Today I tried to make caramel and failed. I was envisioning cornmeal cake with caramel sauce, but things did not work out so well.
Everything was going okay at this point, but then I got impatient because nothing was happening and I turned up the heat. I can tell you from experience that sugar burns very quickly. Zero to beyond repair in five seconds.
In order to avoid setting off the fire alarm, I went outside for a few minutes with my pan of burning sugar and waited in the grass for the smoking to mellow. Afterward, I tried to rescue it it by adding extra heavy cream.
The end result was runny and bitter. Caramel is not supposed to be this color. I wanted to try again, but I had run out of heavy cream and time.
Things I learned from caramel today:
Turning up the heat is not always the best option
Pay attention, things happen all at once
Some things are not salvageable
And I think those may be applicable in more circumstances than this.
Here's the recipe (adapted from Bon Appetit), I think it would have been delicious had I taken the pan off the heat thirty seconds earlier:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
3 Tblsp. butter
1 cup heavy cream
Over medium heat, stir together the sugar and water until dissolved. Turn up the heat until boiling, and boil (paying very close attention!) for 10 minutes until sugar is amber colored. I would take the pan off the heat almost as soon as any color shows up, because it will continue to cook for a few seconds after the heat is removed.
Add the butter and whisk, then gradually whisk in the cream. The sugar will sizzle as you add the sugar and cream, so add things slowly and whisk quickly until everything is incorporated and mixture is smooth
Let cool to room temperature before serving.