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Classic Caramel Sauce


From A Fresh Look at Saucing Foods by Chef Didi Davis

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 is ready when it is caramel colored. I prefer a caramel that is a dark reddish brown, not one that is pale and golden, whether it is destined for praline, candy, or sauces. 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. The liquid used may be cream, juice of any kind, cider, water, or a mixture of liquids.

Makes 1 to 1 1/2 cups

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Few drops lemon juice
2/3 to 1 cup liquid

Place the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a heavy, nonaluminum 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 constantly until it is smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the caramel sauce to cool to room temperature. Transfer it to a pitcher, cover, and keep at room temperature until you are ready to serve it. The sauce can be refridgerated overnight for 3 to 4 days. Before serving, heat it slowly over a pan of warm water.