Baked goods and pretty things are not my forte in the kitchen. I'm good at stews, quiche, gooey pasta dishes and slow cooked pork that falls off the bone, all sorts of things that taste better than they look. I'm like this in every part of my life. But when I opened this month's Ladies Home Journal and saw an easy recipe for gingerbread caramel sauce, I thought, "This is brown and gooey. I can do this."
Each middle school science fair project threatened to derail my "A+," because I couldn't make a pretty poster to save my life. I almost failed the required art class in high school, and my grade was saved only when my teacher came into the studio after hours, as I was desperately trying to fix my horrible work, and saw how hard I was trying. He looked sad and confused, but awarded me a "B" for extreme effort.
Blame it on the fact that I'm a lefty, or just call me sloppy. Either way, you are right. But this caramel sauce? I can do it!
→ Get the recipe: Make this Delicious Hostess Gift: Gingerbread Caramel Sauce at Ladies Home Journal
I even had all of the ingredients, except corn syrup. A quick search of the internet yielded the following information: The corn syrup was only in there to stop the sugar from re-crystallizing. Cream of tartar, which I had in the pantry, would work the same way. Hooray!
I subbed the same amount of cream of tartar as corn syrup in the recipe, which was overkill, but it turned out just fine!
As I watched my not-yet-caramel bubble on the stove, I forced myself not to stir it, which can also lead to re-crystallizing. This is one reason I am bad at making pretty things. I can't keep my hands off of something and just let it be. Lo and behold, after about 20 minutes, my caramel turned brown, just like the magazine said. A candy thermometer helped quell the urge to stir, because I knew the liquid had to be nearly 350° before it would turn amber. The recipe said that would take six minutes. Mine took much longer, possibly because I feared a higher heat would derail the whole project.
As for the packaging, I vowed to keep it very simple, not buying anything extra, no matter how sparkly, lest I make it ugly by accident. Random glass jars from the cabinet were perfect. Kitchen twine was to be my only adornment until I remembered a recent gift I had received, these sweet gift tags from Moxie House Paper Goods. I am darn proud of my simple presentation and I can't wait to give these away! I give it at least a B+, if not an A-.
Also, the caramel itself is delicious, though I was so excited that it worked, I almost forgot to taste.
How are you at making things pretty? And I'm curious: How many of you who are bad at making things pretty are lefties like me?
(Image credits: Anne Wolfe Postic)