Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Salted Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce

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The first time I tried to make caramel sauce, it was a disaster. I wasn't sure how long and dark to cook the sugar but when it started smoking and suddenly going from golden to amber to blackness, I knew it was bad. So I grabbed my pot, ran out the door and dumped the mess in the bushes so it would cool off faster and not be stuck in my pot forever. Pouring hot, burning sugar onto little dry pieces of mulch is probably not the best choice. (No bushes were permanently harmed and no fires were started in the failure of this caramel sauce.)

But here's a trick I learned...don't start eating dinner while you're waiting for the sugar to cook because once it starts cooking, it cooks really fast! Also, I found that gently swirling the pan to distribute the heat more evenly was a lot more effective than stirring. That helped me ruin a few other batches after the bush incident.

Wondering what to do with all this fresh, sweet caramel? How about one of these ideas: 

Salted Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce [click to print]
Makes about 1-1/2 cups
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (OR seeds of 1 vanilla bean)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
Heat cream and butter in small microwave safe dish until just warm and butter is melted; set aside.

Spread sugar in medium saucepan; add water. Heat on medium-low heat until mixture becomes mostly clear. Do not stir! This could cause the sugar to crystallize and get all chunky and non-caramely. Gently swirl the pan to prevent hot spots and burning.

Continue heating, about 10 minutes, until mixture turns medium amber and immediately remove from heat.
While whisking continuously, slowly pour in about half of cream mixture. Continue whisking until evenly combined. Whisk in remaining cream. Add vanilla bean paste, extract and salt. Stir well and allow to cool to room temperature. Store in airtight container in fridge.

Source: Adapted from Annie's Eats, previously Cook Like a Champion

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