Jul 8, 2013

Burnt Sugar

Toasted Marshmallow
From brandy to creme caramel to toasted marshmallows, the taste of burnt sugar is all around us. Burnt sugar is sometimes known as caramelized sugar. Caramelized sugar has been used for years to add color and flavor to alcohol such as brandy, scotch whisky, whisky and rum, and to soft drinks like Coke and Pepsi.

One of the most common uses of caramelized sugar is in caramel candy made from a mixture of caramelized sugars (white or brown) and corn syrup, butter and cream. The mixture is then boiled, and when it comes to the firm ball stage, poured into a pan or molds to harden, resulting in a soft and pliable treat. Remember eating caramel apples when you were much younger, I do.

Almost everyone who cooks has a bag of brown sugar in their kitchen cupboard, another form of burnt sugar. Brown sugar gets it's color and flavor from the addition of molasses, which is the byproduct of the process of refining sugar cane into table sugar. Molasses helps create the distinctive taste of dishes such as baked beans, gingerbread, and barbecue sauce. Basting chicken or turkey with molasses will give it both a rich color and rich taste.

Here in Hawaii, caramelized sugar is used in a variety of recipes from savory to sweet. If you like the flavor of burnt sugar, then give these recipes a try.

Cornish Game Hens with a Burnt Sugar Glaze
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 Cornish Game Hens (cut in half)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup lime juice
1 teaspoon concentrated chicken broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon curry powder

Preheat oven to 350˚F. In a bowl or 1-gallon plastic resealable bag, combine flour, salt and cayenne pepper. Add Cornish game hen halves, then dredge or shake to coat. Pour 1/4 cup butter into 9x13-inch baking pan; place Cornish hen halves in pan, turning pieces to coat. Bake for 30 minutes. For the burnt sugar glaze, combine brown sugar, honey, lime juice, chicken broth, soy sauce, curry powder and remaining butter in a mixing bowl; pour over Cornish hens. Bake 40 minutes more or until Cornish hen halves are tender but no longer pink on the inside, basting several times with pan drippings. Makes 6 servings.

Barbecued Ribs with a Molasses Glaze
Ingredients for the boiling liquid:
6 cups water
1/4 cup tomato paste
1-1/2 medium onions (about 12 ounces), peeled and thickly sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped medium-fine
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
4 whole cloves
2 tablespoons hot red pepper sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 (1-1/4-pounds each) racks of pork spareribs (each 7 to 9 inches long, 6 ribs per rack).

Ingredients for the barbecue glaze:
2 tablespoons dark molasses
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Place all the water, tomato paste, onions, garlic, peppercorns, garlic, red pepper sauce, and lemon juice in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer rapidly for 15 minutes. When the liquid is bubbling, add the spareribs. Make sure they are covered with the sauce. Let the ribs simmer 45 minutes. As the liquid reduces, add water to keep it at the original level. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Do this as much as a day ahead, and refrigerate. Return to room temperature.

Place 1 cup of the boiling liquid from the ribs in a small saucepan. Boil the liquid until reduced to 1/2 cup. Add the molasses, mustard, vinegar, pepper sauce, and salt. Stir over heat to combine thoroughly. Brush this mixture liberally over the blanched ribs before cooking them.

About 20 minutes before cooking the ribs, place rack in center of oven. Heat oven to 500˚F. Place ribs in an 18 x 13 x 2-inch roasting pan and roast for 5 minutes. Turn. Roast 6 to 7 minutes more. Serve warm. Makes 6 servings.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Sesame Seeds, Honey, & Brown Sugar
1 pound pork tenderloin
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sesame oil
4 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons sesame seeds

Combine soy sauce, garlic, ginger and oil. Place in a zip lock bag with tenderloin. Toss to coat and marinate in the refrigerator for 3-6 hours turning occasionally. Remove the tenderloin and discard marinade. In a shallow plate mix together honey and sugar. Roll the tenderloin in honey mixture. coating all sides. Roll tenderloin in seeds to cover meat. Place the tenderloin on a preheated grill for 20-30 minutes until meat thermometer reaches 155˚F. Slice and serve with rice. Makes 4 servings.

Dark Meat Chicken with Garlic Brown Sugar
4 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon garlic granules or garlic powder
2/3 cup brown sugar
4 to 5 pounds chicken pieces (breast, leg or thigh), rinsed
1/3 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Line a baking sheet (with sides) with foil. Mix garlic salt, garlic powder and brown sugar in a gallon sized plastic resealable bag. Add the chicken. Seal and shake the bag to coat the chicken well with the mixture. Place chicken skin side up on the prepared sheet, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove chicken and turn it over. Sprinkle with nuts and return to oven for 20 more minutes. Makes 6 servings.

Brown Sugar Grilled Salmon
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
6 (4 ounce) salmon fillets

Combine wine, soy sauce, sugar, and garlic in a large plastic resealable bag. Add salmon, seal bag, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to marinate. Preheat grill to medium and lightly oil grate. Drain salmon from marinade and set on the grill. Close lid. Cook for about 10 minutes, until fish fillets flake easily. Makes 6 servings.

Brown Sugar Baked Sweet Potatoes
6 large sweet potatoes (5 pounds total), peeled and sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375°F. Put sweet potatoes on a foil lined baking sheet and toss with butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bake for 25 minutes. Stir together brown sugar and nutmeg. Turn sweet potato slices and sprinkle evenly with sugar mixture. Bake again until golden and tender, 35 to 40 minutes more. Makes 8 servings.
Note: Sweet potatoes can be baked 1 day ahead and chilled. Reheat in a baking dish, covered, in oven.

Beets with a Brown Sugar Glaze
3 cups, 1/2- to 1-inch cubed beets
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

*Trim beet greens (if any) and root end; peel the skin with a vegetable peeler. Cut beets into 1/2- to 1-inch-thick cubes, wedges or slices.

To steam on the stovetop: Place in a steamer basket over 1 inch of boiling water in a large pot. Cover and steam over high heat until tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

To steam in the microwave: Place in a glass baking dish, add 2 tablespoons water, cover tightly and microwave on High until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.

Combine brown sugar, orange juice, butter, salt, and pepper in a large nonstick skillet. Cook over medium heat until the sugar and butter are melted and starting to bubble. Stir in beets and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and the beets are coated with glaze, 6 to 8 minutes. Serve hot or warm. Makes 6 servings.
*Note: Many people don't realize how delicious beet tops are. Simply wash them, remove the tough stems and saute with sliced onions, garlic, butter and a little chicken stock or water for about 15 minute.

Kimberly's Creme Caramel  (a.k.a Flan)
Flan is an oven-baked caramel custard dessert that is very popular in Spain and in Mexico. Flan is commonly used as a term to describe the Spanish or Mexican version of Crème caramel. However, traditional flan is both more rich and more dense than Crème caramel, as it contains more eggs and yolks as well as some milk, heavy cream, half and half, and/or sweetened condensed milk. It is made with a top layer of custard paired with the sweetness of a light caramel sauce, that is put in the bottom of the pan underneath it. Both are baked together. When chilled and then inverted to unmold, the sauce pours over the custard and is served as is. The typical favoring is simply vanilla but there are numerous variations that include almonds, pistachio, orange, pumpkin, coffee, lemon, and various other fruits. My wife, Kimberly, has been making creme caramel (flan) for years, probably because I love it. We've tried many other recipes, but this one is a keeper. It's smooth and creamy with a wonderful caramelized sugar sauce. We hope you try it, and share this recipe with others.

Ingredients for flan custard:
5 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups whole milk

Ingredients for caramel sauce:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 ungreased 6-ounce sized ovenproof ramekins (she uses pyrex ramekins)

Preheat oven to 325˚F. In a large bowl, with a wire whisk, beat eggs with sugar, salt and vanilla to mix well. Gradually add milk, beating until smooth, not frothy, and set it aside while you make the caramel sauce.

Pour 3/4 cup of white sugar into a small pan. Cook slowly over very low heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, just until sugar melts to a golden syrup. If the sugar is cooked too long and at too high a temperature, it will be too dark and taste burned. Immediately pour syrup equally into the bottom of each ramekin. Allow ramekins to cool for at least 15 minutes.

Fill a high sided roasting pan with 1 inch of boiling water. Place the 6 ramekins in the pan. Carefully pour the custard mixture on top of the caramelized sugar in each ramekin. Place the baking pan on the middle rack in the oven. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a paring knife inserted halfway between center and edge of custard comes out clean. Do not over bake; custard continues to bake after removal from the oven. Remove the ramekins from the hot water to a rack to cool completely. Custards can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to two days. The custards will settle slightly while cooling.

To unmold, slide a paring knife around perimeter of each ramekin, pressing the knife against the side of the dish. Hold a serving plate over top of ramekin and invert; set the plate on the work surface and shake the ramekin gently to release custard; the caramel sauce will run down the sides of the flan. Serve immediately. Makes 6 individual flan servings.

Roasted Mango with Brown Sugar
and Macadamia Nuts

2 mangoes, peeled and pureed
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
slices of fresh mango for garnish

Combine the nuts, sugar and cinnamon in a baking dish, mix well and bake in a pre-heated oven at 300˚F for 15-20 minutes. Pour in the mango pulp and again bake for 10-12 minutes. Serve warm over pound cake, ice-cream or by itself. Garnish with fresh mango slices. Makes 4 servings.

Grilled Pineapple Slices with Brown Sugar
8 fresh pineapple slices
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon brandy or rum (optional)
vanilla ice-cream

Combine butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and cream the mixture until it is soft and creamy. Using a knife, spread an even layer of the creamed butter mixture on both sides of each pineapple slice. Grill the pineapple slices on both sides until they are lightly browned. Pour the brandy in a ladel and warm it lightly. Pour over the pineapples and set it on fire, allowing them to get flambéed. Serve immediately with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Makes 4 servings.
Note: You can also use bananas with the same marinade.

Burnt Sugar Cake
1 3/4 cups white sugar
1/3 cup hot water
3 cups sifted cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup milk

Prepare burnt sugar by placing 1 1/2 cups white sugar into a heavy skillet over medium high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon as sugar melts. When it becomes very dark brown, remove from heat, add hot water very slowly and stir until dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350˚F (175 degrees C). Line two 9 inch round baking pans with parchment paper. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together three times.

Cream the butter or margarine with the remaining 1 1/4 cups white sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating thoroughly after each. Stir in the vanilla and the burnt sugar syrup mixture.

Add the dry ingredients and milk alternately to the creamed mixture. Beat until smooth. Pour batter into the prepared pans.

Bake at 350˚F for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cake layers and dust with powdered sugar, or use a butter cream icing. Makes 2 - 9 inch round layers.

1 cup / 8 oz / 225 g unsalted butter
1/2 cup / 120 ml water
3/4 cup / 180 ml unsulphured blackstrap molasses

3/4 cup / 180 m honey
1 cup / 5 1/2 oz / 155 g tightly packed dark brown 

3 cups / 13 1/2 oz / 385 g whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 

1/2 teaspoon salt 

2 teaspoons ground ginger 

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup / 120 ml milk
1 packed tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, to serve

Preheat the oven to 325˚F / 165˚C, with a rack in the center. Butter and line a 13x9x2-inch (33x23x5-cm) baking pan so the parchment hangs over by a couple inches. This will help you remove the cake from the pan later on.

Combine the butter, water, molasses, honey and brown sugar in a medium non-reactive saucepan and place over low heat. Stir the mixture frequently until the butter is just melted, and all of the ingredients are well blended. Remove from the heat, pour into a large bowl and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, all-spice and cloves, and set aside. When the molasses mixture feels just warm to the touch, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the milk and stir to combine. Fold the dry ingredients into the batter, and don't be overly concerned if you can't get every lump out. Stir in the grated ginger.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-60 minutes. Start checking for doneness after about 45 minutes. When the top of the cake springs back when touched you're good. For me this is usually 55 minutes, but the baking time will depend on your oven and the shape of your pan.

Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes, then, using the overhang of parchment (if you're using a rectangular pan), lift the cake out of the pan and cool completely on a wire rack before cutting. If refrigerated, the texture becomes dense and sticky - in a good way, just let it come up to room temperature before serving. Serve with whipped cream that has been flavored with burbon. Makes 12-16 servings.

Burnt Sugar Cookies
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar (either light or dark)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 large egg, room temperature
1/4 burnt sugar syrup (see recipe below)
1/4 cup granulated sugar

To make the burnt-sugar syrup:
Place about 3/4 cup granulated sugar in a saute/frying pan, over medium-low heat. Sugar will start to melt and turn brown. Stir occasionally. When melted, add 3/4 cup hot or boiling water. Stir gently and carefully as the mixture will bubble like a cauldron. Though I'd been warned, I was still gleefully impressed. Simmer over low-ish, for 5-10 minutes, letting some of the water boil off. Then, let cool to room temperature.

For the cookies:
Sift together flour, baking soda, ginger, coriander, and salt. In mixer bowl, cream together (on HIGH) butter, brown sugar, and lemon zest til light and fluffy. Reduce speed to MEDIUM. Beat in egg and burnt-sugar syrup, till blended. Reduce speed to LOW; add dry ingredients in two additions, till just blended. Cover, refrigerate for 2 hours. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Pour 1/4 cup of granulated sugar into a small bowl. Roll 1" dough-balls in sugar before placing on cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, until crinkly on top like gingersnaps. Makes about 16 cookies.

Caramel Sauce
This sauce is wonderful poured over vanilla ice cream.

1 cup white sugar
5 tablespoons butter, cut into slices
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 pinch sea salt to taste

Place sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium-high heat. Stir continuously until sugar begins to melt. Continue stirring until the sugar melts completely, begins to darken and all the chunks are dissolved, about 10 minutes. Stop stirring and continue to cook until the sugar begins to smoke and turns a dark shade of amber, 3 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and wait 30 seconds.

Whisk in butter until melted and combined. Slowly pour in cream, taking care because it can bubble over. Sprinkle in salt and stir to combine. Transfer to a jar and cool completely before refrigerating. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Buena Vista Irish Coffee
My first exposure to Irish coffee was at a bar in San Francisco called the Buena Vista. There were people standing shoulder to shoulder in this bar, all drinking their famous Irish coffee, this is the recipe.

4 ounces freshly brewed coffee
1 1/2 ounces Irish whiskey
1 teaspoon brown sugar
dollop of freshly whipped cream

Combine the coffee, whiskey, and sugar in a hot Irish coffee mug; then float whipped cream on top. Makes 1 serving.

Italian coffee: Substitute amaretto for the whiskey.
Jamaican coffee: Substitute dark rum for the whiskey.
Mexican coffee: Substitute Kahlua for the whiskey.

Macadamia Nut Expresso Caramels
2 1/2 cups chopped macadamia, or walnuts, toasted
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon espresso powder / finely ground espresso beans
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup honey

Special equipment: candy thermometer

Place the nuts in a medium sized, glass or ceramic mixing bowl.

In a medium, thick-bottomed saucepan heat the cream, espresso powder, and salt until tiny bubbles start forming where the milk touches the pan - just before a simmer. Stir in the honey. Bring the mixture to a boil. Now reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for about 15-20 minutes minutes or until the mixture reaches 260˚F - hard ball stage. Remove from heat.

Pour the caramel over the nuts and stir until all the nuts are well coated. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for 10 or 15 minutes to allow the caramel to thicken before you attempt to shape it. It is easier to handle this way - not as much spread. Stir one last time and drop by tablespoonful onto a prepared baking sheet (Silpat, parchment-lined, or oiled). Alternately, skip the nut addition and simply spread the (cooled but not set) caramel out on a slab or parchment-lined pan, let it cool completely before cutting into small pieces. Wrap & twist in parchment paper.

In either case keep the caramels in a cool place (or refrigerate) until completely set.

Makes 1 1/2 dozen nut caramels, or a couple dozen individual caramels (depending on the size).

Burnt Sugar Lollipops
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup or pure maple syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
24 cinnamon sticks, preferably 4 inches or longer

Line a large baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper; place in the refrigerator until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Stir sugar, corn syrup, water and cream of tartar in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, wiping down the sides of the pan occasionally with a wet pastry brush to remove any crystals, about 5 minutes.

Once the mixture reaches a full boil, cook, undisturbed, until very light amber, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour into a second deep saucepan, preferably one with a pouring lip; set aside just until the mixture stops boiling and is thickened somewhat (it will continue to darken), about 2 minutes.

Make 24 lollipops by pouring 1 1/2-inch circles onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. (Give yourself a few practice attempts"you have plenty of extra syrup for experimenting.) Press a cinnamon stick into each circle to form the lollipop stick. Use a spoon to drizzle the remaining sugar syrup (be careful: it's very hot) over each lollipop, thereby affixing the sticks and creating a sandwich of hardened sugar that holds the stick in place"do not let the circumference expand beyond its original boundary. (You won't use all the sugar; some will harden in the pan before you pour it out.) Let cool for about 20 minutes, then break off any shards of hardened sugar and seal the lollipops in individual bags. Makes 24 burnt sugar lollipops.
Note: Store lollipops in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

A couple of sources for lollipop bags and cellophane bags are Kitchen Krafts, kitchenkrafts.com, (800) 776-0575, and New York Cake and Baking Distributors, nycake.com, (800) 942-2539.

You can find the longer cinnamon sticks in natural-foods stores and from The Great American Spice Company, americanspice.com.

Recipe adapted from http://www.eatingwell.com

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