Posts Tagged With: Caramel

National Chocolate Caramel Day

Last year we celebrated too many chocolate holidays to count, and various caramel-themed ones (apples, popcorn, custard, etc.) as well. But never the two together! I guess you could say last March 19 we were too chicken, since it was National Poultry Day. We’re taking care of unfinished business this year by celebrating National Chocolate Caramel Day!

Hard to believe one year ago we were 78 days into our year-long challenge already. On a personal note, we haven’t been as proactive this year as I’d hoped, but there has been a LOT going on in our personal lives. Including downsizing from a townhouse to an apartment. We moved last weekend, and boy are we tired and sore! All the more reason to treat ourselves to chocolate caramel, eh?

This particular flavor combination is one of the most popular, as evidenced by the countless number of sweet treats boasting both chocolate and caramel. It’s one of those classic combinations, like spaghetti and meatballs. Or wine and cheese. Or Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. (What?! Tell me you didn’t laugh out loud during Dumb & Dumber)! We can thank none other than Milton Hershey for combining the two. Hershey began his illustrious career in a caramel company. In the late 1800s, looking for a way to improve plain ol’ caramel candy, he got his hands on some German built chocolate manufacturing machines. His very first product? A chocolate covered caramel! Eventually Milt focused his attention solely on chocolate, but if not for his inventiveness, we might never have Snickers, Milky Way, or Twix. And the world would be a sadder place.

To celebrate, I stopped by 7-Eleven (oh, thank heaven) and grabbed a Rolo. These chocolate covered caramels are one of my favorites!

Now that things are finally settling down (knock on wood), we hope to focus more attention on this blog. We’ve got some big ideas, and will start incorporating those more. Stick around…it’ll be worth it, I promise!


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276/365: National Caramel Custard Day

Today we celebrate a food that is known by several names: it is called either caramel custard, crème caramel, or flan, depending on where in the world you are ordering it. Officially, October 3 is National Caramel Custard Day!

Caramel custard is like crème brûlée, but with a layer of soft caramel on top instead of a hard caramel coating. It used to be especially popular in European restaurants; explains food historian Alan Davidson, “In the later part of the 20th century crème caramel occupied an excessively large amount of territory in European restaurant dessert menus. This was probably due to the convenience, for restaurateurs, of being able to prepare a lot in advance and keep them until needed.” Nowadays, it’s harder to find in Europe, but is extremely common in Latin American countries, where it is eaten with dulce de leche.

It’s a little tricky to prepare, requiring the use of a ramekin and a water bath, but at least you don’t need a blowtorch as you do when preparing an authentic  crème brûlée. I’ll admit, I was a little nervous heading into this holiday, because the last time custard was on the menu, it was a near-disaster. It didn’t set right, melted during transport (this was during our spontaneous road trip to Ely), and was an unappealing “watery sour cream” color and consistency. Blech. Easily the most challenging of our challenges to date. Fortunately, we had much better luck with the caramel custard. We bought a packaged flan mix in the grocery store, and Tara prepared it for dessert. This time everything set up perfectly! We found the consistency a little unusual – not as smooth and creamy as pudding – but the flavor wasn’t bad. And it looked beautiful!

National Caramel Custard Day

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

96/365: National Caramel Popcorn Day

If you dig the combination of salty and sweet, you’ll be exploding with excitement over today’s food holiday. April 6 is National Caramel Popcorn Day! Funny, we just celebrated caramel yesterday…

Popcorn had been around for awhile when brothers Frederick and Louis Rueckheim, candy entrepreneurs in Chicago, came up with the idea of coating popcorn in molasses and adding peanuts. They debuted their product, which had the snappy name “Candied Popcorn and Peanuts,” at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. The molasses proved too sticky, so they went back to the drawing board and eventually developed a process that made the coating crispy and dry and kept the kernels separate. A customer tried a sample in 1896 and exclaimed, “That’s crackerjack!” – turn-of-the-century slang for “that’s really good.” Crackerjack is considered a type of caramel corn because the molasses is caramelized before being poured over the popcorn. See yesterday’s post for information on the caramelization process. Other competitors followed suit, many using caramel instead of molasses, and the caramel corn industry took off, particularly in the 1930s and ’40s. Popular brands include Fiddle Faddle and Crunch ‘n Munch. Nowadays, you can’t go to any farmer’s market or county fair, it seems, without bumping into a caramel popcorn vendor somewhere.

We are in Seattle this weekend, staying with Tara’s mom and celebrating her nephew’s first birthday. We’re having a great time! And yet, the blog is always on our minds, so naturally we made time for some caramel popcorn. Tracy offered to make it for us, and we were more than happy to take her up on the offer. Anytime we can get somebody else to do our dirty work, we do! It looked pretty easy, but took more than just caramel. She whisked in butter, brown sugar, Karo syrup, and vanilla. Dark brown sugar makes it sweeter, while light brown sugar is more subtle. You can use either. And I have to say, it was some of the tastiest caramel corn I’ve ever had! I swear I’m not saying that because Tracy is standing right here…

The art of making caramel popcorn.

The art of making caramel popcorn.

Categories: Snacks | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

95/365: National Caramel Day*

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’ll love today’s food holiday. April 5 is National Caramel Day!

It’s also National Raisin & Spice Bar Day. Caramel appealed to us more. So, caramel it is.

I was surprised to learn that caramel is nothing more than sugar that has been heated slowly to 340F. As the sugar heats, the molecules break down and transform into a sticky brown liquid. This process is known as caramelization, and results in the familiar, decadent treat we love atop an ice cream sundae or wrapped around an apple. I have caramelized onions many times, but never made the connection. This food challenge is teaching us a lot! I ought to try out for Jeopardy next year and pray for a “food & drink” category.

That's melted sugar. Who knew??

That’s melted sugar. Who knew??

Caramel is an American discovery. In the 17th century, our forefathers (and foremothers) were making hard candies out of caramelized sugar and water. By 1850, they had discovered that adding milk and other fats to the mixture resulted in a soft, chewy, and sticky concoction. In Pennsylvania, Milton Hershey founded the Lancaster Caramel Company, with the intention of manufacturing caramel candy covered in chocolate. He became so enamored with chocolate that he ended up selling the caramel business and using the profit to start a chocolate company instead. Foolish move, Hershey! Did you really believe your name could become synonymous with chocolate?

Err…right. Guess it was a good investment after all.

An inventive way to celebrate National Caramel Day!

An inventive way to celebrate National Caramel Day!

Nevertheless, caramel also became popular worldwide, so hopefully the guy who bought the caramel company profited, too. I’m all about sharing the wealth!

We are embarking upon another trip to the Emerald City this afternoon. (Seattle, not Oz). And leaving early, to boot. We don’t have a lot of time to mess with some fancy caramel preparation – kind of hard to cook when you’re in the car driving for three hours – so we celebrated by ordering caramel-flavored coffee drinks. I stopped by Dutch Bros. for a Caramelizer, a blend of triple-bean espresso, mocha, and caramel. I’m not a big fan of overly sweet coffee, but this was pretty good.

Have a great weekend! We’ll be up in Seattle until Sunday, but fortunately, our weekend food challenges are pretty simple and shouldn’t give us any trouble. Tomorrow’s, in fact, will provide a strange sense of deja vu.

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