There’s nothing wrong with last minute Valentine’s if you don’t mind spending a few minutes in the kitchen whipping up the best homemade salted caramel sauce ever. Not only is it tasty and luscious poured on almost any sweat treat, there are only four ingredients and you probably already have them in your kitchen. So, don’t delay.
Cooking sugar: Many home cooks swear by candy thermometers when cooking sugar and making sweet confections. It’s a great cooking tool to have in your arsenal, but not necessary for caramel making. The secret with or without a thermometer is to keep an eye on the sugar as it cooks. Once it has melted it will begin to darken and eventually turn translucent and dark amber with a toasted aroma (you can gently stir as it cooks). Turn the heat off at this point to stop further cooking. Timing, a watchful eye and a little home cooks intuition is all you need for great results.
Adding salt to sweet: It doesn’t sound logical, but a pinch of salt is the secret to bringing all of the sweetness out of sugar. Caramel, essentially cooked sugar benefits the most with the addition of salt because it enhances that rich, sticky, buttery flavor. In fact, salted caramel is so popular right now, you can find it in almost any store that sells sweets, but it’s so much better homemade (and easier).
Make it boozy: Add a tablespoon of dark rum to the warm caramel sauce, then, pour it over vanilla ice cream and bananas for a variation on Bananas Foster. Add a tablespoon of bourbon instead and pour over baked apples for a grown up variation of caramel apples.
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
- In a medium saucepan, heat sugar and ¼ cup water over low heat until sugar dissolves. Turn up the heat, bring the sugar mixture to a low boil and continue boiling until sugar deep amber in color and a toasty aroma, about 5 minutes (watch your sugar closely to avoid over cooking and burning. If the sugar begins smoking, turn the heat off!). You can swirl the saucepan around or gently stir to distribute the sugar as it cooks.
- Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter, then the heavy cream. Both butter and cream will bubble up, but be brave and keep whisking. You will have smooth caramel before you know it. Stir in coarse salt and YOU ARE DONE!