…I thought candy that came in a bag was the be all and end all of yumminess. I thought that Hershey bars were divine, Lemon Heads were the best dessert ever (ok, I still love lemon heads. I admit it) and Kraft Caramels were the tastiest thing since…since…since…I dunno what, but I loved them. Mind you, don’t get me wrong. I still think there is a time and a place for all of those things. Hershey Bars are a wonderful late night “I’m reading a book and lazing in bed; leave me alone” treat, Lemon heads are…well…awesome any time of day or night and Kraft Caramels, while I no longer eat them plain, are good in a handful of dessert applications and great for give away on Halloween.
Then as I got more into cooking as I aged, I found a caramel sauce recipe that was simple and to the point. It was brown sugar, butter and cream. it was good and I used it for years.
That said however, there came a time when I wanted to expand my cooking knowledge and I got brave enough to try to make homemade caramels and caramel sauce (I was desperate for a caramel sundae) . I have never looked back since that day. And for those of you thinking “I could never make REAL caramel” I say only this. Yes. You can. If you have an IQ higher than that of the average eggplant (thus excluding my neighbor from this endeavor) and aren’t totally careless when it comes to cooking (you DO need to pay attention or you could end up very badly burned), you can make it. Don’t let “OMG, it’s cooked sugar and I’ve heard it can kill you if it touches you, it’s so hot!” scare you. I repeat…it’s not hard. I’m even going to include a few pictures so you can see what it should look like (approximately) at certain points in the cooking process.
So come on. Go get out a sturdy pot, some water, sugar, butter, vanilla and some heavy cream. That’s it. That’s all you need. No thermometer. No haz-mat suit. No extra fire insurance. Another reason you need to make this beyond it’s wonderful to eat straight off of the spoon? Because we will be using this later in some pretty darn awesome recipes. So shoo… go, young grasshopper and get sugar.
This makes 2 pint jars of sauce. Go ahead and make the full batch. I promise you; it will get used. And it will keep stored in the fridge for about 3 months.
Home Made Caramel Sauce
- 2 cups water
- 4 cups sugar
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Pour the water in your largest heavy bottomed pot. Yeah, that one you use to boil pasta in will do. When the cream is added to this, it is going to bubble furiously. You need a LARGE pot. I can not stress that enough.
- Pour the sugar into the middle of the pan, trying not to let it touch the sides any more than necessary. Don’t stir it. No really. Don’t.
- Heat on medium high until the sugar has dissolved then turn the heat to high. You’re going to cook the sugar water mixture until it turns a wonderful shade of golden brown. It will take somewhere around 25 to 30 minutes. Also, it smells like toasting marshmallows as it cooks. Pretty yummy smelling lol.
- Again, as this cooks, don’t stir. It can cause sugar crystals to form/get into the mixture and leave you with a grainy end product.
- Meanwhile, while this cooks, combine your cream, vanilla and butter in a large measuring cup or spouted bowl.
- Heat in the microwave until it is hot but not boiling (the butter should be leaving a nice film on top but shouldn’t be fully melted). Set on the counter within reach of the pot.
- When mixture is golden brown, whisk in the cream mixture. It is going to bubble and sputter and scare the crap out of you. Even after having done this many times, it still makes my heart race when I add the cream cause of the reaction of the cream in the sugar. Just continue to slowly pour and whisk (if you have someone who can pour while you whisk, even better.
- Boil for about 2 minutes more. It will seem thin, but will thicken up appreciably when cold. Don’t keep cooking or you will end up with caramels, not caramel sauce. Not that this is a bad thing. If by chance you do (you’ll know if you go to get some out of the fridge and it’s solid instead of just very thick) you have 2 choices. You can just heat it every time you need to use it or you can heat it once, pour it into a heavily buttered 9 inch square pan, let it become about half firm in the fridge, cut it, then finish cooling it. Then you have some completely delicious caramels that you can eat as is, dip in chocolate, whatever.
- Let mixture come to room temp in the pan, then pour into jars and store in the fridge. I use pint canning jars.
- This is amazing on vanilla ice cream, in yogurt, over berries, in recipes calling for store caramel sauce or just off a spoon as a treat. Try it once; see how easy this is. You will never buy that unnamed brand of caramel sauce again.