Ooey-gooey caramel sauce

I saw the movie "Julie & Julia" last Sunday, and since then kept my promise to spend less time in front of the computer and more time playing in the kitchen. The movie - and Julia Childs story - reminded me why I enjoy cooking, partly for the love of food and partly for the challenges of preparing it. I set aside a few hours today to do just that.

And what better way than by making caramel sauce. I began by looking for the perfect caramel sauce recipe, one that is sophisticated, yet fun - a true caramel sauce I could drizzle over mini cheesecakes, ooze between layers of vanilla ice-cream or maybe give as gifts for the holidays. And I found one.

My first attempt was derailed by disaster; it burned. Not to be discouraged, I nailed the puppy on my second try. There is a fine line between success and burning it. You have to keep your eyes on the sauce as it turns amber in color.

Serve the caramel sauce warm, or keep it in the fridge for up to a month in an airtight container. When the sauce is cold, it has the consistency of peanut butter. It can be reheated gently in the microwave.
The recipe calls for 1/4 cup creme fraiche. I couldn't find it at my local grocery store, so I substituted Crema Mexicana. You can find Crema Mexicana in the dairy section of your local supermarket.

Creamy Caramel Sauce

1/4 cup water

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1/2 cup heavy cream, warmed to 100 degrees

1/4 cup creme fraiche

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

pinch of salt

Wash and dry your hands thoroughly. In a medium saucepan, combine the water, cup of sugar and corn syrup. Stir them together with very clean fingers, making sure no lumps of dry sugar remain. Brush down the inside of the pan with a little water, using your fingers to feel for stray granules of sugar. Cover the saucepan, and place it over medium heat for 4 minutes. After 4 minutes, remove the lid, increase the heat and bring to a boil. Do not stir from this point on. Keep an eye on the sauce. It will become very bubbly.

As the sugar cooks, the bubbles get larger and the sugar, and the sauce turns golden brown. Insert a candy thermometer, and when the temperature reaches 300 degrees, lower the heat to medium to slow the cooking. Continue to cook the sugar until it reaches 335 degrees. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit for about 2 minutes, until the bubbles subside.

Add the heavy cream to the caramel. The mixture will bubble up vigorously, so be careful. Stir in the creme fraiche, tablespoon of sugar, lemon juice and salt. Serve warm.

Source: Adapted from "Desserts By The Yard," by Sherry Yard

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