Scary Things in the Kitchen 1 - Caramelising Sugar

Fear and courage are subjective. What terrifies me doesn’t raise a shiver in you. What I am happy to face head-on may send you running to the hills. And while nothing is really life-threatening in a kitchen, unless laced with a solid dose of stupidity, there are some things that intimidate me and, as a result, I’ve never tried them. But today I conquered one: caramelising sugar. 

I had visions of uncontrollable breakers of sizzling caramel, of unexpected volcanic eruptions giving me 3rd degree burns. Then I read Nigella’s recipe for Caramel Croissant Pudding and her intro appealed to me so much on a drab, wet Saturday afternoon:

… this is such a fabulous pudding that I now think it should be every Monday night's supper. And I mean supper: with something this substantial, you certainly need eat nothing beforehand.

Just dessert. I’ll go for that. 

She also made the caramelisation stage sound like a doddle, and no messing about with thermometers: Caramelise the sugar and water mixture by letting it bubble away, without stirring, until it all turns a deep amber colour; this will take 3-5 minutes. Keep looking but don't be too timid. 

I can do that. And I did. Perhaps with a little trepidation and some over thinking of the degrees of deep amber. Like the translucent stuff wrapped around mosquitoes? Or a darker, closer to cognac, colour? I erred on the side of less is more. 

And the result was worth it.  Worth more than the final picture suggests because, let’s be honest, it’s always tricky to make brown food look appetising. So just imagine sweet, puffy custardy cushions of caramel flavoured croissant spiked with Jim Beam*.

I was happy to eat this on its own - there's enough milk, cream and eggs in it already. Vanilla ice-cream would be nice though. Or a dollop of creme fraiche. 

(*Not, I hasten to add, that I needed the bourbon for courage, although I did, given how long it's been in the back of the cupboard, have a quick swig to make sure it was okay. Best to be on the safe side!)  

Croissants awaiting a future of caramel custard.

Prepare to swoon