Homemade caramel is on one of the most versatile Southern dessert recipes to master. Whether you serve it drizzled over a Salted Caramel-Chocolate Pecan Pie, spooned warm over homemade ice cream, use as a dipping sauce for crisp apple slices, or eat it by the spoonful, one thing is certain: everything is better with caramel. Although caramel calls for only six simple ingredients: sugar, water, lemon juice, heavy cream, vanilla extract, and sea salt there is an art to making the perfect caramel. Three key tricks to master for your caramel sauce are starting with the cleanest pot possible, timing to keep the sugar and butter from burning, and stirring to keep all the ingredients smooth and well combined. First, you’ll bring your sugar, water, and lemon juice to a boil over medium heat with the lid on the pot. This should take about 3 minutes or when the liquid is clear – whichever comes first. Then, you remove the lid keep the pot boiling and swirl the pot to keep anything from sticking for about 4 minutes or until the candy thermometer reaches 345 degrees or 350 degrees and the mixture is a medium to dark amber. Take the pot off the heat and slowly whisk in your cream. Don’t worry that the caramel will bubble and splatter. This is to be expected. Place the pot back on the low heat for one minute constantly whisking it until it is a smooth sauce. Remove it from the heat stir in the vanilla and sea salt. Then transfer to a serving bowl or pitcher and chill. The caramel should keep for one week. Caramel can also make a great hostess gift. If you still have any questions about how to make the perfect caramel sauce, watch our Test Kitchen expert demo her perfect method for making caramel.

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