When I was in culinary school we spent days on caramel, candies, and other sugar work. It’s all very detail-oriented and the smallest change in temperature can make a huge difference in your finished product. Don’t start making candy if you have to pee, because you cannot walk away from the stove! I learned that the hard way.
Luckily there is a way to make caramel sauce that is super streamlined and simple, with no special equipment required. This caramel sauce recipe, which you can add salt to for salted caramel sauce, actually comes from my cookbook Cookies & Cream: Hundreds of Ways to Make the Perfect Ice Cream Sandwich.
I included it as a sort of bonus recipe for readers who really wanted to amp up their ice cream sandwiches. Caramel isn’t just good with ice cream, it’s good on EVERYTHING. Seriously, this stuff is liquid gold and you’re going to want to drizzle it all over cheesecake, brownies, cinnamon rolls, apple slices, swirl it into your favorite baked good batters, or even a spoonful inside your morning coffee. You’ll probably just want to eat it straight up with a spoon. What’s your favorite way to indulge in caramel?
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If you’re anything like me, you may already have the few simple ingredients needed for caramel sauce on hand!
Place the sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. That’s right, just the sugar. Cook the sugar for about 5 to 6 minutes, or until it completely melted and liquified. Be sure to swirl the pan often so the sugar can cook evenly. Don’t walk away during this part, you don’t want the sugar to burn! It will turn amber in color, which is what you want.
Once the sugar is completely melted and amber, turn off the heat and stir in the butter. The sugar may bubble up slightly, just be careful not to burn yourself! Also be sure to use heatproof utensils throughout the caramel making process because cooking caramel is a scorching hot process, like hotter than boiling water. Stir the butter until it’s completely melted.
Next, whisk in the heavy cream. Now in the video above I whisk in the heavy cream properly, meaning I do not. stop. whisking. Not even for a second! You need to whisk the mixture vigorously the entire time you’re stirring in the cream. If you don’t, the mixture may crystallize.
Now for the sake of these step-by-step photos, I didn’t whisk. I know, I was a bad girl. But I wanted to show you that even crystallized caramel sauce can usually be rescued! So, if this happens to your caramel sauce do not panic and definitely do not throw it away just yet. This can happen to the best of us. All you need to do is melt the chunks of hardened caramel back into the sauce over a very low heat. You want to avoid overcooking the caramel to make is smooth again, because the higher you allow the temperature to get the more likely you are to make hard caramel candies instead of caramel sauce.
Don’t worry too much if you can’t melt back every last bit of hardened caramel, we’re going to strain the caramel anyways which will catch any pieces of crystallized sugar. Be sure to strain even if your mixture looks smooth. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
After straining you can stir in some nice sea salt if you’d like to make salted caramel. I used fleur de sel, which can be purchased at many gourmet or specialty food stores. The caramel will thicken as it cools. Use it now or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Bring it to room temperature or microwave before using. You can easily double this recipe to make a big batch of caramel, divvy it between mason jars, and give it to your friends as gifts!