Extremely versatile, long-lasting, tried & true, sophisticated yet casual. That's right. I'm talking about caramel. It's a magical thing, really. It can glam up a simple scoop of vanilla ice cream, switch up a batch of dark chocolate brownies or turn a brunch-style coffee cake into an elegant evening dessert. It's so versatile that it can even be used in some savoury dishes, like Caribbean stews and Asian stir-frys. I guess caramel is like sugar's alter ego. It's a little arrogant and way more assertive (kind of like Steve Urkel and Stefan Urquelle). I bet it gets all the chicks too and makes regular sugar totally jealous. If caramel were a person, I probably wouldn't like him, or her, but it's not a person. It's a delicious sauce that will never go out of style and I love it. Yup.
The magic of caramel is in its simplicity. The process of making it, known as caramelization, is the transformation of a single bland ingredient - table sugar - into a rich, complex and aromatic substance. You can read more about caramelization here.
Caramel sauce generally consists of only two ingredients, sugar and cream. However, corn syrup, butter and flavourings, such as vanilla and (my favourite) salt, may also be added. Butter adds richness and creates a more spreadable consistency, whereas corn syrup functions so inhibit sugar crystallization and prevent the development of a gritty texture.
Salted Caramel Sauce is so simple to make that there's no reason not to keep a jar of it handy in your refrigerator. It lasts quite a while and is very rewarding. So, follow this recipe and give it a whirl. The darker you cook the sugar, the more complex the flavour will be. To reheat the caramel, let it come to room temperature and then heat it gently in a small saucepot over low heat while stirring constantly. Add a little extra cream to thin it out as necessary.