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Homemeade caramel
        OK, I"LL ADMIT IT. WHEN IT COMES TO TECHNOLOGY, I"M A TOTAL DUMMY. My son was wired for it since the day he was born. But I wasn't. I was wired to write things down on clean white sheets of paper in nice long lists that I could triumphantly check off when they're done. But one thing I can't check off my list without help are computer issues. So, when I have a tech question about my computer, WHO DO I RUN TO? MY SON, of course. Sounds like a simple fix right? But my basic questions routinely get LOOKS OF DISBELIEF and ROLLING EYES thrown back at me. Because obviously, it's too simple a question to even warrant an answer. I, yes me, should already know that. But I don't, and EVENTUALLY THE PROBLEM GETS SOLVED. But it's always WITH SHRUGS and GRUNTS interspersed, until the next time I'm technologically challenged, and sheepishly have to go back, once again, to ask him for help.
       Now why do I bring this up? Because like anything you want to learn, THERE IS A LEARNING CURVE. And sometimes fear gets in the way, and you keep putting it off for another day. When you finally bite the bullet and dig into what you were afraid of, 9 TIMES OUT OF 10, you find out that there was "NOTHING TO FEAR BUT FEAR ITSELF." It was easy, and even underwhelming. And then you ask yourself-- WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG??
       Well, besides computers, I have had A BASIC FEAR OF CARAMEL for a long time. Hot sugar can be very intimidating and temperamental--or at least I thought it was. It can burn, crystallize, and bubble violently when other ingredients are added to it --- overflowing your pot and creating an huge mess. Not to mention possibly turning into A BIG INEDIBLE SUGARY MESS. And, then there's the stages and temperatures to deal with--- threads, balls, cracks. And finally you can't do it without a fancy candy thermometer. SOUNDS A BIT SCARY, RIGHT? No wonder I was the slightest bit hesitant.
       But I was finally ready to take on the challenge. What could I stand to lose--a couple cups of sugar and a messy stovetop? So armed with one of the two candy thermometers I own. I forgot about the one I already had in the back of the draw. And with a few caramel recipes to try, I ventured forward to make my first batches of caramel.

LESSONS Learned:
       DON'T BE AFRAID! and don't be deterred by this long winded list Remember it's part of the learning curve. Once you've got it, it will be as easy as pie! Well that one's for another day. Take a peak down the page at how short the actual recipe is, and you'll see just what I mean.

1. Make sure you have a big heavy duty pot. For this recipe, at least 2 quarts. (I use an All Clad saucepan.) And I have a long-handled spoon at the ready, as well as the ever important candy thermometer that you can hook to the side of the pot. Make sure it's positioned all the way to the bottom.
2. Just dump the sugar, corn syrup and water in the pot, NO STIRRING REQUIRED. For extra insurance, try to pour the water around the edge so that the sugar touching the sides of the pot gets dampened. You can gently tilt the pot to help that happen if you like, but it's probably not necessary.
3. DON'T, AND I MEAN DON'T, STIR the pot while it's cooking! Just leave it alone!!--no swirling the pot, no wet brush to wash down the sides.
4. Have all of the rest of your ingredients close by and ready to go. I have the heavy cream, butter, vanilla and salt pre-measured in a glass measuring cup right by the side of the stove.
5. This process requires PATIENCE!! Until you know your stove, you can walk away from the pot, for the first 7 or 8 minutes, afterthat, return every minute or two to check the temperature. It will seem to sit stubbornly at around 220-240 degrees, and you might think you have more time than you actually do. All of a sudden, 10-12 minutes in, it will start to ascend much more quickly up to that 330 degree mark. Some recipes say 320, but I think 330 is better. I know after making this so many times on my stove, that it takes 18 minutes, but your may vary.
6. Once the temperature is reached, remove the mixture from the heat before you add the other ingredients.Spoon the butter in and slowly pour in the rest. Yes, it will bubble a lot, yes even "violently." But instead of FREAKING OUT! just step back and WAIT until the bubbling calms down before you start stirring. Your pot is big enough and your spoon has a nice long handle to avoid rising steam, so you'll be fine.
7. And this is key, and many recipes don't tell you to do this. You may end up with a big brown mass of sugar, at which point you might think that you have ruined the caramel forever. But don't worry. Just place the pot back on the burner over low heat, and keep stirring until it magically becomes smooth, creamy and delicious! Cool to room temperature and store in the fridge.

       THIS CARAMEL SAUCE IS YUMMY!! drizzled over ice cream, or used as a dip for pretzel sticks, pound cake, fruit or even just by the spoonful.


1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into 8 pieces
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup

Make the caramel:
       Combine the heavy cream, butter, vanilla and salt in a 1 cup glass measuring cup. Place the cream mixture and the diced butter near the saucepan on the stove.
       In an heavy bottomed 2 quart saucepan, attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pot Add the sugar. Pour the water around the edges of the pan, so that the sugar touching the sides of the pot is saturated. Add the corn syrup, but don't stir the mixture!
       Over medium to medium-high heat, allow the mixture to cook on its own until it reaches 330 degrees on the thermometer, about 13-16 minutes. Again, don't stir the mixture.
       Remove the pot from the heat. Add the butter, and the cream mixture. It will bubble a lot. Allow the bubbling to subside. Stir to combine as best you can. The mixture may have become lumpy, even one big mass. Don't worry! Place the pot back over low heat, and keep stirring until the caramel is completely smooth. If the mixture begins to boil, remove it from the heat and continue stirring. Cool completely and transfer to a container. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 2 cups. YUM!!
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