I consider myself a pretty top-notch baker, but when it comes to caramel, I still end up throwing out a batch for every three or so. What gives? Is it my lack of patience? My inability to discern what in the world “golden brown” means? Or is it simply that caramel is difficult to make , despite its easiness to eat? My traditional (sugar + water + butter + cream) caramels almost never taste exactly the same, though the unburnt batches are always some variation of delectable.
What if we could circumvent this entire ordeal altogether and, oh, make caramel in the microwave ?!
What if it only took six minutes?!
That, my friend, would be a world in which we ate a lot more caramel.
Get our your pilates DVD’s, you guys, because it’s a reality. The microwave produces perfect, incredibly delicious caramel in less than ten minutes. The different sugars provide a depth you’ll love, and the salt delivers a slightly salted finish that lingers with the sweetness. It’s truly great stuff.
I typically whip up a batch of caramel that includes dark brown sugar and corn syrup when I’m making caramel apples and “caramallows”, inspired by the caramel-wrapped fresh marshmallows from See’s Candies I grew up on. The caramel might not be completely traditional (see above formula), but it’s rich and has an incredible depth. Last year, some of my friends came over after I’d made a tray of caramel apples. They devoured the apples, then rummaged through my pantry until they found a bag of tortilla chips.
Which they proceeded to use to scoop up the fallen caramel on my Silpat. Like nachos. Caramel nachos. (Which.. actually sounds amazing. Stay tuned for a dessert nacho recipe. Guarantee, viral on Pinterest.)
I made this recipe to stuff little bites of sweet, salty caramel inside dense, spiced apple muffins for a fall treat. My expectations were completely and utterly blown.
I wanted the caramel to be fairly tall and thick, but you could easily cool it just a little in the bowl and dip apples, or cool on a baking sheet lined with overhanging parchment to make your own caramallows (check out this awesome recipe, where I found the 6-minute microwave caramel process!). For “salted caramels “, try pouring the hot caramel into a loaf pan for straight edges.
I kid you not, while gushing over this newfound masterpiece at lunch with my mom, this sassy lady popped around the booth. I thought she was going to scold us for being too loud and, I don’t know, enthusiastic , but instead, she begged for the recipe. I gave it to her.. and, of course, a link to my blog (Hey girl!). She folded up the paper and stuffed it in her top, which she called “Mama’s pocketbook”. Hilarious.
Look at that, caramel bringing people together!
The process goes as follows: soften butter. Mix ingredients. Microwave. Stir. Microwave. Stir. Microwave. Stir. Pour. Cool. DEVOUR.
Could it get any better?
Six-Minute Microwave Salted Caramel
Adapted from Rook No. 17
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 a stick)
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup light corn syrup (or dark, for a richer taste)
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Good flake salt as garnish (I use Maldon)
Special equipment: medium to large microwave-safe bowl
1. Line a heat-proof dish* with parchment coated lightly with cooking spray. Allow the parchment to hang over the sides. Do this by laying parchment down one way, with excess hanging over the sides. Turn the dish one-quarter turn and lay another layer of parchment down, with excess hanging over the sides. Then spray with cooking spray.
2. Microwave the butter in the microwave-safe bowl just a few seconds, until softened.
3. Combine remaining ingredients (except flake salt garnish) and stir to mix.
4. Microwave 2 minutes. Stir.
5. Microwave 2 minutes. Stir. (If making a caramel sauce, stop here and cool in the bowl. If making thicker, more candy-like caramels or caramel apples, continue)
6. Microwave 2 minutes. Stir. (If making caramel apples, let cool just slightly, then dip apples. Aid this process by scratching the surface of the apple with sandpaper before dipping. Cool on a parchment-lined baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.)
7. Pour caramel into prepared dish. Let cool 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove from dish using parchment edges and let cool another 1 hour.
8. Cut and serve. Running your sharp knife under cool water helps this process!
*The width of your dish will determine the height of your caramel. I used a plain flat-bottomed cereal bowl, because I wanted tall caramels and didn’t mind the shape of their edges, as I’ll be rolling them a bit and pushing them into apple muffin batter. If you want thick caramel candies, try a loaf pan. If you want a thin caramel you can wrap around marshmallows, etc., try a jelly roll pan. Never forget the parchment though!6