What is Caramel Sauce?
Caramel is a beige to dark-brown sticky, sweet, and soft candy made by heating any of a variety of sugars. It is used as a flavoring in different puddings, ice creams, and custards. It fills different types of chocolates and is also a delicious topping for practically any dessert under the sun!
Who Came Up With It?
The exact history of caramel isn’t well known, but it is recorded that American settlers in the mid seventeenth century were beginning to make it. Sometime in the next two centuries, fat and milk were added while boiling sugar and water in order to create caramel. Caramel used to be made with beet juice because sugar was so hard to come by! Fun fact: Hershey’s candy did not start with chocolate, but with caramels. Hershey only discovered a deep love for chocolate when looking for different coatings to cover the caramel with. Since this time, many chefs have taken it upon themselves to create and improve upon the original methods used to make caramel and all of the treats that go along with it.
Where’s the Science?!
*S/O to Life Script for this awesome explanation!*
There are two main ways to caramelize sugar that also help create the different types of caramel (but only one method that is exemplified below). The dry method heats sugar with no water additions until it melts and is caramelized. Then the buttery fats and milks are added and the whole thing is boiled. This will creates a darker, stronger flavor.
The wet method yields a different type of caramel and is most often used by caramel manufacturers. In this method, sugar and water are mixed together and boiled, then the butter and milk is added. This creates a lighter tasting and slightly less chewy caramel.
Both methods use caramelization in order to get to the end goal. Caramelization is the simplest browning reaction and it is still incredibly complex. Sugar’s flavor, initially sweet and odorless becomes acidic, bitter, and rich.
- 1 cup granulate sugar
- ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½-1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds removed from the pod (optional)
- 2 tablespoons whiskey (optional)
Making Caramel Using the Dry Method
Sprinkle sugar evenly on the bottom of a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Allow sugar to melt and caramelize, swirling as necessary to promote even caramelization. Do not stir.
To make the Caramel Sauce:
As soon as the caramel is dark amber in color, immediately remove it from the heat and slowly add the heavy cream while whisking constantly. Caramel will bubble violently.
Return mixture to medium heat and simmer until any clumps have dissolved and mixture is smooth.
Would I Do It Again?!
I would make this recipe again in a heartbeat. Although I’m not sure if you can temper caramel in the same way that you can temper chocolate, I would like to try it out. This caramel because immediately rough and rock hard (similar to a caramel candy) once it got cold. Is that possible? Oh well, I’ll keep on making this recipe and add some different things each time!