September 30, 2014

Salted Caramel Sauce (YUM!)

My caramel, right after being poured into jars.
I love caramel. It's sweet, without being too sweet... it's gooey, smooth, soft, chewy, warm... it's sugar at it's best.

Before Saturday, I had never made caramel before- despite my apparent love for the confection. (Yes, I'm that person at work who immediately raids the shared box of chocolates and steals the caramel.) However, always looking to challenge myself in the kitchen- often at odd times (eg. the night before you're having 22 people over for your son's birthday party)- I decided to have a go at it.

My original intention was to just make the sauce for use in the Salted Caramel Cupcakes (I'll share that recipe tomorrow) that I was serving as an alternative to chocolate cake at my son's party. Luckily, however, this recipe made enough to fill those cupcakes and to enjoy in the future. (Its going to be the velvety, perfect drizzle on the top of my ice cream tomorrow night). Very happily, it was easy to make, and definitely resulted in a gorgeously brown, salty/sweet, smooth, decadent sauce that I may just make to have on hand at all times- and to give as gifts.

Salted Caramel Sauce

Makes 1 1/2 cups caramel sauce
Caramel sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to one month in an air-tight container.

1 cup granulated sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp sea salt

Gather all of your ingredients and have them waiting next to the stove. (If you've never worked with sugar before, Warning: it seems like things are taking forever, then all of a sudden you have to work very quickly to keep things from burning, seizing, burning you... or some other catastrophe... but it's fun, and completely worth it).

Place a heavy-bottomed 2qt saucepan over medium-high heat.

Add about half of the sugar to your pot and stir constantly with spatula or whisk. The sugar will start to melt- continue to mix until the sugar is completely melted without any lumps. (You'll start to notice it begin to caramelize and turn a light brown- don't stop stirring!)

Add remaining sugar, and continue to stir constantly. The sugar will melt and become a beautiful dark amber. (If at any time you notice that its getting darker faster than its melting, just remove it from the heat briefly while you continue to stir to prevent it from burning).

Add the butter, and whisk until the butter has melted completely and is combined. (This made my sugar bubble and foam a little- I removed it from the heat shortly after adding the butter.)

Remove from heat and slowly mix the cream into the sugar mixture. (Again, foaming may occur.)
Whisk caramel very quickly until smooth.

Stir in vanilla and sea salt. Pour caramel into glass jar or measuring cup and allow to cool.

*Notes on this recipe: If after you add the cream, you notice your caramel begins to separate or seize up, don't give up- just place pot back onto LOW heat and continue to stir until things get loose again and combine completely. I used this recipe from the baker chick for this caramel- although my ingredients are the same, I used a very different technique due to the difficulties I experienced while attempting to follow her method- I streamlined things quite a bit. Her making of caramel without messing with a candy thermometer, however, gave me the courage I needed to venture out into the world of caramel making. (Candy thermometers can get cumbersome in the heat of the moment.) I also must give her credit for her step-by-step photos- I attempted to do the same, but was about two hands short.

This is seriously some beautiful caramel. I showed everyone that I thought would care my jar of beautiful caramel... and let them try just a little bit... I can definitely see myself dipping into the jar with a little spoon to enjoy it all by its delicious self.

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