Salted caramel sauce is one of those delicious treats that uses fairly simple ingredients, but takes a few special techniques to get just right. Cooking caramel is tricky because if you stir the water and sugar mixture too much you’ll splash the mixture onto the sides of the pan. If the mixture is on the sides of the pan, it will not be in the cooking mixture and will cause problems. The main problem will be the opportunity for those sugar crystals to drop back into the sugar mixture and cause the whole mass to crystalize. The best trick you can learn when cooking any kind of sugar is to just barely mix the sugar and water together. Think if it as moistening the sugar. Once the mixture is boiling, stop mixing. If you have splashed water onto the sides of the pan, you can wash it back into the main mixture by using a clean pastry brush and water.
Sugar begins to caramelize at about 300F. How dark you want your caramel sauce it up to you. I prefer a medium darkness, but a lot of folks like things a little lighter. You don’t really need a sugar thermometer as the caramel will begin changing colors when it has reached the proper temperature.
When adding the butter and cream to the caramelized sugar, it WILL steam, sizzle, and spit. Please keep your hands and face clear to avoid being injured. If you are making a large batch (we make this sauce in a batch 4x the size of this recipe at the bakery), then it might be best to warm the cream up first so there is less of a temperature disparity from the sugar and the cream.
A note about salt:
Any type of salt is fine for this recipe although I avoid iodized salt as a rule. Please also check your ingredient list of any kosher salt you might have, you’d be surprised as to what you might find in there. In the bakery we use plain salt. You can find plain salt in any grocery store and it is consistent among brands and inexpensive. If you have a fancy salt on hand and want to try it, go for it! I have had good success with light finishing salts like Maldon Sea salt or Fleur de Sel but you must always add these at the end. If you are using plain or kosher salt you can add the salt in the beginning with the sugar and water. Feel free to adjust the salt levels up and down as you desire. You could even omit the salt and substitute salted butter for the unsalted butter.
Salted Caramel Sauce
2t corn syrup or 1t lemon juice
1/3 C water
1C heavy cream
2T butter, unsalted
¾ t salt
Add sugar, then water and corn syrup or lemon juice to a small saucepan.
Stir the mixture gently, just to moisten the sugar.
Cook sugar mixture to a dark caramel color.
Being careful of splatters, add the butter, stirring constantly.
Stir in cream, being careful of steam.
Bring the mixture back to a boil to try to melt any remaining lumps.
Remove from heat and stir in the salt.
Pour the mixture into storage container and store until needed. I like to use a glass mason jar.
The caramel sauce will hold in the refrigerator for months.
If it becomes too thick, warm it in a microwave for 20 seconds at a time, stirring each time, until the sauce reaches desired consistency.
This recipe can be varied greatly with lots of different flavors. I have stirred in spices like ground cinnamon or Chinese five spice, or flavorings like maple extract or espresso powder.
UPDATE: I made a video tutorial to go along with the recipe. Watch it here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Hs_CUscDSHU&feature=youtu.be