Everyone loves homemade caramel sauce. This isn’t a broad generalization, it’s just fact. Homemade caramel sauce is easy to make, and you likely have the ingredients on hand, so you can basically whip up a batch whenever, but you have to store the extra in the refrigerator, where it becomes hard. Then, when you want caramel you have to wait, and one should never have to wait for caramel. Over the years I’ve played with a few recipes and finally found my happy ratio of ingredients for a stay soft caramel sauce. The best part is, this caramel sauce stays soft without corn syrup, which most people don’t have in their pantry at any given time. You can probably make this caramel right now, but I’d recommend reading the post first, especially if you’re a caramel-making newbie. 😉
I use the wet method for caramel making here, which is where you add a little water to your sugar to help it dissolve. Working on a home cook top, I’ve found this is the most consistent method and I’ve tested on gas (mine currently), electric (former house), and glass ranges (family). Gas and electric ranges always have hot spots on the burners, and so it’s good to have a little leeway when making caramel to prevent burnt sugar spots because burnt sugar smells disgusting and lingers what feels like forever.
Use a heavy-bottomed stainless steel or other light colored pot. You might be able to get a successful batch in a dark pot, I was able to do it when we had a kitchen with crazy good lighting, but I can’t do that in our kitchen now, and it’s just easier to be able to see the color change. It’s important to add the ingredients to the sugar at just the right point in the cooking process.
To help you with this, I took pictures while cooking to try and show you what the sugar looks like in the pot as it caramelizes. The color you are looking for is a penny brown from a penny that has only just lost its brand-new shine, not an old penny brown. The second the caramelized sugar reaches this point, you want to turn off the heat and quickly whisk in the butter and heavy cream. It will bubble like crazy, you might see some lumps for a minute, but keep stirring and whisking until it all smooths out. Transfer immediately to a heat-safe container and allow to cool then store in the refrigerator.
The caramel sauce will look very liquid as it cools, but it hardens to a perfect spoon-friendly consistency in the refrigerator. I use it straight out of the fridge to dip apples, drizzle it on desserts, and if I let it sit out 5 minutes, it’s the perfect consistency to use in hot chocolate or homemade caramel lattes.
*UPDATE 11/2016* I went ahead and filmed a caramel making video for you where I talk you through the entire process and let you see exactly what’s going on in the pot. I think it might help some of you overcome challenges and find caramel-making success!
The caramel will keep up to 10 days in the refrigerator. After that, it starts to get a little grainy because the sugar begins to crystallize. The batch only makes about 1 1/2 cups of caramel though, so it doesn’t usually last that long.
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tbsp water
- 3/4 c heavy cream
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1 tbsp pieces
- Combine the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed stainless steel (or other light-colored) pot.
- Set your other prepared ingredients and a whisk within easy reach.
- Place the pot over medium heat and stir frequently with a spatula until the sugar has dissolved. If you see sugar crystals forming along the sides of the pot, use a pastry brush wet in a small bowl of water to brush the crystals away.
- Once the sugar has fully dissolved, stop stirring! Swirl the entire pot gently if needed, during this next phase of cooking.
- Turn the heat up to medium high and watch the sugar for the change in color. This takes 4-5 minutes, but you cannot walk away, because the color changes in an instant. Once the dissolved sugar mixture reaches a medium copper color, quickly turn off the heat, and add the butter and heavy cream, whisking constantly. Continue whisking until the mixture becomes homogeneous and all clumps dissolve. If you need to, place the pot over very low heat while you stir to help the caramel sauce smooth out.
- Transfer immediately to a heat-safe container, allow to cool, and store in the refrigerator up to 10 days.