How To Make Caramel Sauce
Makes about 3 cups
- 2 cups
- 1 1/2 cups
- 1/4 cup
- 4 tablespoons
butter, cut into chunks
1- to 2-quart saucepan
2- to 4-quart saucepan
Instant-read or candy thermometer, optional
Jars, for storing the caramel sauce
Warm the cream: Pour the heavy cream into the smaller pot and put it on a back burner over low to medium heat. Don't let it come to a boil; just keep it warm.
Stir together the sugar and water: In the larger pot, combine the sugar and water. Set over high heat. Stir until the sugar is completely wet and looks sandy, then stop stirring.
Caramelize the sugar: Let the sugar cook undisturbed for 8 to 15 minutes, depending on your stove. First it will begin to bubble around the edges or in just a few spots around the pan. Next the entire surface will come to a boil and the sugar will go from opaque to clear. Next you will see yellow streaks, and the sugar will eventually turn amber. When you start to see very dark streaks, swirl the pan gently to make sure the sugar is cooking evenly. When the sugar is very dark amber, or if you start to see wisps of smoke, remove the pan from heat. If you'd like to double-check on a thermometer, the sugar should be between 325°F and 350°F at this point — the longer and darker you cook the caramel, the deeper the flavor.
Add the cream: As soon as the caramel is dark amber, remove the pan from heat and pour in the cream. The mixture will bubble up to almost twice its volume and release a lot of steam — be very careful! Use a long-handled whisk to whisk vigorously until the bubbling subsides.
Add the butter: Add the salt and butter to the pan, and whisk until the butter has melted and the mixture is smooth.
Cook the caramel sauce: Return the pan to medium-high heat and continue simmering the sauce for another 5 to 10 minutes. Cook for less time for a thinner caramel sauce, or for longer for a thicker sauce. The sauce will also thicken as it cools, so stop cooking when the sauce is still a bit loose for your liking.
Cool and refrigerate: Transfer the cooled sauce to jars and refrigerate. The sauce will keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
This post has been updated — first published August 2007.