Tag Archives: salted butter caramel

Death By Chocolate Cake

Would you like to die a death by chocolate cake…? Or more specifically, a death by my Chocolate & Hazelnut Salted Butter Caramel Cake? I didn’t know what I was thinking when I decided to whip up this evil thing for a dinner party for our friends, S & C. I probably wasn’t, because I could have killed someone with it.

I think there are different ways to depart this world with this cake. I could have suffocated S or C or M or myself by smothering one of us with the thick, luscious, smooth sour cream chocolate icing, which in a warped kind of role-reversal, is dying to be licked too. I could have choked one of us to death by clogging the throat up with greedy morsels of deep, dense, and very chocolatey cake. Or, I could have dehydrated someone by making one of us weep to death after my rich salted butter caramel has blazed a trail on the tongue, with that tiny savoury-sweet-buttery dribble threatening to leave the corner of one’s lips. Oooh, to kill or not to kill, my caramel has conscience and it ponders.

They say that nothing is certain but death and taxes. I say that nothing is ever worth living if  we don’t die a Death By Chocolate Cake. It is an arguably good way to go; you see, you leave this world with your teeth stained with chocolate, no one judges you for that, you get endorphins buzzing in your head, and then you sigh and go to heaven. So, why not?

P/S: No humans were killed in the making and consumption of this chocolate cake, unfortunately…

*Updated: This post has been featured on Foodgawker and Tastespotting. Check out my profiles on Foodgawker and Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

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Now, go slaughter someone you love with this too (and by the way, if anyone asks, you didn’t hear this evil doing from me):

Chocolate & Hazelnut Salted Butter Caramel Cake
(slightly adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess)

Makes an 8-inch two-layered, ironically, round weapon

To choke someone with the cake:

200g plain flour
200g caster sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
200g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
40g cocoa powder (I used Green & Black)
150ml sour cream
2 eggs
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla paste

1. Preheat oven (fan-assisted) to 160 degree Celcius. Grease and line two 8-inch sandwich tins.
2. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl.
3. Beat in the softened butter to the ingredients in step 2.
4. In a separate bowl, combine the cocoa powder, sour cream, eggs and vanilla paste till well-mixed, and then add this in a stream-like fashion to the flour mixture from step 3 and beat till everything is well-combined.
5. Pour the batter into the greased and lined sandwich tins (make sure both get equal amounts of batter) and bake for 26 minutes, rotating the cake tins halfway through if your oven has hotspots. You don’t want to overbake these as people might go to hell instead of heaven if you do…26 minutes work well for me, but if you want to check yours, the cakes should just begin to shy away from the edges of the tins, and the skewer should come out almost clean when inserted. Cool the cakes in the tins on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes, then turn the cakes out directly onto the rack to cool them further. In the meantime, work on the salted butter caramel sauce.

To set one’s tongue on fire with the salted butter caramel sauce:

100g caster sugar
55g unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
100ml whipping cream

1. Melt sugar and butter in a saucepan, and caramelise to copper colour (be careful not to burn it). Keep stirring during this process, and keep a watchful eye. Add the salt whilst stirring.
2. Scald the whipping cream in another saucepan (it should be shy of coming to a boil).
3. Remove the caramel from Step 1 from the heat, and add the cream. Be careful here, as the mixture will bubble vigorously and might splatter onto you. Stand far far away, with gloves on as you stir the hot cream and caramel together to form a smooth sauce. You don’t want to die looking like a blistered chef, that defeats the purpose of making this cake as the chef isn’t supposed to die. Let the caramel sauce cool down before use. Next, work on the icing.

To smother someone to death with the sour cream chocolate icing:

150g dark chocolate (I used 85% Lindt, broken up into small pieces)
105g unsalted butter
150ml sour cream (room temperature)
75ml whipping cream (room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 tablespoon golden syrup
250g icing sugar, sifted

1. Melt the butter and chocolate in a microwave (do this in 20-second blocks because you don’t want to overheat the chocolate and cause it to seize), or if you prefer, do it bain-marie style. Let the chocolate mixture cool slightly.
2. Gradually stir in the sour cream and whipping cream, vanilla paste and the golden syrup.
3. Slowly add the sifted icing sugar and combine till smooth.

Now, to assemble the weapon:

100g blanched hazelnuts, blitzed to tiny chunks in the food processor

1. Outline your serving plate or cake stand with strips of baking parchment, and sit your cake on top of strips, such that the edges of the cake are actually on the parchment pieces.
2. Spread the cooled salted butter caramel on the first layer, and then top it up with the second cake layer.
3. Pour the chocolate icing over the assembled cake, and let the icing flow down the sides while smoothing the surfaces with a palette knife.
4. Propping up your cake at different angles, pat on the blitzed hazelnuts on the sides, and leave the cake to set in the fridge till the icing is less gooey (it should still be sticky though). Remove the cake from the fridge when this is so. Carefully remove the parchment pieces from the plate/stand. You should get a very neat-looking cake.
5. Now, serve the cake to your unsuspecting guests. Remember, you didn’t hear it from me!



Deep Dark Chocolate Cake with Salted Butter Caramel Buttercream

I had loads of salted butter caramel sauce left in the fridge after making macarons with them. Waste not, so I whipped up a chocolate cake according to The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook recipe for a Brooklyn Blackout Cake, and instead of having chocolate custard as a filling between the layers, I made oodles of salted butter caramel buttercream.

Brooklyn Blackout Cake with Salted Butter Caramel Buttercream

Of course, I made sure nobody was looking over my shoulder when I packed in as much salted butter caramel sauce as humanely possible into the buttercream. Nobody needs to know how decadent this cake is, it might just spoil their appetite for all foods buttery, rich and delicious.

Brooklyn Blackout Cake with Salted Butter Caramel Buttercream

And if that wasn’t enough, because I was overzealous in making the buttercream, I ‘accidentally’ spilled some onto the top of the cake and ‘decided’ oh well, serendipity it is. Off I went, armed with my palette knife and spread the buttercream so enthusiastically, a hardcore personal trainer would have been pleased with all the arm action.

I was also very pleased that I didn’t break the cake layers up when trying to assemble them, because I always do!

When all the important cake tasks were done, I slipped off my apron, made some black tea, and invited my husband for a girly time with me out on the balcony. Don’t know if he enjoyed the girly bit, but he loved the cake, and so did our friends.

Hope you enjoy making and eating this as much as I did!

Here’s the recipe:

Deep Dark Chocolate Cake with Salted Butter Caramel Buttercream
(adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook’s recipe for Brooklyn Blackout Cake)

For the cake:

100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
260g caster sugar
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste
45g cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
a pinch of salt
170g plain flour
160ml whole milk

1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Line bases of two 8inch cake tins with greaseproof paper.

2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

3. Add eggs one a time, mixing well to make sure all incorporated.

4. Beat in vanilla paste, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda in at slow speed until well mixed.

5. Add half the flour. Mix well. Then add all of the milk, mix well, and finish off with the remaining half of the flour. Mix everything until well combined.

6. Pour cake batter into prepared cake tins, and smooth over with a palette knife.

7. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 min. This will depend on your oven, you don’t want to cake to be dried out.

8. Leave cakes in tin to cool slightly, and turn out onto cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the salted butter caramel buttercream:

250g Icing sugar, sifted
80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
A few tablespoons of store-bought salted butter caramel sauce or home-made sauce, at room temperature

1. Beat butter and icing sugar until well mixed. Add icing sugar in portions and taste as you mix to get the desired sweetness without having the buttercream too runny to spread. You don’t have to use up all 250g of the sugar. Also remember that you will be adding salted butter caramel sauce later so you need to tweak the amounts of different ingredients added to suit your preferences.

2. Add salted butter caramel sauce, however much you want again, to get the desired taste without making the buttercream too runny to spread. Beat frosting until light and fluffy and spread to your heart’s content!

Enjoy!

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Vanilla Bean Macarons with Salted Butter Caramel Buttercream

So I started off my macaron adventures with making erm, fake  nut-free macarons. I wasn’t contented with the fact the those macarons didn’t have feet, looked rough as hell (optimists call it rustic, home-made looking) even though they tasted great. I wanted to push myself to making better macarons and went on a hunt for a good recipe for the shells. I found this on Cannelle et Vanille, the most gorgeous food blog written and developed by the very talented Aran Goyoaga.

Making real macarons is incredibly hard work. I’m used to making cupcakes, biscuits, cookies, cakes, brownies, and nothing I’ve experienced through my years of baking prepared me for this very attempt. Four hours of very prolific swearing, aching arms, hair adorned with sticky pink bits of the batter, I swore I almost cried at the end of it. Tears of frustration and tears of joy, sounds very much like giving birth, no?

Vanilla Bean Macarons with Salted Butter Caramel Buttercream

I did feel very much like a mother, scrutinising the anatomy of my newborn babies when they came out of the oven. Let me explain. My oven is smaller than what would have been suitable for making tonnes of macaron shells, and my baking trays are small-ish too. I had to bake all those cute little rounds in a crazy number of batches, couple this with my lack of experience, I took four bloody hours to finish making these macarons. But this was good too, because I had a number of batches to play with, this meant that I could adjust baking times, and think about what went wrong with each batch, and learn from my mistakes pronto. My first batch was underbaked so they looked a bit pale (kinda fleshy pink), and the fact that they had nipples *giggles* suggested that macaronage had not gone far enough. Very frustrating for me because I am the most sedentary person and my arms were already aching badly from the macaronage, but the fact that little pale boobies came out of my oven for the first batch made me laugh. Yes I’m very childish….

Vanilla Bean Macarons with Salted Butter Caramel Buttercream

So I cheated for the second batch, and mixed the macaron batter for a while more. My arms were threatening to give up by then, but oh in the name of macarons and the ever-important learning process, I persisted. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to mix the batter again after letting it sit exposed for a while, but oooh, it kinda worked for the other batches because the nipples disappeared! I also made sure I covered the batter with a cling film to prevent excessive exposure to air because they might dry out too soon before I could even get round to baking them in my small oven. Nobody wants unsightly cracks on macarons, do we? I also went crazy maternal when I saw little feet forming on the bottom of the macaron shells. Feet, oh precious feet!!! My babies have feet!!! Nevermind the complexion!

My hubby calmed a very excited me down for a bit before I went on to make the salted butter caramel buttercream. Mind you, I didn’t know how to make proper salted butter caramel (I made a very elementary version which tasted good but wouldn’t be called proper caramel in a pastry chef’s dictionary…) and erm, I screwed it up big time because I didn’t understand what caramel actually was. I made up my own recipe but I ended up making a solid, rock-hard ‘caramel’ out of just butter, sugar and salt. A web search led me to realise that I needed cream in the equation to make it pliable and yielding, so off to Tesco for some cream, and thank goodness, I managed to turn what was teeth-breaking candy to a velvety smooth, sexy copper-coloured salted butter caramel. Phew.

Vanilla Bean Macarons with Salted Butter Caramel Buttercream

I cooled the caramel sauce down, mixed it up with butter and icing sugar, and spread the filling lovingly on my babies (have I told you they have feet?!) before attempting to take pictures that would do them justice.

Vanilla Bean Macarons with Salted Butter Caramel Buttercream

So there, my very exciting experience in making real macarons for the first time. Very frustrating, brought out the worst in me, full of mistakes I call lessons, but very very enriching and completely worth it! Because of that, I’ve gone on to make more macarons with improved recipes thanks to another fab food blogger, so stay tuned!

The recipe for the vanilla bean macaron shells is found on Cannelle et Vanille site (follow the link above), I haven’t changed anything except for the baking times. I would suggest using the different batches to test this out because it would differ with ovens.

Here’s my rogue recipe for salted butter caramel buttercream. As I made lots of mistakes while trying to correct my self-made recipe, I tried my best to record what I did to rescue it in the mayhem, and erm, I hope I did it as accurately as I should have and I sure hope it works for you too! I also made this the caramel sauce a little saltier as I wanted to add it to butter and icing sugar for a well-balanced buttercream.

For the salted butter caramel sauce:

150g granulated sugar
100g unsalted butter, cubed
2 teaspoons sea salt (lower the amount of salt if you aren’t intending to make a buttercream out of it)
200ml whipping cream

1. On medium-low heat, add sugar, butter and salt to deep saucepan and stir continuously while sugar melts. Caramelise this mixture to a copper colour. Note that caramel burns extremely easily, so keep an eye on it the whole time.

2. Meanwhile, heat whipping cream until it just comes to boil and take it off the heat.

3. Remove saucepan from heat, add the hot whipping cream. The caramel will splatter (very vigorously, I burnt myself in the process!), so you might want to wear oven mitts and definitely lean as far away as you can from all the action. Stir the mixture continuously until well-combined to a smooth sauce.

4. Cool caramel sauce at room temperature, and at this point, you can store the sauce in the fridge. I kept the leftover sauce in the fridge for two weeks (cling wrapped the bowl), and it was fine. Whenever I wanted to drizzle it over ice cream, or use it for baking, I take a portion out to room temperature and let it soften to a more workable state.

For the salted butter caramel buttercream:

150g unsalted butter, softened
25g icing sugar
2-4 tablespoons of salted butter caramel sauce, room temperature

1. Cream butter and icing sugar together.

2. Add 1 tablespoon of salted butter caramel sauce at a time, until you get the desired taste without making the buttercream too runny. I recall that I used about 3 tablespoons, but again this would depend on the temperature and humidity of your location. So add the sauce slowly and taste it as you go, stop when you’re happy or before the buttercream gets runnier than it should be.

If you love macarons, join me on my macaron journey.

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

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Paris Luxe Eats: Pierre Hermé and The Best Macarons In The World

I would go to any length to get me-self some Pierre Hermé goodies, even if it means torturing my poor parents by giving them blistered and aching feet. My allegiance to Pierre Hermé seems to weigh more than filial piety; I think something is very wrong with me, or perhaps in a warp sense, just very right. Before you wag your accusing finger at me, please understand that Pierre Hermé is impossible to resist, and that I felt guilty and made it up by feeding my parents with tonnes of macarons (not equivalent in weight of course because I would be very, very poor), which they thoroughly enjoyed.

The walk to the Saint Germain des Prés area, where the Pierre Hermé boutique is located, began from Notre Dame. We had just attended service and viewed the Crown of Thorns on Good Friday. The queue to get into the cathedral was insanely long and the wait became quite treacherous with almost-gales whipping mercilessly at us as we battled countless umbrella flips. On a few occasions, I swore my umbrella nearly did perfect Venus Flytraps on my head. We were relieved to seek shelter once we got into the cathedral, and all the happier to return to the outdoors, greeted by the warm, comforting sun.

Pierre Hermé Boutique

Rain or shine, it couldn’t have changed what was about to come; my dad was suffering from very painful feet, in silence no less. Having realised that dad wasn’t enjoying a pleasant walk in the sun like M and I were, I suggested for them to hop on the metro back to the hotel, but dad insisted on coming with me for fear that his very grown-up daughter would meet with some disaster. So we trudged ahead. It must have seem like hours before we arrived at the boutique, and M took my poor parents to a café to rest their feet. Out of loyalty (or gluttony….), my sister joined me at the queue.

The window display at the boutique featured one and only one thing, some kind of a cream cake sandwiched and layered with thin wafers of pastry.

No macarons in sight?! Could there be a creation more delish at Pierre Hermé than its world-famous macarons?

Pierre Hermé Gift Box

The queue was moving rather slowly and we were at the doorway a good amout of time later. My heart beat in anticipation. I was that close to pouncing on those macarons that friends have raved sooooo much about.

And then it was my turn. I checked out the pricelist. Crazily expensive. But I had one chance and one chance only, so I told the shop assistant that I wanted the 16-piece gift box, which cost €34. I braced myself for the array of colourful macarons that were screaming to be chosen, and I refused to be pressured by the snaking queue into making a hasty decision. The macarons were too expensive; I was determined to take my time to acquaint myself with every flavour displayed on the counter, and if I didn’t know what the French labels meant, I was going to make sure that the shop assistants explain them well to me in perfect English. This I must get for paying €34.

Pierre Hermé Box of 16 macarons

Rose (rose). Infiniment caramel (salted butter caramel). Chocolat (Venezuala Porcelana dark chocolate). Mogador (passionfruit and milk chocolate). Jasmin (Jasmine). Eden (peach, saffron and apricot). Pistache (pistachio). Huile d’Olive et Vanille (Vanilla and olive oil). Magnifique (strawberry & wasabi). Mosaic (pistachio, griottines & cinnamon).

M is slightly allergic to pistachios, so I asked the shop assistant to load up on the remaining eight flavours, which worked out well to give us two pieces of each flavour, more to go around and less to share!

I cradled my pretty bag of macarons, walked out of the boutique with a silly grin, and as I walked past the growing queue outside, I think I kinda wore a smirk on my face. Ha! I’ve got my macarons and you’re still queuing for yours!

Pierre Hermé Macarons - Jasmin & Rose

We rummaged teabags from the hotel room, and had a little afternoon tea session with so-so tea and glorious macarons. They were out of this world and impossibly delicate.  I have described Ladurée’s macarons to have the most delightful shells with lightly-crisp exteriors and very slightly soft interiors, but Pierre Hermé takes this to another level. How is that possible?! The ganache of every single macaron was ethereal, creamier yet lighter than its Ladurée counterparts. The cream boasted of  perfect marriages of the most unlikely flavours in the subtlest hints.

Pierre Hermé Macarons - Chuao & Infiniment Caramel

The only one that I didn’t like was Eden, but the rest were gorgeous. My favourites were jasmine, salted butter caramel, olive and vanilla, and strawberry and wasabi. Having a Jasmin macaron was akin to perfuming your mouth with cups after cups of fragrant jasmine tea. Needless to say, I will always be a big fan of salted butter caramel. The olive oil and vanilla-flavoured macaron was unthinkably and strangely delicious. I was most pleasantly surprised by strawberry and wasabi. I actually grimaced when the shop assistant explained its contents to me and was very hesitant to taste it but the sweet and tart strawberry jam gave way to the tiniest hint of heat from wasabi and it works perfectly! This was the macaron that convinced me that Pierre Hermé is a true genius.

Pierre Hermé Macarons - Citron & Mosaic

I felt that the money was very well spent and the macarons were worth every penny, however expensive they are. In fact, I loved them so much that I dropped by the Pierre Hermé counter that opened recently at Selfridges & Co. in London (hallelujah!) to buy more macarons (£80 per kg, or available in gift boxes). There were other flavours available that I didn’t try in Paris, such as Chuao (dark chocolate with blackcurrant berries) and Mosaic, and I happily gobbled them up soon as I got home because they were sooooo good.

Pierre Hermé boutiques are also committed to ensuring the highest quality of its pastries, as evident from my encounter at Selfridges. I wanted to get the strawberry and balsamic vinegar ones, but the assistant refused to sell them because ‘ze shells are a beet soft’. He then proceeded to discard two huge trays of that flavour. My heart broke into pieces and I regretted not begging him to let me have them for free!

You must must must try Pierre Hermé macarons. They are hands down, the best macarons you’ll ever have. When you finally get your hands on them, know that people will be sucking up to you just to steal a bite, but don’t you dare share these babies with others. Be incredibly selfish and hide them away from prying, greedy and discerning hands. You have been warned!

Check out my food and travel stories in Paris.

Also check out my other food adventures.

Pierre Hermé macarons are available at:

72 rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris
(this is the first shop he opened, there are a sprinkling of others in Paris but I suggest going to this boutique to say you’ve been there, done that!)

Foodhall, Selfridges & Co., London.

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Paris Luxe Eats: Henri Le Roux’s Caramel au Beurre Salé (Salted Butter Caramel)

I remember the days when I would stick out my tongue in disgust at the sight of halved Yakult bottles of salt served up with watermelon slices at hawker centres. I could not understand why anyone would sprinkle salt onto fresh slivers of perfectly sweet, thirst-quenching watermelon until….

my first taste of mum’s black glutinous rice sweet soup (known as Bubur Pulut Hitam in Malay or orh bee ber in Hokkien). It wasn’t so much of the black glutinous rice that I was drawn to. It was the wonderful savoury nuance of the coconut milk that sprung a delightful surprise on me. I was puzzled as to how coconut milk could taste so divine and reasoned that no one in their right mind would add salt to achieve a savoury hint, until mummy dearest told me that it was indeed important to add a teeny bit of salt to coconut milk to bring out its flavour. That was the trick I adapted to create my cornflake caramel drops.

Henri Le Roux's caramel au beurre salé available on sale from Denise Acabo

Behold the power of salt.

Keep this in mind while I turn your attention from watermelons and black glutinous rice to caramel au beurre salé, which is sexy French for salted butter caramel. Very different desserts, I know, but we will get there, you’ll see.

Caramel lovers, you know you love its gooey and smooth texture, its sweet and sometimes buttery flavour (if butter is added during its creation) and the general sense of well-being that you get afterwards. I’ve kind of stuck to and sworn by the taste of caramel but thanks to a genius, Henri Le Roux, I will no longer tolerate mere mortals such as caramel, not without precious grains of salt anyway.

Henri Le Roux is a most highly revered confiseur, and he started making caramels in the coastal town of Quiberon in southern Brittany in 1977. There, he created caramel au beurre salé and revolutionised the way chefs were making caramels and the way consumers were tasting them. In 1980, Le Roux won the award for creating the best candy in France (Le Meilleur Bonbon de France) at the Salon International de la Confiserie in Paris. If you know of and love salted butter caramel, it’s all thanks to Monsieur Le Roux.

The addition of salt and the best butter in the world (found in Brittany) to caramel simply lifts its flavour, and pretty much anyone who tastes it to the high heavens. I am most humbled to have had the opportunity to sample these divine candies.

Caramel au beurre salé - nature (salted butter caramel - plain)

I stumbled onto pages and pages of high praises for Henri Le Roux’s caramel au beurre salé during my Parisian food research and a certain quaint candy shop, A l’Etoile d’Or owned by Denise Acabo was mentioned every so often. I decided that I must make the pilgrimage to procure some of these sweets, even if it meant dragging my exhausted family with me.

We were strolling in Montmartre following a visit to Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, and having been reassured by our hotel concierge that it only takes ten minutes to walk to the candy shop from Montmartre, we consulted our trusty map and strolled downhill. The leisurely pace became a rather strenuous and drawn-out walk when my parents grew tired treading on uneven grounds under the hot sun. We had to walk along Boulevard de Clichy, which had more sex shops and weird sexual gadgets (including a chair with a rotating wheel of fake tongues positioned right about where you would sit….) than you could possibly imagine, which proved to be rather uncomfortable as women solicited men in broad daylight. The uneasiness soon turned into nervous anticipation as we made our way into rue Fontaine, for the little street was lined with rundown shops that would make a much talked-about candy shop look out of place. I feared that I had led my weary family for a futile walk into a hell-hole, until my husband pointed out in part frustration and part triumph, that A l’Etoile d’Or was right ahead of us.

Mango flavoured caramel au beurre salé

I entered the shop, buzzed with excitement as my family stared at me with furrowed brows. They had no idea what the fuss was about. I barely noticed that the shop was stuffed full of chocolates and candy, left, right and center, before a middle-aged woman in pigtails greeted us. I recognised her as Denise Acabo from pictures on the internet and I managed a badly pronounced ‘Parlez vous anglais?’. She clearly had no inkling of English as she pushed a young girl, also in pigtails, to me while muttering ‘……anglais…..’. I told the girl that I wanted to buy salted butter caramel, and she translated to Denise. That triggered an uninterrupted rattling of rapid French and very enthusiastic and animated gesturing to the jars of caramels. Clearly, I had no idea what she was saying, and relied on the girl’s minimal knowledge of English and French words written on the jars for the information I needed. Denise handed me a silver tray to hold the candies, and I filled the tray up with slight hesitation as these caramels were exceedingly expensive at €7.50 per 100 grams. The food monster in me took over in a second and I figured that if I scrimped on this, I would regret for life because this is one of the few places in the world where I could lay my hands on Henri Le Roux’s caramels.

Chocolate salted butter caramel

I picked up mostly nature (plain) caramels, a few of the mango-flavoured and dark chocolate ones, and two gift packs for friends. The bill came up to a hefty €31 for about 25-30 pieces. I quickly left the shop without looking at the other goodies, for fear of igniting a gluttony-driven spree. Guilt of spending so much on such a small amount of candies disappeared soon as I unwrapped one and popped it into my mouth. The caramel was not the least bit cloying and they had the perfect touch of saltiness. It was pleasurably soft and chewy; every bite oozed with buttery goodness without being too rich and I swore I nearly cried tears of salt, butter and caramel. I could hear nothing but silence as my family savoured the caramels. They were too good. As they say, silence is golden.

My stash of salted butter caramels

The mango-flavoured ones didn’t quite sit with me, but the dark chocolate-flavoured ones were amazing. Take a deep whiff when you unravel the wrapper of the chocolate caramel before you sink your teeth in, you won’t regret it. If you have just enough money to spend on one flavour, I would highly recommend the nature ones, they are reputed to be the best caramel au beurre salé in the world and you just have to try them.

If you’re heading to Paris, you can get the caramels at:

A l’Etoile d’Or Denise Acabo

30, rue Fontaine, 75009, Paris (nearest Metro: Blanche)

If you’re lucky enough to be heading to Quiberon, these candies and other goodies are sold at the main shop:

Le Roux

18 rue de Port-Maria, 56170 Quiberon

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I Want To Love Paris

We just returned from our second visit to Paris yesterday night, and…..

We remain unimpressed by the La Ville-Lumière.

Yes, the city is beautiful and very much dazzling, especially at twilight and against the black backdrop of cloudless nights. Tour Eiffel is magnificent; the view from its summit is breathtaking. Champ de Mars charms with its manicured greens and effusive glow. River Seine sparkles at twilight and invites admirers to glide on boat cruises as it meanders through the city of lights. Musée du Louvre is beyond a treasure trove with its multitude of sculptures and paintings; Cupid and Psyche brings the bittersweet longing of lovers to life, and the mysterious Mona Lisa and the sadistic dark paintings depicting death and decapitation still enthrall me five years later. Our choice of temporary abode for this visit, Hotel Warwick Champs-Elysées was a minute’s walk away from Champs-Elysées, the rooms were spacious with king-sized beds and quality pillows, we were given posh toiletries from Gilchrist and Soames, the staff were delightfully helpful, all of which were vast improvement from the shabby, dingy cheap hotel that we stayed in 5 years ago at Château d’Eau.

Tour Eiffel

But there is something that still detaches me, us actually, from the city.

Perhaps it’s the lack of belly-rubbing meals. During our first visit to Paris five years ago, we were poor undergraduate students and survived on €5 cold sandwiches bought from random stalls in the middle of nowhere; I am being cordial when I say that the bread had the uncanny texture of rags. For our recent visit, I did some research on the internet for good casual bistros to satisfy the food monsters in us, but my family members, who fell ill one after the other, were challenged by the long walks and unforgiving weather, so we settled for Chinese takeouts and McDonald’s instead. The good food in Paris still eludes me.

Champ de Mars

Perhaps we hated the weather…..oh the weather. The first time we were in Paris, it was summer but it was too cold and too windy. Nevermind that, because that’s typical English weather. We visited Paris Disneyland less than two years ago, and we experienced four types of weather in one day – hot sun, heavy rain, hail and snow. This time, the weather was fickle; we were whipping out our umbrellas and having them flipped by the strong icy winds every five minutes, so much so that one of our brollies succumbed to multiple fractures and suffered an unfortunate demise in one of the bins at Château de Versailles. That’s not all. The last hours in Paris were insane. We had popped into Adidas along Champs-Elysées for a fun session of core skills test whilst avoiding the scorching sun. When we came out all exhausted from the test, it was still incredibly sunny, and we thought ‘Yay, the weather is finally dry and hot‘. Right about halfway up the tree-lined street, I exclaimed ‘Oh my gosh, not heavy rain again!!’ when I saw huge droplets of water falling from the suddenly overcast skies. And then my husband went ‘What is tha…OUCH!’. Yes, hail, my dears. We struggled to whip out our battered umbrellas and they refused to open to shelter us from the ice attack. It was soooo painful to have huge granules of ice hitting our scalps and faces at incredible speeds. Even our legs, which were covered in denim, hurt. It almost seemed like Paris wanted me to hate it.

River Seine

Oh right, there were queues snaking everywhere too, at Tour Eiffel and Château de Versailles even though we had advanced tickets, at Musée du Louvre where the queues extended to beyond the other square because it is free to enter the museum on the first Sunday of every month, at Notre Dame de Paris because a portion of the Crown of Thorns is on display on Good Friday and on the first Friday of every month. I’ve not seen such faithful queuing since the days that Hello Kitty made its debut at McDonald’s in Singapore. And then there was a queue at Pierre Hermé, obviously because of its famous macaroons.

What about exceedingly expensive everything, mostly snooty attitudes, the trying flights of stairs that we had to climb to get from one metro line to another in the same station (and that is saying something because we do a hell lot of legwork in London), and the trio of teenage girls who purposely squeezed into the same coach with us in the metro just to try and pickpocket my mother?

Musée du Louvre

I want to love Paris, I really do. But maybe I need to save up for a more luxurious vacation and decent meals, pray for good weather, hope to meet less snooty people, stop visiting the popular attractions, and just go for good stuff, you know, like Pierre Hermé’s macaroons and vanilla millefeuille, caramel au beurre salé from Denise Acabo whom I would love to hug a million times, and do more affordable luxury shopping.

For now, I shall sit back and admire the illustrous pictures of Parisian desserts and views taken with my very capable and intuitive Lumix LX3, cultivate an extra belly with the macaroons and caramel au beurre salé, and wait for my slight distaste of the city to ebb before I make my third foray into the streets of Paris. Three time’s the charm, or so they say. And so I hope.

Check out my food and travel stories in Paris.