination of skillfulness and top quality ingredients.
What is it that makes this caramel so French?
The secret behind the success of salted butter caramel lies in its salty taste. But Guérande sea salt – the essential ingredient – has not always been easy to obtain in France.
The legacy of salted butter caramel can be understood by a quick history lesson. In 1343, King Philip VI of Valois established a national salt tax known as ‘la gabelle’. Salt thereafter became a luxury that only the wealthy could afford.
This meant that salted butter became unsalted – except in the “free counties” which were exempt from the tax (Brittany, Vendée, Artois, Flanders, Lower Navarre, Béarn and Aunis). After unification with the Kingdom of France, Brittany insisted on retaining its privileges, meaning that the county remained free from the salt tax.
The birth of salted butter caramel in Brittany
The creator of salted butter caramel, Henri Le Roux, was initiated into a sugar-filled world from a very young age. His father, Louis, was one of France’s most legendary pastry chefs; he prepared the dessert served at Franklin Roosevelt’s election banquet in 1933 at the Bilmore Hotel in New York.
Educated in Switzerland, Henri Le Roux became France’s best chocolatier and caramel maker. In 1980, salted butter caramel was voted best candy in France.
Nowadays, the specialty is available in several different forms including hard and soft candies, lollipops (those famous ‘niniches‘ from the Quiberon region), caramel-based spreads, as well as a variety of cakes.
A simple trick to make your French desserts taste amazing
If you are new to baking or simply want to impress your friends with a simple but sumptuous dessert, just add a drizzle of salted butter caramel. The sweetness and creaminess of the caramel combined with the delicious salty taste radically transforms classic recipes into the most incredible desserts!
Salted butter caramel provides a wonderful addition to any dessert. Here are some tried and tested ideas:
– inside a chocolate fondant;
– in apple-flavoured desserts-the contrast of the sweet and salty essence of the caramel is delicious when combined with the tangy taste of the apple;
– or simply drizzled over a crepe.
The recipe for salted butter caramel
If you cannot find salted butter caramel in a store, try this recipe:
– 300g sugar
– 80g salted butter
– 25cl whipped cream
– 2 tablespoons of water
– a pinch of sea salt.
In a heavy-based large saucepan, dissolve the sugar in two tablespoons of water over a very low heat (it is recommended that you leave the sugar mixture sit for a very long time so that the caramel is smooth).
When the mixture starts to darken, stir it frequently until a soft and smooth caramel is obtained. Add the cream. It is essential that it is set over a low heat. When the caramel is very smooth and clear, allow it to cool down slightly before adding the chopped-up butter and a sprinkling of sea salt. To finish, pour into a glass jar.
And finally, the perfect way to end a beautiful, sunny day holidaying along France’s west coast, consists of a stop off at La Fraiseraie. Everyone should savour the taste of this ice-cream parlour’s salted butter caramel flavour at least once in their lives. The taste is unparalleled and perhaps only equaled by La Fraiseraie’s strawberry, raspberry or passion fruit flavours!References:
1. Guérande sea salt
2. Henri Le Roux
3. La Fraiseraie
4. Article from marmiton.org about caramel
All images © Isabelle Bernard, except 4. Rice pudding with salted butter caramel by Mary.Do via Flickr.