There was a time, not so long ago, that the idea of caramelizing sugar scared the hell out of me. It seemed so temperamental, and a need to be precise. Last year I finally gave it “a go” in order to create some of my favorite coffee drinks at home. My first few attempts went okay. Sometimes the sugar would seized up on me (aka the sugar hardens into a lump), but after a few minutes of stirring it melts right back down into the sauce. Now it’s something that I always have to have in the fridge.
Great to mix into coffee, over ice cream, with apple slices – possibilities are endless. I’ve been guilty of eating it right off the spoon. This is the basic recipe, but it’s an open canvas to additions. Add 1/2 teaspoon fleur-de-sel or another finishing salt to make it a Salted Caramel Sauce. Or, a tablespoon of dark rum gives it a delicious boozy kick. Mix a tablespoon or so into some hot spiced cider, with maybe a little extra rum – a perfect way to wind down on a chilly fall evening.
So, if you’ve been scared of tackling caramel – don’t be. It might take a couple of tries, but once you get the feel for it, you’ve got it. And, being able to make something that is as delicious and versatile as this stuff is, is definitely something to pat yourself on the back for. Enjoy!
1 cup sugar
1¼ cups heavy cream
¼ tsp. coarse salt (increase to 1 tsp for salted caramel sauce)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp butter
Spread the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Place over medium-low heat, watching carefully. When the sugar begins to liquefy around the edges, use a heatproof spatula to gently drag the liquified sugar towards the center. Continue stirring very gently until all the sugar is melted, making sure to not over-stir. Measure out the heavy cream into a liquid measuring cup, and set aside. Once the caramel reaches a deep amber color (think the color of an old penny), immediately remove the sauce pan from the heat and let sit 1 minute. Carefully whisk in half of the heavy cream. The mixture will steam and bubble violently. Stir until the cream is well incorporated, then whisk in the remaining cream. Stir in the salt, vanilla extract, and butter. If any sugar has hardened, place the saucepan over low heat and whisk until smooth.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If needed, it can be rewarmed in the microwave or in a saucepan over low heat.