I'm a big fan of edible garnishes of all sorts. They make any food look better/fancier/prettier/more appetizing, and a lot of times they don't require a ton of extra work. In my upcoming book, I talk about making your own sprinkles, which is super fun AND lets you add your own flavors and colors which just makes it even more fun. But today I want to talk about an even easier DIY project that I discovered completely by accident.
As you may know, I make a lot of pies (insert nonexistent pie emoji I really wish existed here). I always, always top my pies with a hefty sprinkling of turbinado sugar. Because I can be a bit of a kitchen hurricane (messes happen...right? ...right?!?), I always end up with a bunch of turbinado sugar on the parchment paper surrounding my pie. I noticed that those stray sugar pieces would caramelize during bake time, and re-harden to be the same texture that the turbinado was before baking. Sometimes I would lift them off the parchment and eat them as a snack to induce a much needed pre-pie sugar rush. They were delicious - so I wondered, why don't I do this all on it's own - THEY'RE CARAMEL "SPRINKLES"!
So I did - I sprinkled a layer of turbinado onto a parchment lined baking sheet, and baked it at 425 (F) for 4-5 minutes. Boom: caramel sprinkles that are perfect atop cupcakes, around the edges of cakes, sprinkled on top of ice cream - really anywhere you need a little texture and some caramel flavor. And so crazy easy. If you want to do this yourself, here's what you need to know:
-Keep the sugar in a shallow layer - you don't want the sugar granules touching lots of other sugar granules, or they're more likely to melt together. If this happens, it still works/tastes great - you just have bigger "sprinkles" that are more random in shape instead of neat + tidy little rounds, like nonpareils.
-Don't use convection! It blows the sugar all around the baking sheet.
-Keep a close eye on the sugar as it cooks - there's a fine line between caramelized sugar granules and a sheet tray full of caramel shards (or worse - burnt sugar!). I find it takes exactly 4 minutes, but some ovens may take a little more or less - so just turn the oven light on and watch the first time you try it out.
-Storage of these little guys is a lot like storing any sugar - keep it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. If the sprinkles are exposed to moisture, heat, or humidity they will stick together. But in winter, I've been able to keep them pleasantly in a Mason jar for 2 weeks and they're still sprinkle-y.