Yield: 2 cups (500 milliliters)
The easiest way to prepare caramel is to simply stir granulated sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. When the sugar melts and turns deep brown, add water, cream, or fruit juice to dissolve the caramel into a sauce.
Many recipes for caramel suggest that the sugar first be dissolved in water and that any crystals that form on the inside of the saucepan be continuously brushed off with a pastry brush to prevent the sugar from re-crystallizing. Both of these steps can be eliminated by simply melting the sugar without liquid. The most important precautions to follow when preparing caramel in this way are: Stir the mixture continuously, and do not use too high a heat; otherwise the sugar will burn rather than caramelize evenly.
Because liquid caramel is burning hot (320 degrees F. or 160 degrees C.), it must be combined with other liquids when it is used to flavor a sauce. Some recipes add heavy cream to the hot caramel, which dissolves the caramel and simultaneously reduces the cream. Other recipes first add water, fruit juice, or fruit purées to the caramel to dissolve it and then serve it as is or finish it with cream, butter, or both. Caramel sauces are often flavored with vanilla, but bourbon or malt whiskey can be used with excellent results.
Caramel Cream Sauce
Yield 2 cups (500 milliliters)
1 pound (500 grams) granulated sugar
1 quart (1 liter) heavy cream
2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) vanilla extract or other flavoring (optional)
1. Melt the sugar in a 4-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan or copper poêlon. (A large saucepan or poêlon is necessary because the cream boils up when added to the caramel.) Stir the sugar constantly over medium heat with a wooden spoon until any lumps have melted. Continue stirring until the caramel is a deep reddish brown.
a. through c. Stir sugar in a heavy-bottomed pan (an unlined copper pot is shown here) over medium heat until the mixture is perfectly smooth and deep red.
2. Standing back from the saucepan, add half the heavy cream. The cream will boil vigorously and dissolve the hot caramel. When the boiling slows down, add the rest of the cream.
d. and e. Pour heavy cream, half at a time, into the hot caramel. Stand back in case the mixture spatters.
f. Stir until smooth.
3. Whisk the sauce until the caramel is thoroughly dissolved in the cream. Check the consistency of the sauce and reduce it slightly if necessary. Add the vanilla extract or other flavoring if desired.
Caramel Butter Sauce
Caramel butter sauce is prepared in the same way as caramel cream sauce except that the heavy cream is replaced with 2 cups (500 milliliters) of water, fruit juice, coffee, or other flavored liquid, and the mixture is reduced to a syrup. It is then finished with 4 ounces (125 grams) of butter and vanilla extract. Interesting flavor combinations can be invented by infusing the water that is added to the sugar with spices, such as cloves and star anise. The butter can also be omitted and the sauce served simply as a caramel syrup.
Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making
By James Peterson
John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1998
Hardback, $ 44.95
Recipe reprinted by permission.
Crème Caramel Recipes
This page created December 2001