“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 adapted from Baking Bites. It’s almost 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.
Smoked Sea Salt Caramels
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/4 cup corn syrup
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/2 teaspoons kosher 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.
Please read my full post for additional recipe notes, tips, and serving suggestions!
For immediate help troubleshooting a recipe, please email me using the form on my contact page. I’ll try to respond to urgent questions as quickly as possible! For all general questions, please leave a comment here :)
Wow, these caramels look amazing!! I wish we lived close so I could come over and we could make these together…the last time I tried to make caramels…I failed miserably and the house smelled like burnt caramel.
Hi – it was nice to meet you today at the blogger meet up on Google+ & always to find a new blog to love!
I’ve been working on caramel this fall – with an eye to making some candy for gift giving at Christmas, so this very timely & appreciated. I even have some smoked salt. ;) thanks for sharing it!
Savory Simple says
It was great meeting you as well! I had to leave pretty much as soon as the meetup was over but I can’t wait to go check out all the sites and get to know people a bit better.
Paula @ Vintage Kitchen says
This is an interesting post. In my reader I only have blogs I really have a `friendship´ with and some that interest me for some particular reason like trends or photography. Eventually I will have the time to read them all, because the list is not huge. And I only comment because the blogger interests me. It´s my way to keep in touch.
But I think that what´s crucial is to do things in whatever way interests you. What I write, and photograph and blog about interests me most of all. It´s my style. Many will be attracted to it and many won´t.
I had a different reaction when I read the 45 out of 50. I immediately thought that whatever the person giving the workshop had to offer only appealed to a certain type of blogger. And this is not a comment about that person since I have no idea who she is. Maybe we all feel we´re doing the same thing because in our own groups we ARE. That´s why we´re attracted to each other. I tend be attracted to a certain type of food blogger the same way I tend to photograph my food in a certain way. And it´s hard for me to try to do it any other way.
For the record, I not only read your whole post, as usual, but in this case I read every comment, because it´s an interesting topic.
And the caramels are fabulous!!
Savory Simple says
Thanks for the comment! I think you’re definitely on to something. I do tend to like a particular type of blogging style and unfortunately I think I’m following way too many people (20–40 was a modest estimate because that’s how many emails I get in a day. I’m probably following more like 80). What I’ve been doing recently to deal with it is only reading the posts with recipes I’m very interested in so I have a bit more time to read and comment thoughtfully. And then I have my friends who I always read and comment on no matter what. But it still gets overwhelming because there is SO much talent out there right now, you know? There aren’t enough hours in the day.
Tora Estep says
These caramels look and sound delicious. I want to start making some candy for Christmas gifts, and these are definitely on my must-try list.
Kiran @ KiranTarun.com says
I am a skimmer too — so glad you highlighted this important “struggle” that we all as a blogger often go through. It’s difficult to find balance between constantly producing quality recipe and writing.
Mmmm… Delicious caramels!
My best girlfriend and I always make Xmas desserts and treats together and this year she really wants to focus on candies – wish granted :-) Good luck with Sandy!! On another note, am very grateful that you’re passing on the interesting tidbits from your workshops and using them to generate rich discussion. It’s a very “community of practice” way of challenging and giving back to bloggers and readers to talk about how to push further and get better.
I am actually not much of a skimmer! I am very attracted by a writer’s style, even if pictures are not the best (though of course, that’s what always catches the eye first). But then, I don’t have time to follow many blog really, maybe 5 maximum right now.I don’t have time to read all articles either, but it’s all or nothing!When I get on it, it’s for good! Keep going, love your blog! And yes, nice caramels..I was thinking of putting one in the center of some chocolate muffin recipe, then cook in the oven..would make a nice liquid heart!
Olivia @ Liv Lives Life says
Oh my goodness, these are beautiful! Looks like I’ll have to come up with an excuse to make these! :-)
Denise Wilson says
These sound amazing!
Just read through the post and all the comments. I really appreciate the topic of quality writing be brought in food blogging because sadly it is quite rare to see anything worth reading. No wonder most people skim through our posts. I used to put a great deal of thought into my writing when I first started out ( linguistics and literature major ;-)) but I only wrote 1 post a week. Now that I do 3 a week most of the time I feel brain dead when it’s time to write. As far as being different, I would love to stay true to who I am, I would love to be authentic and only post about what we actually eat as a family, however what gets attention on social media is desserts drenched in chocolate and caramel and it’s hard to compete with that. Thank you for writing Jen.
Yummmm….definitely on my to-do list!
Kathy Haslam says
Talk about ‘hook’. I too am a skimmer but for the first time in a long time I read your complete post and it wasn’t even those yummy looking caramels…although I am now going to try them. From now on I am going to slow down and read more Thanks for this…. and the recipe :-)