Merciful God, You are great in compassion and Your tenderness for us is without measure. We ask You to give us today our daily bread, and also provide for the needs of all of Your hungry children around the world. Through Christ Your Son and Our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Caramel Ice Cream Sauce

Yesterday my family celebrated the lives of the Blessed Carmelite Martrys of Compiegne, sixteen sisters of the Carmelite Order who were captured and guillotined during the French Revolution for holding fast to their Catholic faith. They sung hymns to God and the the Blessed Virgin as the were taken to their death and as they faced the guillotine, and never wavered in the face of evil. They were put to death just one day after the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, which they celebrated in prison. (You can read the complete story here.)

With their beautiful faith in God, these sixteen Carmelite sisters took the ugly, unjust death by guillotine and turned it into sweet martyrdom. Likewise, I took plain, white sugar and heat, and turned it into sweet, rich caramel sauce. Just a few moments before the heat turns the sugar into a bitter, acrid substance, it turns it into sweet, molten caramel.

About caramel sauce -- there are a few things to know. This sauce, with the addition of water instead of butter and cream, yields a pure caramel flavor. A richer sauce can be made by adding butter and cream to the sugar/water syrup after it caramelizes, but I love the simplicity of this sugar and water sauce. The Joy of Cooking says, "Caramel is simply sugar cooked to the point where it melts and begins to burn. Old cookbooks refer to it, appropriately enough, as burnt sugar. Butterscotch is similar, except butter is added to the sugar as it caramelizes, resulting in a characteristic nutty taste. To convert caramel and butterscotch into sauces, a mixture of butter and cream, water or some other liquid is added to while the syrup is still hot. Otherwise, the syrup, once cooled, will become hard candy."

This syrup is just two simple ingredients, but it does require a little bit of patience. The syrup takes time to go from simple sugar syrup to caramel, and of course it requires heat. Once you have achieved the desired color (deep amber) of your syrup, you will turn off the heat and add a small bit of water -- to keep the syrup from turning into hard candy. As you prepare to do this, take one giant step backward and cover your hand with a towel, because the syrup will spatter and you could be burned.

It most definitely worth the time and effort, however. The taste is so pure and decadent. My husband loves this sauce so much, I have to hide it from him!

Use this Caramel Sauce over chocolate or vanilla ice cream -- or go all caramel and use caramel swirl ice cream. Top with whipped cream, cherries and chopped nuts, if desired. It would be a wonderful dessert to celebrate any Carmelite Feast day. You can find a list of Carmelite saints here.

Caramel Sauce
printer-friendly version

1 cup sugar

In a small saucepan, combine sugar and 1/4 cup water and place over medium-high heat. Without stirring, very gently swirl the pan until a clear syrup forms. It is important that the syrup clarify before it boils, so move the pan off and back on the heat if necessary. After the sugar dissolves, raise the heat to high and bring the syrup to a rolling boil; cover the pan tightly and boil for 2 minutes. Uncover the pan and cook the syrup until it begins to darken around the edges. Gently swirl the pan by the handle and cook the syrup until it turns a deep amber and begins to smoke -- stop before it becomes red or mahogany. Remove from the heat. Standing back (take one giant step backward and cover your hand with a towel or hot pad -- it's going to spatter) add 1/3 cup water, then stir until smooth. If the caramel remains lumpy, stir briefly over low heat. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes, then serve over ice cream. Cover and refrigerate leftovers for up to six months. Reheat over low heat if needed.

Source: modified from The Joy of Cooking


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