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Beer-Orange-Vanilla Bean Caramel (...featuring New Belgium's Somersault Ale)

This post has been a long time in the making.  No particular reason.  Nothing out-of-the-ordinary.  Nothing spectacular.  Oh, let me rephrase that- this caramel is spectacular.  My goal- not so much.  Don't you just hate it when best laid plans don't work out?  I was planning a dazzling "ladies who lunch and drink beer" day in which I would get together with my mom and sisters and grandma.  It just never came together. The whole menu was carefully planned out using a selection of New Belgium Beer throughout the menu.  Oh yeah, it was going to be epic.  The lunch party to end all lunch parties.  There was the meal which consisted of something typical made non-typical. 

What's typical you ask?  Soup, salad, and bread.  Pretty typical.  Nothing flashy, but meal that I am pretty much happy with anytime.  However, this was not just any meal consisting of soup, salad, and bread.  Oh no.  It started off with a Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Beer Buttermilk Dressing and Spicy Beer Nuts made with Mighty Arrow Pale Ale.  And then.  Then there was Oatmeal Brown Ale Bread Bowls made with 1554 Enlightened Black Ale.  And to sit perfectly inside those retro little bread bowls was an amazing Beer Cheese Soup made with Fat Tire Amber Ale. While my lunch hasn't come together yet...I do still plan on making it happen.  This menu was too good to go to waste.  However, I still wound up making my planned dessert.  A simple Vanilla Bean Ice Cream smothered in warm Beer-Orange-Vanilla Bean Caramel made with Somersault Ale.  This should inspire a fire under their booties.  Although to be gave birth, and that slowed things down a bit.  And probably foremost were gas prices (unfortunately, we don't all live in the same town.  Or even state.).  One way or another, these ladies will be lunching.  Soon.  Did I mention the beer bottle vases?  Aaahhhh.  It's so vivid in my head.
Beer-Orange-Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce
inspired by/adapted from Food Network Magazine June '11
makes ~1½ c.

1 (12 oz.) bottle New Belgium Somersault Ale
4 cardamom pods
juice & zest (cut in large, wide strips) of one orange
1 vanilla bean
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1½ c. packed brown sugar
1 c. heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
sea salt
Bruise the cardamom pods a bit and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean.  Place the cardamom pods and the scraped vanilla bean & seeds into a large (really, large...this helps prevent boil-overs later) saucepan with the beer, zest and juice from half an orange and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cook, stirring, until reduced to about 1 cup.  This will take around 10 minutes.  

Add the butter and brown sugar and let boil until thick and syrupy, ~10-12 minutes.  To test for doneness, drip a bit of caramel into a bowl of cold should form a soft ball when ready.
Slowly stir in the cream and cook another 5 minutes, until sauce has thickened a bit.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract and a couple pinches of sea salt.  Remove cardamom and vanilla pods and orange zest.  It will be a bit loose, but as it cools it will thicken up nicely.  

Transfer to a jar and store in the fridge.  It could last for a couple of weeks stored that way...but I doubt it will.  I mean, I'm sure it will, I just don't think it will last that long.  It vanished in no time around here.  When we wanted it to coat our cold vanilla ice cream, I stuck the jar in the microwave for about 30 seconds...then spooned the warm, fragrant, addicting caramel over and made quick work of it.  So. Stinkin'. Delicious.  I'm not saying that I occasionally pulled the jar from the fridge and scooped out a bite and ate it just like that.  Okay, yes I am.
*As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received a stipend to help reimburse the cost of the beer & ingredients.  All thoughts and opinions on New Belgium beer are my own.

*I am sharing this post with:
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