I’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.