Sadly, this is a question I not only asked myself, but set out trying to answer a few years ago. I thought caramel consisted basically of just sugar, so I decided to stick some plain white sugar in a little bowl and try and melt it into caramel in the microwave.
….The outcome was not pretty. There was smoke from the microwave, and while there was no actual flame, I am pretty sure there could have been had I left it ‘cooking’ for longer than I did.
As for my ‘caramel’? It was a black, smoky, gross mess….so bad that I had to throw the bowl away. I told my mom what happened, and she laughed so hard I thought she would pass out (not very supportive of my baking endeavors, I don’t think!)
Needless to say, I was apprehensive to try again, but I bit the bullet and tried again to make caramel, and I am happy to say it was a raving, delicious success!
Here is the recipe that turned me into a believer:
Easy Caramel Sauce
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time:10 min
Makes: 1 1/2 cups
1 packed cup brown sugar
1/2 cup half-and-half
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Mix the brown sugar, half-and-half, butter and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until it gets thicker. Add the vanilla and cook another minute to thicken further. Turn off the heat, cool slightly and pour the sauce into a jar. Refrigerate until cold.
Thanks to Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, for this recipe!
It tasted SUPER amazing on top of the mini apple pies I made topped with vanilla ice cream…..it also tasted good right out of the jar with a spoon. I have no shame.