Peanut butter and jelly, spaghetti and meatballs, chocolate and peanut butter. Some things are just better together, including caramel and salt. Just a pinch of the flaky stuff transforms the sweet sauce into a rich, complex treat that’s as satisfying as it is versatile. From moist brownies and a boozy milk shake to a bread pudding and even a grilled cheese, find out how we like to celebrate this fan-favorite flavor in comforting recipes.
Things got off to a sticky start in Episode 3 of All-Star Academy when Mimi attempted her first caramel sauce and Chef Curtis nearly lost his cool. “Pull it off the heat right now! Now!” he bellowed to the home cook from the sidelines. But it was too late. “It’s burnt,” he declared. “Take that caramel sauce [away]. I don’t want to see it.” Fortunately, Mimi was able to shift gears and come up with a whipped cream for her apple crumble that judge Elizabeth Falkner later deemed “awesome.” You might not be so lucky — or have the ingredients for a different topping on hand. To create smooth, buttery caramel the first time around, try the following tips.
1. Gather your ingredients before you start cooking: Caramel can go from silky and sweet to burnt and acrid in less than a minute. With your mix-in ingredients (cream, butter or water) prepped and measured, you can add them at just the right moment to stop the cooking.
Caramel is made by heating sugar until all of the inherent moisture evaporates and the molecules break down and re-form. It’s a tricky process, but it’s not hard to do once you have the basics down: