One reason why salted caramel works so well is the contrast in flavours. There is a natural balance between sweetness and saltiness that is just simply pleasing to our taste buds. Since its’ popularisation in the late 1990s, it has pretty much become a staple. Just look around any super markets or restaurants and you’ll likely find desserts and snacks drenched in salted caramel. Burnt caramel, in contrast, has had comparatively little love. Admittedly it’s not as addictive as its more popular sibling, the salted caramel, but it is also wonderful in its own way. The bitterness adds a layer of complexity which also counter balances the sweetness. The key is not to let the sauce completely burn, you want to over cook it just enough for the bitterness and roasty aromas to shine through. You can use this sauce to enhance most recipes which make liberal use of sugar and fats. A good example of this are the brownies and lattes which Starbucks has started offering. I’ll be sharing my favourite burnt caramel recipes in the coming weeks so stay tuned!
A quick note before we get started. We will making a “dry” caramel, meaning that we do dissolve the sugar in water first. This is to speed up the burning process and to make sure we get those roasty aromas.
This recipe is enough 1 cup / 250ml of burnt caramel sauce.
- 150g Caster Sugar
- 50g Salted Butter, cubed
- 240ml Double Cream
Step 1: Melt the sugar
Sprinkle the caster sugar evenly on a large bottomed pot. It is best and safest to use a deep pot with a light coloured interior. This will stop the sugar from spitting everywhere and allow you to see the colour of the caramel as it burns. As sugar burns very quickly, it is useful to be able to see the colour as it cooks to know when to turn off the heat. Put the pot over a medium high heat for 3 to 4 minutes.
Step 2: Give it a good shake
Do not stir the sugar because doing so will cause it to crystalise and form small lumps. Instead keep a close eye on it as it melts. You will begin to see the edge darken and go brown. At this point give the pan a gentle shake in a circular motion. This will shuffle the around without agitating it too much. Repeat this in 30 seconds interval until all the sugar has melted.
Step 3: Overcooking the caramel
At this point your caramel sauce should be a light golden brown colour. For burnt caramel we want to overcook it for another minute or so. Keep a really close eye on this as sugar burns very quickly. I normally go for one or two shades darker than golden brown (see video). You can also dip the tip of a spoon into the liquid for a quick taste. It will be hot so be careful! Once you are happy with the colour and taste, turn the heat down to a low heat.
Step 4: Butter it up!
At this point at add in the cubed butter and let it melt. Give it a gentle stir until it is fully combined before turning off the heat completely. The butter will help thicken up the sauce and give it that silky smoothness that all good caramels should have.
Step 5: Finishing with the cream
The heat may be off but the sauce should still bubbling away. Using a spatula with a longer handle, slowly stir in the double cream. The sugar is still very hot and will spit everywhere as you mix in the cream so please be careful!
Step 6: Cool it
Give the sauce 5 to 10 minutes to cool before transferring to an air tight container. The sauce is ready to use for dripping onto cakes and ice cream. If you want to use it for baking, then put it in the fridge to let it set which makes it make easier to work with as a filling.