Why a post just on caramel sauce? Because a pot of really good, proper caramel sauce in your fridge is a brilliant standby for instantly elevating okay desserts to levels of serious yum. You’ll notice my use of the word ‘proper’. That’s because many of the recipes you’ll find online for caramel sauce are in fact anything but.
Yes they use sugar, cream and butter – the essential ingredients of a caramel sauce – but the technique they employ is not that of a caramel sauce. Throw the lot in a pot and boil it for a few minutes and you’ll end up with what I would call a butterscotch sauce – a delight to be sure, and especially popular with kids. But it can be rather one-dimensional, missing the deep multi-layered complexity of a caramel sauce. If the latter is what you want, you need to start your sauce with an actual caramel.
That means heating sugar until turns a delightful amber, and only then adding the rest of the ingredients. If you’ve ever tried to melt sugar, you’ll know how easy it is to get it wrong. Sugar crystals; sugar that doesn’t dissolve properly or unevenly; caramel that turns too dark too quickly, becoming horribly bitter in the process… So here is a no-fail way of making a decent caramel sauce. It takes a few minutes more because we’re taking the safer, longer route in the making of the base caramel by adding a fair amount of water. But I guarantee you won’t experience any of your usual caramel headaches.