Caramel sauce, let me count the ways that I love you: I love you on ice cream, in mousse, on apples, in tarts, on popcorn and, if I am completely honest, I love you most all alone straight from the jar. But you have not loved me back. You have bubbled and turned into marshmallow fluff, you have burnt and turned bitter, you have simmered and turned grainy, you have seized and turned into a chunky mess.
I have been crushing the caramel for a while. One night, I made 4 attempts to get that elusive creamy amber delight into a jar. That is right, 4. By the end of it I was on that super-stable girl rollercoaster ride of anger mixed with tears. So, there I was, on the kitchen floor in a non-caramel puddle and I vowed: no more. This crush on homemade caramel would have to end. I would buy my caramel sauce. And so I did, once, and it was disappointing… the creamy sweetness cut with a little hint of saltiness that I had based my whole crush on was just not there. So, then I started making caramel-like things: caramel icing, maple glaze, etc but never actual caramel. Yep, I tried dating her friends. They were lovely, but just not caramel… I had to man-up and get caramel to crush me back.
And so, I did some research. I found out her likes and dislikes and once I did, caramel came a’calling… Here is her deal: do not stir not even a little, add the water first then the sugar so the sugar doesn’t touch the sides of the pan, heat the cream before adding it, do not go for a specific temperature on the thermometer – go for that light amber color, let it sit off the heat for a minute before adding cream (and butter) if desired, keep the recipe basic and add to it.
Caramel now likes me back. We hung out all weekend… On a galette, on an apple, on a spoon… It was beautiful.
Here is the recipe that I liked the best after reading about 10 blogs, my Cook’s Illustrated and other assorted cookbooks. It is adapted (just slightly) from The Pastry Affair, and from the looks of her gorgeous photos caramel also loves Kristin and all her wonderful creations.
Basic Caramel Sauce
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tsp flaked sea salt
1 cup cream
Add the water to the pan and then pour the sugar into the center. Swirl and let sit until all the sugar is saturated. Over medium heat let the sugar boil until it turns a golden amber color. This happens between 325-350F… mine looked golden at about 335F. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, heat the cream and salt but do not boil.
Remove the sugar from the heat and allow to stand for 1 minute and then add the cream whisking vigorously. It will boil up so be careful. If it seized return it to the heat and stir until it melts again. Of course, this happened to me, but after about 5 minutes of stirring it over medium heat it was smooth and perfect.
Keep in the fridge in a jar.