Cupboard Love: Salted Caramel Sauce

Image Credit: Laoise Tarrant

Sophie Tevlin is cooking up a store cupboard staple – using store cupboard staples - a Cupboard Love double whammy.

If you’re new to working with sugar, this is a very quick and easy recipe, and a good way to master the technique you’ll need for the slightly harder stuff like fudge and toffee. Yes, admittedly, you can buy jars of salted caramel sauce in the shop. But that will involve leaving the house, and forking out three or four quid for a decidedly unessential purchase. And you will miss out on the strange magic of watching everyday ingredients dramatically change their colour and state, and the dangerous thrill of having molten sugar rear and hiss at you. You get to feel like Willy Wonka for fifteen minutes, and then you have a small pot of deliciousness at the end of it.

You will need 200g of white sugar, 90g of proper salted butter, cut into small chunks, 120ml of double cream (and I may add that the supermarket own-brand cream is half the price of the branded stuff, and just as good), 1 teaspoon of flaky sea salt. (I use Maldon’s. That pink Himalayan stuff is probably fine too. If all you have is table salt, just leave it out and make regular caramel sauce), a stainless steel saucepan with a heavy bottom (so the heat distributes evenly) and tall sides (since that caramel is going to rise up like the Debenhams workers), a wooden spoon or a heatproof silicone spatula, and a glass mason jar or a jam jar with a lid.

Put your sugar in the saucepan over a medium heat. Then stand over it, stirring it with your wooden spoon and watching it like a hawk. This is not the moment to be checking your Twitter notifications. After a few minutes where the sugar just sort of lies there in the pan looking innocuous and making you feel foolish for staring at it like that, it will start to form yellow-y clumps, (keep stirring) and then to melt into a warm brown translucent liquid. Like honey, if honey was roughly the temperature of the earth’s core. Keep stirring like mad (but not too mad – you don’t want to splash it on yourself, believe me), making sure you get around the sides and scrape the bottom of the pot to stop it sticking, until all the sugar is dissolved and see-through. Now tip in the chunks of butter – it’s going to sputter and bubble a fair bit and swell threateningly in the pan, but don’t panic - and stir once more until the butter melts and everything is well combined. Add the cream and stir (again). Let it boil for a minute, add the salt and stir, and take it off the heat. Let it cool, and pour into the jar. Voila! You have mastered the art of making salted caramel, and will win enthusiastic acclaim from friends and relations. Ignore any unkind remarks along the lines of “2008 called, it wants its seasonal Starbucks flavour back”, salted caramel is a timeless classic. On cold winter mornings, I stud my porridge with slowly melting slivers of dark chocolate, spoon over the caramel sauce, and scatter with roasted peanuts for Snickers Porridge. For a midnight snack, I toast dark rye bread, spread it with caramel, and top with thinly sliced banana and smoky toasted black sesame seeds. Timeless. Feckin. Classic.

(P.S. If there’s caramel stuck to your saucepan, boil some water in it and the caramel will melt away. Celebrity chefs never think to mention these things. But then, they don’t do their own washing-up.)