Scott's How-To Salted Caramel Survival Guide (& Recipe)
A rich, warm, bubbly salted caramel is one of those things we can all agree on. It's the superlative dessert topping. It enhances everything it touches and ruins countless new years resolutions. Its cake-making, life changing, and oh so versatile. I have a whole slew of caramel and salted caramel based recipes in the works for this blog - stay tuned.
I created this guide so that we can all have a spoon of the greatness that is caramel, whether you pronounce it 'ker-e-mel' or 'kärmel'. In less than 10 easy steps and 20 minutes, you can have your own jar of perfect salted caramel to lather on every baked good in sight.
I've included step by step pictures down below, so this caramel is basically unmessupable. (Yes, I love you that much) Let's dive in!
SALTED CARAMEL Tips and FAQs
- Can I please stir it? - Take your wooden spoons, find the nearest trash can, and throw them all away. Okay, I'm just kidding but on a serious note, homemade caramel doesn't really need stirring until you add the butter (Step 6 in my recipe)
- Use an induction burner - Caramel can be delicate, so even heat is important. While gas or electric will work perfectly fine, you can pick up a good induction burner on Amazon for less than $100. I use induction whenever I'm working with sugar, or simply to feed my pasta addiction by boiling water really quickly.
- Be careful - Sugar begins melting at around 320℉ (160℃). It would really break my heart if you got third degree burns while just trying to make something delicious, so please, don't stick your hand in the pot.
- Clumps are no biggie - Sugar really has a thing for crystallizing. You can do everything perfectly , and then a grape sized clump may form when you add the butter. Don't worry about it. With continued cooking, all of the clumps will dissolve and you should end up with a beautifully smooth caramel sauce.
- Why the water? - Okay, there are a few reasons for this. One, adding the small amount of water makes the sugar caramelized more slowly, preventing it from getting too dark too quickly. Two, the water helps extend the caramelization process, helping you get from plain white sugar to dazzling drizzly deliciousness without so much as a spoon to stir with (see what I did there?).
- Which type of pot should I use? - Color is important when making caramel. Your salted caramel can go from translucent syrup to dark amber in a flash. To combat this, you need to use a pot that is more on the thick side. This will help you to control the heat better and caramelize the sugar at a slower pace. You will want to use either a stainless steel or copper pot. You can find my favorite stainless steel caramel pot here (from Sur La Table). When I'm feeling fancy, I use this copper pot by Mauviel, but its not induction compatible and is more on the expensive side.
- What happens if I burn it? - Caramel is bound to burn at some point, whether you use a candy thermometer or not. I am working on an mouthwatering recipe that is the perfect use for burned caramel - but for now, it may best best if you start over. I'll update this post when my burnt caramel recipe goes live.
Homemade Salted Caramel in 10 Easy Steps
By: Scott Smith
- 3/4 Cup white sugar (113 grams)
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 Cup water (38 grams)
- 1 1/2 Sticks butter (113 grams)
- 1/2 Cup heavy cream (75 grams)
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- Combine your sugar, salt, and water in a small saucepan.
- Begin heating saucepan over medium heat (no stirring necessary - really).
- After about 10 minutes, the salted caramel will begin to turn an amber color. This means we're almost done. Grab the handle of the pot and swirl the caramel around lightly (no need to stir).
- Watch the pot closely as the homemade salted caramel will go from a light amber to a dark amber quite rapidly.
- When the pot of caramel is a flush dark amber (as pictured above), add the butter all at once. The caramel will bubble fiercely and smell incredible, so prepare yourself.
- Continue cooking the salted caramel on low for 5 minutes or until the butter has been incorporated. Stir occasionally.
- Add the cream, all at once, stirring as your pour.
- When the cream is all mixed in, take your saucepan off of the heat and add the vanilla extract
- Since (I know) you did everything right, you know have perfect salted caramel.
- Drizzle it on cookies, waffles, ice cream, or pretty much anything (I don't judge)! I love salted caramel brownies, salted caramel cheesecake, salted caramel buttercream, salted caramel apple pie, and warm, salted caramel mochas. It's a wonder I'm not swimming in the stuff right now.