Homemade caramel is a staple in my fridge. I always have a jar to hand, and I rarely use it in the same way! Here's a fool-proof recipe for this delicious sauce, and a few ideas to spice it up!
It's not rocket science, but caramel tends to scare some people, probably because it is not cut and dry as some recipes. Instead, it takes a lot of judgement on your part. But relax, once you have an eye for the right color, you'll never burn sugar again!
Recipe (fills 1 180ml jar)
150g white granulated sugar
1/4 cup of water
200ml double/whipping/heavy cream (at least 35% fat)
Pinch of sea salt
In a heavy base saucepan, place the sugar and enough water to just about wet the sugar granules. You don't want too much water in there!
Place on medium heat and bring it to the boil. Avoid stirring if possible, instead swirl the pan to get it all nice and dissolved. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, adjust the heat to a simmer. If you are confident, you can increase the heat, but that means the sugar may burn before you get a chance to do anything about it!
Let it simmer for a few minutes, perhaps about 4 or 5 minutes, but keep your eyes on it, and swirl the pan as needed. When it starts to turn golden, it is probably a minute away from reaching that deep amber tone you are looking for. You may have to take it off the heat once or twice if it's caramelizing too quickly, but do aim for deep amber, keeping in mind that sugar may continue to caramelize after you take it off the heat.
With the pan off the heat, pour in your cream (hot or cold, doesn't matter), keeping a little distance between you and the pan in case of splashes. It will bubble up and react. Place it back on the heat and let it boil, stirring with a silicone or heat-proof spatula. The clumps that formed when you poured the cream will quickly melt and the whole mixture will come together beautifully. Let it boil for a minute or two to thicken. Sprinkle in some salt to balance the caramel - a pinch for normal caramel, or three pinches for salted caramel.
Let it cool slightly, but pour the sauce into a sterilized jar while still hot. That's it, all done!
Put a label on the jar, stick it in the fridge, and use within 4 weeks.
You have a jar of caramel in your fridge. What do you do with it?
Here are some delicious ideas:
1- Cake fillings - caramel goes well with all fruits, chocolate, and vanilla. So whatever sponge you just baked, pour a little warmed caramel between layers, on top of your regular filling. You can also mix it into prepared buttercream of any flavor to give it a whole new dimension!
2- Ice cream sauce - saute a few banana slices in some butter over low heat until the banana has shed its juices, then pour a few tablespoons of caramel on top and sizzle for a minute. You'll have caramel banana sauce. Heaven on a scoop of ice cream!
3- Turn it into butterscotch - warm up your caramel over medium heat (or while it is fresh), and add 100g of butter. Let it boil long enough to melt all the butter, then take it off the heat and allow to cool. There you go ... butterscotch sauce! You can also pour it onto a baking sheet lined with cling film, chill, then cut into cubes for a yummy treat!
4- Coffee flavor - add a teaspoon to your coffee for a delicious, natural caramel latte!
5-Fruit dip - whip up a jar of caramel with a small tub of cream cheese and a touch of vanilla extract, and serve it up with apple slices. You've never seen apples disappear so quickly!
6- Turtle brownies - what turns brownies into turtle brownies? Caramel! Drizzle a generous amount on top of your favorite brownie batter before it goes in the oven, and bake, cool, slice, and serve!
7- Pop some corn - drizzle caramel all over a tray of fresh popcorn, toss to combine, then bake in the oven for an hour on a low temperature. Caramel popcorn!
8- Make a versatile chocolate sauce - you know how to make ganache? 1:1 ration of cream to dark chocolate makes a soft ganache that works well as a cake filling, a sauce, or as a base for hot chocolate. Now add a little caramel to your ganache and whisk it up, and have a taste. Nothing beats this stuff!
9- Caramel hot chocolate - Half fill a mug with the above caramel ganache, and top the rest with whole milk. Microwave for 90 seconds, then stir. Divine.
Well, there's a number 10 in my head somewhere, but until I find it, experiment with these 9 ways to use a jar of caramel, and let me know how it goes!