How to Make Caramel

When someone says caramel, I immediately think of two things. First, there’s the sticky sauce that flows over Bundt cakes or ice cream. Second, there is the dark caramel with a bitter taste that can be found at the bottom or on top of crème brulee. All of these things are caramel, and it is delicious in any form. If you’ve ever seen The Great British Baking Show and the catastrophe that is “Caramel Week,” then you may be a little intimidated to make this culinary delight at home. You can make simple caramel at home. Be careful, as the melted sugar can cause a fire. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Make basic caramel

The basic caramel is simply sugar that has been melted and then cooked to the desired amber shade. Pale, almost colorless caramels make a great sugar crust for fruits such as strawberries, which can be used to create Tanghulu. They also look good on a dessert plate. Dark caramels are the best choice for flan or creme caramel. You can’t make caramel sauces without it. As long as you adhere to a few simple rules, creating a basic caramel sauce isn’t as difficult as you might have thought.


Take precautions when handling melted sugar. Wear long sleeves if you can. If you accidentally get hot caramel on your skin, keep a large bowl with iced water near the stove so you can quickly dunk it in to minimize the damage.


Start with wet caramel. To make it, you’ll need to add water to your sugar pot. These are more forgiving caramels than dry, where you have to heat the sugar by yourself. For a wet caramel, you want to use a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water. Pour the mixture into a heavy-bottomed pan and heat it on low, stirring every so often, until the sugar dissolves. Turn the heat up to medium-high, and don’t stir. Let it cook until the desired color is achieved. Mixing the sugar while it is cooking can cause it to become a solid blob. When you have the desired color, remove the pot.

Make a simple caramelized sauce.

The caramel sauce is simply basic caramel, with vanilla and cream added. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot with a deep, thick bottom, cook a wet caramel made of 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water, as described above. Cook until the color is dark. Pour in the heavy cream slowly while whisking. Remove pot from heat. It will bubble violently and could even overflow the pan. By whisking, you can keep it from spilling. Add four tablespoons of unsalted butter and cut into cubes about half an inch in size after the cream is fully incorporated. Whisk until emulsified. Pour in 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste or extract and allow the sauce to cool down until room temperature. It can be stored in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Reheat it to a pouring consistency using the microwave or a pot, as required, to serve over cake, ice cream, brownies, or eat straight from the jar.

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