Bobbette & Belle’s Fleur de Sel Caramels: From Chaos to Caramel

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I had the brilliant idea to make fleur de sel caramels from my Bobbette & Belle cookbook and to give them out at Christmas time.

This, despite my fear of candy thermometers and all things candy making.

I just love caramel, and I knew that deep down, I had what it takes to make delectable, chewy, soft caramels. And it turns out that I did – I made many incredible morsels of caramel that certainly held their own against the fancy schmancy ones that sell for like, $12 for 6 pieces. But the road to tasty caramels was not an easy one.


Here is the truth: this post does not have very many pictures of the actual baking process. There are three reasons why:

  • When I decided to make the recipe, Cedric wasn’t home and I didn’t realize that he had taken the camera – which, to be fair, is his camera – until I was already underway.
  • It was already dark out and the non-natural lighting in my kitchen is super harsh and makes for ugly pictures.
  • Most importantly, the process was so chaotic that even if I’d had the camera and the lighting had been natural and perfect, there’s no chance that I would have had the time (or non-sticky hands) to snap pictures.

So let me tell you the story of the fleur de sel caramels using mostly my words.


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While the Bobbette & Belle recipe did ultimately produce some fine caramels, the directions were a little off. Step one is to spray a 10-inch square baking pan with cooking spray and to line it with parchment. Now, I don’t have a 10-inch pan – but I do have two slightly smaller ones, so I prepped them both. Looking back, if you only used a single 10-inch square pan, you would end up with INSANELY thick caramels. Pro tip: use two pans.

The next step appears to be very simple: you mix sugar, cream, corn syrup, and butter (all my favourite superfoods) into a saucepan, let it boil, stir constantly, and let the whole thing heat to 248 – not 245, not 250 – degrees Fahrenheit. But here’s where Bobbette & Belle confused me a little: they say to use a medium saucepan.

I put the ingredients into my medium saucepan, but everything already almost came to the top of the pan. I knew that once the mixture was boiling, it would likely overflow – a bigger pot was needed.

I have two other pot options: a big old spaghetti pot and a blue Le Creuset dutch oven. The former was presently in the fridge holding some leftover chili (specifically, the Oh She Glows vegan chili – soooo good), so I transferred the ingredients from the medium saucepan to the blue Le Creuse pot.

I turned on the element, set up a candy thermometer, and grabbed my digital thermometer for back up, then let nature do its thing.

Eventually, the mixture started to bubble – my cue to start “stirring constantly”, as per the instructions. As I mixed, the contents of the pot (as I predicted) started to rise. And rise. And rise.

My thermometer wasn’t remotely close to 248 degrees – yet I was quickly running out of space in my pot. As it approached the lip of the pot, I realized that if I didn’t act VERY soon, the whole thing was going to overflow.

I now had a predicament. The medium saucepan would be too small – I needed the big spaghetti one in the fridge. But in order to use it, I would have to take it out of the fridge, toss the leftover chili, and wash and dry the pot. This would entail taking the currently boiling pot off the heat and taking a break from constant stirring. Surely pausing a recipe midway would not be a good thing.

But what choice did I have? Just as the mixture starting to bubble over (and smoke like crazy), I turned off the now-sticky element, moved the pot, and started the process of preparing the spaghetti pot.

Long story short, I poured about half of the contents of the blue pot into the spaghetti pot, temporarily dismantled the smoke detector, and set both of the pots up on clean elements. I now had to juggle stirring both pots while constantly checking the temperature of each to ensure I caught it at just the right time. The candy thermometer was reading much colder than the digital one, so I kept dipping the digital one in and out of the pots – which caused strings of sticky caramel to streak across my kitchen and my clothes.

The race was on to see which pot would reach 248 degrees first. I sincerely hoped they both wouldn’t hit the temperature at the same time because there was no way I could pour two pots of bubbling caramel into two pans at once. Luckily, the blue pot hit 248 just before the spaghetti pot. I abandoned the spaghetti pot momentarily, stirred in a bit of vanilla and salt into the blue pot, then poured its contents into the first prepared baking tin. I sprinkled some fleur de sel over top, then returned my attention to the spaghetti pot, which was rapidly creeping up on 248.

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I took this photo with my phone – you can see hints of the chaos happening in my kitchen.

Once both pans had been filled, my kitchen looked like a total, utter caramel-covered war zone. While the caramel set (it needs to be cooled for 2 to 3 hours), I scrubbed the kitchen back to its original state of cleanliness. At last, it was time to cut the caramel.

The slabs of caramel are transferred from baking pan to cutting board. This is actually pretty easy, as the Bobbette & Belle instructions tell you how to make a parchment cradle of sorts. The knife gets sprayed with a bit of non-stick spray (good caramel hack!), then the chopping begins.

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Another poor quality phone photo – but mmm.

I was relieved to feel my knife glide easily into the caramel – I hadn’t overcooked it, and the fact that it held together solidly meant that I likely hadn’t undercooked it, either. Success!

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Then, the tedious part: wrapping the caramels. I cut small squares of wax paper and, one by one, wrapped each individual piece. At first, I tried wrapping them kind of like a present, but then I switched to a salt-water-taffy-esque twisted wrap. This recipe makes about a hundred caramels – that’s a lot of wrapping.

When my weary joints had twisted the last caramel, I placed them into little boxes and stored the boxes in a sealed Ziploc freezer bag. I didn’t freeze them – I just left them at room temperature. The recipe states that they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks and, in my experience, that is spot on.

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I came. I caramelled. I conquered. The caramels were delicious and my recipients savoured each and every sweet-and-salty bite. But man, these were a beast to prepare. If you dare make them yourselves, be warned: you’re going to need a bigger pot.


I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Bobbette & Belle’s English Toffee with Toasted Almonds

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I’d been feeling a little blah a few weeks ago when I realized that I hadn’t baked anything fun* in a little while.

(I’d baked sourdough and sandwich bread, which are more practical than fun – they don’t count.)

So, I flipped open my Bobbette & Belle cookbook for a little inspiration. I landed on a page for English toffee with toasted almonds and thought, “Yes – this looks good.”

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I’m always a little hesitant to tackle anything that requires a candy thermometer, but I figured I could use a little practice because I’m planning on doing a little candy-making for some Christmas gifts this year. I headed to Craig’s to pick up some semi-sweet chocolate and almonds, then I got to work.

I wasn’t baking this for any occasion, but the recipe appealed to me because it said that the final product could be stored in an air-tight container for up to two months, which is pretty darned good shelf life. Still, I decided to halve the recipe, which was probably a good idea – the toffee turned out so tasty that I’ll be surprised if it lasts two full days, and Cedric and I definitely don’t need to eat two whole cookie sheets’ worth, which is what the original recipe whips up.

The premise behind the toffee is pretty straightforward:

  1. Make the toffee, spread it out onto a baking sheet, and let it cool.
  2. Melt chocolate, pour it onto the cooled and hardened toffee, sprinkle toasted almonds into the chocolate, and let it cool.
  3. Flip the slab over and repeat Step 2 on the other side.

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First, I had to chop and toast my almonds. Friendly insider tip: there are whole unroasted almonds in the ethnic food aisle at Craig’s. These are cheaper than the ones in the plastic tubs in the aisle with the rest of the nuts. For some reason, the chic peas in the ethnic aisle are also cheaper than the chic peas in the canned goods aisle. The ethnic aisle is where it’s at!

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Tip: the recipe says to chop up some chocolate, but I didn’t really think about the fact that I was just going to melt it – I could have just broke it into the squares and saved some time.

While I toasted the almonds, I got to work on the caramel. Melting the ingredients together – butter, sugar, water, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt – was easy. The thermometer was a little tricky, but I thought I had it figured out. I clipped it to the side and made sure it wasn’t touching the bottom of the pan.

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As the mixture of ingredients came to a boil, the thermometer starting to rise. Things were working! The directions say it takes about 15 minutes for the mixture to reach 300 degrees Fahrenheit, but mine seemed stuck around 220 degrees. Hmmm…

I waited a few more minutes, but then I noticed the mixture was smelling a little burny. NOT good. I tilted the mixture so that the thermometer was more immersed, and wouldn’t you know – it shot up to like, 315 degrees.

I spread it out as quickly as I could and let it hardened, then I sampled a bit. It tasted a little burnt, but I felt like it was salvageable with chocolate and nuts. It was a tough call – do I waste the ingredients I used to make the toffee and start over? Or do I risk wasting the nuts and chocolate (neither of which are especially cheap – even when sourced from the ethnic aisle) by using the semi-burned toffee?

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I decided to risk it. I melted the first batch of chocolate and poured it over the toffee, spreading it with a rubber spatula. This was oddly satisfying.

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After sprinkling in half of the almonds, I let it sit for about 10 minutes, then stuck it in the freezer to expedite the hardening. (I seem to have lost my touch at properly tempering chocolate… apparently it’s not quite like riding a bike.) It worked.

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I very carefully flipped the slab over. Only a small piece broke off, which I decided to sample. Good news: it tasted awesome – not burnt at all.

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I proceeded with the second coat of chocolate and almonds, let it harden (with a little freezer help again), and broke up the pieces.

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SO GOOD! It tastes like a Skor bar, but better. This is some serious gourmet-tasting stuff that is actually not too difficult to make (as long as you can figure out your candy thermometer… I’m getting there). The good news is that if my Christmas baking plans fail, I have a solid bake up.

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Another win for Bobbette & Belle!


I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Bobbette & Belle’s Fleur de Sel Caramel Corn

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Making candy can be a little scary. I feel like I never use candy thermometers correctly – and candy is soooo sensitive to temperatures that being only a couple of degrees off can be the difference between delicious bonbons and a waste of ingredients (and money). It seems safer to just avoid it altogether.

I’ve been conveniently avoiding the Confections and Sweets chapter of Bobbette and Belle’s cookbook, but I’ve had my eye on a few recipes (including the Fleur de Sel Caramels, which I WILL make one day – a local baker sells her version at seasonal craft fairs and they are delicious but very expensive, so I need to learn how to DIY).

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Finally, I found the perfect excuse to dip into the chapter. I had a Halloween night with a few girlfriends (centered around the classic – and timeless, as we discovered – film, Hocus Pocus) and one of them had mentioned some tasty seasonal treats, including caramel corn.

I remembered that the Bobbette & Belle book had a recipe for caramel corn, so I offered to bring some. Bonus: the recipe doesn’t require a candy thermometer.

I’ve made poppycock before (which is caramel corn with mixed nuts – absolutely delectable), but never just straight caramel corn. I was pleased to find out that it’s actually very easy.

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The first step involves making 15 cups of popcorn. If you’re reading this, I assume you’re not the type to use microwave popcorn (please, please don’t). You don’t need a fancy popcorn maker to make popcorn. I make mine on the stove top with a regular pot. I put some oil in it along with four kernels, crank the heat to medium-high, and wait until those four kernels have popped. I then add the rest of the kernels (2/3 cup of kernels = 15 cups of popcorn), cover my pot with a screen top thing that my mom got me eons ago (thanks, mom!), and shake lightly. I don’t shake non-stop, but I do it pretty frequently to let the unpopped kernels fall to the bottom.

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This is what 15 cups of popcorn looks like.

Once the kernels are popped, it’s time to make the caramel. Easy peasy: you melt butter + brown sugar + corn syrup + vanilla, let it get nice and bubbly (no mixing!), then add some baking soda and fleur de sel. The book calls for a “Rounded 1/4 teaspoon baking soda” – I have no idea what is meant by rounded, so I just used a regular 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. It also says “stir in the baking soda and fleur de sel and baking soda”, which amused me. An aside: the fleur de sel definitely has a presence in the final product. This is, after all, fleur de sel caramel corn, not regular caramel corn.

 

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Here is where I assumed the recipe would end; but, in fact, there is one final step. You spread the caramel-coated popcorn onto a pair of baking sheets at bake them for an hour at 275 degrees. After it has cooled, you get the most delicious popcorn, each pieces coated in a light caramel shell. I kept mine in a sealed tupperware style bowl and served it the next day, and it didn’t get stale at all.

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This caramel corn is superior to the stuff you get at Kernels. It’s really, really good – the recipe introduction says that they call it “crack corn” and their bakery, and I understand why. Caramel corn isn’t really filling in the way, say, cake is, so it’s easy to go back for “just one more handful” until there’s nothing left in the bowl.

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… after being baked.

This recipe is a keeper, folks.


I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

In Defense of Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino

unicorn-frap-2Imagine you get a bag of 5 cent candy at 7-11. You choose one of each kind of candy, assembling the perfect melody of sugary joy. Then, you forget the bag of candy in the car while you play a round of frolf on a hot and sunny day.

A couple of hours later, you return to the car and find that your bag of candy has sort of melted, producing one large melty sugary super candy.

Are you stoked?

If so, you will LOVE the new, limited edition Unicorn Frappuccino. I know I do.

Frankly, I am surprised and a little disappointed that my social media feed is not a constant stream of people with Unicorn Frappuccino selfies. I think this means that most of my friends are real adults now. Luckily, it seems that I am not quite there yet – so here is my review of the cotton candy coloured pseudo milkshake.

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Purists will note that mine did not come with whipped cream. I typically opt for no whip, but I’m sure if you like WC, it would make the Unicorn even better.

If you:

  • love candy of all kinds;
  • think confetti cake is fun;
  • enjoy the smell of Canada’s Wonderland; and
  • ever wore Lolita Lempicka perfume

then you will love the Unicorn Frappuccino. If those things do not apply to you, you will probably not like the Unicorn.

How to describe its taste? Pretend there is a mango creamsicle flavour at Yogurty’s/Menchies/whatever frozen yogurt place you like. Now, imagine you topped it off with sour blue raspberry candies. That’s what this tastes like. It’s like drinking a blue slurpee while eating Sour Patch Kids.

“But, oh my god, isn’t it so full of sugar!!!!!!” Yes. Yes it is. And if you thought that a pink and purple drink called the Unicorn would be health food, then it’s going to break your heart to learn that most Starbucks frappuccinos are considered treat food, based on their nutritional content.

Would I drink it at 7AM? No. Would I feed it to a baby? No. But is it gosh darned amazing? YOU BET!

A Definite Ranking of Easter Candy

Candy season looks like this: Halloween –> Christmas –> Valentine’s Day –> Easter. I would argue that Easter, anchoring candy season in all its glory, offers the best candy overall.

As someone who has eaten a lot of candy in her life, I feel more than qualified to offer my expert opinion on the candy options of this glorious holiday.

I present to you: Easter candy, from best to worst.

#1: Milka Lil Scoops

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A high school friend introduced me to Milka Lil Scoops, and I have never looked back. Today, they are called Cadbury Lil Scoops – but to me, they will always be Milka Lil Scoops.

First, the presentation is perfection: a tiny, 2 x 2 purple egg carton. Cute cute cute! Then, you open it up and there are four foil wrapped eggs and two little purple spoons. Baby spoons! CUTE!

I like to peel the top half of the wrapper off, bite off the tip of the egg, then use the little spoon to scrape out every last bit of the delicious, ganache-y interior. Then, the best part: the chocolate egg shell.

Delicious. Amazing. Perfection.

Lil Scoops are a little hard to come by, which only adds to their prestige. I found some at the Great Glass Elevator Candy Shop in Whistler, but they were FIFTEEN DOLLARS. That’s insanity. Luckily, I found identical ones at Shopper’s Drug Mart for something like $6.99. An indulgence, for sure, but Easter only comes once a year.

#2: Cadbury Creme Eggs

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Cadbury Creme Eggs are a polarizing food: either they make you want to throw up, or you think they are the best thing on earth. I fall in the latter category, and I am always a little suspicious of those who are part of the former.

A thick milk chocolate shell enveloping liquid sugar – what else could you want? My second year of university, I ate something like four of these over the course of a single plane ride. College was a crazy time for me.

Honourable mention goes to the Cadbury Creme Egg McFlurry, one of the greatest creations to ever come out of McDonalds.

#3: Cadbury Mini Eggs

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Mini Eggs are best eaten by the handful. Many have tried to replicate the mini egg (e.g., Eggies, the PC brand eggs), but NO ONE has come even close to the perfection that is mini eggs. Cadbury has tried to introduce variations (ever had the popping candy mini eggs?) and even made the controversial decision to offer mini eggs year-round, but the best mini egg is the original one, consumed exclusively in the months of March and April. I just saw the giant bags for $13.99 at the grocery store (down from $18.99) – there’s a solid chance I will buy one of these in the very near future.

#4: Other Large Egg Variations

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There are other large eggs, similar in style to the Creme Egg, but channeling other genre of candy: Oreo, Caramilk, Chips Ahoy, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, etc. These hybrid eggs, if you will, are all generally very delicious, but they lack the exclusivity of the Cadbury Creme Egg and just aren’t quite on the same elite level.

There is one exception. In first year university (I ate a lot of chocolate in university), the cafeteria at my residence closed early – at like 7 PM or something. When we’d inevitably get hungry around 9, my roommates and I would head to Magda’s, the overpriced convenience store in the main complex area. During an exam-time late night snack run, I purchased some creme egg variation that essentially chocolate-on-chocolate. It had kind of a malty flavour. I have no idea what it was, but I remember liking it as much as – if not more than – the traditional CCE. I have never seen it since. I suspect that Magda’s may have had them in stock since like, 1982, and few people paid whatever inflated price they charged, so they were still selling them when I was in school decades later.

#5: Fancy Foil Chocolate Eggs

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There are two tiers of little foil-wrapped chocolate eggs: the ones made by popular “fancy” chocolate brands (think Lindt, Purdy’s, etc.) and the kind you buy for $1 at Wal Mart. The fancy ones are good stuff. They’re simple – usually just a little bite of plain chocolate – but the chocolate is tasty and they look festive. I probably wouldn’t buy them for myself, but I would be stoked to win some in a gift basket or something.

#6: Kinder Surprise

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My younger self would be disappointed that I ranked Kinder Surprises so low on this list. The truth is, I’ve finally outgrown the novelty of the little toy that lies within. I still appreciate the white-milk chocolate combo of the egg itself, but the value just isn’t there.

I still remember the best toy I ever got in a Kinder: a little snail that had a suction cup. I got it the Easter of grade 10 and I kept it in my pencil case all year. It became a source of entertainment during boring classes. A friend and I named it something, but I can’t remember what. Cool story, Hansel.

#7: Cheap Foil Chocolate Eggs

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The counterpart to #5 on this list. These chocolate eggs are typically purchased by the mesh bagful. The quality of chocolate is slightly greater than that found in cheap advent calendars, but low enough that it may be called “chocolate flavoured candy” rather than actual chocolate.

I have to admit that I actually like these. I know they’re kind of bad, but I can’t deny my heart.

#8: Those Hard/Chewy Eggs You Never See Anymore

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Does anybody else remember these? Man, these eggs bring me way back. They had a sort of hard outer shell (almost waxy), protecting a chewy, kind of gritty, flavourless sugar paste. I don’t think I would like these if I had them today, but I would still eat one if offered, in the name of nostalgia.

#9: Jelly Beans

Jelly beans just don’t do it for me anymore. Yeah, maybe I like the cheap foil chocolates, but I still have some standards – and jelly beans are below them. As a child, I would have been ecstatic to throw back a fistful of jelly beans. Remember the 25-cent bean machines at the mechanic? Amazing. But those days are behind me now, and jelly beans are officially a bad candy. Yes, even the red ones.

#10: Peeps

One of my favourite things to do in America is to browse the aisles of a grocery store or a Target. I don’t know if Americans realize that the candy options available there are unique to their country. For instance, whereas in Canada, our Oreos take up a small portion of a shelf in the grocery store, the Oreo zone in the States takes up an entire shelving unit, offering endless spinoffs of the original cookie.

Peeps are an American candy. I have never seen them in Canada, and a lot of my fellow Canadians are vaguely familiar with the term but have never seen one in the flesh, much less consumed one.

I myself have eaten a Peep before, and it is simply awful. Even for a sugar fiend like myself, it is just purely disgusting.

Weirdly cute, yes. Edible, not a chance.