This caramel sauce is lovely! It is pourable, doesn’t harden completely, and works perfectly in ice cream, as a cake topping, or as a drizzle on any baked good. It stays fairly fluid and is even scoop-able right from the fridge.
Caramel is not as hard as you would think! I use a bit of water to help the sugar melt evenly, and as the sugar cooks, I brush down the sides of the pot with a pastry brush and water to ensure no sugar crystals form.
You don’t need a thermometer for this recipe, you can tell when the caramel is done by the colour! When it starts changing colour, make sure you are watching intently. Once it is a lovely amber caramel colour, you remove it from the heat and stir in the butter and cream. If you wait too long, it will get very dark and almost mahogany with reddish undertones. This can taste burnt and bitter so you have to pull it before this happens. The temperature that caramel starts changing colour is around 320 degrees F.
- 320°F the sugar will usually be fully melted
- 325 – 338°F You will have a light caramel
- 340 – 345°F You will have a nice amber caramel
I like to use granulated sugar when making caramel as it melts quickly and you can tell the colour change easily. I have tried using brown sugar before, although I found this a bit stressful as it is much harder to tell if the sugar has changed colour. If you are using brown, make sure you use a thermometer to ensure you have the right temperature.
Making the Caramel
There are 2 classic methods for making caramel, as well as a simplified version. The Classic ways to make it are the Dry Sugar Method or the Wet Sugar Method. Use a heavy-bottomed pot and granulated sugar.
Dry Sugar Method:
Use a large pot, and make sure the sugar covers the bottom in an even layer. If you use a smaller pot, it will take longer for the sugar to melt and can result in an uneven melting.
Don’t stir the sugar as it heats, although you can shake the pot gently to agitate the sugar.
I find this method more finicky, and it more often than not melts unevenly, but if you are more comfortable doing it this way by all means continue!
Wet Sugar Method:
In this method, you add a few tablespoons of water to the sugar, to moisten it. I find using this method that you melt the sugar more evenly.
You can stir the sugar as the liquid heats up just until it has dissolved or until it starts to simmer. Once it starts to simmer, stop stirring otherwise further agitation can promote sugar crystal formation. If you like, you can use a pastry brush and a small bowl of water to brush down the sides of the pot if any crystals have formed along the edges.
This method combines all of the ingredients in the pot at the beginning (butter, sugar, cream). You simmer the ingredients together until it has thickened. Usually, this version uses brown sugar to help with the colour and flavour. I prefer the other 2 methods above as I feel they produce a more rich tasting caramel, although this is a good option if you are a bit nervous about making it at home!
Saving Grainy Caramel:
If your caramel has crystallized, never fear! You can still save it. Want to know my secret? WATER!
If it has already reached the amber colour, and you have crystals, I like to add the butter and cream first. Once mixed and all grainy, add some water (a few tablespoons). You want to re-melt the crystals back into the solution. Boil the mixture until the water evaporates, making sure to stir this caramel as it cooks so the bottom doesn’t burn since there is milk and cream in there.
If it has not yet reached the amber colour, and crystals are forming on the surface, you can add more water. Add a couple of tablespoons of water, and gently break up the crystals. Continue to cook the caramel and evaporate the water until it turns amber.
If your caramel is still grainy, it can still make a delicious treat! I like to pour it over some roasted nuts and make a nut brittle.
Caramel SaucePrint Recipe
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons water
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 6 tablespoons butter
- pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Heat, stirring occasionally until all of the sugar is dissolved.
Bring to a simmer and stop stirring. Let the sugar boil.
Use a pastry brush and a cup of water to brush down the sides of the pot if you see any sugar crystals. This will prevent your sugar mixture from crystallizing and ruining the caramel.
Watch the caramel closely, as it cooks, it will start to turn a golden colour. Once it is a deep amber, remove from heat and add your butter. It will sizzle and foam up a bit. Stir this in until melted, and slowly add the cream.
Place back on the heat if it is not incorporating smoothly. Add the salt and vanilla and stir to combine.
Pour into a container and cool. Store in the fridge.