CARAMEL, in simple terms, is melted sugar which has a characteristic flavour and colour. In different stages of caramelisation, sugar tends to take varied avatars. The best thing about it caramel is that, unlike sugar, IT HAS A CERTAIN PERSONA. It gives you more than just sweetness; it can be bitter, salty and nutty too. Naturally, it can add a lot of drama to your dish.
“Anyone with a sweet tooth will agree that caramel gives the right kind of sweetness to a dish, just like honey. Too much sugar or sweetness can put off a lot of people, but caramel can have you licking your plate. It enhances the taste of a dish to a great extent and hence is greatly being used in cooking,” says chef Saransh Goila.
Caramelisation generates many flavour compounds and one of the most important compounds is DIACETYL. Amit Kumar Suri, chef de cuisine, Seasonal Tastes explains, Diacetyl is generated during the initial stages of caramelisation and imparts the butterscotch flavour, which is one of the characteristic flavours in caramelised foods. It is used for flavouring puddings and desserts, as a filling in bonbons and as a topping for ice-creams, custards and caramel corn.
Caramel is no longer an ingredient that caters to your sweet tooth ; chefs across the globe are playing around with caramel in incorporating it in appetisers, as well as mains. There are crazy ways one can use caramel in cooking. “It can be used as a glaze for something intensely salty and savoury as bacon or even a burger. Dishes like roast chicken and roast duck are traditionally coated with caramel to seal the heat inside the bird,” says chef Mitesh Rangras. Caramel is multi-utility ingredient.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind while cooking caramel : —— *Because cookware and heat sources don’t always distribute heat evenly, you need to stand guard during the whole process, encouraging the sugar to cook at an even rate. *Watch out for recrystallization ——- what happens when sugar crystals join together in a lumpy mass. You can avoid that by making sure that the sugar is free of impurities and that the pan used to cook the caramel is clean. * Be vigilant to avoid burning the caramel. The melted sugar should be cooked until it’s a deep amber colour —— it’s done when it starts to smoke and begins to foam a bit. At this point, it should be removed from the heat immediately. You can also quickly add liquid to halt the cooking. * After making caramel, to clean the pan, either soak it in warm water or fill the pan with water, bring it to a boil, and continue boiling until the caramel dissolves.
SALTED CARAMEL PARATHA
Ingredients : For Paratha : 2cups wheat flour; 1tbsp ajwain (Carom seeds) ; 1tbsp red chilli powder ; 1tbsp besan; Salt to taste; 1cup oil; 1cup ghee; 2cups water. For caramel sauce : —- 2cups granulated sugar; 50ml water; 12tbsp butter; 1cp cream; 1tbsp sea salt.
Method : —- For parathas : — In a large bowl, mix wheat flour, salt, besan, red chilli , ajwain and 1tbsp oil. Mix well. Pour water and knead into a soft dough. Heat a tawa and melt the ghee. Now take out equal portions of the dough, shape and flatten them to make parathas. Spread ghee on each side. Cook the parathas on both sides till they turn golden brown.
For the sauce : —- Mix the water and sugar for the caramel in a saucepan. Place it over medium heat. Stir continuously until the sugar melts into a liquid. Once the sugar has melted and is turning to dark brown, proceed with caution, since you need to add butter at this stage. As soon as the caramel turns brown, ad the butter all at once. Whisk the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour the cream into the caramel. Again, be careful because the mixture will once again bubble up ferociously. Whisk until all of the cram has been incorporated and you have a smooth sauce. Add sea salt and mix nicely. Now spread the salty caramel sauce on the spicy paratha and serve hot.