Butterscotch Bourbon Salted Caramel Sauce

Homemade Bourbon Salted Caramel Sauce – Heaven on a Spoon

Our butterscotch Bourbon salted caramel sauce a one of a kind treat that immediately impresses, adding flavors that build and support each other. So many of the commercial offerings are heavy in calories but with a host of hidden ingredients – preservatives and stabilizers – that just doesn’t seem right. If I’m going to indulge, I want full flavors with nothing else getting in the way, so I started researching and experimenting to get the over-the-top flavors I was looking for.

This is the result – the best parts of 4 or 5 of recipes from our favorite cookbooks and bakers, bringing the best from each to create a truly special occasion topping that has a dazzling flavor but is easy to make. Of course, it is just as scrumptious drizzled in coffee or ice cream, or just about any other treats during the rest of the year!

Homemade Caramel Sauce Recipe

Many recipes – both online and in print – say the process only takes about 10 minutes, but I found that giving myself about a half hour for the entire process made things much easier. I could caramelize the sugars on a lower burner setting at a slower pace, making it easier to watch with less chance of burning. The end result was exceptional – a mix of deep, rich flavors that overlayed each other, creating an amazing taste experience.

Making caramel is simple – sugar is mixed with water and heated. As the temperature rises, the water evaporates and the sugar starts to cook, turning darker as it caramelizes.

The challenge is to caramelize the sugars without burning them, and I’ll show you points along the way so you have a beautiful and delicious caramel at the end!

A nice feature of this recipe is the option to fine-tune the taste to suit you. If you don’t want a butterscotch flavor, simply decrease the butter by half. For a milder bourbon flavor, use half, or simply leave it out if you don’t care for the flavor. For a non-salted caramel flavor, cut the salt in half.

A quick note on ingredients – better flavors come from better ingredients. You will be able to taste the difference between organic cream and butter, as well as organic raw sugar and brown sugar instead of refined commodity white sugar.

We’ll share the recipe first, then walk you through the process in photos and descriptions.


Butterscotch Bourbon Salted Caramel Sauce

This simple homemade caramel sauce is just magic – it has serious flavors and easily outshines anything store-bought. Add some incredible, irresistible flavors to everything from ice cream to fruit, brownies, pies, cheesecakes, coffee, and more!
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Keyword: Caramel sauce

Equipment

  • 2 heavy-bottomed saucepans
  • 1 shallow pan large enough to hold the larger pan from above
  • ice to cool the sauce
  • whisk
  • silicone spatula
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • digital fast-reading thermometer
  • spoons for tasting

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup organic raw sugar more flavor than refined white sugar
  • 1/2 cup organic raw brown sugar has retained molasses for extra richness and color
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup organic heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup organic butter 1 stick of butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons bourbon the heat cooks off the alcohol, leaving on the flavor
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • splash lemon juice helps keep the caramel from hardening and thickening too quickly

Instructions

Preparation

  • Gather all of your ingredients and equipment together before beginning. Once the sugar starts to caramelize, things move quickly and you will need everything in reach.
  • Fill the shallow pan to within about 2" of the top, making sure to leave room for ice cubes. Set aside, away from the direct heat of the stove, but close enough to cool the caramel sauce quickly. You will need to add ice to this water just before quenching the caramel saucepot.

Instructions

  • Add both sugars and water to the larger heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir to combine. Add a splash of lemon juice. Turn heat to low-medium to melt the sugars and evaporate the water.
  • Add the butter and cream to the smaller heavy-bottomed saucepan. Turn the heat on low to melt the butter and mix with the cream.
  • As the sugar and water heat up, very gently stir to mix and melt the sugar into the water. Make sure you don't splash the sugar onto the sides of the pan, as it can burn.
  • Occasionally stir the butter and cream to ensure the butter is completely melted. Once it has melted, turn off the burner and leave the pan on the burner.
  • Closely monitor the sugar pan, as the caramelization process happens quickly at the end. It will begin to bubble as the water evaporates, and you'll smell the lemon juice aroma. The consistency of the syrup will change as it cooks into caramel, and the size and appearance of the bubbles will change as well.
  • As the temperature reaches 220°F the water will be completely evaporated and the lemon aroma will start to disappear. Start dipping the whisk into the syrup and dripping a couple of syrup drops on a white plate or spoon rest every couple of minutes to monitor the color change.
    If the temperature increase slows down or stops, you may need to increase the heat very slightly, depending on how low you started. Remember, the higher the heat, the faster the process – give yourself time to observe and react.
  • Once the temperature reaches 240°F, the caramelization process speeds up. Begin dipping the whisk into the thickening syrup more often, watching for a slight color change along with a thicker consistency.
  • As you reach 250°F, prepare the ice bath. Add ice to the shallow pan and position it in easy reach of the caramel pan.
    At this point, you have about 3-4 minutes left to complete the caramelization process.
  • The final caramelization takes place between 260-265°F, so monitor closely to avoid burning the sugar.
    Once the temperature is 265°F, shut off the heat and quickly but smoothly put the bottom of the caramel pan into the ice bath to stop the cooking. You will see an immediate slowing in the bubbles and the syrup begins to thicken.
    After about 30 seconds in the ice bath, replace the pan onto the same burner that is warm but unlit.
  • Give the butter and cream mixture a quick stir and start adding to the caramel. It will bubble some, but shouldn't spatter. Add about half of the butter and cream mixture, set the pan aside and stir the caramel mixture, making sure to work the bottom and sides of the pan well to get everything thoroughly mixed.
    Finish adding the rest of the butter and cream, stirring well to incorporate completely.
  • The sauce should still be warm and pliable, but cool enough to taste. Add vanilla or salt to your taste and stir well.
    If it cools too much and becomes thick, turn the heat back on very low and stir.
  • If you are adding the bourbon, do it now. Add half, stir in well and taste. It adds an extra dimension to the flavor, so taste and add in as needed to fine-tune to your taste and use.
  • Set pan aside on a cool burner. If using warm, use within a half hour or so, otherwise let cool for at least an hour before pouring into a jar or squeeze bottle.

Here’s How to Make Your Own Caramel Sauce at Home

Start by gathering all of the tools, equipment, and ingredients first. Once the sugar syrup starts to caramelize, the process goes quickly, leaving you with no time to search for a tool or get the ice bath pan ready.

Set the larger and smaller heavy-bottomed saucepans on the stove, and the shallower icebath pan close by, but away from the heat. Fill it with enough water to hold the bottom of the caramel pan without splashing – make sure to give yourself room for adding ice later!

Measure out both of the sugars, the cream, the water, salt and vanilla, and bourbon. I combined the salt and vanilla, as those are added at the same time.

Add both sugars to the larger pan along with the water, add a splash of lemon juice and stir to mix together well. Turn the heat to low-medium.

As the sugar and water begin to heat up, very gently stir to mix and melt the sugar into the water. Make sure you don’t splash the sugar onto the sides of the pan, as it can burn.

Every recipe we read said to never stir the syrup mixture when it is hot – so I tried to see what would happen. As the syrup heats up, the bubbles foam a bit when stirred, so you don’t want to have hot syrup foaming out of the pan!

Add the cream and butter to the smaller pan and turn the heat to low – you want to melt the butter and gently warm the cream. Adding warm butter and cream to the cooled caramel prevents the usual furious bubbling that can splash and burn, while also preventing all of the ingredients from having a burned taste.

Occasionally stir the butter and cream to ensure the butter is completely melted. Once it has melted, turn off the heat and leave the pan on the burner.

Cream and butter melting
Cream and butter melting

Now you wait and watch. Closely monitor the sugar pan, as the caramelization process happens quickly at the end. It will begin to bubble and foam as the water evaporates, and you’ll smell the lemon juice aroma. The consistency of the syrup will change as it cooks into caramel, and the size and appearance of the bubbles will change as well.

As the temperature reaches 220°F the water will be completely evaporated and the lemon aroma will start to disappear. Start dipping the whisk into the syrup every couple of minutes and dripping a couple of syrup drops on a white plate or spoon rest to monitor the color change. If the temperature rise slows down or stops, you may need to increase the heat very slightly, depending on how low you started.

Remember, the higher the heat, the faster the process – give yourself time to observe and react.

Caramel drops
Caramel drops

The color of your caramel may not change much when using raw brown sugar, as the molasses component will give the sugar syrup a golden color to start. That is why you want to check the temperature and taste the drops every couple of minutes. You’ll notice the flavor changing from a sugar syrup to a caramel flavor as the syrup cooks into the caramel.

Once the temperature reaches 240°F, the caramelization process speeds up. Begin dipping the whisk into the thickening syrup more often, watching for a slight color change along with a thicker consistency.

As you reach 250°F, prepare the ice bath. Add ice to the shallow pan and position it in easy reach of the caramel pan. At this point, you have about 3-4 minutes left to complete the caramelization process. The final caramelization takes place between 260-265°F, so monitor closely to avoid burning the sugar.

Once the temperature is 265°F, shut off the heat and quickly but smoothly put the bottom of the caramel pan into the ice bath to stop the cooking. You will see an immediate slowing in the bubbles and the syrup begins to thicken. After about 30 seconds in the ice bath, replace the pan onto the same burner that is warm but unlit.

Give the butter and cream mixture a quick stir and start adding to the caramel. It will bubble some, but shouldn’t spatter. Add about half of the butter and cream mixture, set the pan aside and stir the caramel mixture, making sure to work the bottom and sides of the pan well to get everything thoroughly mixed. Finish adding the rest of the butter and cream, stirring well to incorporate completely.

Adding cream and butter to caramel
Adding cream and butter to caramel

The sauce should still be warm and pliable, but cool enough to taste. Add vanilla or salt to your taste and whisk in well. If it cools too much and becomes thick, turn the heat back on very low and stir.

If you are adding the bourbon, do it now. Add half, whisk in well and taste. It adds an extra dimension to the flavor, so taste and add in as needed to fine-tune to your taste and use.

You’ll notice the color changes from a deep golden brown to a lighter, butterscotch color and the consistency thins out.

Set pan aside on a cool burner. If using warm, use within a half hour or so, otherwise let cool for at least an hour before pouring into a jar or squeeze bottle.

The caramel sauce will thicken up a bit as it cools, to a spoonable or squeezable consistency after an hour or so.

This recipe will make just over a full pint jar, with about a quarter of a half-pint left over.

It is best stored in a refrigerator, as there are no preservatives or stabilizers that are in all of the shelf-stable commercial caramel sauces.

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