Making caramel sauce
Homemade caramel sauce is an inexpensive, quick, easy recipe to master, and it is so delicious you will wonder why anyone buys it in the store.
With a few simple tips, it is easy to master this recipe, and no candy thermometer is needed. You can easily eyeball the caramel – you are looking for the sugar to turn a beautiful amber color like honey. As soon as you reach honey color, you want to remove the pan from the heat, and add your cream to stop the cooking. Sugar can go from perfect to burnt in an instant if you aren’t paying attention.
If you have a candy thermometer and would like to use it, you are looking for a range of 338 – 350 degrees. If you are below 338 degrees, you will not get the right color, and the flavor will be weak. If you are above 350 degrees, you risk burning your sugar and having a very bitter taste.
Storing caramel sauce
After the caramel sauce cools down slightly, you’ll want to pour it into a lidded glass jar or container.
Because of the high sugar content, caramel sauce will keep for a few days at room temperature. It is best to store in the refrigerator because of the heavy cream. Tightly sealed, it will keep up to three weeks in the fridge or for months in the freezer. Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature before using.
Caramel thickens in the refrigerator, so it needs to be reheated, either on the stove or in the microwave, until desired consistency is reached.
- Have everything weighed out before you start. Sugar goes from perfect to burnt in an instant. You need to be ready with all of your ingredients so that when the color is right, you can move to the next step immediately.
- Resist the urge to stir! If you stir as the sugar and water are heated, you may cause crystals to form, and your caramel will be grainy instead of smooth and creamy. You can gently swirl the pan over the heat if needed. Make sure not to let the sugar water go too high up the sides of the pot, or this will make the caramel sauce crystallize and become grainy as well. If this does happen, use a pastry brush dipped in water to gently wash down the sides of the pan.
- What if my sauce does crystallize? Luckily, you don’t need to start over. Add a scant ¼-cup of water, and bring the sugar back to a gentle bubble. Heating it up with the water should dissolve the crystals. Continue with the recipe until you get a beautiful honey color on the sugar.
- Keep watch and be patient. Do not step to far away from the stove while the caramel is cooking. Caramel sauce is super easy, but it can take anywhere from 10-12 minutes to thicken and turn the amber honey color. Since you don’t know exactly where your sauce will land in that window, you need to pay close attention. As soon as the proper color is reached, you need to immediately remove the pan from the heat and add your cream.
This caramel sauce is the perfect topping for bread pudding, cheesecake, ice cream, fresh fruit, coffee drinks — pretty much anything you can think of. For variation, you can try adding different extracts in place of the vanilla or even a little spice. Packaged up creatively, homemade caramel sauce also makes a wonderful gift.
Homemade Caramel Sauce
- 448 grams sugar
- 140 grams water
- 224 grams heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- pinch salt
Add the sugar and water to a heavy-bottomed saucepan; gently stir so that all the sugar is moistened. Be careful not to let any sugar crystals stick to the sides of the pan. If you see any crystals, use a pastry brush dipped in water to dissolve them.
Place the pan over medium heat, and cook about three to four minutes, until the sugar dissolves, turns clear and starts to bubble. (It will be cloudy at first, but will turn into a clear, bubbling liquid.) Do not stir! Stirring can cause the sugar to crystalize and give you grainy caramel.
Allow the sugar to bubble, swirling the saucepan occasionally. Brush down the sides of the pan, as needed, to prevent crystallization.
Continue swirling and cooking about 10 to 12 minutes, until the mixture thickens and turns a deep amber color like honey, keeping a watchful eye so the mixture doesn’t burn. You do not want the color any darker than honey, or it will taste burnt.
As soon as you see the correct color, remove the pan from the heat, and carefully add the cream. Whisk until completely smooth. (The caramel will bubble up rapidly, so be careful and continue to whisk.)
Whisk in the vanilla and salt.
Set aside to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
Pour into a lidded glass jar, and allow to cool completely. (It will thicken as it cools.)