Salted caramel. Boy did it blow up huh? Suddenly salted caramel was a thing, like a big thing and people were putting it everywhere and on everything. Rewind a few years earlier and if you'd given me a caramel with even a hint of salt in it, let alone a really punchy one, I'd have thought you'd made the rookie error of confusing salt and sugar and politely spat it out hopefully without you noticing. Now I'm so much more sophisticated. You see, once I got it, I really got it. Then I got really obsessed with learning to make a truly great salted caramel. You know one that was quick and easy to make, rich and creamy but not too much and with just the right amount of salt and enough cream that it was silky but not so it was runny and couldn't hold its own in a brownie. As you can tell I then spent, in retrospect, probably an unhealthy amount of time playing around with and eating vats of salted caramel for quite a while.
Now I've finally found my perfect salted caramel, one that really is easy to make and, quite frankly, worth the effort it seems only fair to share it right? The only thing I feel I do need to say is: caramel isn't forgiving and requires your undivided attention. You have a small window in which it goes from bubbling sugar water to thick golden syrup and then to the perfect amber colour seconds before it will turn red and bitter and be unusable. So, I urge you to give yourself 20 minutes peace and quiet to make this and do it at a time when nothing is suddenly going to urgently demand your attention and drag you away at the crucial moment. Other than that this really is easy and you just need to hold your nerve at the key moment. Go on, you can do it!
200g Caster sugar
100g Unsalted butter
100ml Double cream
1Tsp Fleur De Sel (You can substitute this with Malden sea salt)
You will need a medium sized heavy bottom saucepan, a small plate, metal whisk and a wooden spoon
TIP: Measure everything out first so it's all ready and you don't get flustered at the worst possible moment!
1. Measure the butter and cut into small cubes and put on a side plate, put the salt just next to it, then pour the cream into a measuring jug. Have all of this sitting just next to your hob so its ready when you are. Also, have your wooden spoon and whisk sitting there to save you rummaging around at the wrong moment.
2. Add the sugar to the saucepan then gently pour over the water so it covers all the sugar and put over a medium high heat. There is no need to stir, just let it bubble away
3. You are looking for the point at which this reduces down and turns from a clear bubbling mix into a golden caramel. This takes a while but when it does you have a very small window in which to work so you need to watch it closely as when it happens it happens fast and, as before, you need to catch it at the right moment before it burns and there's no turning back! Approximately 10/11 minutes in, depending on how high your heat is, you will notice it starting to smell of caramel and the edges of the pan will start to turn golden, this is where you need to hold your nerve! About a minute after this it will start to smell intensely sweet and start to turn to an even darker amber colour and when it does it is time to turn off the heat (it will carry on cooking even without the heat so be warned). If you take it off the heat and the bubbling dies down and it doesn't quite seem dark enough if you're quick you can pop it back on the heat for another minute until darker
4. WIth the heat off quickly add the butter in one go and start whisking, it will bubble furiously as you do. Then add the salt and continue to whisk as you want to avoid salt crystals remaining in the sauce
5. Pour in the cream and mix with your wooden spoon then turn the heat back on and bring back up to the boil for a couple of minutes giving it a stir to ensure it's mixed well and the salt has dissolved
6. Let cool for a moment in the pan then dip a spoon in, let it cool for a moment (it will be the temperature of molten lava so don't be tempted to jump right in, your mouth won't thank you!) and check you're happy with the salt levels, add more if you want it more punchy but make sure you heat it again to ensure its dissolved in the mix
Once cooled decant your salted caramel into a jug and pour over good vanilla ice cream, add to hot chocolate, eat straight from the jug or, even better, let cool to room temperature then use to make amazing salted caramel chocolate brownies like below (I'll be sharing my seriously gooey salted caramel chocolate brownie recipe next week so make sure you check back for it!). You can also decant into lockable Tupperware once cooled and keep in fridge for a couple of weeks.