Caramel Sauce

Total Time:
15 min
15 min

1 3/4 cups


Mix the water and sugar in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cover and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a medium brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Watch it carefully at the end, as it will go from caramel to burnt very quickly. Stand back to avoid splattering, and gradually add the cream and the seeds scraped from the vanilla bean (or vanilla extract). Simmer until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth and thick, about 2 minutes. Serve warm, or add another 1/4 cup of heavy cream and serve room temperature.

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    This is a wonderful recipe, easy and simple once you figure out that it takes a little patience! I warm the water a little , add the sugar and swirl the pan as instructed to make sure all the sugar is disolved. Then let it simmer, using the wet pastry brush to brush away crystals that form on side of pan. I don't have to use the candy therm anymore, i just watch it till it turns the color I like and i do stir close to the end to make sure it doesn't burn. People that get the big crystalized mess at the end don't realize that if that happens, just turn the heat down some and let it melt slowly to it's smooth caramel-y goodness. People who mess this recipe up need to try try again. When they get it right, it will be worth the effort and seen awesome easy for the yummy result! 
    ps this recipe can be cut in half very nicely.
    You need to stir at the beginning until it starts to boil, then cover with lid for 2 minutes and you won't have wash down crystals on the side. Then don't stir and let it cook until the right color or temp however you're doing it. I just let it go until the color I wanted and continued from there. I thought it was very easy to do.
    Proportions are good however it's important not to stir the sugar and water at the beginning otherwise the sugar will eventually crystalize and harden up. I had to throw one out and the next time I stirred very gently after I put in the water just so the sugar was all covered by it - kept the heat on medium low for the rest of the time and did not touch it until the sugar was the right color and it was time to add the creme.
    Terrific, classic sauce. A few thoughts: make sure the sugar is completely dissolved before the water comes to a boil; if crystals still form on the side of the pan, wash the pan's sides down with a pastry brush dipped in water; if thicker sauce is the goal, add less cream.
    I made this twice and got the same results. Hard hard crystalized sugar stuck to pan and spoon. A mess! I read another person's recipe (same ingredients and it cautioned me not to stir at all. I tried a 3d time without stirring and still got a crystallized sugar mess. I give up! Maybe it had to do with my altitude (7,500 feet or my electric stove. I don't know, but there must be a trick to making this sauce I don't know. Definitely not "easy" as described.
    Great flavor and not too hard but I agree, it took mine longer than the times given on the recipe. I do have a question, I want my sauce to retain some shape (so my drizzle looks like a drizzle and doesn't dissipate. I've taken corn starch to the finished sauce and added it but it's been too thick and hard to work with, if I added cornstarch towards the end of the process, how much should I add?
    This is a basic caramel recipe, so no Ina didn't screw it up. I work in pastry and sugar is fickle, it's an art that you must master. Though corn syrup and cream of tartar do help to stop the crystalization process, they are not necessary to the recipe, so the recipe is not incorrect for not including these ingredients. I've made this recipe many times and the only reason I have seen it crystalize is because I've neglected it and allowed crystals to form on the sides of the pan.
    We love it! A rich, creamy, wonderful recipe. I did add a tablespoon of corn syrup and a pinch of salt and it did take longer to cook than the recipe states, but we live at high altitude and such things do take longer here.
    followed the turned to liquid. Now I have liquid carmel..I can use this in my coffee.
    Combined the water and sugar but also added about 1 TBSP of light corn syrup before I turned on the heat. No crystalization at all. Getting it to the right temperature definitely takes longer than 5 -7 minutes. Was closer to 15 or 20 for me. But it was fabulous. I will definitely NEVER buy caramel sauce from the store again. Yummy.
    I substituted whole evaporated milk for the heavy cream (didn't have any. Even though the Evap Milk has only about 1/4 the milk fat as heavy cream, it still tasted great. Can't stress how careful you must be when adding the milk and vanilla. This stuff is angry!. I also let it cool for about 10 minutes then gave it an ice bath. ( for lack of time
    I Used my sauce to blend with non salted butter to make a tasty melba toast for the pre-meal conversation table. This recipe is 10 times easier than any of the others, and has room to make it unique to your style and taste!!! THANKS YOU!
    One of the best! Great results each and every time.
    I'm giving this 3 stars because I think the directions are wrong. Following the recipe the sugar dissolved wonderfully in the water BUT all of a sudden it turned to rock hard gritty mess. BUT it was not even light tan ... just clear. I added the cream and vanilla and cooked for a long time waiting for it to thicken. It finally did and I have a lovely, delicious "white caramel sauce". There is a light caramel flavor. Think I'll check out the other Ina caramel recipe.
    Great tasting carmel, but the sugar will never brown if you add the water before you carmelize the sugar! Instead, I put just my sugar in the pan and waited until it had dissolved and turned golden brown. Then add the 1/3 cup water and stir until carmel dissolves, then add the cream and vanilla bean and continue to stir until heated and dissolved through. If you add the water to the sugar first, you will just get candy...not what you want for caramel sauce! My guess is that this was a typo...I'm sure Ina Garten wasn't responsible for posting this!
    I've made this recipe several times now. It's a keeper. I use seeds fom a whole vanilla bean instead of half. I've fiddled w the timing/color of the melted sugar to get more or less 'burned' flavor depending on what I'm pairing the sauce with. I always strain the sauce thru a fine mesh sieve. I love to serve this with apple spice cake and whipped cream.
    Worked perfectly for me first time and was awesome! The times were right on. It was starting to seize a bit, but that's when you add the cream. I don't know how it took gypsyjamboree hours to do, as it literally took 20 minutes. This will definitely be a go-to recipe.
    ""Worst recipe ever! I did two batches and both seized up on me. So after spending HOURS on this, it turns out it needs corn syrup to stabilize and there's no way it will get "medium brown" in 5-7 minutes. ""

    I could have written this review verbatim! I love Ina and most of her recipes totally rock, but this is one to avoid at all costs. What a bummer!
    Worst recipe ever! I did two batches and both seized up on me. So after spending HOURS on this, it turns out it needs corn syrup to stabilize and there's no way it will get "medium brown" in 5-7 minutes.
    This recipe is a failure
    I just made this today. Delicious and easy to make. It took longer to get the sugar to the color that I want (about 10 minutes) but other than that, the recipe delivers. I made a lighter colored caramel because an overly browned caramel results in a bitter sauce. But, the color and bitterness are up to each person's taste.
    I had to write a review to save someone from my mistake! I had several of my daughters' friends here making homemade ice-cream & toppings. And while I LOVE Barefoot Contessa's recipes normally, this one was not specific enough. We cooked 2 batches side by side. And after several minutes (10+ of waiting for the bubbling water sugar mixture to brown we figured that maybe it meant 'golden' brown. We went ahead and added the cream. The mixture on the left that had seemed to cook more (hotter burner? did eventually, after simmering, become almost caramel colored. The other pot just tasted and looked like warm sweet cream, slightly colored by the vanilla. 
    TRUST YOUR INSTINCT! If you've made caramels or toffee before, you know! Wait until it is looking like peanut butter color before going to the next step. I'll make it again and disregard the "5-7" minutes, unless I've got a screaming hot burner. I have the utmost faith in Her recipes, I know it will work next time.
    This caramel sauce is fantastic! Very easy to make but my sugar syrup also took much longer than the stated time to turn medium brown. But the final result was so fantastic. Forgot to add a pinch of salt, but next time I'm definitely going to do so. I'll never buy a bottle of store bought sauce again!
    This was the most creamy and deliciously sweet caramel sauce. The ease of it is really in not stirring it too much even if you don't use the highest quality surgar. I will usr this with all my cakes and cupcakes as filling and anything else that requires a caramel sauce! Thanks Ina and Food Network for sharing!
    This caramel sauce is simply delicious! I halved the recipe & decided to use some butter & a pinch of salt as suggested by another reviewer. Having never done anything like this before, I wasn't sure what to expect but ended up having great luck. My sugar started browning before it ever reached the crystallization stage so didn't have to deal with that problem. I never actually stirred my sugar, just moved it around in the pan once in a while. It didn't get as thick as I would have liked [even though I left it on the heat for several minutes--maybe the butter?] but that was alright because it was smooth & creamy. Very, very tasty stuff!!! 
    Thank you Ina!
    Great basic caramel recipe. I almost always sub about 1/3 of the sugar called for with brown sugar and add about 1 TB of corn syrup to help stabilize the sugar syrup and prevent crystallization. Heating the cream also helps in the speed of mixing and smoothing out the sauce. As for the great cream debate, as long as it says 'HEAVY' in the title, it's the same thing. There is light cream and light whipping cream, but as long as it has the heavy lable, it should have the exact same fat content. Those are the titles of the catagories given by the FDA, so all products should follow the same guidelines. Enjoy this recipe! Ina's great!!
    Using vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract really makes a difference.
    This is a delicious sauce. However I did make a few batches that were Yucky. This time I took some written advice from a review posted on this website and did minimal stirring. Thank you Ina and all of you who helped me out :) Now could someone just take the spoon away so I do not eat the whole thing myself?
    My sugar crystallized as the other reviews mentioned, but I turned the heat up and it finally started to caramelize. It took much longer than 5-7 minutes to caramelize though, probably closer to 20, but maybe my temp was too low. The final product was delicious and worth the wait!
    Made it today for a brownie ice cream bar recipe and it came out perfect! My house smells so delicious! I did add a little more heavy cream to make it creamier! I did not read the directions correctly so it took a little longer to turn color, other than that it was super easy!
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