Strawberry fee-eelds foreverrrr.
Love that song! (Not only that, I've seen, with my very own eager little eyes, those beautiful strawberry fields in the story-book English countryside that really do go on forever. But I digress. That happens to me all the time when something reminds me of England!)
Oh yeah and, absolutely, I love fresh strawberries too. In fact, they're one of my tip top loves.
But, who am I kidding?
It's all about the W A R M C A R A M E L S A U C E. It always is! Me and caramel go together like well, like the moon and the stars, like The Beatles and Hey Jude, like long-lost, new-found cousins and the old fam damily. Yup, hard to beat caramel. Yum-O.
Yesterday the in-laws were coming for dinner. A quickie grocery run was in order. You just have to give them credit, those grocers are so smart! Right inside the entrance to the grocery store, piled high in all their ruby-red gorgeousness were one of my favorite summer delights. Strawberries. Begging to be taken home.
No begging necessary! I fondled the almost valentine-shaped berries a bit, I inhaled that unmistakeable, glorious, fruity sweetness and without even trying, thought of ice cream. And warm caramel.
Effortless decision making. Warm caramel strawberry sundaes for dessert. Happy, happy.
I post this recipe with a warning. If you like caramel, this stuff is dangerous! It won't only be strawberries that give you yet another excuse for this delicious, dark, gooey liquid candy......bananas, fresh pineapple, mangoes, blueberries....................well you get the idea.
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Here we go.......I will tell you right from the get-go, this caramel sauce is a little bit finicky. It just is. It demands your attention for a few minutes. My mom always said, 'good things come to those who wait'. She was so right!
I think, in the beginning, a few years back I snagged the caramel sauce recipe from Martha Stewart. But now it's mine, all mine, with hat in hand to Martha, who really does it up like nobody else.
Now, let's get those sundaes happening. First wash, hull and slice your strawberries. Sprinkle with a bit of sugar, stir them up and let those babies macerate for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.
The caramel sauce is easy peasy to begin with, just put the sugar, salt and water in a medium-smallish pot over medium heat. You MUST wash the sides of the pan, every couple of minutes, with a pastry brush dipped in water to prevent crystals from forming.
After the sugar syrup mixture boils gently for a few minutes, the bubbles themselves start to change. They look gooey-er, bigger, they plop as they simmer differently.
I swirl the pot periodically, instead of stirring, to make sure sugar syrup mixture is cooking evenly. But you have to swirl gently as you don't want the syrup to skooch up the sides of the pot at all. Continue, watching, tending, brushing, swirling the mixture until it reaches a medium amber colour. In our house we err on the side of just a smidge darker than amber, cuz we liked that 'burnt sugar' hint to our caramel sauce. The first couple of times making this sauce I would aim for medium amber though. Once you get to medium, everything goes really quickly and if you're not johnny-on-the-spot, you'll end up with darkness that cannot be saved from a BITTER ending. Do not leave the room when you are aiming for amber!
Here's the delectable journey from sugary white syrup to that medium-dark amber that we like best.
The split second you see the medium amber you're looking for, remove the pot from the heat, stand way back and add the heavy cream, butter and vanilla. Be warned, adding the whipping cream to the hot syrup causes wonderful sugary eruptions in the pot. It dies down quickly, but there's exciting action in that moment. Reward for standing vigil to ensure amber perfection.
WARM CARAMEL STRAWBERRY SUNDAES
1-2 pints fresh strawberries
2-4 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt (I use Kosher or sea salt)
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon good quality vanilla
Good quality vanilla ice cream
Wash, hull and slice strawberries into a bowl. Sprinkle with enough sugar to sweeten. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or up to 4 hours.
For caramel sauce - Have a pastry brush and cup or small dish ready with some cold water. In a small-ish medium pot add sugar, salt and water. Stir, stir. Cook, gently swirling the pot every once in awhile so syrup cooks evenly, over medium heat until syrup is medium amber colour, about 8-12 minutes. Be sure to wash sides of pot with the pastry brush dipped in water every couple of minutes to prevent crystals from forming. Immediately remove from heat. Carefully stir in heavy cream. Add butter and vanilla and stir until velvety smooth. Let cool to room temperature. Sauce can be made ahead or stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Reheat gently to warm up for sundaes.
For sundaes, scoop 2-3 balls of vanilla ice cream into bowls, top with juicy berries and drape warm caramel sauce over the top. Heaven. In a bowl.