Made From Scratch: Salted Caramel Sauce

I'm totally two years late to the salted caramel sauce game. But who cares -- even if it's old news, it's still delicious, right? (Right.) Making caramel sauce can be an ordeal; truth be told my first batch went straight into the rubbish bin. A candy thermometer is definitely your friend when it comes to making caramel sauce. Pay close attention to the temperature (the magic number is 350 degrees F), as the sauce can go from "delicious" to "burnt" in an instant. Secondly, although you should stir the sugar as it begins to melt to ensure even heating, stop stirring once the sugar has completely melted. I did not heed this advice in my first go-around and my caramel seized (clumped) up when I stirred in the butter and heavy cream. Choose your ingredients wisely; since there are only four ingredients, you should use the best-quality (and freshest) options that you can find. Also, take the time to let your butter cubes and heavy cream come to room temperature before you begin. Doing so will help prevent consistency issues with your caramel sauce. Though it takes a bit of work, when done correctly, the resulting salted caramel sauce is sumptuous -- and the perfect decadent topping for ice cream, brownies, or cupcakes, or swirl in a spoonful to your morning latte or use it as a dip for freshly-cut apple slices. Oh man, I can't wait to give all those options a whirl!

Salted Caramel Sauce (printer-friendly version)
makes about 1 cup

1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes
1/2 cup organic heavy cream, at room temperature
2 teaspoons Maldon sea salt flakes

1. Add the granulated sugar in an even layer into a 3-quart heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Heat over medium-high heat. Stir with a whisk as the sugar melts. The sugar will be clumpy, but keep stirring. Once the sugar has completely melted, stop stirring. Instead, carefully swirl the pan over the burner to prevent uneven cooking.
2. Continue cooking until the sugar reaches 350 degrees. (The melted sugar will be dark amber in color.) Carefully stir in the butter (the mixture will bubble up) until completely melted and incorporated. Turn off the burner and remove the pan from the heat. While stirring constantly, slowly pour in the heavy cream (the mixture will again bubble up). Continue stirring until the cream is completely incorporated. Stir in the sea salt flakes. Let cool for 15 minutes.
3. Pour the salted caramel sauce into a jar with a lid and let cool to room temperature. The salted caramel can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks. Reheat the caramel sauce before using.

(adapted from this Brown Eyed Baker recipe)