Home > Uncategorized > As requested, my caramel sauce recipe

As requested, my caramel sauce recipe

The following is lifted, whole-hog, from a note I wrote my sister-in-law when she wanted me to give her my recipe. It’s long winded and owes much to a Good Eats episode as wells at the Cook’s Illustrated caramel sauce recipe. But it will get you there….


Okay, this is easy-peasy. Like a lot of my cooking, it’s more a method than a recipe, so it’s going to take longer to describe than it is to make. Plus, you know, I’m wordy as hell. So don’t freak out.

First, make sure the kids are in bed, the phone is off the hook, the dog has been walked. Once you start, you can not stop. You can’t even glance away. It shouldn’t take long, but you have to really focus for it.

Now, get out the following things: white sugar, corn syrup (light), heavy cream, salt, butter.

Also get out a big bowl and fill it with ice water. This is for safety only. Boiling sugar reaches temperatures upwards of 300-400 degrees. I and others call it “culinary napalm.” It will burn you to the bone in no time. (Another
reason to make sure the kids are in bed.) The ice water is there for you to plunge your hand into if you splash. But don’t worry. You won’t splash.

Also, get out your heaviest sauce pan, and (because I remember your heaviest sauce pan as having a copper bottom) your cast iron skillet. Now, scrub the sauce pan until it’s scrupulously clean. Cleanliness is next to caramel-i-ness in this case. Sugar hates contaminants. Alos, get out two wooden spoons. Plastic spoons will melt and metal spoons will burn your
hand. Trust me.

Now, measure out… oh, say 2 cups of white sugar. Pour it into the sauce pan. Measure out the same amount of cream and set it aside. Add enough water to make the sugar wet. Put the sauce pan on top of the cast iron skillet. (For why you’re doing this, see geek footnote #1.) Put the saucepan/skillet combo on top of the burner at about medium high. Stir once with your first (scrupulously clean) wooden spoon, just until combined.

The sugar/water will come to a boil. It’s going to look gray and then go clear. At this point, add about a table spoon of the corn syrup. (For why you’re doing this, see geek footnote #2.)

Now comes the fun part. Watch the pot boil. I shit you not. Just stand there and watch it. The water will all boil away until you’re just watching the sugar boil. The whole thing will become sort of a pale straw color first, then gold, then amber. It’s pretty. Occasionally swirl the contents of the pot, being VERY CAREFUL not to splash. Napalm, remember. You’re swirling in case there’s a hot spot.

Eventually — I have no idea how long, I’ve never looked up from the pot to time it — the sugar will shade from amber into a deep reddish brown. Now is the crunch time. The time when nerves of steel will pay off. Because wimps pull the sauce here, but if you wait just a little longer, until just before you see the very first wisps of smoke, you’ll get the really roasty toasty fabulous caramel flavors. Wait, wait, wait…. there! A wisp of smoke. Haul the sauce pan (minus the skillet) to another, cool, burner. Then, acting with rapidity, but at arm’s length, dump the cream into the boiling sugar.

It’s going to bubble up hugely. There’s going to be steam. It’s going to hiss and spit and that’s why you’re at arm’s length. Once the insanity dies down a little — 10 maybe 20 seconds — stir the whole mess with your second (scrupulously clean) wooden spoon. While you’re stirring, toss in about three or four tablespoons of butter and a big pinch of salt. Stir until it’s
smooth and creamy and yummy looking. God that would taste good right now, right?

DO NOT PUT YOUR FINGER IN TO TASTE IT! It’s still way hot. About 200 degrees. You’ll burn yourself and then you’ll jump around the kitchen and your husband will mock you. At least, that’s what happens to me every damned time.

Let it cool. Keep in fridge. Do not share with children.

See, it’s easy, just long to type out.

Geek footnote #1:  Your pot is copper and copper heats up and cools down too fast for something as delicate at boiling sugar. If you put the pot on your cast iron skillet (or your Dutch oven), the iron is a “righteous conductor” and will reach thermal cruising speed more slowly but keep it there more evenly with fewer hot spots.

Geek footnote #2: Sugar is almost pure sucrose. When you boil the water away, you get a super saturated solution and the molecules REALLY REALLY REALLY want to snap into place. (The way that when you shake a handful of quarters, they want to align themselves into a neat little row.) Snapped-together molecules mean crystallization. Crystallization means a pot full of grainy sugar solution and — often enough — stinking black carbon, is opposed to fabulous caramel. Adding a touch of a similar but slightly different molecule — corn syrup is fructose — prevents the crystallization. (Imagine adding a handful of ball bearings to the handful of quarters.)

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. December 20, 2007 at 8:49 pm


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