Sunday, November 8, 2015

Dry salted caramel from Alinea

Don't let this unassuming powder fool you. Once you take a bite of it, the powder turns into a caramel liquid and tastes like heaven. This fun recipe comes from 3 Michelin-starred Alinea.
Those of you that follow Eva Bakes on Facebook know that I was lucky enough to make a reservation at one of the world's top restaurants, Alinea. This Grant Achatz restaurant has earned 3 Michelin stars, which is the highest rating a dining establishment can have. Naturally, it became one of my bucket list restaurants to visit.

My husband and I happened to be in Chicago for a conference. And since our 10-year wedding anniversary was approaching at the time, I thought it would be fun to celebrate at a fancy place. Not just any fancy place, but Alinea. My husband's jaw dropped when he found out how expensive the meal would be, but I told him that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.



I stalked the webpage on a daily basis and was thrilled when reservations finally opened up for the week we would be in town. And rather than have traditional dinner reservations, Alinea requires guests to pre-pay for their entire meal up front. This prevents no-shows from occurring. It's brilliant, I tell you.

With our meal completely paid for (minus drinks, which are extra), we walked into the dining room and were just giddy. I loved the idea of having no menu and allowing the kitchen staff create our meal. We enjoyed 12 courses, including 3 dessert plates. We left the restaurant feeling full, happy, and entertained. Each dish had its own story, and the wait staff did a phenomenal job explaining the meaning and how we should experience it.

I was especially intrigued by several dishes and did a bit of Googling to see what recipes were available for me to try recreating at home. I found this dry salted caramel, which sounded simply astonishing. A dry caramel powder was supposed to be placed in glasses. Then once someone placed some powder in their mouth, the powder would liquify and turn into a smooth caramel sauce. I had to try it.


I found my tapioca maltdextrin powder on Amazon. The first recipe I found online did not work - my caramel failed to harden so I turned it into a caramel sauce instead. The second recipe worked much better and I was able to successfully make the dry salted caramel. One thing I learned is that the caramel base recipe below makes a TON. I used 1/4 of the recipe and still had extra caramel left over, so keep that in mind.

How did it taste? Amazing, as expected. Once a spoonful of caramel powder hit my mouth, my salivary glands melted it into a liquidy caramel. I started chewing and some caramel stuck to my teeth, just as caramel should. I gave Addie and her babysitter a small portion each, and both said that they loved the dish as well. I'm super excited to have tackled a food chemistry project and hope that I try a few more in the future.

Dry salted caramel from Alinea
Caramel base (Note: I highly recommend using 1/4 of the caramel base recipe below; you will STILL have leftovers after all is said and done)
  • 350 grams (12.3 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 365 grams (12.9 ounces) glucose (can substitute corn syrup)
  • 100 grams (3.5 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 500 grams (1 pound and 1.6 ounces) heavy cream 
Dry salted caramel
  • 200 grams (7.4 ounces) caramel base from above
  • 65 grams (2.3 ounces) tapioca maltodextrin powder
  • Maldon sea salt, for sprinkling
Directions
Set a silicone mat (or a piece parchment paper) on a large baking sheet and set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the sugar, glucose, butter and heavy cream together until it reaches 230 degrees F. Your ingredients might get "stuck" at 200 degrees F and seem to not get hotter after this, but be patient. It may take another 5-10 minutes for the temperature to start creeping up. Make sure it hits 230 degrees F because the sugar starts to break down at that stage. If you take it off the stove too early, your caramel will not harden.

Once the liquid reaches 230 degrees F and becomes a deep amber color (I let mine go to 240 degrees F), take the saucepan off the stove. Then pour the caramel onto your prepared sheet pan and allow to cool to room temperature. The caramel cannot be warm or else the recipe will not work.

Portion off 200 grams (7.4 ounces) of the cooled caramel and add it to a food processor. Add the tapioca maltodextrin powder and pulse in your food processor until the mixture becomes powdery.

Evenly distribute the powder into 8 equal servings (small, clear glasses work well here). Sprinkle the tops of each glass with a small pinch of sea salt.

Serve immediately. Any leftover caramel should be stored in a cool, dry place. Remember, once the powder comes in contact with liquid, it will liquify.

Yield: About 8 servings

Source: Adapted from Molecularrecipes.com and Alinea Newb

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