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 unique and intriguing and my favorite way to enjoy it is by making Vanilla Caramels with Fleur de Sel, which are difficult to forget once you’ve had the chance to taste them.
Until recently, I’ll admit I was a bit of a snob regarding butterscotch sauce, which I saw as a cheap and unsubtle version of caramel you bought in jars at the grocery store. I know, that’s terribly judgmental, but let me reassure you, I’ve changed my mind since; in fact, I may have become one of the biggest butterscotch advocates you’ll ever meet. It all started when I wanted to make caramel sauce to give with my Brownies in a Jar so it could turn the dessert into a decadent treat. I did make a regular caramel but I wasn’t satisfied with the results: the taste felt too “adult” for the unpretentious dessert I wanted to make. Because I was using butterscotch chips in the dessert, making a butterscotch sauce was the next logical step. I whipped a batch in a few minutes, not really believing it would be that good considering how fast and easy it was to make. Well, let’s just say I’m eating it by the spoonful now.
The sauce is made with just 5 ingredients I’m sure you already have in your pantry and it will take you all of 10 minutes to make it. Don’t skimp on the quality of the vanilla extract you use in the recipe though; it literally makes the sauce. To make it extra special, add the seeds of a short piece of vanilla pod: the addition will transport your taste buds to a warm, exotic island.
There simply is no excuse not to try 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, waffles and pound cake to ice cream and roasted fruits – heck, I’d even dip cookies in it. Pour it in cute little jars and it makes for a beautiful, delightful and, yes, easy hostess gift.
The Best and Easiest Butterscotch Sauce Ever
Makes 1½ cups sauce (recipe can easily be halved)
See notes for additional information about the ingredients.
½ cup [125 ml / 1 stick] unsalted butter
1 cup [250 ml] packed brown sugar
1 cup [250 ml] heavy cream
½ to 1 tsp [2.5 to 5 ml] sea salt or fleur de sel
2 tsp [10 ml] best-quality pure vanilla extract (such as Nielsen-Massey)
Optional: Seeds scraped from a 1½-inch [4-cm] piece of vanilla bean
Melt the butter in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar, cream and ½ tsp [2.5 ml] salt and whisk until the ingredients are well blended. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract and vanilla seeds, if using, whisking to combine. Taste the sauce; if you feel it still needs a little salt, sprinkle more until you reach a flavor that makes your head spin with delight.
Serve the sauce warm or cool. The sauce does thicken a little as it cools, but it still remains soft enough that you can spoon it straight out of the fridge (very handy for sudden cravings!). Store in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
- Butter: Using unsalted butter is preferable because you control how salty your sauce becomes. If you only have semi-salted or salted butter, simply omit the salt, taste the sauce at the end, and adjust the seasoning if it needs it.
- Best-quality vanilla extract: This is another thing I’m a snob about. You simply should never use cheap, $2 a bottle vanilla extract in any recipe; the taste just doesn’t cut it. Nielsen-Massey vanilla is a gourmet product, but a little goes a long way. For the past few years though, I’ve been making my own vanilla extract: it’s easy, you can refill the bottle endlessly, and it tastes just as good as the expensive stuff. Try it!
- Salt: Don’t use regular table salt in this recipe. Its harsh taste would be much too strong for the sweet sauce. Any kind of sea salt (flaky or fine) is good, but for the best taste use fleur de sel, which has a deliciously subtle salty flavor that goes perfectly with sweets. Because every salt’s salting power varies widely, always add a little at a time, tasting as you go, to make you don’t ruin your caramel.
- Lactose-free butterscotch sauce: Because I’m lactose-intolerant, I have tested the recipe both with regular butter and cream and with goats’ milk butter and lactose-free cream. Both results were just as delicious (and showed very little difference in flavor), so feel free to use easier-to-digest substitutes if need be. Goats’ milk butter is fine for me, but I know it does contain some lactose, albeit much less than regular, cows’ milk butter. If you successfully make the sauce with another type of butter or cream (soy, rice, etc.), please let me know, I’ll be curious to try it!
Recipe Credit: Adapted from The Washington Post.