Alice Waters’ Caramel Sauce

Man.  This is so, so good.

Upon transferring posts from my old blog to the new one, I realized I have a slight obsession with sauces, or more specifically, condiments. Green goddess, mango salsa, tomato salsa, applesauce (okay, not exactly like the others, but still saucy)–there’s nothing like a good sauce to make whatever you’re eating a harmonious, delightful experience.  Although some might think they’re not as impressive as the main dish, I have since learned differently.  There’s nothing quite like a good sauce, and there’s nothing quite like making one: it’s sort of like kitchen alchemy that yields perfectly beautiful jars of pure flavor you can tuck away in your fridge, to dip into again and again until you hit the bottom of the jar.  (Ooh, and for a lovely Dorie post on the pleasures of jars and thriftiness, read her “Bottom-of-the-Bottle Mustard Vinaigrette.”) Plus you feel secretly, totally, perhaps even smugly self-sufficient.  Because without a doubt, your home-made sauce, salsa, condiment, or dressing is better than anything you could’ve bought.  (Unless it’s Brianna’s dressing, in which case I usually throw up my hands and kowtow towards its genius.  All hail.)

Recently I’ve been obsessed with Deb’s ginger-carrot dressing, especially as I have a motherlode of CSA carrots still waiting to make it into the world; I also really love this rhubarb-orange compote, which I have made again and again.  But what I’d really like to share with you today is this:

Because it is truly the most magical sauce of them all.  It’s Alice Waters’ Caramel Sauce from her The Art of Simple Food (2007), and it’s one of the easiest, most fulfilling recipes you’ll ever make, I promise.  Seriously.  Sugar, water, cream, vanilla, salt.  That’s it.  Add heat and some serious molecular shifting, and you’ve got yourself a brûléed masterpiece that’s perfect drizzled over ice cream, dolloped on yogurt for a crème caramel-like dessert, as a dip for various fruits like apples and pears, and as a flavoring for milk or drinkable yogurt, like this:

Alice Waters’ Caramel Sauce

Measure and set aside 3/4 cup heavy cream. Put in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan 1 cup sugar and 6 tablespoons water. Cook over medium heat, without stirring, until the sugar starts to caramelize.  Swirl the pan gently if it’s browning unevenly.  When the caramel is uniformly golden brown (n.b.: I like to cook mine a little longer than golden, until it’s a rich brown, almost chestnut), remove from the heat.  STAND BACK (really) and add 1/4 cup of the cream.  Stir slowly with a wooden spoon until combined, add the rest of the cream and 1/2 tsp vanilla and a pinch of salt.  Let cool and strain (I don’t), and ladle into a jar.

Variations, also from Alice: Coffee-flavored caramel sauce: add 3 tablespoons espresso and if you want, 1 tablespoon coffee liqueur.

Although the divine Alice says it keeps for up to 2 weeks in the fridge; my batches do last up to 3 if I let them.  She also says to reheat gently over simmering water before serving.

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