For as long as I’ve had the faculty of memory, and for as long as he was alive, my Grandad ate butterscotch or caramel sundaes for dessert. Sometimes it was a variation on the theme; bananas sautéed with butter and brown sugar (add some rum, stick a match to them and you could call it bananas Foster) were the biggest request when my Grandma was gone and my mom went to stay with him. It’s difficult to imagine anything simpler or more of a comfort than bananas sautéed in butter and sugar and spooned over ice cream or warm pancakes or wrapped in a crepe.
On regular weeknights he had vanilla ice cream with butterscotch marble, or a dish of plain vanilla with butterscotch or caramel syrup drizzled over top. During one visit my Dad attempted to impose his own healthy eating habits on him; since Grandad never dished out his own ice cream – my Grandma would go serve it up while he stayed in his usual seat at the end of the table, so that behind him you could see the Detroit river and behind that, a sparkling, towering downtown – I was sent out of the kitchen to the dining room with a dish of a sugarless vanilla frozen soy product doused with extra caramel to disguise its inauthenticity. I’m not sure why he thought we’d get away with it. We didn’t.
I heart caramel. I really do, and yet I’m never inclined to order a caramel sundae. I just don’t think of it in the face of chocolate or hot fudge. But when I do get a taste, I adore it. Remembering this, and my Grandad (who lived to be 94), I made a batch of caramel sauce – tweaking a recipe for chewy fleur de sel caramels – and bought a tub of vanilla ice cream. (I couldn’t make the ice cream from scratch too – I just couldn’t. I knew in my gut that it would cause me to eat the entire batch of both if I did.)
I drizzled the caramel sauce over the ice cream and sprinkled it with salt – flaky pink salt from the Himalayas that N brought me a jar of, and then I tried a bite with a pinch of crackly Maldon salt, and then grey salt. You know, for research purposes. Hey, I can’t help it – it’s my job.
That pants falling down business? I nipped it right in the bud.
Caramel Sauce with Grey (or other nice) Salt
This keeps very well in the fridge, but it’s a large batch – enough for an extra jar to share with someone you really, really like.
1 cup golden syrup (Roger’s or Lyle’s – I used Roger’s)
2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
a few drops lemon juice
2 cups cream – whipping cream (35%), coffee cream (18%) or half & half (10%), or a combination
2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. pure vanilla
good, flaky salt – fleur de sel, Maldon, pink – for serving with
In a heavy saucepan, combine the syrup, sugar, salt and lemon juice and cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves completely and the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash any sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes.
Uncover the pan, attach a candy thermometer to the edge and and cook uncovered, without stirring, swirling the pan once in awhile until the mixture reaches 305°F. Meanwhile, bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan; turn off the heat and set aside.
When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter, then whisk in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam. Turn the burner back on and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool completely.
Store in the fridge; when ready to serve, reheat (if you like) and drizzle over ice cream, cake or your finger; sprinkle lightly with flaky salt immediately before serving.
Makes about 3 cups.
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