Make It: Bourbon Vanilla Caramel Sauce

Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce // stirandstrain.comAbout this time every year I start mentally writing an inventory of things I should start making for Holiday gifts. I have to think about it this early because I usually forget until about a week before Christmas, freak out, and consult the list I made two months ago. This is just how I deal with life and presents.

I was totally that kid that baked for the holidays and passed out cookies and got my teacher a Valentine’s Day gift bag (admittedly only once for that. But she was a great teacher and it was an excuse to buy heart colored tissue paper.) and since starting this blog and just, well, making A LOT of stuff, I’ve been going full force at edible gifts for the Holiday season. Rewind back to a few weeks ago and you will find me wide-eyed in front of a steaming sauce pan of sugar and butter and other deliciousness. Myself and a friend decided to take a caramel making class, the selling point for me was the “Beer and Pretzel” caramels on the list of what we would make. Seriously. Beer reduction and pretzels and caramel living together in one bite-sized wrapper. Oh, but the wrappers. The only aspect I wasn’t prepared for in this class, after spending two or almost three hours making caramels, was the hour long process of individually wrapping each damn caramel I made. After an hour I was kinda done with caramels for the time being and I brought them all in to my office the next day. The beer ones being the surprise hit.

One of the last recipes we tackled that night was not actually a candy, but a sauce: caramel sauce (it was, after all, a caramel class). This sauce made its way into a cake about 3 days later. And now it is making its way here to the site. Why? Because I’ve decided to add some Bourbon and vanilla beans to it and make jars of it for presents this year. Friends, you are welcome. Try not to eat the whole jar in one sitting.

Are you thinking this is going to be too hard? It’s not. I had one hand holding a cell phone trying to pay attention to my mother while she went on about something for 45 minutes and started and finished this whole recipe by the time I got off the phone with her. That includes prep by the way.

Don’t want to give this as a gift? Ok, put it on ice cream, or sandwich it between cookies, or DO YOU REALLY NEED A REASON FOR CARAMEL SAUCE?!bourbon-caramel-3Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce // stirandstrain.com

Caramel is boiling sugar. The recipe moves quickly so get all your ingredients together before you start and please, try not to spill it on yourself, it will hurt like hell.

Adapted recipe from The Gourmandise School
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter, Plugra is awesome and used here
1 cup heavy cream, room temp
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 tsp fleur de sel, Murray River used here
1 oz. Buffalo Trace Bourbon
Seeds from one vanilla bean, or 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste

  1. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, combine sugar, water, vanilla seeds (or paste), and lemon juice. Stir once to combine. On medium high heat, cook until sugar dissolves, brushing the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush if sugar crystals stick to the sides. Bring to a boil, undisturbed (do NOT STIR), until sugar reaches a dark amber color. (This can take anywhere between 10-20 minutes. Whatever you do, don’t leave the pan. It will almost always burn if you step away.)
  2. Carefully add the cream. It will bubble and hiss like crazy, but this is normal. Bring back to a boil, then add in butter, salt and bourbon. Stir to combine and until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Let cool and then jar up.

Here’s a few notes:

  • Your sauce is going to look watery at first. Don’t keep cooking it. If you pull a spoon out of the sauce and it leaves a layer, your sauce is thickened. As it cools it will thicken up much more. And once you stick it in the fridge, the next day it’s even more thick.
  • DO NOT STIR IT WHILE IT COOKS. Just don’t, it will create crystals and it will be grainy and gross.
  • The bourbon is added at the end, so you will taste it. That is the point of adding it to the sauce. Don’t like bourbon? You can add an aged rum if you like. Or just leave out the booze too if you have to.
  • Besides the lovely bourbon taste, mainly you are going to get a buttery, salted caramel with hints of vanilla. And you will keep telling yourself, One more spoonful, until there is nothing left.Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce // stirandstrain.com

17 Responses to “Make It: Bourbon Vanilla Caramel Sauce”

  1. Planning on trying this recipe for my boyfriend’s birthday — he LOVES both caramel and bourbon. Just wondering if it’s possible to use vanilla extract in place of the vanilla bean seed or paste. If so, how much? If not I’ll just look for the beans or paste when I go to the store. Thanks!

    Reply
    • You can swap out the exact amount of extract for paste. You just won’t have the vanilla seed flecks!

      Reply
      • thank you! I didn’t see the vanilla bean paste or whole beans with seeds in my local grocery store. Can’t wait to try this recipe 🙂

        Reply
    • Well, USDA guidelines for canning do not recommend it, however I have seen people online who have done it with no issues. So, I would say if you are comfortable with canning then you would be the one to make that decision.

      That said, this stuff lasts a long while in the fridge. I have a batch made at the same time as this posts that was left refrigerated and over a month later is still as tasty as when I made it. All that sugar and bourbon are great preservatives.

      Reply
  2. Would you actually “can” these for giving, or is the caramel fine to just place in a jar and keep?

    Reply
    • I am not a canner (see above comment) so I would just give them in jars with a cute note about keeping it refrigerated and eat within two months.

      Seriously though, once they taste it no one is going to want to stop eating it.

      Reply
    • Hi Jenn- I’ve made a double batch from this recipe. Only difference is that I’d put 1-1/2 ounces of the bourbon in instead of two.

      Reply
      • Great, thanks for the info! I am going to give it a try. I have cute 8oz jelly jars I am going to put it in for gifts. 🙂

        Reply
  3. Just made this. It’s delicious.
    My minor tweaks were to cook the sugar longer to a nutty brown (because Oops! and I like the slightly bitter taste of almost burnt sugar) and I bumped up the salt (because I like Salted Caramels.)

    Reply

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