Nothing better than homemade caramel sauce

I am such a sucker for caramel.  Real caramel.  I don’t usually consider myself a food snob but when it comes to caramel (caramel candy, caramel topping for ice cream) it absolutely has to be the real thing with no substitutions or ready made products.  They just aren’t the same for me.  I’d rather go without. 

This post is all about making real caramel sauce.  I don’t usually advocate recipes but here is the basic recipe for caramel sauce and more importantly the techniques involved in producing this most delicious food.  It is not hard.  I taught my 10 year old granddaughter how to make caramel, since she feels passionate about it as well. 

The four ingredients are the following:

1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, 1 cup cream (heavy or regular), 1 cube salted butter

You will need a small quart pan and a pastry brush.

Start by pouring one cup of sugar and one cup of water in the quart pan. 

 Bring the ingredients to a simmer, swirling the pan or stirring occassionaly so that the sugar dissolves in the water. 

Halfway dissolved…

Completely dissolved…Now turn the heat to medium and bring it to a simmer. 

Get a cup and fill it with water and set the clean pastry brush inside. 

Bring the solution to a simmer over medium heat.

Periodically take the wet brush and brush down the sides of the pan to dissolve any sugar crystals that might want to build up around the edges.  

 This is an important step and should be done every three or four minutes or when you notice that there are crystals around the sides.  Continue this process until the mixture turns a nice golden color. 

The only tricky part of the procedure is knowing how golden is just right.  If you are a first timer let me say that it is better to undercook the mixture rather than cook it too dark.  It will taste bitter and burned if it cooks too long.  If you do undercook it a bit you can recover from that by letting it cook longer in it’s final stage.   Below you can see the amber beginning to appear.

About perfect…just a little more simmering…. have your one cup of cream measured and ready to go.. but wait for color perfection.

So close…..and….just right!

 When you think the sugar has reached the perfect amber then pour in your cream all at once.  Also include the butter. 

It will sputter and coagulate and you will think you have made a huge mistake.  Simply reduce the heat to a lower temperature and start working the mixture with the whisk. 

Work it ….and work it ….

Let everything cook and simmer together (whisking often to help blend things) until your mixture is smooth and creamy.  Taste the sauce.  If you think you might not have cooked it enough you can continue cooking it now to develop the color and taste further.  Simmer and taste until it reaches the flavor you want. 

Remove from heat and allow to cool partially.  Some people like the addition of a little vanilla.  I don’t usually include it. 

Transfer the sauce to a clean pint jar or something that will seal tightly.  This recipe makes exactly two cups of sauce.  Store it in the fridge and it will last for months.  I use caramel sauce so regularly that I keep some in a squirt bottle ready for use any time.

 I use it over ice cream, many desserts (including fruit crisps and cobblers), it’s great for dipping apple slices but not the right caramel for dipping whole apples,

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