Recipe: peanut butter caramel sauce
All signs point to summer: the blazing sun, rising mercury, pine pollen, afternoon thunderstorms, open windows at night, wild strawberry blossoms along my trail runs, and the impending solstice. Oh, but the best is yet to come when the snow in the high country finally recedes and the huckleberries and porcini emerge alongside colorful alpine wildflowers. It’s weeks away and yet I can already anticipate it will be here before I know it because everything seems to take place in these short summer months. Earlier in the week we enjoyed a lovely happy hour at The Flagstaff House with my parents. I have a feeling summer will kick into high gear very soon.
my rocky mountain cucumber cocktail (sans alcohol)
fried oysters on polenta (if you go there, order this – so good!)
my queen of the night bloomed (symbolizes good luck!)
our aspen stands have turned lush and green
Before my parents arrived in Colorado, I had lunch with my friend, Ellen of Helliemae’s Caramels. She gave me a bag of her jasmine caramels to welcome my parents, a box of coffee caramels for Jeremy (the coffee fiend), and a bag of peanut butter caramels. It’s a sort of ritual among certain friends of mine that whenever we see each other, we bring gifts like pickled okra or organic adzuki beans or a little box of Maldon sea salt or a jar of homemade kimchi or a bottle of homemade foraged elderflower cordial – but Ellen is the master of caramels. It’s her thing.
creamy, smooth peanut butter caramels
I enjoy the first couple of caramels for what they are and then by the third, I start imagining how awesome they would be in other recipes. One of Jeremy’s favorite items from Helliemae’s is the Chili Palmer caramel sauce. He puts it on ice cream like it is going out of fashion, which got me thinking about peanut butter caramel sauce and the awesomeness that would be a sundae with said sauce. I didn’t have enough caramels left (oops!) to make a sauce out of them, so I made it from scratch.
sugar, cream, peanut butter
Yes, all you need is sugar, cream, and peanut butter. Actually, if you use an unsalted peanut butter like I did, then you might want to add some sea salt as well. The basic procedure is to caramelize the sugar, stir in hot cream until the caramel is dissolved, and add peanut butter. To caramelize the sugar, just set it in a saucepan over medium heat and wait several minutes until it begins to melt. This dry method is a lot less temperamental than the wet method (with water).
sugar in one pan, cream in another
melt the sugar
let it turn a deep amber color
When the sugar has caramelized, stir in the hot cream. It will bubble up and spatter, which is why I use a medium size saucepan to contain all of the action. Stay calm and keep stirring. Even with the addition of hot cream, you will wind up with chunks of hardened caramel. It’s okay. Return the pan to the stove and simmer over medium low heat, stirring until the caramel has completely dissolved. You probably want to add the salt at this point. Then stir in the peanut butter over low heat until smooth.
pour in the hot cream
chunk of hardened caramelized sugar
stir in the peanut butter
Wasn’t that easy? It’s really not so bad once you get over the danger of dealing with molten sugar. Just remember not to touch it because we’re talking 320°F hot. Also, it sticks to your skin and solidifies to make the burn extra special. If you don’t think you can resist touching molten caramelized sugar for whatever reason, at least keep a bowl of ice water nearby so you can dunk the assailed part of your body to minimize the damage. But if you really want to minimize the damage, DON’T TOUCH THE MOLTEN SUGAR.
The sauce turned out nice and peanut buttery. It flows best when warm because it gets a little gloppy as it cools (because of the peanut butter). The yield is about 1 1/4 cups and it stores well in an air-tight container or jar in the refrigerator for at least a week.
peanut butter caramel sauce
drizzle over chocolate and vanilla ice creams with whipped cream and sprinkles
get ready for a party in your mouth
Peanut Butter Caramel Sauce
slightly modified from Epicurious
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt or to taste (optional)
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
Place the sugar in a medium (3 quart) saucepan and set over medium heat. Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the cream begins to simmer, reduce heat to low. The sugar should begin to melt after four or more minutes. Give it a gentle stir to mix the dry grains with the melted sugar. When the sugar is completely liquid and a deep amber color (another few minutes), remove from heat. Stir the hot cream into the caramelized sugar. It will sputter and bubble up, but keep stirring. Some of the caramelized sugar will harden in blobs, that’s okay. Return the pan to medium-low heat and simmer while stirring until all of the caramel has dissolved (took me 12 minutes). If you are using an unsalted peanut butter, stir the salt into the caramel – totally optional. Add the peanut butter to the caramel and stir over medium-low heat until smooth. Store in a jar in the refrigerator. Makes 1 1/4 cups.
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