There’s dark caramel sauce and there is so-dark-it’s-almost-burnt caramel sauce. The latter may sound unappealing, but we bet you have eaten more than one dessert in recent years made with a very dark caramel – sauce, candy, filling or what-have-you – and have loved it!
Dark caramel seems to have gained popularity along with salted caramel desserts, and it makes sense. Caramel is simply cooked sugar, and sugar being sweet, is best if tamed with a bitter, sour or salty edge. Adding salt might be an obvious addition when you think about it this way, but so is actually making the caramel as dark as you can to provide a bitter edge. The key is cooking the caramel to the right darkness. I say darkness as opposed to temperature because I find you can make this easily by eye, and once the temperature starts elevating – it happens so quickly – you really don’t have time to fuss with a thermometer. Just don’t walk away while you are preparing this. Keep an eye on it, use the visual cues and it will work beautifully the very first time. Read up on this technique in our article How to Make Caramel. Also, don’t overlook the several, easy variations of this recipe.
Image: Peter Muka
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ cup water
- 1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
- Place the sugar and water in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir to moisten the sugar and cook over a medium-high heat, without stirring, until the syrup begins to color. Wash down the sides of the pot once or twice with a damp pastry brush if necessary.
- When the syrup is a medium amber color, watch closely as the color will deepen quickly. Within the next minute or so the caramel will turn a very dark mahogany brown, the bubbles will turn tan in color and wisps of smoke might appear. Immediately remove from heat and swirl pot to dissipate heat.
- Place down on cool burner and slowly pour in cream. The mixture may bubble up furiously. Just let the bubbling subside and whisk until smooth. If the cream is too cool, it will cause the caramel to seize. Just place the pot back over a low heat and stir until the sauce liquefies.
- Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate in airtight container for up to 1 month. Re-heat in double boiler or microwave before using. Perfect over ice cream, cake, used as a warm dip for tart apple slices or eating off of a spoon.
- Vanilla Caramel Sauce: Stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract before cooling.
- Crème Fraiche Caramel Sauce: Use equal amount crème fraiche in place of the heavy cream; it will have a slight tang.
- Salted Caramel Sauce: After spooning caramel over dessert, sprinkle with a few grains of fleur de sel to provide crunch and saltiness.