Real caramel contains just one ingredient: sugar. Produced by heating the sweet crystals until they liquefy, caramel has a golden brown color and a richly roasted, buttery flavor. At room temperature, it hardens and becomes brittle.
Caramel is made by heating sugar until it melts into a thick, sticky liquid. Adding cream or butter (or both) to the sugar after it liquefies results in caramel sauce. Caramel syrup is simply pure caramel thinned with water. Caramel candies are made by reducing a mixture of sugar, cream, and butter.
How to Choose Caramel
Store-bought candies and sauces often contain added hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils and stabilizers, so look for brands with the fewest ingredients.
How to Prepare Caramel
Heat 1 cup of sugar over medium-high heat until it begins to melt. Refrain from stirring the sugar in the beginning to prevent crystals from forming. Turn the heat down to low and stir the melted and unmelted sugar together until it’s fully melted. Remove from heat as soon as a golden color develops. (Watch the liquid carefully, as it quickly turns from golden to bitter and burned; it will also be very hot.) For sauce, slowly add 1 cup heated cream (to prevent seizing) as soon as all the sugar is melted.
How to Store Caramel
Layer hardened caramel with wax paper and store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Refrigerate sauces and syrups in a glass container for up to 3 months.
How to Use Caramel
Surprisingly versatile, caramel adds depth to savory soups and stocks and is a crucial ingredient in traditional desserts like flan and crème caramel. Add nuts to make brittle, or crumble it over ice cream or brownies. Syrup can flavor cocktails or coffee, while the sauce is an excellent topping for fruit tarts and a range of sweets.
Real Simple Caramel Recipes:
- Slow-Cooker Caramel Poached Pears
- Quick Caramel Apples
- Caramel Frosting
- Caramel-Almond Ice Cream Torte
- Chocolate Caramel Ice Cream Pie
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