One of the first things I messed around with in the kitchen was caramel, even though I had no idea that’s what I was doing. I was what we once called a latchkey kid, which meant I spent the hours after school into the early evening home alone until my mom got home from work. I’d do my homework, watch tv like it was my job (if there was any money in knowing 70’s/80’s tv theme songs I’d be so rich) and cook.
I was the queen of Rice Krispie Treats and I could boil a bag of Lean Cuisine like a champ. (I wasn’t on a diet but when I saw the commercial for these new dinners you could cook in minutes in boiling water, I had to have them.) Boredom and curiosity set in one afternoon and I wondered, “what would happen if I cooked this sugar?” (Kids, if you’re reading this DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. It was the 70’s, the days of riding in the back of a pickup and playing outside unsupervised until the streetlights came on.)
Anywho, when you melt sugar in a pan it liquefies and as fast as you can pour it onto a sheet pan, it hardens into a crunchy, glass sharp sugar ‘candy’. I was literally snacking on 100 percent sugar. Cooked, but sugar.
Salted Caramel Sauce
If, once your sugar melts, you add a little butter and cream, you end up with caramel sauce. Ta da! So easy! And if you wanna go from good and better to best, stir in a bit of sea salt.
Salted Caramel Sauce is the eighth wonder of the world. (I just decided so it’s official.) It’s the perfect thing for your sweet-salty cravings. Pour it on ice cream, brownies, crepes, a spoon. I’ve even been known to drizzle it on a waffle when I’m feeling naughty. (Do that.)
The trick with making caramel sauce is cooking the sugar until it melts and turns the perfect shade of caramel brown. The darker the sugar gets, the more intense caramel flavor your sauce will have. Too light and your sauce will be pale in color and taste like straight sugar. Too dark and your sauce will have a bitter taste that will ruin everything. So as soon as the sugar reaches that picture perfect caramel shade, add the butter and cream immediately. Hesitation not allowed!
When you add cold or room temperature butter and cream to a pot of boiling, melted sugar, stuff’s gonna happen. Your caramel sauce will hiss and bubble up and you’ll panic thinking it’s coming after you, but it’s not. Keep stirring – use a longhandled wooden spoon – and your caramel sauce will keep calm and caramel on. Take it off the heat, stir in your salt and you’re done.
The salt you use can make of break your sauce. Stay away (like, seriously, run) from that little girl with the umbrella and her table salt. This is where you want to showcase your good salts because you’ll actually be able to taste the salt in this recipe. Coarse kosher salt will do but a nice, large-grained sea salt is even better. If you’re not clear on the differences between salts, check out my Salt 101 post.
Give this one a whirl. Watch your sugar as it melts and you’ll be fine. Happy sweet tooth!
Don’t stir the sugar constantly once it begins to melt. Stirring will push the sugar crystals up the sides of the pan instead of on the bottom where you want them.
The sugar will bubble and hiss when you add the butter and cream. Don’t worry. It won’t bubble out of the pot.
Use a good quality sea salt, not table salt, for best flavor.
Medium Heavy Bottomed Pot
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Place sugar in heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Cook, without stirring, until sugar begins to melt. Once the sugar starts to melt stir occasionally until it begins to caramelize. As soon as the caramel becomes golden brown, stir in the butter, followed by the heavy cream.
- Cook caramel sauce for another minute, stirring frequently, then remove from heat and stir in salt.
- Store caramel sauce in an airtight container in the fridge. Microwave without lid for 30-second intervals to rewarm.