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!
Taste: Deeply sweet and I love adding sea salt for salted caramel. Homemade caramel sauce is no joke 1,000 times better than the store-bought variety.
Texture: Lusciously thick and rich.
Ease: Much easier than you probably think. If you’ve never made it before I’ve included everything you need to see and know to make a successful batch of caramel!
Appearance: Who wouldn’t want to receive a jar of this liquid gold?!
Pros: Fun and satisfying way to make a homemade goodie.
Cons: Caramel can be a little tricky to clean. If you get any stubborn sugar or caramel stuck to your pot simply pour some water into it and bring it to a boil. It’ll dissolve anything!
Would I make this again? I’ve made this recipe countless times.
How to make Caramel Sauce
Yield: About 1 1/4 cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
1 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon Fleur de Sel or gray sea salt (optional)
In a medium dry saucepan, cook the sugar over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar melts and begins to turn a deep golden color, about 5 to 6 minutes. Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter until melted. Whisking constantly, gradually add the cream. Whisk until the mixture is smooth.
The caramel may seize. If clumps of sugar form, continue heating on low heat until they melt back into a smooth sauce. Remove from heat and pour through a fine strainer into a heatproof container. Stir in the salt if using. Let cool until warm and thick. Use or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Let come to room temperature or warm in the microwave before using.
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