I’m afraid of an odd handful of things, chief among them heights seen from skyscrapers (but not airplanes), frogs standing their ground in front of me on pathways, and being late and/or not finding a parking space at the airport while picking up my mother.
Caramel sauce, therefore, seems an unlikely fear to have, considering frogs, parking spots and heights as possible contenders for causing me anxiety. Maybe apprehension is a better word for my approach to anything remotely involving a candy thermometer in the kitchen.
Many of the recipes I found for making caramel sauce were Byzantine in their complexity. One recipe I read requires you to pour the cream down along the sides of the pan. I don’t even know how this would be accomplished. Wouldn’t the cream stick to the side of the pan? And if not, are people really less clumsy than I am, i.e. how on earth could I possibly avoid spilling everything all over the stove top?
Still yet another recipe called for stirring the mixture until it turns amber, or a color of your liking. Despite having millions of Crayolas hidden in drawers and tucked into crevices, I couldn’t pinpoint the color amber on a bet. How about you?
Still other bloggers have some very fancy, yet highly task-intensive methods for making caramel sauce. So you can only imagine my relief when I finally found this method on an episode of the Barefoot Contessa. In fact, this method is so simple, it can practically be condensed into a Valley-Girl style recipe:
“OMG! Just, like, totally stir everything together, and, like, boil it and simmer it, you know?”
To truly understand the recipe, I suggest watching the video of Ina and one of her cooking BFFs making a to-die-for, muffin-top creating sticky toffee date cake with caramel sauce (you can just move the video forward to 2:40 if you don’t want to see the whole thing). You’ll see Ina’s friend in her professional kitchen making caramel sauce seem super easy to make on all your own.
See?! It’s easy! So easy, in fact, I felt like I’d cheated somehow. There was no candy thermometer, I barely made a mess, nothing was poured down the side of a pan and I didn’t need to look up the word “amber.”
But you’re not cheating. You’re making the most incredible, swoony sauce of your life. I don’t care if you pour it over ice cream, dribble it on top of a cake or eat it straight out of the bowl. Just make it. There’s nothing to be scared of.
Because if you thought making caramel sauce was a culinary impossibility along the lines of baking bread or frying chicken, then this recipe from Ina Garten is here to prove you wrong.
P.S. I’m not including the recipe here because, frankly, I didn’t change it and it therefore isn’t mine to share. There really (really!) isn’t anything to it: just combine butter, cream, brown sugar and vanilla into a saucepan, heat over medium-high heat until it barely begins to boil, and then simmer until it’s a runny consistency like you see in the video. I’m refrigerating mine and it’s holding up nicely. Let me know if you try it!