Caramel sauce is a very useful dessert sauce with many uses. Clear and shiny and as richly coloured as well-polished mahogany, it needs to be cooked with care.
- 225g granulated or caster sugar
- Water in two lots; 125ml of cold water for cooking with the sugar and 165ml of hot water for 'slaking' the caramel
Use a heavy saucepan with medium high sides and cook it on the heat furthermost from the edge of your cooker, so it is safely away from an awkward elbow or a child's inquisitive reach.
It is vital to cook the sugar and water enough to achieve a deep 'chestnut brown' colour, as this 'burning' of the sugar tempers the sweetness of the sauce to achieve a balance that is neither too sweet nor too bitter.
The sauce will keep for months in the fridge, but will thicken as it chills, so you may need to dilute it with a little warm water when this happens.
- Place the sugar and 125ml water in a heavy saucepan with medium-high sides.
- Put over a moderate heat and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon to encourage the sugar to dissolve.
- Try to have the sugar dissolved before the mixture comes to the boil as the un-dissolved sugar crystals may remain in the caramel at the end of cooking and this may spoil the appearance and consistency of the sauce.
- Once the sugar and water come to a boil, remove the spoon and do not stir again as this can cause the syrup to crystallise and the resulting caramel may be cloudy.
- As the water is boiled off, the sugar will start to caramelise and most likely will colour unevenly. If this happens, tilt the pan in the direction necessary to gently encourage the coloured syrup to run into the pale syrup.
- Do not be tempted to stir the syrup or it will 'block' or partly solidify - this is due to the introduction of a lower temperature in the form of the spoon.
- Do not leave the saucepan once the colour starts to change but continue cooking until a rich chestnut caramel is achieved.
- Remove from the heat and add the remaining 165ml of hot water. Be careful at this point as the caramel sometimes spits and splutters. Using hot water here is less volcanic than using cold.
- You will now see two quite different liquids in the saucepan: the thick caramel, and the thin water you have just added.
- Replace the saucepan onto a low heat, again resisting the temptation to stir and cook until a single consistency is achieved.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool. The sauce may look a little thin, but it will thicken further as it cools.
- The sauce may be served warm or cold. Store chilled.
The easiest way to clean a saucepan after making caramel is to fill it to the top with hot water and allow it to soak for an hour. Any caramel that is stuck to the saucepan will eventually dissolve and the remaining chore is easy.
For Salty Caramel Sauce: Add a pinch of Maldon sea salt to the finished caramel sauce.
For Orange Caramel Sauce: Peel 6 thin strips of orange peel, with a sharp swivel bladed peeler to ensure there is none of the bitter white pith attached, and add to the sugar and water at the beginning of the cooking. Continue as in the Caramel sauce recipe. Remove the orange peels before serving.