Before you make caramel (or any other recipe that involves boiling sugar syrup), have a bowl of ice water nearby. If you should happen to get splashed with a bit of the boiling sugar syrup, dunk your hand into the ice water.
No children or pets should be in the vicinity or needing your attention when you’re working with boiling sugar syrup.
Use a medium (2 quart) stainless steel saucepan, not any darkened pan because you need to be able to see the color of the sugar as it caramelizes and
large enough to contain the eruption when the cold cream hits the boiling syrup.
Cooking caramel is like making a roux. As the color deepens, so does the flavor.
It’s up to you to decided how dark you’d like it to be.
I made two half batches in smaller saucepans, stopping a medium amber for one and allowing the other to get to a much richer brown before adding the cream. Both were delicious.
You can enhance the flavor of the caramel sauce by adding some bourbon or dark rum after whisking in the cream. It will bubble up again but keep whisking until the mixture smooths out.
This caramel sauce should be warmed before using.
I usually scoop out what I think I’ll need into a small canning jar (because I know it’s heatproof) set in a small saucepan. Add water to come up to the level of the caramel sauce. Heat on medium low, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has warmed.
You can also reheat it 10 – second increments in the microwave. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t turn into a caramel lava flow.
There’s a variety of ways to use the caramel: Drizzle the caramel over ice cream (vanilla, chocolate, coffee, coconut or butter pecan), apple pie or brownies.
Make a puddle around panna cotta or rice pudding.
Swirl it over baked apples or pears, add some toasted almonds and a sprinkle of crispy Maldon salt flakes.
Make a banana split, topping the caramel sauce with toasted coconut. Drizzle the caramel sauce over any frosted cake for a fast, pretty decoration. Serve apple or pear slices with a small bowl of warmed caramel for dunking. Drizzle warmed sauce over a bowl of buttered and salted (or not) popcorn.
Eat it with a spoon, straight out of the jar.
A jar of caramel sauce makes a nice hostess gift, labeled with ingredients and heating instructions.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- teaspoon lemon juice
- 3/4 cup whipping cream
- A pinch of salt
- 1 to 2 tablespoons bourbon or dark rum (optional)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla Send children and dogs away.
Put a bowl of ice water beside the stove. Add sugar, water, and lemon juice to a medium saucepan.
Wash down the sides of the pan with a brush dipped in water so sugar crystals don’t burn around the sides.
Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook without stirring. It will begin to bubble around the edges and the liquid will turn clear as the mixture heats. Eventually, the entire surface will be bubbling.
After maybe 5 minutes, you’ll notice that the liquid has taken on the slightest hint of pale beige. Continue to cook until syrup starts to turn a golden amber around the edge. (This usually happens along one side first.) Swirl pan VERY gently to mix the caramelized syrup into the uncaramelized.
Continue to cook until the syrup has turned a deeper medium amber, swirling occasionally to equalize the color of the syrup.
You can stop at any color from a light caramel to an almost iced tea color.
Remove from heat. Add cream (it will bubble and spit alarmingly) and salt. Whisk until smooth. Whisk in optional spirits. Let cool a few minutes, then stir in vanilla.
The sauce will be thin but will thicken as it cools. Keep tightly sealed in a glass jar in the refrigerator.
Warm gently before serving.
This will keep in the freezer indefinitely or in the refrigerator for a couple of months, though it should be long gone by then.