Friday, January 15, 2010

Caramel Syrup

Every time I walk past Starbucks when I go to Target I'm tempted to stop and get a caramel macchiato, mocha, or latte. I always stop myself because I can't justify spending four or five dollars for one drink I can make myself at home. I was definitely guilty of spending too much money on espresso drinks during graduate school, even though I have my own small espresso machine that I use frequently. I've been meaning to make caramel syrup for a while so I can start making caramel lattes at home because again, frugality prevents me from spending four dollars on a bottle of caramel syrup that I can make myself. And besides, homemade is way better! In addition to being great for coffee, this syrup is also good over ice cream, custard, and broiled, poached, or sauteed fruit.

I'm also planning on making caramel sauce for caramel macchiatos and ice cream topping. Caramel sauce is prepared in the same manner as the syrup, except butter and heavy cream are added instead of additional water after the mixture has turned amber.

Even though the ingredients and principle of making caramel sauce are simple, you have to pay careful attention while making this syrup. It doesn't take long for the syrup to go from caramel to just plain burnt. Caramel is simply sugar cooked until it has melted and begun to burn. Although caramel can be made by stirring dry sugar in a pot, most people find it easier when the sugar is first mixed with water.

Caramel Syrup
from The Joy of Cooking

makes about 3/4 cup

1/4 c. water
1 c. sugar
1/3 c. water
1 t. vanilla
Pinch of salt

1. Combine sugar and 1/4 c. water in a small heavy saucepan. Set over medium high heat and stir gently until the sugar is completely dissolved and the syrup is clear. Avoid letting the syrup boil until the sugar is completely dissolved. Increase the heat to high, cover the saucepan, and boil the syrup for 2 minutes.

2. Uncover and continue to boil the syrup until it begins to darken around the edges. Gently stir until the syrup turns deep amber.

3. Remove from heat and standing back, add 1/3 c. water. (Be very careful). Stir until smooth. If the caramel remains lumpy, stir briefly over low heat. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla and salt. Serve at once or let cool. Cover and refrigerate up to 6 months. Reheat over low heat, stirring in a little water if desired.

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