Years ago I would never have dreamed of making caramel. I could imagine how difficult it could be. Did I even have the right tools?
As I came to learn, caramel is one of the easiest (and hottest, please be careful, I always wind up getting a hot spot on me) things you can make. You don't even need a candy thermometer. Caramel can be used on ice cream, on cake, on pie, in milk--there are so many ways I can only say you'll figure it out. A jar of caramel will last for weeks in the refrigerator. It's a sure thing. Give it a try.
This could hardly be easier to make from scratch. Caramel is simply sugar heated until golden in color.
There are two ways you can do this—the dry method or the wet. With the dry you heat the sugar in a sauce pan until it’s dark gold. With the wet, you add some water and heat until dark gold; because of the water, which has to evaporate, it will just take a bit longer.
Here’s a little bit of chemistry. Sugar by itself can crystallize even when you are careful. It’s the chemistry of sugar, it’s not your fault.
There are two remedies. You invert the sucrose (white sugar) by adding an acid like lemon juice or cream of tartar and you will often see this in recipes. Another way is to add a non-sucrose sugar to the mix. That would be light corn syrup or perhaps honey. I often use Lyle’s Golden Syrup if I only need a spoonful. This will prevent crystals forming and no one wants grainy caramel sauce.
One small warning. Melted sugar is hot. Take care that you don’t get any on you. It’ll be uncomfortable.
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water (optional)
3/4 cup cream
Dash salt (optional but there’s a reason why salted caramel is so popular)
Heat the sugar and syrup and water if you’re using it in a heavy pan over medium heat. When dissolved bring to a boil and cook for approximately 10 minutes or until dark golden brown. Don’t let it get away from you. Once sugar is burned, it’s not retrievable.
Remove pan from heat and slowly and carefully add cream. It will foam up. That’s why you use a bigger pot than you think is necessary for that little bit of sugar. Stir well. Return to heat if necessary to remelt the sugar. Add the salt if you’re using it.
It’ll be thin. You’ll think you did it wrong. You didn’t. Pour into a heatproof container. I love canning jars or French workman’s glasses for this purpose. Let cool. Refrigerate. When cool, it will be thicker! Caramel will keep longer than you can keep it around. You may have to reheat in microwave to use it later.