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Make Your Own Caramel Sauce
- 1 Stick (1/2 lb) Butter, Salted
- 1 12 oz Can Evaporated Milk
- 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
- 1 Cup Sugar
- 1/2 Cup Corn Syrup
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1 Cup Water
- Put all of the ingredients in a sauce pan.
- Bring to a boil and quickly reduce heat to a simmer. Be very careful as the liquid comes to a boil. Because this recipe contains baking soda and milk it may boil over very quickly.
- Boil over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the desired caramelization is reached. This typically takes 30-45 minutes once a boil is achieved.
- This will stay fresh about a month if stored refrigerated.
The Technical Stuff
(Skip this if you just want to make caramel!)
This recipe teaches you how to make caramel using the Maillard browning reaction. This is not a true sugar caramelization, but rather a reaction that happens between the protein of a dairy product (milk), and a sugar.
Baking soda is added to this recipe for several purposes. As the Maillard reaction occurs, the mixture will become acidic. When milk is exposed to acid, the protein wants to break out, or precipitate out of the solution. If you have ever seen white specs in a milky sauce, it may have been the protein precipitating out. The baking soda will lower the acidity, or raise the pH of the caramel and keep your milk protein stabilized. In addition to stabilizing the protein, the presence of baking soda will speed up the Maillard reaction, allowing you to brown your mixture more quickly. The baking soda also adds a depth of flavor.
Corn syrup is added to prevent graininess. Table sugar, or sucrose, is made up of two simple sugars - glucose and fructose. As you melt sugar into water, or saturate it, the glucose and fructose molecules separate. When those molecules exist in equal amounts in a mixture, they want to join back together to create what you know as a grain of sugar. Corn syrup is made up of glucose only. So, just like at a party when there are too many single men and not enough single ladies, when you add corn syrup to a sucrose mixture, the extra glucose molecules get in the way of the glucose and fructose in the sugar joining back together.
Two things are going to control how thick your caramel is - the type and amount of fat, and the amount of moisture left in the mixture. Fats with a higher melt point at a higher level will make the mixture thicker, and vice versa. As you boil the caramel, the water in the mixture will evaporate. If your caramel is too thick when it is cooled off, either cook it a shorter amount of time, or add more water to the recipe. Water may be added at the end of the cooking period as well. If you want your caramel to be thicker when cooled, continue boiling the mixture to evaporate more water. The initial water is added to allow time for the browning reaction to occur.
The dairy products used in this recipe are evaporated milk and butter. Both of these items stay fresh for a long time, so they are easy to keep on hand. Substitution of milk or cream for either of these is possible, depending on the desired outcome.
Variations: With the knowledge you gain from this recipe, you can make many variations of your own. Add a spice at the end, such as ginger or cinnamon. Substitute coffee for the water for caramel macchiato. Double the salt for a salted caramel. Add a tablespoon of bourbon at the end for bourbon caramel!
All of the ingredients go into the saucepan at once. The order does not matter.
As the mixture boils it will foam up quickly. Be careful not to boil over!
When the caramel reaches the desired color it is ready. The longer you let the caramel boil, the more flavor and color it will develop.
The foam will go away when the caramel is removed from the heat. The caramel will thicken as it cools.
© 2013 Melissa Althen