But many cooks shy away from making their own caramel. Though the process involves nothing more than melting sugar on the stovetop, it can be tricky.
The sugar must be heated slowly and carefully to avoid overbrowning or even burning—an all-too-easy occurrence even when you’re using a thermometer. Plus standing over a pot of bubbling molten sugar can feel intimidating.
Our microwave method eliminates these concerns. The sugar melts behind the closed door of the microwave; you don’t even have to stir it.
There’s no chance of burning the caramel, since we pull it from the microwave well before it’s fully caramelized and rely on carryover cooking to finish browning it on the counter. Stopping the cooking is as simple as stirring in hot cream.
It’s so fast and easy, you can have a jar of stress-free caramel sauce ready for drizzling before your ice cream has had time to soften up for scooping.
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How to Make Homemade Caramel Sauce in the Microwave
There are two common approaches to making caramel. With a “dry” caramel, sugar is heated alone. We prefer a “wet” caramel, where a small amount of water is added to the sugar, which helps the grains distribute, melt, and caramelize more evenly. We also add corn syrup and lemon juice, both of which help prevent crystallization that can create a grainy texture.
Note that for even heating without stirring, our microwave method only works with 1 cup of sugar. It will yield approximately 1¼ cups caramel.
1. Stir 1 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons corn syrup, 2 tablespoons water, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon lemon juice together in 2-cup microwave-safe measuring cup or glass bowl.
2. Microwave on full power until mixture reaches 320 to 330 degrees and is just beginning to change color, 5 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, heat ½ cup heavy cream to keep at the ready.
3. Remove caramel from microwave and let it sit on dry surface for 5 minutes or until it darkens to honey brown.
4. Stir hot cream into caramel a few tablespoons at a time (so caramel won't seize up), then add 1 tablespoon butter. Serve immediately, or if storing, cover and keep refrigerated. Warm chilled caramel briefly in microwave before serving.
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4 Easy Ways to Flavor Caramel Sauce
Simply stir the flavoring into the hot cream in step 4 before adding the mixture to the caramel.