Nicola Harrington - guest blogger living in France with 7 holiday rental gites

Nicola Harrington

To be perfectly honest, I am getting a little bit anxious now. OK, to be honest, I am severely wound up about this pièce montée, and this is not helped by my mother telling me I really shouldn’t have taken it on as in her own words: “What happens Nicola, if you can’t do it? That is the centre piece for the day. You could ruin the whole christening”. No pressure there then. Thanks, Mum!

I was up at 4.00 am today. I made three batches of profiteroles and three different caramel sauces. The traditional caramel sauce alone, whereby you melt sugar very slowly in water, took an hour and a half and went rock hard within 10 minutes of coming off the cooker. No good. I must do better as I won’t be able to pile up the profiteroles in under ten minutes. No way!

The cheats caramel is another option. But it was no good: the sugar didn’t melt and the result was very grainy.

Now, I have a mega confession to make: the third and final ditch try was Delia’s toffee sauce. Toffee sauce / Caramel sauce, will anyone be any the wiser? Well, good old Delia, the toffee sauce took just 10 minutes to make… I just hope it is sticky enough to glue the choux.

Toffee sauce
Toffee sauce

Well, once finished, I took all three samples round to Fabienne and Francois, keeping my fingers crossed behind my back that they would vote for the toffee sauce. Whoopee, yes, they did! What a relief! It was certainly worth all the trauma and effort.

To be fair, even I found it was a little sweet, but it did get the thumbs up. That’s the main thing.

It has also just dawned on me just how big this pièce montée has got to be. There will be between 28 and 35 people at the christening. In an ideal world, that means four choux per person. That is 140 choux in total! Not only that but these cute, dainty choux need to be mounted up on top of each other to form a lovely symmetrical cone.

Fear not, I have a plan. What about making two separate pièces montées: one with chocolate and one with caramel? Feeling very proud of my brainwave: surely 70 choux piled on top of each other is more manageable?

I will need to ask Fabienne tomorrow.

Editor’s Note

Toffee sauce and caramel sauce are both popular sweet toppings that are used in a variety of desserts, but they have distinct differences in terms of ingredients and their ratio, preparation, and flavour profiles: caramel sauce has a more nuanced flavour with a balance of sweet and slightly bitter notes, while toffee sauce is richer, sweeter, and more buttery.

  1. Ingredients:
  • Caramel Sauce: Primarily made from sugar, water, and cream or milk, with butter often added for richness. The sugar is heated until it melts and becomes a deep amber liquid before the cream and butter are mixed in.
  • Toffee Sauce: Similar to caramel sauce but typically has a higher proportion of butter in the mix. It might also include molasses or brown sugar, giving it a deeper, richer flavor reminiscent of traditional toffee candy.
  1. Preparation:
  • Caramel Sauce: Involves the process of caramelizing sugar until it’s a deep amber color before adding other ingredients. The key to caramel sauce is carefully managing the caramelisation of the sugar without letting it burn.
  • Toffee Sauce: Often starts with melting butter and sugar together, sometimes with the addition of cream later in the process. The sugar may not necessarily undergo full caramelization, leading to a different flavour and colour profile.
  1. Flavour and Texture:
  • Caramel Sauce: Typically has a smooth, rich, and complex flavour with a hint of bitterness from the caramelisation of the sugar. It’s usually thinner in consistency compared to toffee sauce.
  • Toffee Sauce: Generally sweeter and richer with a more pronounced buttery flavour, reflecting the traditional taste of toffee candy. It can be thicker and stickier than caramel sauce.

Both sauces are versatile and can be used in similar ways, such as drizzling over ice cream, cakes, and puddings. The choice between the two often comes down to personal preference regarding sweetness and flavor intensity.

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