For Christmas Eve dinner with our kids there was plenty of food. There was a double batch of homemade ice cream, with chocolate, nuts, and strawberries for optional toppings. By the time we finished eating, the little kids were anxious to open presents and dessert was postponed for later, which never came. Everyone went home and we still had lots of dessert in the freezer. Today’s forecast of snow all day presented me with the time to try out this recipe to go with all that ice cream.
I don’t make candy. It has just never interested me, though I will happily eat fudge or nut brittle if someone else goes to the effort of making it. Occasionally I make some salted caramel sauce for ice cream topping, and we top that with chocolate when we use it, so combining the caramel and chocolate into one sauce was a no-brainer. Caramel sauce is not really candy but it involves cooking sugar. This sauce is similar, with the addition of chocolate at the end. The sauce will only be as good as the chocolate you use, so buy a high quality brand. I had Baker’s unsweetened cooking bars on hand but there wasn’t quite enough. Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips, always in my pantry, made up the difference.
One thing I learned the hard way while making caramel sauce is that the heavy cream should be warmed (shoot for around 100ºF) before stirring it into hot sugar syrup. Somehow that tip never made it into any of the recipes I’ve seen. Stirring cold cream into hot syrup not only causes furious bubbling, it makes the sugar seize into a clump, which you may, or more likely will not, be able to vigorously stir back into liquid form. Stir till as much of the lump has dissolved as seems possible and then remove the hardened sugar. The sauce will still be fine. I’ve read that it’s possible to put the sauce back on low heat until the lumps dissolve but have never tried it myself.
I put a candy thermometer into the cooking syrup, just to get a handle on the time and temperature it takes to get the right caramel color. Over medium heat it took about 25 minutes. Do not stir it. You can gently tip the pan back and forth a little, but stirring encourages the sugar to crystallize. The pictures below show the process beginning to end. The middle picture below shows what it looked like at about 250ºF when it started to show a little color. The candy thermometer registered almost 325ºF and it took 25-30 minutes, start to finish, to turn the caramel color of the picture on the right side below. It seems like it takes a long time to color, but watch carefully after it begins to color. It changes quickly and if you let it go too far and burn, there’s no fix.
– Joan, 29 December 2020
Caramel chocolate sauce
- 1 cup (198 grams) sugar
- ¼ cup (78 grams) light corn syrup
- ¼ cup (57 grams) water
- 1⅓ cups (302 grams) heavy cream, warmed to about 100ºF
- 6 oz. (170 grams) good quality baking chocolate, finely chopped
- 2½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
Put the sugar, corn syrup, and water into a heavy pan with high sides, one that will hold about 3 quarts (I use my #22 Le Creuset Dutch oven). Stir ingredients together to mix, then do not stir while it cooks over medium heat. Gently tip the pan back and forth occasionally instead of stirring, to avoid crystallizing the sugar. Depending on the heat level, it should take anywhere from 15-30 minutes to get to an amber, coppery color. Watch carefully once the color begins to darken and remove syrup from heat as soon as it reaches a coppery, amber shade. Immediately pour in the warmed cream, stirring vigorously to combine. If the sugar comes together in a clump, continue stirring until most of it dissolves. Stir in the chopped chocolate till smooth, then add the vanilla and salt. Pour into a glass jar and allow to cool. It will thicken as it cools. Store in the refrigerator. Warm for 30 seconds before serving to make the sauce pourable.