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Fundamentals: How to Make Homemade Caramel Sauce

Today is the beginning of a new recipe series I’m dubbing Fundamentals. I get a lot of emails from new bakers asking for basic recipes, tips, and product recommendations that will get them started with their newly acquired baking addiction.

While I can’t guarantee rock star status, I can provide you with some practical tips and simple tested recipes that work for me in my kitchen. The first recipe I am going to try and demystify is caramel, more specifically homemade caramel sauce.

I have a confession. Making caramel scares me. I love caramel, whether it’s by itself, sprinkled with sea salt, covered in peanuts, enrobed with nougat…well you get point. Although my love for caramel has been present for many, many years, I just recently started to make my own.

There have been some serious failures along one of which required the disposal of a pan. Yep, I tried to clean that sucker for days, so I ended up chucking it into the trash. Bottom line, caramel is finicky, it goes from perfect to a burnt mess in the blink of eye, but when you nail it, the outcome is extraordinary. Plus, you’ll never have to buy that overly sweet jarred stuff again!

On Friday, I’ll combine this luxurious caramel sauce with my Fleur de Sel Caramels to create one heck of a dessert!

Fundamental Information:

Fundamental Gear:

Fundamental Safety:

Uses for Homemade Caramel Sauce:

Homemade Caramel Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/4 liquid cup water
  • 1/2 liquid cup heavy cream, heated until warm
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. In a heavy saucepan (at least 5 cup capacity), stir together the sugar, syrup, and water until the sugar is completely moistened. Place your candy thermometer into the pot taking care that it is tip in immersed into the sugar mixture.
  2. Heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is bubbling.
  3. Stop stirring completely and allow it to boil undisturbed until it turns a deep amber (like the color of Bass Ale) (see notes below).
  4. Immediately remove it from the heat and slowly and carefully pour the hot cream into the caramel. It will bubble up furiously.
  5. Use a high-temperature heat-resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon to stir the mixture until smooth, scraping up the thicker part that settles on the bottom. If any lumps develop, return the pan to the heat and stir until they dissolve.
  6. Stir in the butter and salt. The mixture will be streaky but become uniform after cooling slightly and stirring.
  7. Allow the sauce to cool for 3 minutes. Gently stir in the vanilla extract.

Notes:

  • Keep at room temperature for up to 3 days; refrigerated, about 3 weeks. To reheat, simply place in a microwave safe container and heat for about 45-60 seconds. Stir well.
  • I have 3 thermometers and they all register different temperatures. In my opinion, it’s best to rely on the color of the caramel as opposed to the temperature. You want to look for a dark dark amber color. However, dark amber goes to burnt in a matter of seconds. If using a thermometer, start paying close attention at about 340 degrees. Once the color deepens, pull the mixture from the heat.

Tempting Twist:

  • Use fresh vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract. Simply scrape the seeds from inside ½ vanilla bean. Place the seeds and pod into the cream while it’s warming. Remove pod from the cream before adding to the hot sugar mixture.

{Edited: 12/17/11}

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