Caramel Sauce

I tried a few recipes before settling on this to make a small amount (1/2 C) of caramel, just enough to dip apples in or drizzle over ice cream or dessert. The first recipe I tried didn't require a candy thermometer, so I didn't get the right flavor or consistency (I ended up with sweetened condensed milk). I think the important points to a caramel recipe are to use at least some butter (for flavor) and to carefully measure the temperature.

The basic idea is to make sticky caramel and then add cream at the end to make the finished caramel the right consistency.

Melt a little less than 1 TB butter in a small heavy duty saucepan.

Once melted add:
3/4 C brown sugar
3 TB water

Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves, this should just take a couple minutes. After this point, DO NOT STIR as you may re-introduce sugar crystals which will ruin the silky caramel texture. If you do inadvertently do this, you can re-heat the mixture back to the soft-ball stage.

Then cover the pot and let it bubble over medium-low heat for 2 minutes (this is meant to wash any still-crystallized sugar down the sides of the pot).

Now lift the lid, and attach candy thermometer to the pot. Without stirring, continue to cook over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 234 F (soft-ball stage).

Promptly take the pan off heat and let cool for a couple moments. Then add 1/8 tea salt and optional vanilla extract or beans.

Slowly drizzle 1/4 -1/2 C warm cream (you can warm it in the microwave) into the hot caramel, stirring lightly (but don't scrape the edges of the pot). Add as much cream as you need to reach desired consistency.

If you later want a thinner sauce, you can just warm up some cream and slowly mix it into the caramel. Don't try re-heating the whole thing on the stove or you risk ruining the smooth sugar texture.

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