October 7, 2012

Easy Caramel Sauce

It's glorious fall! Aren't you excited? 

I have noticed that one of the menu crazes these past several months has been all things salted caramel. Salted caramel this and salted caramel that. Salted caramel ice cream, brownies, cupcakes, mochas - everything is "salted" caramel. I'm not quite sure what this adjective "salted" does to caramel itself. Good caramel is salted already. I throw sea salt in mine. Fancy caramels you get at beachside fudge shops are often topped with coarse salt grains so maybe that's where this salted craze comes from. Still, it makes me laugh. I can't see "caramel" on an item without it being described as "salted." I'm sure it's just one of those words to make plain Jane caramel seem more gourmet.

Well, this easy caramel sauce is anything but plain Jane, and yes, it contains sea salt, and YES it is extremely easy. The only quasi-fahhncy thing you need is a candy thermometer. I only say fahhncy because I had to go to the store to get one.

I originally prepared this sauce to top homemade cinnamon ice cream; since then, we have graduated to Maple View Farm's maple and chocolate chip. But regardless of what lies underneath your inherently salted caramel sauce, the sauce itself is absolutely delicious. The texture is velvety and impossibly smooth. Warm it up ever so slightly before pouring or have at room temperature with apple slices.

Easy Caramel Sauce

1 cup water
2 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream
Pinch salt (fine or coarse grain)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Pour water into heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add sugar to middle of water so that sugar doesn't stick to sides of pan. Cover, then bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, remove lid and insert candy thermometer into center of the liquid. This is where you really have to start watching it.

Continue boiling until thermometer registers 300 degrees. Syrup should be light brown and fairly clear. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until thermometer reaches 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, bring cream and salt to a simmer in a small saucepan over high heat. Do not let the mixture boil.

When syrup reaches 350 degrees, remove from heat completely and add a little of the hot cream. The mixture will bubble vigorously so make sure you add just a little at first. Add remaining cream and wait until bubbling subsides. Whisk caramel gently until very smooth. Add butter.

Let caramel cool in pan or transfer into a glass jar. This sauce is perfect just slightly warm so if you can wait a few hours before pouring over ice cream, that would be ideal! I did not, and it melted my ice cream. Luckily, there was plenty left over; this recipe makes about 2 cups of delicious, versatile caramel. 

 Welcome fall and welcome caramel- and pumpkin-flavored everything!

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