Jars and jars of caramel sauce line shelves of gourmet markets, but they’re never as good as you want and way more expensive than they deserve to be. Given the ingredients — sugar, water, butter and vanilla — the store-bought stuff is staggeringly expensive. But caramel sauce is so quick and easy to make at a fraction of the cost at home and the flavor is far superior. Because of the butter, this caramel sauce needs refrigeration but for a pantry-stable version, which is especially great for gifts, just leave it out. It will be less rich but no less delicious!
Make-Ahead Tip: The caramel can be refrigerated for up to 1 month.
Put the sugar and corn syrup into a large saucepan and pour ½ cup of the water all around the edges. Add the vanilla bean and seeds and cook over moderately high heat, stirring just until the sugar is dissolved. Using a pastry brush dipped in water, wash down any sugar crystals from the sides of the pan until the sides are clean.2.
Cook without stirring until a deep amber caramel forms, 10 to 12 minutes, paying close attention. Gently swirl the pan to evenly combine the caramel. Off the heat, carefully add the butter and remaining ½ cup water. The liquid will sputter and bubble furiously. When the bubbling subsides, return to a boil and cook over moderate heat until the hardened caramel is dissolved, about 1 minute. Stir in the salt and let cool. Discard the vanilla bean.
Grace Parisi is a New York City-based food writer, cookbook author and food stylist. Her book, Get Saucy, was nominated for a James Beard award. Her latest book, Quick Pickles comes out in Spring 2016. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.