Creating the most decadent, thick and creamy caramel sauce is simple. You can either cook it down or use thickening agents to add body.
The Reduction Method
Reducing caramel is a great method because no additional ingredients are needed, but it's essential to keep a close eye on the sauce. Caramel can easily go from golden perfection to a scorched mess.
Bring the mixture to a boil. As the steam evaporates, the caramel naturally thickens. To maximize your chances for success, use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature. Once the caramel hits approximately 335 degrees Fahrenheit, take it off the heat and place the pot in an ice bath to halt the cooking process and prevent the sauce from seizing or becoming too hard to pour.
Adding a Thickening Agent
If reducing the caramel doesn't give you the desired result, add a thickening agent. These are the best options:
- Cornstarch: For each cup of caramel, mix 1 teaspoon cornstarch in 1 tablespoon cold water or cream. Whisk that into the hot caramel and stir constantly while cooking for approximately 2 minutes.
- Arrowroot powder: Arrowroot powder thickens best at lower temperatures, so let the caramel cool slightly. Combine 1 1/2 teaspoons arrowroot powder in 1 tablespoon cold cream or water, and whisk it into the caramel.
- Tapioca starch: For each cup of caramel, use 1 1/2 teaspoons tapioca starch. Mix the starch with enough water or cream to form a paste, then whisk it in.
- Sweet rice flour: Add 1 tablespoon sweet rice flour to each 1/2 cup of cream being used to make the caramel sauce. Whisk sweet rice flour into the cold cream before cooking the caramel. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until you achieve the desired thickness.
Some of the newer cutting-edge thickeners available to home cooks fall under the umbrella concept of molecular gastronomy. These include agar-agar and vegetable gums such as guar gum.