It’s autumn, guys. Fall is said to be the time for transition—from the heat of summer to the cooler air of autumn. And restaurants are taking advantage of that, highlighting one of America’s favorite confections – caramel.
Nation’s Restaurant News reported earlier this month that several restaurant chains are adding caramel flavor to their menus this fall, with their restaurant crew in smart-looking bib aprons serving chewy, sticky and delicious desserts. Dunkin’ Donuts launched one of its doughnut flavors, Caramel Apple –a blended taste of caramel and apple on old fashioned donut cake covered with cinnamon sugar.
Red Robin has Apple Pie Bites with sweet, thick caramel as dipping sauce and their Nestle Toll House Cookie Sundae was very well received—a vanilla ice cream sundae with choco chip cookies, covered with chewy caramel and sticky hot fudge. TCBY have added their Caramel Pecan Cheesecake Frozen Yoghurt as a permanent item on their menu—a sweet vanilla based frozen yoghurt with flowing caramel and praline-coated pecans.
Dairy Queen re-launched its Ooey Gooey Caramel Brownie Blizzard, which came out last year as April’s flavor of the month, to once again become this month’s special offering. It has choco chunks; rich fudgy brownie pieces blended in creamy vanilla ice cream and topped with ooey-gooey caramel toppings. Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar included last August its newest sweet treat, Cinnamon Apple Turnover – a pastry packed with cinnamon-spiced apple slices and caramel sauce, sided with vanilla ice cream.
Datassential, a menu consulting and research company, said that caramel flavor has been cited numerous times in their database of 4,800 independent and chain restaurant menus, and has been increasing steadily in the last two years. Presently, 26.7% of all restaurant menus have caramel on their list of food items, a higher percentage result from 2007’s 21.5%.
Let’s do a bit of trivia, now that we’re into caramels. Caramel is one of those confections that’s considered originally American. There was a time, way back in the 17th century, when sugar was a very expensive commodity and was deemed as a luxury. Candies were considered a primary commodity, so American housewives, wearing smart bib aprons, endeavored to make it themselves—boiled water and sugar and prepared hard candies in deep kettles in their own fireplace. It was at some point in these endeavors that American women realized they can come up with something chewy if they add milk and fat products to the cooked sugar mixture. It quickly became a hit, and was named caramel.
Milton Hershey, the founder of The Hershey Chocolate Company, was said to have been so enamored with this sweet creation. In fact, he started out his chocolate empire with caramels, and not with chocolates. He learned how to make chocolates because he looked for new coatings for his famous caramels.
Now, the flavors of this beige to dark brown confection are evolving as well. Salted caramel is growing quickly, its frequency having doubled since 2007, from 2.1% to 4.9% this year.
Zed451 in Chicago offers salted caramel ice cream, while American Seasons in Nantucket, Massachusetts serves a beer float created with a dark porter and caramel-and-praline ice cream. Little Dom’s in Los Feliz, California offers a spiced caramel sundae with vanilla-bean gelato and spiced caramel sauce topped with candied salted pecans.
America loves a lot of flavors. The garden strawberry was first bred in France, while vanilla is a native of Mexico. The theobrama cacao, the seed by which chocolates are made from, originally came from Southern and Central America. But caramel is America’s very own. It’s just right that it is highlighted this season.