Caramel 3.0

Grainy

After my recent failed attempts to make caramel sauce, I thought it was wise to take a time out before giving it another go.  That lasted all of four days.  And then, armed with a five pound bag of Domino’s finest granulated, I was back at it.

BAH Fun Fact – I used to work at the redeveloped Proctor and Gamble site (Tide Point, good times), right next to Baltimore’s iconic Domino’s plant.  From my building, I could watch tankers pull in and unload the sugar for processing.  And you know what, the smell is dreadful.  For real.  You’d imagine that it would be the best smell in the world, light and wispy like cotton candy.  Instead, it smells heavy and dark, like molasses.  Getting away from that was one thing I did not mind about changing jobs.

Like I said, I had a score to settle with caramel sauce.  So once again, I mixed water and sugar, added heat, and let chemistry do its thing.  And would you believe that before too long we were headed down the same path that ended up in crystallized sugar fused to my Calphalon?  I noticed that the bottom of the pot felt grainy all of the sudden.  And sugar crystals were clearly forming in the bubbling syrup.  There’s something about 240 degrees that is a breaking point for me.  If I can get past it, I’m ok.  But so far, that’s been easier said than done.

What’s a home cook to do when she sees that her not yet caramel sauce is about to go past the point of no return?  If you’re me, you throw caution to the wind, say to hell with ratios, and add enough water to the pot to get everything back to a lovely liquid state.  And you start boiling all over again.

I think this was more a save than an actual win because double boiling the syrup couldn’t have really helped matters and the final sauce was grainy.  But I already received confirmation from The Mistah that he’s up to the challenge of using up Caramel 3.0 so that I can get working on Caramel 4.0.  What can I say, he’s willing to take one for the team when he has to.

Alice’s Caramel Sauce

Savory Sweet Life

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, heated to luke warm in microwave (30 seconds)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum (optional)

BAH Note: Alice at Sweet Savory Life says to stir straight away and continue until the syrup begins to change color.  I feel like that may have contributed to my troubles, but then again, I had the same problem when I didn’t stir.  So I can neither confirm nor deny that you should stir throughout the cooking process.  This recipe has you add butter to the sauce.  I don’t remember doing that the last time I successfully made caramel sauce.  But who am I to say no to a pat or two of butter?

Combine sugar and water in a medium sauce pan.  Cook over medium-high until the sugar melts and the syrup begins to turn an amber-brownish color.  This will be approximately 350 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Remove from heat, stir immediately, and pour in 1/2 cup of the warmed heavy cream and add the butter.  The mixture will bubble violently at first.  Keep stirring, carefully, until the sauce relaxes.  Add the remaining cream and rum, if using, and stir until the sauce is smooth.

Transfer the sauce to a heatproof container and allow it to cool for about an hour before refrigerating.  SSL recommends slightly covering the container with plastic wrap as the sauce cools.

Once cool, use immediately or refrigerate.  Refrigerated sauce can be rewarmed in the microwave.

{Printable Recipe}

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16 Responses to Caramel 3.0

  1. I seriously, seriously don’t mean to boast… but I’ve never had trouble making caramel. I must find the recipe I use to make flan but it was really simple (if I did it). I think my trick was to make the heat a little lower than suggested so I had more time if something went horribly wrong. Again… must… find… recipe.

    • Wendi says:

      Christine, I don’t know what my problem has been. I’ve made Ina’s caramel sauce before. Hell, I made melt in your mouth caramels for Christmas not so long ago. Somehow between now and then, my caramel making gene must have mutated. I’m going to blame it on H1N1…and global warming…and the economy.

      If you find your can’t fail caramel recipe, send it along.

  2. but- I never made caramel sauce so… that might be trickier. And now that I’m thinking about caramel and flan I have the biggest craving!!!

  3. I think the key here might be heavy cream. After my spectacular fail on Friday night with the Martha caramel glue, I started thinking about and looking at successful caramel recipes I had made in the past. They all use heavy cream instead of water. The Martha recipe def used water. Could this be the key?

    • Wendi says:

      Beth, do you mean that the sugar is cooked in cream instead of water or in a dry pan? Not to give anything away but I did make several more attempts after this and ended up with an alt caramel sauce that was less temperamental. I also have a caramel sauce recipe that I found on Sweet Mary that I’ll get around to trying one day.

  4. I think it smells like cookies across the bay in Fells Point. It’s quite a site, seeing all of that raw brown sugar just out in the open, a mountain, being man-handled by machinery…then shuffled inside of the Domino plant which looks like a set for a movie directed by Tim Burton with it’s broken glass windows and the likes.

    • Wendi says:

      Tracy, I appreciated the smell more in colder months. In the dead of summer, all hot and humid, heavy dark molasses smells aren’t as appetizing. And on really windy days, the sugar would wind up all over the cars in the parking lot.

      OMG, yes, I can totally see the factory being a Tim Burton dream. My old company got to take a tour of the plant. Of course, I didn’t get to go. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

  5. Yeah–cream (or now as I’m thinking more) some other milk fat, like melted butter. I’m sure there is a chemistry related reason for why this works better, but I don’t know what it is.

  6. liz2024 says:

    Boooo dum caramel! I don’t know Wendi… look at that caramel cake recipe that I did… Somehow I got it to turn out- so you definitely can do it too!

  7. Kathy says:

    I’ve made caramel sauce with and without water and never had a problem either way. Of course now that I say that, I’m going to jinx myself for next time. 🙂

  8. I am a pro at the Caramel Fail….

  9. Julie says:

    Knock on wood I’ve so far never had a fail with caramel but one thing you might try is adding a tablespoon of cane syrup or corn syrup when you add the water. These are invert sugars (who the hell knows what that means, not me) which help prevent crystallization. You probably have already check this out but there’s lots of good info on caramelizing sugar out there like this post of David Lebovitz’s

    • Wendi says:

      It’s funny you should mention Mr. Lebovitz Julie. Before I started making Caramel 4.0, my Palm Pre was busy pulling up DL’s caramel posts looking for solutions. I ought to give the sugar + water + corn syrup approach a try and see if that isn’t more successful. Maybe I’ll figure it out by Caramel 100.0

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