Homemade butterscotch sauce is irresistible and incredibly easy to make. All you need is 5 ingredients and 15 minutes to produce a versatile treat you can also offer as a sweet gift!
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I’m a big fan of caramel, the kind that’s enjoyed from liquid to chewy, depending on the degree it reaches on a candy thermometer. The slightly burnt taste of caramel is intriguing, and my favorite way to enjoy it is by making Salted Butter Caramels, which are difficult to forget once you’ve tasted them.
I admit that, for the longest time, I wasn’t very interested by butterscotch sauce. I saw it as an unsubtle, sweet blanket that completely saturated tastebuds with sugar. I know, that’s terribly judgmental, but I’ll say, first, that I’d tasted mostly only industrially made butterscotch sauce, and second, I’ve changed my mind. In fact, I may have become one of the biggest supporters of homemade butterscotch sauce you’ll ever meet!
This turnaround started when I wanted to make caramel sauce that would turn my Brownies in a Jar into a decadent treat. I first made a textbook caramel sauce, but I wasn’t satisfied with the results: the combination of the slightly bitter, sophisticated flavor of the caramel just didn’t go well with the unfussy brownies I was making. Because I was using butterscotch chips in the brownies, trying a butterscotch sauce seemed like the logical step. I whipped up a batch in a few minutes, not really believing it would live up to my expectations, given how fast and easy it was to make. Well, let’s just say I basically ate that whole first batch by the spoonful. It was that good!
Homemade butterscotch sauce is made with just 5 ingredients you most likely already have in your pantry, and it takes all of 10 minutes to make. There simply is no excuse not to make this amazing butterscotch sauce, but be aware that it’s highly addictive. Once you try it, you’ll be tempted to use it on anything and everything from crepes, cakes, and pies to vanilla bean gelato and roasted fruits—I’ll gladly admit I even dip madeleines in it!
Store butterscotch sauce in cute jars and give it to everyone you love. Homemade butterscotch sauce is an easy, inexpensive gift to make, and I promise the lucky people who receive it will thank you a thousand times over.
Helpful Tips for Making Homemade Butterscotch Sauce
Make it salted—or not: I happen to find salted butterscotch sauce utterly irresistible, but some people might prefer a more straightforwardly sweet sauce. The great thing with homemade butterscotch sauce is that you make it exactly how you like it. If you go the salty route, please, oh please, make sure not to use regular table salt in this recipe. The harsh flavor of iodized salt would be much too strong to create the delicate balance between salty and sweet you’re aiming for. Any type of fine sea salt or flaky sea salt will work, but for the best flavor use French fleur de sel, which not only seasons gently but adds complexity to the flavor. Because salt varieties vary in power, always make sure to add just a pinch at first, then taste and adjust until the sauce tastes delicious. This will prevent you from oversalting and ruining your whole batch of caramel.
Pick your butter carefully: It’s best to use unsalted butter because you get to control how salty the butterscotch sauce will be. If you only have semi-salted or salted butter, omit the salt first, then taste the sauce when it’s done, and adjust the seasoning if you’d like the sauce to have savory notes. If you can, try to find artisan or European butter, which will make the sauce even more aromatic. I like to use cultured butter, which is made with fermented cream and thus develops a fuller flavor and texture.
Use the best vanilla extract you can afford: You do not have to use vanilla extract in butterscotch sauce, but if you use it, make sure to use products labeled “pure vanilla extract,” which are made with real vanilla. Cheaper vanilla extracts are artificially vanilla-flavored, which means the aroma just won’t carry through the sauce. For a truly luxurious touch, use a piece of real vanilla bean or a tiny spoonful of vanilla bean paste. The flavor and aroma of real vanilla is just intoxicating, plus you get those cute vanilla seeds in the sauce, which makes it extra chic.
Play with sugar: To get the signature pale beige color of classic butterscotch sauce, use light brown sugar. For a more assertive flavor and a darker color, try substituting dark brown sugar.
Set a medium saucepan over medium heat, then add the butter and melt it, stirring constantly. Whisk in the cream, brown sugar, and 1/2 tsp (2 ml) of the salt. Bring to a gentle boil, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, whisking a few times throughout. Remove the butterscotch sauce from the heat, then whisk in the vanilla. Taste the sauce (careful not to burn yourself!). Adjust the salt level to your liking.
SERVING: You can serve butterscotch sauce cold from the fridge, room temperature, or warm. To reheat, simply microwave the butterscotch sauce for a few seconds at a low heat setting, stirring every 10 seconds until the sauce is loose and warm.
STORAGE: Butterscotch sauce thickens and becomes paler in color as it cools. Even refrigerated, it remains soft enough to use straight out of the fridge–very handy for sudden cravings! Keep the sauce refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Freezing is not advised.
Tell me how you liked it! Leave a comment or take a picture and tag it with @foodnouveau on Instagram.
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