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Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce

  Ginger tea, reading American Girl books and Little House in the Big Woods, throwing chunks of caramel into chocolate chip cookies, trying not to bite everyone's head off, kicking nudging the annoying cats that dance about the feet, and trying not to think about senior year.  Sounds pretty subdued-ish, which is a nightmare for me.  An idle mind...you know. 

  I can't say that I'll miss this week.  Or this month.  I really need to do something, I need some motivation.  I need to get a job.

  I will not go steaming off, my life is good.  Very good.  It's too good.  Ever felt like you can't live up to such a good life?  That maybe somebody else would be better off in your shoes of opportunity?  I don't know what to do with it, I just want to curl up somewhere and be.  I just want to be, I want peace.  I want the ACT done, I want high school done, I want my life to go on, I want to know what in the heck I'm supposed to do with it, I want to feel like praying.  

  Sorry, I steamed.  I'm done now, promise.  Just had to have my little whine-fest.  Oh, winter blues!  Why so foreboding, 2012?  Leave me be.

  I'm sorry there's such a lull around here, to the few of you who so faithfully attend to this blog (hi, mom!).  I appreciate you, truly.  I made you caramel sauce!  I made you a topping for ice cream, a dip for apples, an excuse to dip a spoon in a jar at midnight.  This is a wonderful thing, the challenge over my Christmas break, the beast that took four times to get right.  And even so, it completely seized up when I added the cream, merely because I was not paying enough attention.  An hour of simmering and stirring to smooth it, people. Foolishness, pay attention and warm your cream.  But even then it can be quite arbitrary, sometimes it will seize, and sometimes it won't.  It's how it rolls.

  I realize that my mood is far from triumphant, I'll try to work up the charisma.  I mentioned my experiences in my other caramel post too.  Just don't be so intimidated by my spewing, this was only my first personal experience with caramel.  So doy, it was hard.  Many, many others have made this with great success, it just took me awhile to get there myself!   

  Caramel is my good friend now, but even so we do have our little rows.  I don't think I'd like it quite as much if it weren't a challenge.  It keeps me accountable, a bit of humility when you "think you're all that."  Success comes when you patiently, so patiently work for it.  And go after it with a big stick.  Pots will be thrown, spoons flung.  It all comes together, I promise.  You never lord over food, you never put yourself up so high.  You work with it, always.
  So I leave you, take your pots and sugar and cream and practice practice practice.  Caramelize, fight, win!

Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce
Yield: about 1 1/2 cups

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1¼ cups heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • ¼ tsp. coarse salt
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract

Measure out your cream into a microwavable measuring cup or dish, scrape the vanilla bean seeds into it and heat in the microwave until warm.  

Spread the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a large, deep, sturdy saucepan.  Place over medium-low heat, watching carefully.  When the sugar begins to liquefy around the edges, use a heatproof spatula to gently stir it towards the center (it won't always liquefy at the edges right away, it may bubble up in the middle first).  It can take some time for the sugar to melt.  Continue stirring very gently until all the sugar is melted, taking care not to over stir the sugar into hard chunks.  If this happens, reduce the heat and try to melt the chunks without stirring.  Once the liquified caramel reaches a deep amber color, immediately remove the sauce pan from the heat (to test the color, spoon a drop onto a white plate or bowl).

Carefully whisk in half of the warmed heavy cream along with the vanilla bean seeds. The mixture will steam and bubble violently, be careful.  Stir until the cream is well incorporated, then whisk in the remaining cream.  Stir in the salt and the vanilla.  If any sugar has hardened (seized), place the saucepan over low heat and whisk until smooth.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  If needed, it can be rewarmed in the microwave or in a saucepan over low heat.

Sources: Annie's Eats, who found it on Cook Like a Champion.  Originally from The Perfect Scoop.  I highly recommend checking out David Lebovitz's two posts on caramel making.