When I was a kid, I was all about ice cream toppings. You know, the kind that come in the jars from the grocery store? Hot fudge, caramel, butterscotch, pineapple, etc. etc. I would gladly use every one I could get my hands on. My family didn’t keep them in the house too often but my nanny did and whenever I spent the night at her house, it was a special treat to have a bowl of ice cream drowned in my topping of choice. For the past few years I’ve been so focused on making all varieties of homemade ice cream, toppings have fallen by the wayside. This year, when the weather started warming up, I rediscovered my love of toppings through the beauty of a simple vanilla bean ice cream topped with this caramel sauce. I’m honestly at a loss for words to describe how much I enjoy this stuff . I guess I’ll just tell you that I ate it every night for dessert until the ice cream was gone, and then I made some more ice cream and we finished that too. Of course you can do much more with this than put it on top of ice cream…you can mix it into frosting for some wicked caramel buttercream, dip apple slices, drizzle it over cheesecake or chocolate cake, stir it into coffee (stay tuned for that post), and the list goes on…
Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce
Yield: 1½ cups
1 cup sugar
1¼ cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
¼ tsp. coarse salt
½ tsp. vanilla extract
Spread the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Place over medium-low heat, watching carefully. When the sugar begins to liquefy around the edges, use a heatproof spatula to gently stir it towards the center. Continue stirring very gently until all the sugar is melted, taking care not to over stir. Measure out the heavy cream in a liquid measuring cup and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream. Set aside. Once the caramel reaches a deep amber color, immediately remove the sauce pan from the heat. (To test the color, spoon a drop onto a white plate or bowl.) Carefully whisk in half of the heavy cream along with the vanilla bean seeds. The mixture will steam and bubble violently. Stir until the cream is well incorporated, then whisk in the remaining cream. Stir in the salt and the vanilla. If any sugar has hardened, place the saucepan over low heat and whisk until smooth.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If needed, it can be rewarmed in the microwave or in a saucepan over low heat.