Meet orange caramel
Caramel is cooked sugar, sometimes thinned with water and enriched with butter or cream. If orange juice is added to the mix, or substituted for the water, the end result is orange caramel.
Learn the backstory
Seventeenth-century French chefs were taken with the technique of heating up refined sugar, which produced a substance they could use to flavor custard and fill pastry. Later applications of caramel included nougat, brittle, pralines and coated fruit.
By the 1700s, European confectioners had devised hard caramel candies which were stiff enough to double as dining table décor. Later candies incorporated dairy for a richer chew, but they still tasted primarily of sugar.
One of the first added flavors associated with caramel was lemon, the defining ingredient in butterscotch (which doesn’t have any obvious connection to Scotland, so far as food historians can tell.) Confectioners also dabbled in salting their caramels, a habit that a century later became an American obsession. In 2008, salted caramel hot chocolate secured a spot on Starbucks’ menu, and Walmart started selling store-brand versions of the salted caramel truffles that President Barack Obama admitted he craved.
Just as salt contrasts with the expected cloyingness of caramel, citrus adds a bright bitterness to browned sugar. Inverting the practice of sprinkling sugar on grapefruit, pastry chefs over the past decade have experimented enthusiastically with blood orange, tangerine and lemon juices in their caramel sauces.
And order it here
Pies, Cakes, & S’More, a custom bakery on Johns Island, supplies a flourless cake to The Granary; it’s sauced with homemade orange caramel at the restaurant, 835 Coleman Blvd., thegranarycharleston.com, 843-216-3832 (Espresso mousse cake, $7)
— Hanna Raskin