The yearly debate over if apple or pumpkin deserves to be the top fall flavor overlooks a crucial complement. There’s a fall staple that transitions smoothly from Halloween treats to part of a Thanksgiving feast. That’s right—let’s talk about caramel.
What is Caramel and What Can it Be Used For?
Caramel results from caramelizing—or crystalizing sugar at a high temperature. The top of crème brulee is an example of caramelized sugar. But the sweet caramel we cover popcorn balls and apples in requires a few additional steps, and our favorite food category makes caramel even better.
Caramel takes crystalized sugar and mixes it with milk and other ingredients. If you have made flan before, the preparation process is similar. If you want a hard candy or a sauce to drizzle on everything sweet or salty, you need to add dairy and flavorings to your caramelized sugar.
For dessert, top your ice cream with caramel sauce made by mixing caramelized sugar with cream, butter, and vanilla, or butterscotch sauce made with brown sugar, butter, and cream. (Yep, the difference between caramel and butterscotch is the type of sugar used.) This ice cream recipe includes an easy way to make a salted caramel sauce.
And if you prefer to buy caramel sauce instead of risking burning the sugar, there are great desserts the store-bought stuff can elevate, too. These mini sweet and salty pies taste great with a drizzle of caramel sauce and toffee. (Again, the difference between the two is slight. Toffee is made from sugar and butter. It doesn’t include milk or cream used in caramel, but it delivers a similar great taste.)
But that isn’t all caramel can do. Caramel candies are made by boiling milk or cream, sugar, butter, and vanilla and are a good choice when wanting to savor the flavor. These caramel tarts offer a sweet way for you and your guests to enjoy caramel in a two-bite treat.
As you enjoy your favorite fall flavors, don’t forget the role caramel plays in your favorite treats.