Thursday, October 30, 2008
There are some things you can buy in the grocery store that are so easy to make yet so expensive to buy... like caramel sauce. A high quality caramel sauce might run you 6$ or 7$ for an 8 oz jar and really all it consists of is sugar, cream, butter and salt and a little know how...
The recipe I have below uses a little bit more salt, but it uses a high quality salt that makes this sauce incredibly flavorful and addicting. It is important to not use a cheap low quality iodized salt because it will only make your caramel sauce taste salty. I used a fleur de sel but any good salt will do, even a more every day sea salt. When you have a recipe that has only 4 ingredients you should make sure they are all of high quality because the flavor definitely shows through. The know how comes in the form of sugar cooking. This may seem complicated with all the different temperatures and precautions but for caramel, you don't even need a thermometer. You can gauge by color.
Caramel Sauce (makes about 1 1/4 cups)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 TBS corn syrup
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 TBS butter (1/2 stick)
1/2- 1 tsp salt (depends on the salt and how coarse the grain)
Start with a medium size sauce pan. Put the sugar, water and corn syrup into the pan and stir to dissolve. Turn the heat on high, and place a lid on the pot and keep it on until the mix has come to a boil long enough that it has created steam. Wait until the steam has hit the top of the lid and is dropping back down the sides- this is cleaning the sides of the pot, making sure all the sugar is dissolved and pushed back to the bottom of the pot. At this point take the lid off and DO NOT STIR! Cook until the sugar is a deep dark amber- if it is too light then you don't get a strong caramel flavor, your sauce will just taste sweet, too dark and it will taste like burned marshmallows. It can be hard to tell the true color in the pan so take some out of the pan and drop it on a white plate.
Meanwhile, heat the cream up in the microwave, until it is lukewarm (it mixes into the hot sugar better this way). Once the sugar is a the right color, turn the heat off and SLOWLY steam the cream into the sugar using a whisk to mix it in. Pour about a quarter of the cream into the sugar, whisk, and then slowly pour in more. Since the sugar is so hot it will rapidly bubble and give off very hot steam, so you want to not only go slow, but also keep your hands out of the way (I've gotten a few steam burns this way). After all the cream is added in, if there is still sugar that hasn't melted in to the cream, you can turn the heat back on low to finish dissolving the sugar. Then let the mix cool slightly about 10 minutes or so, then add in the butter and salt. There is a range for the salt because if you are using a really fine grained sea salt, you will want to start with 1/2 a tsp (or even a little less) and if it's coarser you may find that after 1/2 a tsp you need more. Taste and add more according to your taste. You want to add enough salt so you get that hint of salt with the caramel flavor... it's amazingly addicting!
The sauce can be kept in the refrigerator for a few weeks with no problem. Make sure to gently rewarm before serving (getting it too hot will make it very thin).