Caramel and Red Velvet: it was love at first sight.
Here at Red Velvet NYC, caramel holds a special place in our hearts – we like to use it as the perfect pairing to rich vanilla bean custard in our Crème Caramel. Dee-licious! And you know what the best part about caramel is (besides its deliciously sweet taste)? Caramel is actually fairly easy to make once you’ve got a few simple tricks down. So take out your heat-proof spatula and saucepan – it’s time to whip up the perfect caramel!
First you’ll need the right equipment
To make a great batch of caramel, you’ll need to use a few tools. The first piece of equipment you’ll need is a saucepan. Keep in mind, however, that not all saucepans will withstand the high temperature of boiling caramel. Avoid saucepans that have been lined with a tin or nonstick coating, as these materials can easily get ruined from overheating. Instead, go with an unlined copper or aluminum saucepan – both conduct heat well and will help your caramel cook evenly.
In addition to the right saucepan, you’ll also need a heat-resistant spatula for stirring – we suggest using a spatula made from either silicone or wood. This will ensure it doesn’t burn. We also recommend using a high-temperature candy thermometer, which will keep your caramel from burning (but we’ll get to that part a little later).
Got your equipment? Then let’s make some caramel!
Caramel is essentially melted and cooked sugar, which can be made with water for a liquid caramel or without water for a solid caramel – for now we’ll just focus on making liquid caramel.
The first thing you want to do is to pour your granulated sugar into your saucepan, adding a small amount of water to moisten the sugar and help it dissolve. Allow it to sit in the pan on high heat for a few minutes until the sugar reaches a roaring boil (don’t start stirring just yet, or your caramel could end up grainy). At this point the mixture will look like this:
Keep the sugar mixture over high heat until it begins to turn a golden brown (this happens when the water has started to evaporate). Once the caramel has started to change color, the sugar has dissolved and you can now start stirring continuously with your spatula. NOTE: the caramel will be VERY hot at this point, so be sure to handle it carefully.
After you’ve started to stir the caramel, you’ll need to keep an eye on it, because at this point in the process it can cook very quickly (and burn in a matter of seconds!) – this is where your kitchen thermometer will come in handy! Liquid caramel should be cooked until it reaches about 350 degrees, give or take a few. It will have a nice golden color, not too light and not too dark, and it will have a sweet yet robust flavor.
When the caramel is done cooking, set it aside and let it cool. To be safe, we suggest submerging the bottom of the saucepan in cold water, so that the caramel doesn’t continue to cook. After that, it’s ready to serve!