Let’s talk about caramel sauce. Or caramel, for short. If you’ve ever made it, you’ll know that 9 times out of 10 it’s a disastrous mess. It doesn’t work. It becomes gloppy. Crystalized. A waste of ingredients that you angrily chuck into the trash. Well, I have good news for you. My happy discovery that you can use my burnt honey to make a Burnt Honey Caramel Sauce is about to change your caramel-loving world. And waistline.
First, calling a spade a spade: Caramel sauce is delicious. Poured over vanilla ice cream? Perfection. Drizzled over a piece of chocolate cake? Heaven. Mixed up with popcorn? Netflix and gorge. But it’s a pain to make. I mean A PAIN. I mean it is, after all, how shall we say it… French.
I’ve over-cooked it. Undercooked it. Outright scalded it. And no one on the internet who succeeds at making caramel seems to be able to accept that it’s an incredibly frustrating endeavor for those of us who don’t just intuit it. “Oh, you just cook it for 6 minutes and 13 seconds” they say. “Wait until it becomes an amber color, but not TOO amber.” Or my favorite: “Watch for large bubble around the edges that are large only when compared to the other bubbles.”
Sugar 101: From Granulated to Caramel Sauce
Listen, we’re heating sugar over a fire. And as anyone who works with sugar will tell you, sugar goes through different stages as it heats up. Here’s a little list so you can map this out mentally:
- The Soft Ball Stage (234-240°F / 112-115°C)
- This is the temperature you’d use to make fudge, praline, or chewy caramels. In fact, if you want to make caramels why not make a batch of my Burnt Honey Caramels? They’re really good. 👍🏻
- The Firm Ball Stage (242-248°F / 116-120°C)
- At this temperature you can still make chewy caramels (they’ll just be a bit firmer than soft ball stage), marshmallows, and Italian meringue (oh yeah, I’ve got a recipe for that too 🤣).
- The Hard Ball Stage (250-266°F / 122-130°C)
- This is the temperature you’d use to make nougat, divinity and toffee.
- The Soft Crack Stage (270-290°F / 132-143°C)
- This is the temperature you’d use to make butterscotch, and taffy.
- The Hard Crack Stage (295-310°F / 146-155°C)
- This is the temperature you’d use to make glazed fruit, hard candy, and spun sugar (just don’t spin sugar in your kitchen… what a mess).
- The Caramel Stage (320-360°F /160-182°C)
- Finally the sugar will change color. Starting at light gold and winding up at dark amber. When sugar gets this hot you can make praline, brittle, and caramel sauce.
To make a caramel sauce we need to get the sugar to the caramel stage. And you can see that this means we actually need to get the sugar REALLY FREAKING HOT. Somewhere between 320-360°F. Can you eyeball 340°F? I can’t.
Burnt Honey 101: My At-Home Experiment
Well, here comes a little nugget of information that will change your caramel-making life: Honey “burns” at 340°F. How do I know this? Because I stuck a thermometer in it until it started to smoke. Several times. Over the course of several days. Burnt honey is very consistent. It always smokes at 340°F (170°C).
That means that if you use honey to make your caramel sauce no candy thermometer is needed. No watching for a subtle color change is necessary. No doing anything other than waiting until you see smoke and then dousing that smoke with a healthy pour of cream and butter is required.
How will you know when your honey starts to smoke? You’ll know.
The real bonus though, and what you’ll never get with any other type of sugar is that lovely, elusive, slightly floral taste that honey provides. It’s nature’s sweetener after all, made from the pollen of flowers, and there’s nothing like it.
So with massive apologies to the rest of the internet, and to the entire nation of France (La vérité est que j’adore la France), here is a caramel sauce recipe that you can make anytime, and every time: Burnt Honey Caramel Sauce.
No candy thermometer is needed if you use honey to make your caramel sauce. Bonus: You’ll get that elusive, lovely, slightly floral taste that only honey provides.
- 1 cup honey (250 milliliters / 330 grams)
- 1 cup heavy cream (250 milliliters)
- 2 tablespoons butter (30 grams)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- Combine your heavy cream, butter, vanilla extract, and salt in a measuring cup and have it ready.
- Put your honey in a high-sided saucepan and turn the fire to medium high. Cook, swirling the pan until the honey smokes. Once it smokes cook it for maybe 30 seconds more until it’s really smoking and you start becoming slightly concerned that this science experiment you have engaged in is going to go awry.
- Take the pan off the heat and pour in your measuring cup of heavy cream, butter, vanilla extract and salt. Please be careful here as your honey will go absolutely mad when you do this. Stir with a wooden spoon, or silicon spatula, until everything has combined.
- Pour into a container and refrigerate. The caramel sauce will become thicker as it cools.
Your Burnt Honey Caramel will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks. It probably won’t last that long, but that’s about how long it would keep if you didn’t eat it.
Keywords: honey, caramel