An Unorthodox Usage For Lard

Chews

As you may recall, one of the things I wanted for Christmas was a bag of Chris Cosentino’s Boccalone lard caramels (amongst other things).

After the holidays I was able to cross a few things off that massive list (I Know How To Cook, the dough press, a scraping beater, a rolling pin and the spice storage solution, specifically), but I was still no closer to tasting those caramels.  As I probably mentioned at the time of writing, unless I get myself (or someone I know) to California (which is highly unlikely) I don’t have much chance of partaking of them any time soon, either.

You may also have noticed that this past weekend I rendered down the better part of 10 pounds of pork fat into lard, the majority of which has been earmarked for sealing the prosciutto.  Even after taking that into consideration, there was still a fair amount of fat left over.  Some I planned to freeze for another day, but it occurred to me that I had enough of a surplus to sacrifice a little to a lard caramel experiment.

When I first read about these fancy lard caramels, I assumed there must be some magical twist to them.  Further research revealed that wasn’t the case, and in fact the only thing unique about them (compared to other caramels) is the fact that the lard supposedly comes from Cosentino’s restaurant.  Beyond that, everything I read indicated they’ve employed a fairly standard caramel recipe.

So, with that in mind, I took my variation on Alice Medrich’s caramel recipe and lardified it.

But that wasn’t enough.  I also had to see if lard caramels could translate into my favourite variety; the chocolate cream caramel.  I’m not talking about that insipid Tootsie Roll stuff, but a chocolatey, chewy lump with grown up flavour.

Melted Sugar

I started by combining the typical caramel ingredients (sugar, salt, golden syrup) in 2 pots.

Raw Ingredients

Gradually, I added chopped 78% chocolate, lard and cream to one mix and ground vanilla beans, lard and cream to the next.

Melting Lard

Once those were in, I continued to cook the caramel until the temperature rose to about 265*.

Setting

After it achieved temperature I poured the hot goo into prepared pans and let it sit.

Caramel Squares

Several hours later… voila!  Vanilla caramels (above) and chocolate cream caramels (top of post).

So how do these stack up to regular caramels, you’re wondering?

Well, the vanilla caramel is rich and lusciously creamy, but finishes with an intriguing savoury note.  To further intensify it I’ve since sprinkled some of the slices with a smoked alderwood salt that counterbalances their sweetness.

The chocolate cream caramel is another story; one that I have not quite made my mind up about yet.  While it is similar in shape, texture and appearance to those old Kraft squares, the flavour is darker, with a demurely refined tone.  It’s also much firmer than the vanilla caramel, which may be the result of a slight scorching of the chocolate in the pan, I’m not 100% sure.  The smoky pork flavour is also much more prevalent in the chocolate version, in a way I’m not sure I like.  As of this writing I have not written them off, but I certainly haven’t decided that I’m loving them, either.  I’ll have to sit on them for a few more days before I declare my final verdict.

Overall though, I’d say the vanilla lard caramels were a smashing success, and along with my garamelic, something that I could see myself eating regularly for years to come.  If you’re interested in recreating or experimenting with it, I just took the garamelic recipe and divided it in half, replaced the butter with lard, and in the case of the chocolate creams, melted 5 ounces of chocolate down into the cream before adding it to the caramel.  Easy peasy, lemon squeezie!

Until next time…

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