You know that luscious caramel that comes drizzled on the plate of your favorite restaurant? Remember how you fought the urge to pick up the plate and lick it? Or maybe you went for it! Or maybe you spent a little too long considering whether you really wanted to pay $9 for that little jar at the gourmet store. $9!?! Are you kidding me? Caramel is quick and easy to make at home and it lasts for weeks in the fridge. This recipe makes 1 1/2 cups for about $2. Prepare to have gourmet caramel sauce demystified.
Here are all the ingredients that you will need to pull this sinful confection together.
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup heavy cream
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
SAFETY NOTE: This recipe involves the creation of molten sugar. If it gets on your skin, it will stick and burn which is quite unpleasant. What’s worse, your first instinct may be to stick your burned finger in your mouth which will just result in a burned mouth. If you are making this for the first time, you may want to keep a bowl of ice water next to the stove so you can immerse your hand in case of emergency.
Place the sugar in a heavy sauce pan.
Then add the water. I like to kind of add it around the edges of the pan and then swirl a little bit until all the sugar is wet, but don’t get crazy now. You want to avoid splashing a lot of water and sugar on the sides of the pan.
This would also be a good time to measure out a cup of heavy cream and have it at the ready next to the pan. Don’t put it in! That’s for later, but you want to have it ready.
Now I am going to tell you the 1st secret to making your own caramel sauce…turn up the heat. I mean high. I mean as hot as your stovetop will go. Like mine, see?
Then comes the 2nd secret to making your own caramel sauce. Don’t touch the pan. I mean it. Don’t stir it, don’t swirl it, don’t even brush down the sides with a wet brush like some recipes will tell you to do. Just look at it and wait.
After a very short while, it will look like this
Still don’t touch it!! You’re going to get to do something to it in a minute, but not yet. At this point, the liquid is very clear, but that’s about to change. Wait until you begin to see a slight color change at the edge of the pan. Like this.
When you see the liquid start to change from clear to a light yellow, you can pick up the pan and swirl it a little to make the color more uniform.
Now pay very close attention because from here on out things happen kind of fast. Keep watching the caramel and swirling it periodically. You are looking for the right time to add the cream. How will you know that the time is right? There are three signs: color, smell and smoke. You are looking for a rich golden color, the smell of caramel/burnt sugar and a very light smoke coming off the surface of the liquid. Unfortunately, all three of these are a little tricky to catch on film, but bear with me.
This is almost there. The darker the sugar, the richer the final caramel.
Note: Much like toast, this caramel is best right before it is burned and ruined. After you make it a couple of times, you’ll figure out how far you can push it.
When you start to smell that caramel smell and see little wisps of smoke, remove the pot from the heat. You heard me. Pick up the pot and move it to a cold burner. It’s time for the cream baby!
Stir in the cream with a wooden spoon. Why wood? Because this stuff is molten and will make a metal spoon wicked hot. The addition of the cream will cause the caramel will bubble up dramatically.
Continue to stir and the bubbles will settle down until the caramel looks like this
OK. You’re almost done. In fact, you could eat it just like this, but to make it even a little more fabulous, you are going to add the last two ingredients. Add the vanilla and the kosher salt and give it one final stir.
That’s it. You’re done. Serve this sauce in any number of ways. It’s classic on ice cream or try it with warm apple crisp or drizzle it over banana pudding….or eat it with a spoon. I won’t tell. To store, bring it to room temperature and store in the fridge in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks or the freezer for 3+ months.
VARIATIONS — Try adding a tablespoon of Rum or other Liquor in place of the vanilla.