Did you hear? The government shutdown! I’m dumbstruck. I can’t believe it. It makes me really sad to see the state of affairs in this country. I truly believe that congress mirrors a growing sickness in our population. If I were ever delusional enough to seek a political office (and the people were insane enough to elect me), I’d take my oath on a cook book, probably one of Alton Browns. Unlike the rat race to power the rules are pretty cut and dry in baking. You have room for experimentation within a very strict body of laws. If you don’t have the right proportions you get a hot mess. It’s that simple. Sure you can use flax instead of eggs or substitute applesauce for some fats. But the fat and flour have to be in balance to make something strong enough to hold the whole thing together. Congress needs a group cooking lesson. I’m not volunteering. Get Gordon Ramsey. He’d put them in their place.
All of this political mumbo jumbo has left me craving comfort foods. I want mac and cheese that sticks to your ribs and a few stiff drinks to drown my anxiety and frustration. For the life of me, I don’t know why, but I wanted caramels. Not the rock hard brown bricks you buy at the store. I wanted ooey-gooey, sticky, melt-in-your-mouth caramel. No corn syrup. I didn’t want to help finance the big businesses that are buying congress members’ votes. This reminded me that I was in position of a local honey from a friends’ blueberry farm. I wish I could tell you about this honey in a way you could taste. It is floral yet earthy. Not too sweet. It’s like drinking out of a deep sweet well. Thank you bees. I hope we won’t kill all of you off.
What’s great about caramels is that they are really easy to make. No fuss. You just have to follow some basic candy rules and it all works out. All you really need is a candy thermometer, a sturdy non-reactive pot, and a few ingredients.
My caramels came out a little greasy because of the humidity. It doesn’t change the fact that they are to die for. Honey caramels or maple syrup caramels are in a totally different league. Their complex flavor really shows how different ingredients and certain substitutions can work in symbiosis to make something much more than the sum of their parts. I wrapped them up in some wax paper. How charming. You can use about any caramel recipe you find. Just vote the corn syrup out of the recipe and substitute it with something a little more down to earth. Honey and maple syrup are the usual substitutions but I bet there are some recipes that you can add even more variety to. Agave or molasses perhaps? Either way add vanilla. Experiment. Just don’t throw out basic culinary rules.