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Yesterday was a very full day of baking cookies and building gingerbread houses so I was away from home for the majority of the day.  I didn’t get home until very late and fell right to sleep.  So I must apologize for missing a day in this Twelve Days of Cocoa series.  I’ll make it up to you!  Maybe two recipes in one post soon?

I had a lovely surprise in my mailbox yesterday.  My dad sent me a new copy of The Harry Connick Jr. Christmas Special! I spent this morning dancing around my kitchen with Harry and making tons of hot cocoa.  Today’s hot cocoa:  Salted Caramel.

Caramel is my absolute favorite chocolate accompaniment.  Caramel is one of my favorite flavors just on it’s own.  When I buy those mixed chocolate boxes I always go for the ones with mostly caramel variations. Last Friday, my last day of school, one of the pastry students gave me a few assorted candies, including a large block of salted caramel.

Caramelizing sugar is a fairly simple process, but you need to really babysit it because it gets very hot.  It is basically culinary napalm.  Caramel is simply sugar melted with water until it turns a dark amber color.  Mix one cup of sugar with just enough water to reach a “wet sand” consistency and cook on the stove top until it is amber.  Easy.

However, this sugar and water mixture gets extremely hot and sticky.  You need to be so careful when stirring and pouring to make sure you don’t get any on yourself or others.  The last time I made caramel I got one drop (smaller than a pea) on my hand.  I dropped everything and ran to wash it off.  The napalm was on my skin for less than thirty seconds, but by the time I got it washed off my skin was already blistering.  So be careful!

Sea salt flakes add a special layer of flavor and touch of beauty to this beverage.  For the caramel I don’t stop at just sugar and water.  I heat up some cream and stir that into the caramel to form a sauce.  The sauce can be used on ice cream, cheesecake, brownies, hot cocoa, whatever you prefer to drizzle caramel sauce over.

Salted Caramel Hot Cocoa
1 Mug Light Chocolate Ganache Hot Cocoa
4 Tablespoons Salted Caramel Sauce

-Mix ingredients together
-Serve hot in your favorite mug

Salted Caramel Sauce
Makes about 1 1/2 Cups

1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 Cup Water
1 Cup Heavy Cream
1 Tablespoon Sea Salt

-Pour sugar into small saucepan
-Add just enough water for sugar to reach a “wet sand” consistency
-Cook over medium heat until liquid reaches a dark amber color (about ten minutes)
-Do not stir mixture while cooking
-Heat cream in another small saucepan (do not boil)
-Slowly stir cream into caramel
-Stir in sea salt
-Cool to room temperature before transferring to airtight container
-Store in refrigerator up to two weeks

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