Possibly it is a memory of a Curly Wurly which, like all childhood sweets, replays golden in my mind, but my search for the perfect chewy caramel never ends.
The important thing is the consistency. It must have some resistance – we’re not talking about free-flowing caramel, like butter out of a hot chicken kiev – but not so much that eating it risks dental calamity.
My friend Mark told me about the best-ever milk chocolate (salted) caramels from Abdallah Candies in… Minnesota. He buys them in boxes (1lb, about 20 pieces, $17.50, abdallahcandies.com) and crams as many as he can into his suitcase. Mark is quite fussy – discerning – but he raves about these to the point where it’s hard to understand why, as I can’t get any: they don’t ship outside the US. But my American readers can knock themselves out and get some online, lucky bastards.
This week I discovered PierreMarcolini’s Barre2. I’d had a moment, recently, with PM’s Casse-Noisette hazelnut and chocolate spread (£13.50/210g, eu.marcolini.com), which saw me stealing teaspoons of it out of the jar: something I haven’t done for years. The Barre2 is a small finger of chocolate which comes in four connotations, each identified by a French saying on the box (the packaging makes them look like lipsticks). Each bar is tiny, 25g, and costs £3.50. But this isn’t about value for money; it’s about pleasure per bite. Caramel pistachio, caramelised hazelnut and gianduja nougat were all delicious and different. But true caramel perfection was found with the caramel vanilla: ‘Les yeux qui pétillent’, which translates to ‘eyes that sparkle’. Mine certainly did.