A Hunka Hunka Burning Sugar

caramelI’ve always been told by pastry chefs about the dangers of hot caramel, or “culinary napalm” in their lingo.  I’ve been reminded time and time again to be careful of it landing on your skin.  And I always have been, until last night.

I’m cooking dinner on Saturday for my wife’s co-workers, and this year, I decided to make a Mexican feast.  For my dessert, I had planned on stealing a dish from my friend, Phoebe Lawless, who inspired me several years ago with her combination of pumpkin fritters, goat cheese ice cream, goat milk cajeta and spicy, candied pumpkin seeds.  Folks, this was one of the best desserts I have ever eaten, and it was time to recreate the dish.

I planned on making the cajeta tomorrow, but being a realist who doesn’t have complete confidence of making caramel with canned goat milk, I needed a back-up plan: store-bought dulce de leche.  C’mon, it’s a Mexican caramel.  I only plan on using this if I screw up the cajeta.

So last night, I decided to taste the dulce de leche, warmed up, over some vanilla ice cream.  I put some in a ramekin, popped it in the microwave for a minute, and pulled it out.  Yeah, it was hot, but not terribly so.  Until I decided to stir it up, whereupon it became volcanic, spattering all over the place, including my left thumb.  Within 3 seconds, I had a major burn there.  This was a burn that was worse than hot grease.  Worse than grabbing the handle of a cast iron skillet that just got pulled from a hot oven (yup, did that a couple years ago).  It’s remarkable how hot this stuff gets.  I’m just glad that only a little of it ended up on my thumb, as otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing, and I sure wouldn’t be cooking.  I can just imagine (and imagining is as close to it I want to get) what it would be like to have a lot of this on your skin.  Not a pretty sight, indeed.

But the dulce de leche was pretty damn good.


9 Responses to A Hunka Hunka Burning Sugar

  1. Dana says:

    Wow. I’ll have to remember this.

  2. Chefs should get hazard pay for that. WOW.

  3. dmwcpa says:

    FYI for those that may not know; soy sauce seems to help with burns.

  4. Chubbypanda says:

    Ow ow ow ow! At least it was your thumb and not your face.

    I once worked with a pastry chef who’d been splattered with molten sugar some point earlier in her career. Unlike a lot of female chefs, who cut their hair short or pull it back in a tight braid/bun, her’s was worn loose over the left side of her face.

  5. Alan says:

    Hope you heal quickly, I’m aware how hot sugar can get. That’s always been a joke anywhere I’ve ever worked, where you offer someone to taste the caramel lyou just made that’s still in the pan. So far there’s been no takers.

  6. L says:

    Ow! Sorry to hear that.
    Speaking of Phoebe Lawless and her pies – I was excited to try them out after reading your delicious post about them, but after trying three times to get info and order for Thanksgiving, I never heard anything back. I was SO disappointed!!!

  7. burgeoningfoodie says:

    It’s coincidence that you posted this. I just came from a CLASS at Southern Season with Chef Julian Rose (now of Moonstruck Chocolate). One of his dishes called for a caramel/peanut bottom and he explained that when you had the cream to the still hot caramel you had best make sure the cream is warm if not hot or else Ka-Boom! I hope you heal soon.

    I also noticed that next year they are going to have a tasting of Coquette there. I think that class session is $40 and may well be good for people who want to get a taste for cheap and also live more in the Durham/Chapel Hill area.

  8. pheebs55 says:

    hey L…so sorry! try one more time?


  9. Selva says:

    wow.. sarap nyan.. ang galing mag-imbento.. I love it! You give me an idea at the same time reicnmsiing that santol.. nothing that in my place right now.. aargh.. anyhoo, happy food trip!Here’s mine:See yah..

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