Later today, I’ll be “practicing” caramel sauce with my nephews. It’s an awesome, easy, and decadent thing to make for the holidays. I started doing it on Halloween when Dev was little because I could easy get him and his friends to eat apples before trick-or-treating. 🙂
All you need are five ingredients—water, sugar, butter, cream, vanilla—and you’ll want all them measured and at room temperature when you start the process. Caramel is pretty easy, but the cooking process moves quickly. The one way you can almost always ruin a batch is to interrupt the process once you start.
Also, don’t use anything plastic to stir and whisk while cooking. It will melt into the caramel. Eww.
And do use a whisk. It’s so much easier to get a smooth final sauce.
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream (I’ve used whole milk in a pinch, but the sauce will be thinner)
2 Tbsp butter cut into small pieces
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
Combine the water and sugar in a sauce pan over medium heat, and stir until the sugar dissolves completely. (If you want to be picky, be careful not to let sugar granules cling to the sides of the pan. They can sometimes encourage your caramel to re-crystalize as it cools!)
Now: Once the sugar-water starts bubbling, don’t stir anymore. Just swirl the pan now and then to make sure the heat is even. Adjust the heat as needed to keep a steady and, um, non-violent? boil. Then watch the liquid turn a lovely pale amber. It should be about he color of fresh honey, NOT as dark as you’d think for caramel.
It might take about ten minutes or so.
A little at a time, whisk in the room temperature cream. Please be careful pouring the cream into the hot sugar liquid. I don’t want you burned by the splatter. Been there, done that, don’t want to go there again.
Remove the pan from the heat immediately, and whisk in the butter.
Add vanilla, if you’d like.
If you want salted caramel, now is the time to add your kosher salt. Maybe half to a full teaspoon, depending on your preference.
If your sauce seems too thin, warm it—stirring constantly—over low heat. But keep in mind the sauce will thicken as it cools!
If your sauce seems too thick, stir in a little more cream, a tablespoon at a time.
That’s it! Drizzle it over pie or ice cream or sliced apples or cake or popcorn or nuts or just your spoon…