Caramel has become a new obsession recently (not in terms of eating – that was already an obsession – but in terms of making, particularly in making homemade caramel sauces). It took a while, but after trying several different methods and ingredient combinations I’m now set with a go-to caramel sauce recipe that is perfect for all caramel sauce needs. Make thicker or thinner depending on use and it’s perfect as an ice cream topping, cookie or cake filling, or however your heart desires, really. It can be salted or unsalted, whatever strikes your fancy. In my household, we’re big fans of the salted caramel. It doesn’t (as I’d originally feared it would) make a dessert salty instead of sweet (which would be weird and just plain wrong), but enhances the flavors of whatever it’s paired with. It’s difficult to describe to someone who hasn’t tried it before. Suffice it to say I believe everyone should give salted caramel a go, because it’s amazing.
Depending on your level of love for salted caramel, you can salt just the caramel sauce or salt the sauce as well as sprinkle some additional sea salt on top of the cookies. Personally, I love the few crystals of salt on top, but do whatever you’re comfortable with. Honestly, these cookies are amazing regardless of the quantity of salt in the caramel. You could certainly make them with regular caramel sauce instead if you can’t have the extra salt in your diet or (gasp) are just not that into the salted caramel thing.
As for the caramel sauce… I have a love-hate relationship with homemade. I love when it works with a perfectly smooth consistency and gives me a sense of accomplishment. I hate when (which happens more often than I’d like) something throws it off and not only is the end product not a usable caramel sauce but now I have to re-make it (either risking it again homemade-style or buying packaged caramels). This delays the cookie filling and eating, which is all kinds of not ok.
So with that said, honestly feel free to melt down packaged caramels with heavy cream, which guarantees success, and call it a day. Truth be told, in the end the sauce tastes the same (to me, anyway) whether it’s homemade or made from melting down packaged caramels.
If you are going to try the homemade (meaning, in particular, my recipe below, since depending on recipe certain things might be different), there are some crucial components to yield a happy ending:
- Have all of your ingredients and materials ready and next to the stove before you turn on the burner.
- Don’t scrape down the sides of the pan when the sugar crystals form (if you do, then you will end up with a sauce that has an undesirable crystallized texture). Instead, use a wet pastry brush to wipe the inside of the pan.
- Make sure the heat of the burner never goes above medium. Because, caramel science. If you know your stove is an over-achiever and medium on your stove equates to medium-high in the real world, adjust accordingly. Never go above real world medium heat level.
- “To stir or not to stir” depends on the recipe and must be strictly adhered to (again, it affects whether the caramel ends up with a crystallized texture). With my recipe, there are times you need to stir and other times you need to just say no.
So to summarize, caramel sauce from scratch is, in theory, a fairly simple thing to make. In practice, however, it can end with a pot full of failure and you crying on the floor of the kitchen. The most important thing to take away here though is that these cookies are divine. They have a great blend of textures, with the soft cookie, crunchy pecan pieces and smooth caramel, and flavors, combining sweet and salty to create cookie perfection. However you choose to make your caramel, they will be delicious and devoured by everyone who is lucky enough to get some of them.