March 27, 2013 | By matt | Comments
Salty caramel is everywhere. It went from trendy to pantry staple (and near ubiquity) in a mere flash and we are okay with that. When deployed correctly (as in our Sweet and Salty Cake or Sweet and Salty Brownie) and with restraint, salted caramel can add color and meaning to life (dramatic but true) and turn an ordinary dessert experience inside out.
I make a lot of caramel. Too much! But alas, that is what happens when you are testing recipes and you have an addiction you cannot quell. I have various caramel recipes in various jars using different ratios of butter to cream (and no butter and no cream) in a kaleidoscope of natural flavors accented by different types of salt. However, the recipe I make the most, the one that is imprinted in my ever-loosening memory bank is the oldest one: Sweet and Salty Caramel Sauce (featured in our newest book, Baked Elements).
You should make it. It is easy and inexpensive and fun and giftable (present it in a Mason or Weck Jar with a tag or label featuring serving suggestions).
The instructions below were designed to aid the beginner caramel sauce maker (yes, there are other ways to make caramel, but we are sticking to beginning tips/tricks here), though it is a damn good recipe for the extreme caramel enthusiast as well (feel free to improvise):
Sweet and Salty Caramel Sauce “How To” from Baked Elements
Before you start:
-Use a heavy-bottomed, super clean medium-sized saucepan with high-sides.
-Pre-measure your heavy cream and sour cream and place at room temperature (i.e. remove from refrigerator) for at least 30 minutes prior to beginning the recipe (better to add room temperature ingredients to the scorching hot caramel to cause less of a reaction).
-I like to ice bath my caramel. This is not a necessary step, but I recommend it because a) it allows you to use the caramel right away and b) it stops the caramel from cooking any further. Simply have a heat-proof bowl at the ready (you will pour your cooked caramel into this) then, fill your sink with some ice and maybe a little cool water. Once the cooked caramel goes into the heat-proof bowl, you will nestle the bowl into the bed of ice (obviously, you do not want any water getting into the caramel) and whisk constantly until cool.
-Finally, you need to give this recipe your full attention. Do not attempt to do other things (make phone calls, catch up on your TV shows, etc…) while making caramel. Once the sugar starts to caramelize this process moves very quick. It can go from smooth and silky caramel to black mess in the blink of an eye.
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (this is not completely necessary, but aids many beginner caramel makers as corn syrup prevents crystallization)
½ cup heavy cream
1 tespoon fleur de sel
¼ cup full fat sour cream
Place the sugar in the medium saucepan. Add the corn syrup (if using) and gently pour ¼ cup of water over the sugar/corn syrup in the center of the pan (careful not to splash sides). Use the back of a wooden spoon (or a finger) to VERY GENTLY stir the mixture together until most of the sugar is wet. Place the pan over low-medium heat. Do not stir. Once sugar is dissolved increase the heat to high and (again without stirring) cook until the mixture is dark amber in color.
If the mixture is only turning dark in some spots, gently swirl or agitate the pan over the heat source to even out the color. Keep a close eye on the caramel at all times, as it goes from golden brown to black and burnt very quickly. The caramel is done when it is between a nut-brown and dark amber color. I tend to try and cook this caramel as dark as possible (it is a preference) as I like it almost smoky and just this side of burnt BUT if this is your first time, err on the lighter side.
Remove from the heat and slowly add the cream (be careful it will bubble up) and the fleur de sel. Whisk in the sour cream until smooth. Pour into prepared bowl and continue whisking over the ice bath until the sauce is cool.
The caramel sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to ten days or longer (tightly covered). Reheat gently before serving (in the microwave in short burst). *Truth be told, I store my caramel at room temperature and use it up within a few days*
Use as topping for almost anything (brownies, ice cream, cookies…um pasta?) or incorporate into icings/frostings and batters.
Any questions? Leave them in the comments. I’ll try my best to answer.