Monday, August 9, 2010

Caramel Sauce

Funny story.  Anytime a recipe post begins with "funny story" it's guaranteed you will continue reading, correct?  Well, hopefully I do not let you down.  This is my humble, vulnerable cooker's heart being fully exposed:

On Friday we hosted an ice cream sundae social.  I decided our contribution would be caramel and hot fudge sauce.  Usually, I am an excellent kitchen-multi-tasker and decided to make the caramel sauce and whipped cream simultaneously. However, right when I got them both going, my friend showed up and I became a bit distracted. Bottom line is, I whipped the cream too much and turned it into butter and CHARRED the caramel sauce.  It was so bad our eyes were stinging from all the smoke in the house and I feared my pan was ruined because all the burnt sugar stuck to the bottom.  As you can see from the photograph below, it looked like tar... might as well pave the streets with the stuff! My friend, trying to encourage my solemn spirit, told me it probably wasn't that bad so i tried it and gagged immediately and spit it all over the sink!  Needless to say, she also encouraged me to try again, and we did with fabulous success!

Caramel Tar
Heavenly Caramel (small measuring cup)
All this to prove that the Test Kitchen Cookbook does not fail, however, the cook is capable of failing the test kitchen!  It is very important not to stir the sauce (as tempting as it may be!) to prevent crystallization.

1/2 c. water
1 c. sugar
1 c. heavy cream
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Pour the water into a large saucepan.  Add the sugar to the center of the pan, taking care not to let the granules adhere to the sides of the pan.  Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.

Once boiling, uncover and continue to boil until the syrup is straw-colored and registers 300 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 7 minutes (we just went by color and time since we don't have a candy thermometer).  Reduce to medium heat and continue to cook until the syrup is a deep amber color and register 350 degrees on the thermometer, 1 to 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the cream and salt to a simmer in a small saucepan.  (If the cream simmers before the syrup reaches a deep amber color, remove it from the heat and cover to keep warm.)

Remove the sugar syrup from the heat.  Very carefully, pour about 1/4 of the hot cream into the sugar syrup and let the bubbling subside.  Add the remaining cream, vanilla, and lemon juice and let the bubbling subside.  Whisk the sauce gently untl smooth.  Serve warm or cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.