I've come to an important realization: While hot fudge is fine and good, an ice cream sundae just isn't complete until it has thick, salty caramel drizzled on top. With summer right around the corner, I think it's time for us all to practice our 'quick, make a batch of caramel!' skills. It's easier than you may think. I've made Smitten Kitchen's Easy Butterscotch Recipe a few times, and this recipe was inspired by her approach. Deb understands the importance of an easy recipe and doesn't shy away from the flaky salt in her butterscotch.
The more I made her version, the more I started tweaking it to fit my own tastes, with more heavy cream, and a little more butter to give it a smooth creaminess.
Then one evening I decided to aim for a darker complexity. I thought about adding black pepper, and then it came to me: coffee! The healthy dollop of espresso powder rounds out the layers of flavors to include sweet, salty, and earthy.
This Salted Coffee Caramel Sauce is so nice because it's a little looser than other caramel recipes, and it has a true velvety nature due to the increased cream and butter.
A few friends were over while I was whipping this up last week and one suggested a spicy version with cayenne pepper. Next time. As you can see, this is a highly adaptable sauce that you'll start to tweak to accommodate your own tastes before you know it. I think the salt ratio here is perfect; that being said, I sprinkle flaky finishing salt on top of the scoop of ice cream and Coffee Caramel Sauce before serving. It heightens the caramel flavor and brings out the coffee notes.
Salted Coffee Caramel Sauce
Makes about 2/3 cup
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt, plus more to taste
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter has completely melted, add the sugar, heavy cream, espresso powder, and salt and whisk until all of the espresso powder has dissolved. Bring the mixture to a slow boil, whisking constantly during this time. Turn down the heat to low, and simmer and whisk for an additional 3 minutes to thicken.
Remove caramel sauce from the heat and add the vanilla extract. Stir to combine. Serve warm, at room temperature, or pour into a glass jar and refrigerate for later use. The caramel sauce will thicken once it cools. The sauce will keep refrigerated for 2 to 3 weeks.
To rewarm, microwave on LOW power in bursts of 15 to 30 seconds, stirring between each session. Or reheat gently over low heat in a saucepan.
Related: Boozy Cherries to Fudge Sauce: 12 Ice Cream Toppings
(Image: Megan Gordon)