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Caramel sauce

Childhood memories of jaw-achingly chewy, hard caramel bits forever stuck to my teeth persisted for a long time. It wasn’t until encountering softer, deep flavored examples did I feel that I properly entered the realm of delicious caramel.

I’ve wanted to make caramel sauce, but have been discouraged by my fear of burns. Too little time, and the rich flavor doesn’t have a chance to develop. Too much liquid (cream), and the flavor is diluted. Several recipes call for using a thermometer, but the sauce is never deep enough to submerge the bulb (okay, unless you make a huge batch, which I have yet to do).

The trick is to recognize the right color for the bubbling sugar mixture. For a long time (10 to 15 minutes) it’ll boringly remain a pale golden shade. But when it becomes a lovely ruddy-rusty color (similar to paprika!), it’s time to turn off the heat. Beware that the sauce will remain hotter than boiling water for a long time. But even though there’s a lot of bubbling, splattering almost never occurs if the butter and cream are at room temperature and warm (respectively), and are added to the sugar syrup gradually.

I strongly recommend using salted butter, or at least adding salt if using unsalted butter. It opens up the caramel flavor subtly minimizing is sugary origins.

Suggestions for use: Over ice cream, apple pie, sticky toffee pudding, etc. Or a spoonful, for constitutional purposes. The caramel sauce thickens quite a bit as it cools, but it’s easy to soften in a microwave oven.


  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup vanilla sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup (or corn syrup)
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream, warmed
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) salted butter, at room temperature; if using unsalted butter, add a generous pinch of salt.


  1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan with high sides, heat all of the ingredients except the butter and cream over medium high heat.
  2. Bring to an energetic, bubbly boil. Stir periodically, which will cause it to foam up, but not too high.
  3. After about 10 to 15 minutes of boiling and stirring, the sugar sauce will eventually, inevitably become darker, though more so towards the end. Once the syrup is a paprika orange-red, remove it from the heat.
  4. Stir in the butter a bit at a time until incorporated, followed by slowly pouring in the cream. During addition of both ingredients, the sauce will bubble or foam up briefly.
  5. Scrape into a bowl, jug or jar. Restrain yourself from the temptation of immediately sticking in your finger for a taste. The sauce will remain hot for at least 20 or so minutes! Once cool enough, go ahead and indulge.

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