Sweet & Salty Caramel Sauce

Well, hello, Party People! As we come upon our nation's day of independence - an excellent reason for a day off - we see all kinds of berry desserts in flag formations complete with genoise or chiffon cake and whipped cream. This one from Martha Stewart might just be the original, but this one from Smitten Kitchen is nearly perfect and photographed expertly or dessert queen Ina Garten has one, too. Since these recipes are so awesome, so delicious, I just had to share something different with you. I've been working on sauces lately and my greatest challenge has been caramel. The thing about caramel is that sometimes it can get overcooked resulting in a candy-like consistency or it can get undercooked resulting in decent flavor but a buttery color that is just too light. Don't you want your caramel sauce to have a nice, brown sugar-esque color, taste of butter, sugar and salt and pour perfectly? Yeah, me, too. It's not easy (for me)!

Fun fact: did you know that there are many, many versions of caramel sauce that are named Liquid Gold? When I was breastfeeding, that term had a whole different meaning, but I can see how it fits a good caramel sauce. Elusive, pretty and deeply rewarding in flavor, the maker of a good caramel may just feel as though she has struck gold right there in her All-Clad 4 quart pot. Not that you need this particular pot and I am not paid by advertisers or anyone else to blog (at least, not yet!), but, I make everything from sauces to brownies to pasta in this pot. I recommend it highly.

So, anyway, like any good sugar addict pastry lover, I was reading the Tartine Cookbook and found this gem of a recipe at the back of the book. I tried it. Roughly 4 times. And it's been good each time, with caveats. Like I said, sometimes it's too thick, sometimes too runny. I'm getting there. But each time I've made it, it has been superb in flavor. We've discovered that the faster we use it, the better. So, if you're having ice cream at your soiree this weekend, whip up a batch before the guests arrive and keep it on the counter until you serve it. That way, even if it's not perfect, it'll seem perfect.

Sure, you could do that thing where you put a can of sweetened condensed milk in the slow cooker for 8 hours, but this sauce is heaven. It will wrap itself around your tongue, melting there and cause a reverie on your taste buds. Why did it take me so long to tell you that? Because that's how patient you'll need to be if you want to be successful at this sauce.

Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson, I did my best to do your thorough and most helpful instructions and recommendations justice, but I very highly recommend to my readers to buy the Tartine books (again, not paid to endorse. Just LOVE them) and use them. Daily, if you can.


Tartine's Caramel Sauce
2/3 C heavy cream
1 t vanilla extract (their recipe calls for 1/4 of a vanilla bean, scraped. Take your pick.)
1-1/4 C sugar
1/4 C water
1/2 t salt (Tartine's recipe calls for 1/4 but I wanted a saltier caramel. Again, your choice.)
2 T light corn syrup
3/4 t lemon juice
4 T unsalted butter, cut into chunks

Warm the cream & vanilla extract or bean in a heavy saucepan until just before it boils. Reduce the heat to low to keep the cream warm.

In your 4 quart stock pot or other medium-to-large heavy saucepan/pot, combine the sugar, water, salt and corn syrup and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture is at a boil, cook it without stirring until the mixture is amber colored, 5-8 minutes. You really kind of have to stand there and watch every second. One second the mixture will be clear, the next, yellowish and then, all of a sudden, it takes on that brownish tint. Remove it from the heat immediately as it continues to cook from there.

Carefully and slowly add the cream. The photo in step 4 above does not show how vigorously the cream will cause the mixture to boil up, creating hot steam and lots of caramel drama. Keep stirring until it all calms down and then whisk until smooth. Stir in the lemon juice. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, take out the butter and cut it into chunks if you have not already done so.

When the 10 minutes is up, add the butter one chunk at a time, stirring completely after each addition.

The caramel sauce will keep in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to a month, but, like I said, if you use it right away, it'll do that melty fresh thing on your tongue. Can't beat that. For real.

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