Caramel and I have a history, and it ain’t a good one. Catastrophic is more like it. I’m not a candy-maker, in fact even after the aforementioned debacles I still haven’t acquired a candy thermometer. I figure it’ll be used so infrequently, why bother?
Well, thank heaven for Cooks Illustrated, is all I can say. Towards the back of the March 2011 issue there’s a small piece about making caramel in the microwave. When I hit the last sentence, “Caramel doesn’t get any easier than this,” I was intrigued. I’ve been fantasizing about a new version of my homemade Samoas for a while now, and next weekend I’m attending an event that simply screams for them. Making my own caramel—one that seemed easy enough for a candy dunce like me—would be so much more exciting than opening several dozen wrappers from the store-bought kind.
Folks, I must testify: Praise be to Cooks Illustrated! This is life-changing, if caramel is as important to you as it is to me. I had a lovely jug of caramel sauce at the ready less than ten minutes after I started measuring. Can’t beat that, no how.
Now all I need is some vanilla ice cream. And maybe some apple pie…
Microwave Caramel Sauce
You don’t really want Weight Watchers info for this, do you?
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 tablespoons of water
Small squeeze of lemon juice (a fraction of a teaspoon)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1. Put the sugar, corn syrup, water, and lemon juice in a 2-cup microwave-safe measuring cup or glass bowl, and stir gently. Microwave on high for 5 to 8 minutes, until it’s just barely changing color. Watch carefully—if you wait even a few seconds too long, it will overcook and taste bitter.
Here it is about four minutes later. Very, very brown. I started adding cream at this point, since I was afraid it would keep going.
3. While that’s sitting, heat the heavy cream in a one-cup glass measure—30 to 40 seconds on high should do it. Grab a whisk and drizzle in the cream, a bit at a time. The caramel will bubble furiously, so whisk away to keep it from going too nuts. When all the cream is added, add the butter. This’ll stay good in the fridge for a week or two, at least.
MAKE BABY FOOD: I don’t have to say it, do I? While this isn’t dangerous for babies (except when it’s hot—caramel burns are nasty), it’s a big vat of sugar. If your tot sneaks a fingerful off your plate no worries, but I wouldn’t exactly spoon this into a baby’s mouth.