I am on a search to make a wonderful toffee chocolate chip cookie, and of course, it has to be made from scratch (no Heath bars or equivalent). So I figure the first step is to make a great caramel sauce and go on from there. This post just relates to the caramel, subsequent posts will relate to trying to find cookie nirvana.
So, got on the handy Google search and found lots of caramel recipes. I decided to try one from Michelle Norris, aka The Brown Eyed Baker. Her recipe is for a salted caramel sauce: http://www.browneyedbaker.com/2012/05/22/homemade-salted-caramel-sauce-recipe/
Now, I altered the recipe by not using salt, and the result was just perfect. There are some tricks to making this, but it is not difficult.
2 cups pure cane sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in 12 pieces
1 cup heavy whipping cream, at room temperature
Use a heavy large saucepan (do not use nonstick as the temperature needed gets too high). Cast iron would be fine for the heat, but you can’t visualize the caramel development properly. I have the perfect pan, which is a large heavy nickel lined copper sautesuse (a 4.5 quart pan with slightly sloped sides). You need a pan with a stainless steel or equivalent lining with good heat distribution to allow for even cooking and so you can see the bottom of the pan easily as you are cooking, and judge the change in color of the cooking sugar properly. I like the All-Clad d5 series for this purpose for its even heat distribution (and, although it is expensive, it is still a lot cheaper than nickel lined heavy French copper), but there are less expensive and similar pots available from Cuisinart and other manufacturers. The important thing to look for in the construction of the pot is the aluminum core needs to completely cover the pan’s bottom and extend up the sides of the pan. The older designs which just used a sandwich of stainless exterior and interior with a core of aluminum only across the bottom of the pan will often cause burning at the edges of the pan’s interior due to poor spreading of heat at the sides of the pan (they can be used with a lot of extra whisking!).
So, now that you got the right pan, put 2 cups of white cane sugar in the pan and place the pan on medium high heat. Use a heavy stainless steel whisk and stir the sugar. Nothing will happen at first, but be patient. It takes a while for the internal temperature to build. While this heat buildup is occurring, cut the 1 ½ sticks of unsalted butter into 12 pieces, and pour the cream into a 1 cup measure. You will start to smell the caramelization before you see any changes, and then the sugar will form small clumps, and then melt. Don’t whisk at this point, just keep a close eye on the color of the melted sugar. It goes from a mild almond color to red-brown quickly, and if untended, goes on to burn, and you have to stop and start over. Use an instant read thermometer or a candy thermometer clipped to the side of the pan. The temperature will go quickly from 330 degrees to 350, so watch carefully. As soon as it reaches 350 degrees, remove from heat and add the butter all at once. It will bubble up (which is the reason for a big pan). Whisk carefully (the sauce is very hot) to incorporate the butter completely, and then add the cream. It will bubble up again. Whisk thoroughly again, and you’re done! Let the caramel cool at least 15 minutes before use or transfer to a jar for refrigerator storage. It will last for 2 weeks in the fridge.
Makes 2 cups of caramel sauce.
Over ice cream (yum)
We tried mixing ½ cup into the Ghirardelli double chocolate brownie mix, and I liked it, but Jori did not. I think it would work better if we had used ½ of the brownie mix into the 8×8 pan, poured the ½ cup of caramel sauce on it, and then covered the sauce with the rest of the brownie mix. (We tried swirling the caramel sauce into the pan after the brownie mix had been placed, and the texture that resulted was a little too chewy). So I will try the layer approach next.
I have to experiment with the sauce and cookies. The sauce itself is great, so I have high hopes for these trials. If anyone has done things with the sauce, please let me know.