I read somewhere that a sugar burn was like having napalm on your skin……Ouch! Now I can’t personally vouch for that, but I can assure you that sugar burns feel like being dipped in lye…well, actually, I don’t have experience of that either, but you get my point. Cooked sugar is very HOT and it feels like your skin is melting.
The very first time I worked with cooked sugar, yeah you guessed it, I managed to spill a small amount on my hand and, yes, it felt as if I was being flayed alive. Ok I have no experience with that either so I am going to stop with the bad analogies. Anyway, I shudder to think what a massive burn would be like.
I guess what I am trying to say is: don’t be scared of working with sugar, but exercise common sense. Have a bowl of iced water ready so you can plunge your hand in, just in case the worst happens. Make sure you are wearing shoes and cover up your skin as much as possible (there’s a reason chefs wear long sleeved jackets, long trousers and work boots).
Ok, now that we have got the bad stuff out of the way let’s move on to the good stuff…caramel sauce. To me this is liquid gold and I must admit I have taken to keeping a jar of it in the fridge just in case I need it. Yes, I often ask myself “is need and want the same thing“? Moving on, caramel is one of the most versatile items in my fridge: I put it with ice cream, in between layers of cake and I make it into tarts and sometimes, when no one is looking, I eat it with a spoon straight from the jar…Yum.
This recipe is for salted caramel, but if you just want normal caramel simply omit the salt. I love vanilla and I add it to almost everything, but this is my personal taste so you can also omit the vanilla if you prefer.
- 250gm sugar
- 400ml Pure cream
- 50gm unsalted butter
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt (leave out if making plain caramel sauce)
- Vanilla bean (optional).
We were taught a couple of different methods at school for making caramel. I prefer to use the “dry” method which simply means that you do not add any liquid (water) to the sugar at the start.
Put the sugar in a large saucepan.
Tip: I use a large stock pot because the mixture will bubble furiously when the cream is added and I do not want to end up with cooked sugar all over my stove.
Pile all the sugar on one side of the saucepan; this way you don’t get any spots of sugar over-cooking and burning. This method was taught to me by one of my Swiss tutors and of all the methods I have been shown I feel like I have the most control of the sugar this way.
Heat saucepan over a low heat. You will start to see the sugar melting at the very edges of the pile.
Tip: This is a fairly slow process, so be patient.
When you see the sugar at the edges starting to melt (or sweat) use a wooden spoon and start stirring the sugar from the edge into the melting sugar. If you stir a little bit of sugar at a time you will find that you won’t end up with sugar clumping together.
Keep stirring in a little bit at a time, watching for dark spots in the melted sugar. If the melted sugar starts to go too dark mix some unmelted sugar in to this spot before it burns.
Once the sugar has melted, and the colour is a lovely rich reddish amber, take the saucepan off the heat.
Tip: There is a fine balance at this point. If you take it off too early your caramel will be too sweet, but if you leave it too long you will burn the sugar and the caramel will be too bitter.
Take saucepan off stove and add half of the cream and stir. This is where the mixture will bubble furiously, be careful of the steam that comes out of the pan as it will be very hot and can burn.
The mixture may harden in places at this point, that is ok, just keep stirring until it has melted back into a liquid form.
Add the remaining cream and stir, return saucepan back to low heat.
Add butter, salt, vanilla seeds and vanilla pod (if required) and stir to combine
Keep stirring until the butter is combined.
Take the caramel off the stove and let it cool for approximately 15 minutes.
Pour the caramel into jars and allow it to cool completely. At this stage the consistency will be thin but the sauce will thicken as it cools.
Store the caramel in the fridge.
The caramel sauce will last 3 weeks (approx.) in the fridge.