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Caramel sauce — you may not think it, but it’s a great recipe staple to have around. You can top eclairs, drizzle on cakes, ice cream and brownies, add it to pancake batter and even use it for dipping apple slices this fall holiday season.

Before I hit my mid-30’s I was never much of a caramel fan. I found out then, that it wasn’t that I didn’t actually like caramel, it’s just that I don’t like cheap and overly hard and chewy caramel. But I love creamy, milky smooth caramel, the kind that either drips coyly down your bottom lip from your first bite of a dark chocolate caramel or the kind that has a luxuriously languid pull.  Most of all, I like caramel paired with chocolate and salt or deeply vanilla pudding and pastry.

Since I try to avoid high fructose corn syrup and any and all manner of artifice in my cooking I make my own caramel sauce — though Trader Joes has a great caramel sauce and fudge sauce (both without the corn syrup) if you’re pressed for time. Making caramel sauce at home is one of the easiest things to do in the kitchen BUT you must be focused on your sugar (soon to be caramel) the entire time.

From melted sugar to froth to golden, gleaming caramel sauce

My favorite recipe for caramel is this one from Simply Recipes which I have experimented (with great results) using reduced amounts of milk instead of cream (if you just don’t have any cream in the fridge but want to make this sauce anyway) and with soymilk (for those who are lactose intolerant.) Alas, there is no suitable replacement for butter but many lactose intolerant folks can tolerate butter better than other dairy products.

I use this caramel sauce in recipes posted throughout the site, I hope you’ll try it and let me know what you think.

Happy Cooking!