Resources Archive

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

on butterscotch versus caramel

easy butterscotch sauce

You wouldn’t believe how often I am asked this, as if I’m some sort of know-it-all. Okay, fine, I am, but mostly thanks to Shuna Lydon, who I consider a butterscotch expert, as well as a booster for making it at home, as there’s absolutely no comparison with any butterscotch flavored confection you’d buy at a store.

Butterscotch and caramel are both cooked sugars, but regular caramel is made with melted granulated sugar and butterscotch with brown sugar. Butter and cream are usually added to make a caramel or butterscotch sauce, the pourable format most people with a pulse enjoy over vanilla ice cream. Both benefit from a pinch or two of sea salt, but butterscotch tastes especially lost without it. Vanilla extract is another magical ingredient in the butterscotch realm, one that lifts its excellent flavor into the exceptional. But I think the biggest confusion comes from “scotch” part of butterscotch, as there’s actually no Scotch in it and it has nothing to do with Scotland. “Scotch” is thought to originate from “scotched” or scorched (“to cut”) which made it easier to break the candy into pieces later. That said, a spoonful of scotch whiskey doesn’t taste bad in butterscotch sauce at all, it just doesn’t need any to taste good.

See also: Ridiculously Easy Butterscotch Sauce + A Deep, Dark Salted Caramel Sauce

Sunday, May 6, 2012

substituting vermouth for wine in recipes

cooking with vermouth!

You know all of those cooking shows and recipes (ahem, like ones on this very site — guilty!) that suggest cooking with wine is really fun because once you’ve opened a bottle for cooking, you get to drink the rest? Then there’s a series of “ah-ha-ha!”s and LOLs; it’s all very raucous. And look, people, I love a glass of wine with dinner from time to time but fact is, a lot of the time I open a bottle of wine for cooking, we forget to finish it, and this makes me very, very sad.

Enter dry vermouth. (The other variety of vermouth, usually red or pink, is called “sweet,” I like that, in part, for Manhattans, not that you asked.) Vermouth is a fortified white wine that is mildly aromatized with a variety of “botanicals,” such as herbs, spices, and fruits. Apparently, the word vermouth is derived from the German word for wormwood, wermut, as wormwood was the chief flavoring ingredient for vermouth until the herb was found to be poisonous, which I am sure was tremendously awkward. Nevertheless, the main reason I like to have vermouth around is its shelf life. When stored in the fridge (and you should, because this extends its shelf life), dry vermouth is good for anywhere between three and six months. (Sweet vermouth will keep for a year this way.) This means if you need just a splash here or there for a recipe, you don’t have to uncork a bottle of wine you may not finish before it quickly turns. Vermouth is also a lot less expensive than drinking wines. Gallo, the favorite in a Cook’s Illustrated taste test, costs only $5 for a 750ml bottle. The fancy-pants Dolin brand I picture above, almost considered too nice for everyday cooking, was $16.

A few usage notes: Vermouth’s flavor is of course a little different from a straight white table wine, due to the herbs and spices, so it may not be for everyone, but I find it to be lovely when cooking savory dishes. Due to the fortification, vermouth has a slightly higher percentage of alcohol than white wine (16 to 18 percent versus wine’s 12.5 to 14.5 percent), which means if you’re trying to partly “cook off” the alcohol it may need an extra minute of simmering time. But I find that it can be seamlessly interchanged with wine in just about any recipe, and deliciously so.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

too many egg whites?

Don’t you hate it when a recipe calls for egg yolks by the half-dozen but doesn’t help you find a home for all of those extra egg whites? One thing you can do with them is to freeze them until you find yourself making an egg white-demanding recipe, but if you’re more impatient than that, here are some Smitten Kitchen recipes that call for whites, not yolks: Spingy Fluffy Marshmallows, Mom’s Chocolate Chip Meringues, Mixed Berry Pavlova, 7-Minute Frosting, Chewy Amaretti Cookies, Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts, Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake, Pink Lady Cake, Almond Raspberry Layer Cake and, of course, in droves, Swiss Meringue Buttercream. [I'll update this post as we produce more egg white focused recipes.]

Need even more inspiration? Check out David Lebovitz’s suggested uses for extra egg whites. Now get whisking!