Artists pursue all avenues, and for Cassandra Chen, the road of choice is caramel. Chen's San Anselmo-based CC Made Artisanal Caramel produces caramel sauce, individual caramels, and caramel corn, all in small batches, and all by hand. It specializes in a milder set of flavors than the in-your-face nature of traditional candy caramels. The combination brings a "grown up" distinction to some classic childhood treats.
Here's what we tasted when we sampled CC Made's treats.
An initial flavor like high-end Crunch 'n Munch is followed by a building hit of spice. A bit light on almonds, but when you hit one the combination of tastes is memorable. The heat stays long past the sweetness -- a treat and also a trick, if you don't tell your friends what to expect.
The caramel corn comes off as a bit less sweet than in the spiced almond mix. The pistachio flavor comes through lightly on the corn even when you don't bite into a pistachio. Since the base ingredients are the same in each mix, either the spice of the pistachio intensifies the sweetness or the variance is due to CC Made's small-batch methods.
Artisanal Caramel Sauce
Sel Gris - Grey Sea Salt
This sauce is mild and mellow with a light note of salt in cream and a mild edge of the browned sugar.
Dark CacaoMadagascar Vanilla
Also light and lush, for caramel. More sophisticated and subtle than many of the in-your-face sugar-city syrups. A wonderful complement to high-end gelato or ultra dense ice cream.
Mild, mellow and pleasant. The caramel component builds a bit as you chew, bringing the burnt edge of sugar in the pan forward. Soft in texture, mild in flavor.
Himalayan Pink Sea Salt
Slightly more assertive. The burnt edge is intensified by the salt, which doesn't stand out so much on its own, but emphasizes the core flavors.
Bitter Sea Salt
The bitter hits after a moment, and gives the richest and most pronounced flavor. Almost a chocolate note. Would fit nicely alongside a cup of your favorite form of coffee.
CC Made caramel products are available at BiRite, Canyon Market, Cheese Plus and
La Beau Nob Hill Market and retail for $7-8 for 8oz popcorn; $4-5 for 3oz; $6:50-8 for caramels and $11-13 for Sauces.
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