Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Easy Homemade Caramel Sauce {Recipe}

I have always been intimidated by anything related to caramel and fudge making.
There. I said it.
Candy making... it scares me.

But I love, love, love this Caramel Buttercream Icing. And I really wanted to get the caramel sauce going better for it. The times I've made it, I've struggled, and not done so well on the sauce.

So, I asked some friends who've touted their caramel-making abilities to me... and consulted Chef Google. I failed... again... but then... I succeeded, and now, I think I can share some of that success with you!

What You Need:
2 cups sugar (not brown sugar or natural sugar)
1/3 cup water
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter - at room temperature
1 cup heavy cream - at room temperature
Helpful equipment:
Candy or Instant Read Thermometer
Wire Whisk
Silicone Spatula or heatproof spoon

Here's the most important thing to remember, I think:
You might just screw this up a handful of times. But even if you do, try again. It is so good and so  worth it.
And once you get it, the frustrating batches will be fewer and far between, AND, seriously, it takes like 15-20 minutes to make. Awesomely easy food gift! You're not making any cakes or decorated cookies in 20 minutes!

So, you start by combining the water and the sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. You want to use regular old, white sugar. Using other sugars may lead to burning.
Place the pot over medium-high heat, and stir gently until all of the sugar is dissolved.

Once the sugar is dissolved, and the mixture starts bubbling and boiling, DO NOT STIR AGAIN! You can swirl it in the pan, but apparently stirring now is a bad thing. I can't vouch for the why, I just know that it works when I don't do it!!
*Oh, and... I noticed that it tends to go fast up to somewhere in the low 200s, then it lollygags for a while... then it goes up steadily to 350. So, don't assumed you're doomed if it takes a while to go from about 200-225 (F). Something about the water boiling off.

So, now you wait and watch. You need the mixture to get to about 350-degrees (F), and get to a dark amber brown color. It takes me between 10-20 minutes, depending on how high my heat is on the stove, and if I'm doing a whole or a half batch.

*Here's where my troubles usually occur-- adding the butter. I'm convinced it has to do with the temperature of the butter, but I have absolutely zero scientific evidence for that. So, I recommend that you get the butter to room temperature- as that's when I have better luck.

Take the sugar off of the heat, and add the butter. It will foam up a lot, but just whisk, whisk, whisk. If it's separating a little bit and sticking to the bottom, don't give up. There's still hope.

Once you're all mixed in and smooth, add the cream, and it will again foam up. Keep whisking again, until it's all mixed in and smooth.
Here again, room temperature helps me. No evidence to back it up, just what's worked for me.

Now, if you're unlucky and you got some big ol' chunks, and it separated, all is not lost. Get out a fine strainer, and strain those chunks. It still tastes amazing. Next time, it will go better. I'd promise, but that may be a lie because I messed it up at least 6 times before I had one go perfectly. BUT I still used the strained ones, and they tasted FAN-tastic!

If you want to add some salt or some vanilla, I vote add it at the very end. I'd do just about 1/8-1/4 tsp. of salt, and maybe 1-2 tsp. of vanilla, by taste.

Once cooled, you can use it in the caramel icing... you can top ice cream with it... you can dip apples in it. So versatile!
You need to store this in the refrigerator. But it should last a few weeks. Just heat it up for a few seconds in the microwave to make it pourable.
One recipe makes about 2 cups of finished sauce.

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