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how to make caramelCaramel and I have a long history.  I want to be good at making it and it just wants to keep bringing me down.  I have scars on my arms from caramel attempts gone wrong to prove it.  There was this tart on the cover of Saveur magazine that almost killed me.  It was a salted caramel tart in a chocolate base with a ganache topping.  It took 3 tries to get it right, 1 sauce pan casualty, and one serious burn.  But I was determined to get it right.  The thing that I discovered that I was doing wrong was not trusting my instincts.  Like in life, you need to trust yourself to know that you know what you are doing.  I did not trust myself to know that maybe my thermometer was not calibrated anymore, or maybe there was a misprint in the recipe.  Finally on the third attempt I threw the thermometer out and just watched for the signs from the stove that the sugar was ready.  You need to trust your senses.  Does the color look right?  What does it smell like?

After a few more attempts at making caramel for different things, I am no longer afraid.  The worst thing that can happen is that I am out of a cup of sugar and I need to start over.  My new outlook on caramel has made making caramel an enjoyable experience instead of one where I felt like my domestic prowess was being judged.  I have learned a few things that I will share with you though.

1.  Have everything out and ready to go.  Keep a cup of water and a pastry brush next to the stove.  You can brush the sides of the pan with water if crystals start to form.  Measure out your cream and have the vanilla out.

2.  Once the sugar starts bubbling, do not walk away from it.  Do not check email or go fold a load of laundry, you really need to keep an eye on it.

3. Do not stir the sugar.  Once dissolved if you stir the sugar it will form crystals up the side of the pan.  While a cool science experiment, it is not something that you want when you want a smooth and rich caramel sauce.

how to make caramel sauce1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

how to make caramelPut the sugar into a sauce pan.

how to make caramel sauceCover the pan with the water.  Cook the sugar and water over medium heat.

how to make caramel sauceBring the sugar to a boil.  Have your cream and everything ready to go.

how to make caramel sauceWhen it starts to get to this stage, keep a close eye on it.  This takes about 10 minutes.

how to make caramel sauceWhen it turns a dark golden amber color (350 on a candy thermometer, but who needs one of those?) you are ready to pour in the cream.

caramel sauce recipeIt is going to bubble like crazy.  Just keep whisking and it will all come together.

caramel sauce recipeSee, I told you so.  Just like magic.

how to make caramelAdd the vanilla off of the heat.

how to make caramel sauceAllow the caramel to come to room temperature.  It will thicken up as it sits.  Keep it in the fridge.

caramel sauce recipesOnce you eat homemade caramel sauce, it will be hard to eat the kind from a jar.  It is so smooth and rich and has that caramelized taste that is like none other.

homemade caramel sauce recipeRemember the chocolate ice cream that I made the other day?  This sauce just might be amazing on it.  With some crushed up pretzels.  Oh. My. God.

Caramel Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions

  1. Put the sugar into a sauce pan. Cover the pan with the water. Cook the sugar and water over medium heat.
  2. Bring the sugar to a boil. Have your cream and everything ready to go.
  3. When it starts to get to this stage, keep a close eye on it. This takes about 10 minutes.
  4. When it turns a dark golden amber color (350 on a candy thermometer, but who needs one of those?) you are ready to pour in the cream. It is going to bubble like crazy. Just keep whisking and it will all come together.
  5. Add the vanilla off of the heat. Allow the caramel to come to room temperature. It will thicken up as it sits. Keep it in the fridge.
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130 Responses to Caramel Sauce

  1. Laura the hippie says:

    Great recipe! I find that if I put the water in the pot first, then slowly pour the sugar in the middle of the pot (do not stir!), then turn on the heat and let it boil then I don’t get any crystals forming on the sides. It’s REALLY hard not to stir, but trust the process and it should work perfectly.

  2. Elaine says:

    I tried this last week, and it was a disaster. Today? I took your advice and tossed out the thermometer and I have the most beautiful and delicious caramel sauce I have ever tasted. I’m never buying commercially made caramel sauce again. Thanks for posting this simple to follow recipe!

  3. RodRiku says:

    I have successfully perfected the caramel sauce, thanks for your recipe. It’s a big help, seriously. I have added also 1 ingredient to this recipe. I added 1/3 cup / 75g of unsalted butter, and it turns out delicious and flavorful.

    Thank you so much.

  4. […] to the caramel sauce. For my first attempt I used a recipe I found on Baked Bree. There were lots of helpful instructions and hints in the post so I thought it would be a good one. […]

  5. […] is virtually fool-proof.  If a caramel dipping sauce appeals a little more than a chocolate one, Bree Hester has posted a great Caramel Sauce recipe on her blog Baked Bree.  She’s refreshingly honest about the battle scars received in her pursuit of making a good […]

  6. Renee says:

    How would you recommend making this sauce in bulk?? I have an event this weekend, and I wanted to make a caramel sauce that i kept in a crock pot to put over apples. Do you for see any problems with this idea??

    • bakedbree says:

      You know what, I wouldn’t make it in bulk. Maybe double it, but sugar can be really weird. I would look for a specific recipe for a large quantity. I just would be afraid that you spent all of the money on cream and it did not work.

  7. Becca says:

    Oh. My. Gosh! I cannot thank you enough for this recipe and the fantastic and clear tutorial. I just made this, and it really was easy — and is seriously heaven to eat! Mmm. Yummy. Thanks!

  8. Kelli west says:

    Hi, I made your caramel sauce tonight. I think I did something wrong. As I was waiting for it to get to that nice amber color it got crystal like (all of it) and was getting clumpy. It was still really light. I was not sure what to do, so I just poured in the cream. maybe you could think of a good reason to what I did wrong. I would appreciate your help because this looks so good, and I want it to taste as good as your’s look!! Thank you so much!!

  9. […] warm, atop vanilla bean ice cream, drizzled with caramel sauce and toasted pecans. Share and […]

  10. […] Baked Bree’s Caramel Sauce […]

  11. Julie says:

    Weird, I’ve made this recipe many times and all were a success. Made it today in a dark non-stick pan and the sugar crystallized. I thought maybe it was because I had stirred the water and sugar together before I heated it. Tried again with no stirring before heating (or during of course) and it crystallized AGAIN. However, I did reheat the first batch just so I could get it out of the pan and decided to let it turn caramel color anyway. It took a lot of swirling but I was able to add cream and still get a caramel sauce out of it. There was just about 2 or 3 tbs worth of hard sugar I had to pitch out of it.

  12. Julie says:

    Oh and I see people keep asking about how long it will keep. I’ve known it to easily keep for a month or more in the fridge.

  13. EJ says:

    Used the recipe for adding to frosting, was successful…I think? Last couple of times I’ve tried to make caramel sauce, the cream has been straight out of the fridge, sitting next to stove for a few minutes, then added. I find that it seems to result in a huge clump of crystallised sugar that eventually dissolves with continued whisking – is that supposed to happen? Second of all, mine didn’t need refrigerating to thicken – pretty much started to thicken as it cooled and then developed a skin. Is there are way to not have it develop the skin? Thanks again for posting the recipe – I’m a caramel convert because of it!

    • bakedbree says:

      It is going to happen when you pour fridge cold cream into 300 degree sugar. You can warm the cream to make them combine better. I am not sure about the second part, but I would just reheat it.

  14. Carolyn says:

    Hello!
    I just made some caramel and it seems pretty runny. It’s pretty much cool now, but still runny. How should I fix this?

    • bakedbree says:

      You really can’t. My guess is that your sugar was not cooked enough.

    • Linnea says:

      I had the same problem, because my sugar was undercooked. I just made another batch of sugar and just instead of using new amount of heavy cream I just used the runny caramel stuff and it all turned out great (though a little sweeter).

  15. […] have some issues with making caramels (caramel sauce however, I have down).  I have tried quite a few recipes and none of them ever came out the way […]

  16. […] croissant bread pudding.  And just downright sinful on top of this brownie with maybe a little caramel sauce on top?  Don’t let vanilla ice cream fool you.  With flecks of gorgeous and extravagant […]

  17. […] consistency, and so pretty. If you need more in-depth instruction on making caramel, I include step-by-step instruction here. The cupcake recipe is from Smitten Kitchen and the caramel is from […]

  18. […] consistency, and so pretty. If you need more in-depth instruction on making caramel, I include step-by-step instruction here. The cupcake recipe is from Smitten Kitchen and the caramel is from […]

  19. April says:

    Bree, will this recipe work in a chocolate fountain? For my daughters graduation reception I want to have a chocolate and caramel fountain. Thanks. Looking forward to trying it whether it works in the fountain or not.
    April

    • bakedbree says:

      I really do not know. You would have to make several batches to have enough for a fountain. I am not sure how much a fountain holds, but if I was going to add caramel, I would do it in a fondue pot on the lowest possible heat.

  20. Jasmine says:

    sauce was good, mine curded when i added the cream… so i waited till it was warm and put in blender… tasted really good, was on the runny side, but guessing it will firm up when goes in the fridge…. another trick is to wait after you remove pan from stove, wait till the caramel has gone down in temperature or just pour the cream in small quantities, otherwise it might curd, like mine, but even so, you can always put in blender in case it curds… wont affect the marvelous taste…

  21. Jenine says:

    I tried doing a reduction the other day and when I added the wine to the sugar it blew up in my face. You should really tell people to heat up the cream in the recipe, before adding it to the sugar otherwise they will have the same reaction and this can cause some serious burns. I don’t understand why this is not stated in more recipes.

  22. […] Caramel Sauce with 1 Tablespoon thyme […]

  23. fMary says:

    Can I substitute heavy cream with full cream milk?

  24. Shanneen says:

    Hi, this sauce looks amazing and I’m pretty okay at making caramel but mine tends to get hard in the fridge and I’d like to keep it pretty thick but still runny, could you please advise more on the viscosity of this and if in the freezer it’ll harden slightly but still be able to bite through?

    Thanks in advance,
    Shanneen

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