“That’s really interesting, but who cares?”
Out of everything I heard at Kathleen Flinn’s food writing workshop, that statement resonated with me the most. What compels us to read food blogs? Are you willing to stop and read everything an author has to say regardless of the topic? I can’t say I know many people who would do that readily. I’m not going to lie here; I’m a notorious skimmer. I mostly visit blogs for the recipes and to support my friends and community. But when I’m trying to catch up on 20-40 blogs a day I just don’t have the time to read every story. If I skim your post it doesn’t mean I don’t love you. I’d rather peek in and give a hollar of encouragement than do nothing. But truthfully, if I’m going to slow down and read everything there needs a be a hook. Something to catch my attention and draw me in. A strong opening line. Why should I care that you went to the grocery store and stumbled in the cereal isle? That’s really interesting, but who cares? Make me care. Perhaps I should re-frame that so it doesn’t sound so demanding. I want to make YOU care that I went to the grocery store and stumbled in the cereal isle. I want compel you to read my story.
I read Kathleen’s memoir The Sharper The Knife, The Less You Cry just before making the decision to attend culinary school. Her story was a huge inspiration to me, right up there with My Life in France by Julia Child. When I heard she was teaching a two hour food writing boot camp in DC it was a no brainer. I signed up immediately. And I was astounded by how much I learned in my brief time with her. She had me thinking about writing in a whole new way. Did you know I have a bachelors degree in English with a focus on Creative Writing? I don’t see why you would because I never mention it. After so many years in IT and the kitchen I feel incredibly disconnected from my college days as a writer. But the exercises from our workshop brought it all back. I felt excited about writing again.
“Every food blogger writes about the farmer’s market. Go to the grocery store instead.”
Kathleen shared a lot with us including a story from when she was a speaker at IFBC last year. In preparation for the event she had her assistant look at the attendee blogs. The conclusion? 45 out of 50 blogs were exactly the same. I was kind of stunned to hear this but it also made complete sense and fascinated me. I mean we are all kind of doing the same thing here. There’s nothing wrong with being similar to other blogs but it got me thinking about how to set myself apart in an over-saturated market. For the past three years I’ve been constantly working to improve my photography but have given little thought to the quality of my writing. Perhaps this is the next step? It’s certainly something worth exploring.
The recipe I’m sharing with you today is from Baking Bites. It’s her exact recipe with the exception of the salt. She used regular Maldon Sea Salt and I used Maldon Smoked Sea Salt. It sounds weird, right? Smoked sea salt caramels. They are indeed weird. Weird and good.
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/4 cup corn syrup
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 – 2 tablespoons smoked sea salt (I used Maldon)
- Lightly grease an 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish (I used baking spray with flour).
- In a saucepan, combine the sugar, water and corn syrup. Cover the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Once some steam has developed in the pan, remove the lid (steam will help prevent crystallization). Continue to boil until the caramel turns a deep honey color, approximately 10-15 minutes.
- While the sugar is cooking, combine the butter and cream in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time until the butter is melted.
- When the caramel begins to darken, carefully but swiftly add the cream and butter. The mixture will steam and bubble up so pull your hand away. Use a heat resistant spatula to stir the mixture and add the salt once the bubbling has calmed down a bit.
- Place a candy thermometer in the saucepan and stir frequently until the mixture reached 260 degrees.
- Pour the caramel into the prepared baking dish and allow it to cool completely. Sprinkle smoked salt on top.
- Use a warm knife to cut caramels into small squares or rectangles. I used a ruler to draw guides first. Caramels will keep at room temperature for a few weeks.
Barely adapted from Baking Bites