Recipe: Buttermilk Caramel Sauce

Recipe: Buttermilk Caramel Sauce

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Kelli Foster
Jul 4, 2017
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Last year, in my quest to uncover all the most delicious and somewhat unexpected ways to use leftover buttermilk, I stumbled on a dessert sauce to top all dessert sauces. I reworked my favorite classic caramel sauce to put buttermilk at the helm, and the result is one that's sure to win your heart. It starts with nutty notes of butterscotch and the rich sweetness of caramel, and then surprises your tastebuds with a tangy twist that leaves you wanting more.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Softening the Caramel

There's really nothing like the sweet reward of warm caramel sauce straight from the pot, after it's had a few minutes to settle down and cool. Sneaking a spoonful feels like an obligatory treat with every batch. After that, I especially enjoy it drizzled over any and all flavors of ice cream, sweet summer pies, crisps and cobblers, thick slices of banana and zucchini bread, and even added to my coffee.

Like many sauces of its kind, this buttermilk caramel will firm up as it cools. Don't worry, though — getting it back to that soft, drizzly stage is easy. If it's stored in a microwave-safe container, microwave it on medium-high power for about a minute, stirring twice. Or soften the caramel sauce by reheating it on the stovetop over a pan of simmering water.

Buttermilk Caramel Sauce

Makes 1 cup

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup buttermilk, divided
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt the butter in a deep, medium saucepan over medium-high heat until bubbling. Add the sugar and whisk until combined. Whisk in 2/3 cup of the buttermilk, corn syrup, and salt, stirring until dissolved. Bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is deep amber in color, about 10 minutes

Remove from the heat, and pour in the remaining 1/3 cup buttermilk and vanilla. The mixture will bubble up and release a lot of steam. Use a long-handled whisk to whisk vigorously until the bubbling subsides and the mixture is smooth.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, 3 to 5 minutes more. The sauce will also thicken as it cools, so stop cooking when the sauce is still a bit thin for your liking. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then serve warm.

Recipe Notes

  • Storage: The caramel can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Reheat in the microwave for about 1 minute (stirring a few times), or in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water on the stovetop.
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