It's one of the recipes my grandmother, Betty-Lou, told me to "master" before I was married, which is straight-up 1950s talk, but I didn't mind. Caramel sauce, when homemade, has a depth of flavor that is hard to get out of a jar. And you can put it on anything, from ice cream to cheesecake, to coffeecake to muffins to sliced fruit, etc.
All you need is patience and a kind heart towards yourself, and the understanding that if you fail the first time (as most people do), it isn't a failure but a learning curve. Don't let that deter you. And honestly, this recipe is easy to follow and very forgiving. (I inherited my impatience from my Grandmother, and this recipe does not stress me out!)
BETTY-LOU'S 3-STEP CARAMEL
Ingredients: 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, 3 tbsp. butter, a pinch of salt, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, and 1 tbsp. powdered sugar.
The yield is about 3/4 cup.
1. Pour the sugar in an even layer into a medium saucepan set to medium heat. Watch closely. When the sugar has begun to turn brown in the center and melt, you are nearly there.
2. Once there is only a rim of unmelted sugar around the edge, heat the whipping cream in the microwave for 45-60 seconds (it should be bubbling.)
3. Remove caramel from heat, and set it on a folded towel so it doesn't slip. Whisk in the hot cream like a mad person until combined, followed by the butter. Stir in vanilla and powdered sugar. Serve immediately, or store covered in the fridge and gently reheat before serving.
The sugar will go from melted and bubbling to burnt quickly. Have your cream in the microwave ready to heat; as soon as you see, about 75% of the sugar is melted and brown. If the cream isn't hot and bubbling, it will bring the sugar temperature down, and it will instantly harden and not whisk. Have your other ingredients lined up and measured so they can be incorporated quickly. Pour the caramel through a sieve if it is lumpy.
If all else fails, start again. Don't stress. Caramel is a good thing to master.
To re-melt the caramel, since it hardens as it cools, heat on 25% power for 30 seconds in the microwave.
To clean your saucepan, fill it with very hot water and dish soap, and allow it to sit.