Salted Caramel Sauce

Makes about 1½ cups

1 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons water

3/4 cup heavy cream or crème fraîche

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a medium, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and water; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring just until the sugar is moistened. Let the mixture boil, without stirring but with an occasional swirl of the pan, until it is a deep amber, smells like caramel, and you can see just the tiniest wisps of smoke, 9 to 12 minutes. The caramel will be very hot at this point. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and carefully add a little bit of the cream; the caramel will bubble up furiously.

2. Return pan to low heat and whisk in remaining cream a little at a time (to avoid bubbling over); whisk in butter, salt and vanilla. Continue to whisk until very smooth, another minute or so. Remove from heat and let it cool in the pan; it will thicken as it cools. Serve warm or at room temperature. Keep refrigerated for up to several weeks or freeze in a zip-top freezer bag for up to 2 months.

Variation: Add 1 tablespoon dark rum with the butter and salt, and use almond extract instead of vanilla.

-- Martha Holmberg, "Modern Sauces" (Chronicle Books, $35, 256 pages)


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