4Tablespoonsbutter (salted or unsalted)1room temperature, cut into 4 pieces
1/2cupheavy whipping cream2room temperature
1 to 2Tablespoonsbourbon4
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Use a heat-resistant spatula or whisk to stir frequently. Sugar will start to turn colors as it cooks. Keep a careful eye on the color to determine when it's done. The progression is champagne color to light brown to light amber to dark amber. When it is dark amber (a golden/red brown), remove from heat.
Immediately but carefully add the butter. Mixture will start to bubble, but stir quickly with spatula or whisk to incorporate the butter as it melts.
When all of the butter is melted, slowly drizzle in the heavy cream while continuing to stir or whisk the mixture. It will bubble rapidly. This is ok.
Once all of the heavy cream is incorporated, add the salt and bourbon to your liking. Allow to cool before using (it will thicken as it cools). Store leftovers in the refrigerator up to 1 month. Bourbon will settle to the bottom, so stir before using each time. Heat in microwave or on the stovetop before using. Caramel will be fine at room temperature for a day or two if it needs to travel. Caramel may be frozen, up to 3 months. Thaw in refrigerator and warm as needed.
Salted or unsalted butter is fine in this recipe. No changes to salt in recipe necessary.
Heavy cream is the same thing as whipping cream. Either is fine for this recipe, but do not use milk.
Use regular table salt, kosher salt, or sea salt. I prefer "fine sea salt." If using a larger, coarser salt, add 1 teaspoon, taste, and add more if necessary. If you are concerned about too much salt, add 3/4 teaspoon, taste, and add more if desired. Do not leave salt out completely. If you don't want "salted" caramel sauce, reduce to 1/2 teaspoon.
Leaving out the bourbon in this recipe will give you plain ol' salted caramel sauce. Two Tablespoons gives a very strong bourbon flavor. If you're worried about too much of a bourbon flavor, start with 1/2 Tablespoon, taste, and add more if desired.
Do not double this recipe. Cooking sugar is a very finicky technique. Make multiple batches if necessary.