Have you noticed that salted caramel has become a “thing?” With a history of disastrous attempts to caramelize sugar, I was fearful of trying to make anything with caramel. Still, I decided to try a recipe for homemade salted caramel sauce without a thermometer for this month’s Secret Recipe Club. And all I can say is wow!
With just 4 ingredients and a bit of organization, the salted caramel sauce comes together in less than 30 minutes, start to finish. I’ve tasted a lot of salted caramel sauce in my time and this version from Traci of Burnt Apple is definitely among the best. It’s not too salty and just the right amount of sweetness. I can’t wait to try it on ice cream, in baked goods, and maybe even drizzled on chocolate.
If you don’t know about Secret Recipe Club, it’s a fun way to broaden my horizons and the recipes available to you on Mother Would Know. The organizers pair up the food blogger members. After checking out our partner’s blog, each of us chooses one of the partner’s recipes to blog about. We can follow the recipe “as is”, make minor adaptations, or use it as inspiration.
My Secret Recipe Club partner this month is Traci, the blogger behind Burnt Apple is one busy lady. Besides being a mom to three active kids, she works, goes to school, and writes her blog. Burnt Apple is filled with recipes that are simple and mostly healthy. With an index that designates which recipes are gluten free, paleo, vegan, and naturally sweetened, the blog is a treasure trove for those of us who need a quick dish to fit a particular diet or health regime.
I thought seriously about making Traci’s steak tacos with lime mayo dressing or her strawberries and cream quinoa pancakes. Still, like a siren song, the homemade salted caramel sauce without a thermometer called to me and I just couldn’t resist. If you’ve never attempted salted caramel before, this recipe is for you. It doesn’t require a candy thermometer or any other special equipment and the directions are simple and straightforward.
Here’s all you need to know to make this amazing sauce.
Tips for Making Homemade Caramel Sauce without a Thermometer
- Be patient when heating the sugar. It takes a while for the sugar to go from grainy, to clumpy, to melted. The process is not difficult, but the sugar can easily – and quickly – burn once it is close to melted. So keep whisking and don’t look away, even for a few seconds. (This is not a good time to answer a text or check email.) In her recipe, Traci said that it takes only 5 minutes to cook the sauce from start to finish. I found that the caramelizing step took almost 15 minutes.
- Use a pot with high sides. The caramel sauce with bubble up twice, first when you add the butter and then again when you add the heavy cream. Even though the sugar doesn’t take up much height, you’ll want a few inches of room above the top of the sugar. the photo below was taken after the bubbling subsided the first time. But at their peak, the bubbles brought the sauce up to where you can see the marks on the side of the pot.
- Organize all your ingredients by the stove. Remember mise en place? This caramel sauce is like stir frying – you have to have each ingredient at the ready. No searching around for a measuring cup for the heavy cream or cutting the butter into chunks as the sugar melts.
- Use high quality sea salt. Just like using high quality chocolate is always a good choice, when you’re using sea salt in a recipe like this one, where it stands out as a major ingredient, it is worth going for high quality. I don’t have the one David Lebovitz recommends, fleur de sel de Guérande, but use another French variety known as sel de Camargue. It’s available from Amazon and in specialty food stores in the US. I’ve even seen it in Whole Foods.
- Refrigerate the finished sauce. Because it uses heavy cream, like pies that contain custard, this sauce must be refrigerated.
- Use heat resistant glass containers to hold the sauce. Traci suggested canning jars and I found that they worked well. Her recipe says it makes two cups, but I found that it made enough to fill three 1-cup (small) canning jars. Do not pour the finished sauce into plastic jars!! It is piping hot and will melt them.
Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce without a Thermometer
- 2 cups granulated sugar white
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter softened and cut into chunks, 12 tablespoons
- 1 cup heavy cream room temperature
- 1/2 tablespoon flaky sea salt also known as fleur de sel
Heat the sugar in a pot with high sides under medium heat. Stir it often with a whisk, especially as it clumps and then melts. Once melted, continue whisking until it turns a medium-dark amber color. You may need a silicone spatula to pull the sugar off the sides as it melts.
Once the sugar is melted and amber-colored, add in the butter chunks and continue whisking as the mixture bubbles up..
Once the sugar and butter are combined, take the mixture off the heat and slowly stir in the heavy cream. Whisk the sauce continuously. It bubbles up again and then smooths out.
Then add in the sea salt and whisk it until well combined.
Pour into one or more heat-resistant glass jars and refrigerate.
The sauce is thin when it is hot and becomes much thicker as it cools. Once it has been refrigerated, it may be too thick to pour. You can thin it out by warming it up, either in a microwave at low or medium-low, or by warming the glass jar in a few inches of hot water.