Caramel is simple to make, but don't stray too far from the saucepan because sugar can quickly turn from deep brown to black and burned. Caramel ranges in color from golden to a dark reddish brown. The darker the color, the more bitter the taste. Yet, without some bitterness, caramel will taste too bland and lack its special character. A deeply colored caramel has a complex, bittersweet flavor as well as a gorgeous sheen.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Few drops lemon juice
2/3 to 1 cup liquid (heavy cream, apple cider, orange or other fruit juice, or mix of juices)
Place the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a heavy, non-aluminum saucepan. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Boil until the mixture turns a deep, reddish brown, between 5 and 10 minutes. Do not stir the mixture while it is cooking, but you may swirl it in the pan. The caramel will be thick. Remove the pan from the heat and let the caramel cool for a minute, swirling the pan. Place a strainer over the pan and pour in whatever liquid you have chosen. (The strainer will help prevent spattering). Once the caramel has stopped bubbling, stir it to dissolve and incorporate the liquid. If the caramel does not dissolve completely, return the pan to the heat and stir or whisk constantly until it is smooth. Remove the pan from the heat, add desired flavoring, see below, and allow the caramel sauce to cool to room temperature.
Transfer sauce to a pitcher, cover, and keep at room temperature if you are serving soon. If not, refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving, heat it slowly over a pan of warm water or in a microwave. The sauce can be refrigerated for about 1 week.
Fleur de Sel - see below
Freshly ground black pepper
Ancho or spicy chile
Chocolate; stir in while warm to melt
Vanilla extract or ground vanilla beans
Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, fennel or anise seeds, or freshly grated ginger
-Salted Caramel Sauce: make caramel sauce with heavy cream. Season to taste with Fleur de Sel or Grey Sea Salt, about 1 teaspoon.
-with fresh apples, pears, or orange slices
-over ice cream, fruit tarts, cakes such as pound cake or cheesecake
-serve over a warm apple crisp
-add soy sauce to caramel sauce made with heavy cream, cider, or orange juice and spoon over roast pork or fish
-add peppercorns or mustard and serve with chicken and rice
-drizzle over roasted winter squash or sweet potatoes
Recipe and Photograph Copyright Deirdre Davis 2016
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