In our recent caramel article, we show you how to make a basic caramel and turn it into several amazing desserts. As we tested those recipes, we were reminded of something else you can make with that caramel: poured sugar decorations. Granted, they’re a little restaurant-y and not something you’d make often, but if company’s coming, these pretty decorations are an easy way to add a whimsical flourish to any sweet treat. We especially love the way their hard candy texture complements soft desserts, like ice creams and custards.
Here’s how to make them
Coat two rimmed baking sheets with cooking spray and half fill a large bowl with ice water. Then make the Basic Caramel recipe; remove it from the heat and immediately plunge the bottom of the pan into the ice water to stop the cooking and cool the caramel slightly. When the sizzling stops, remove the pan from the ice water and stir the caramel to even out the temperature.
Put the pan next to one of the baking sheets. Working quickly, scoop up some caramel with a teaspoon and drizzle it onto the sheet in whatever shape you like—spirals, hearts, zigzags, you name it. The caramel should be the consistency of thick syrup and run off the spoon in a long strand rather than in short drips—if it gets drippy, rewarm it over low heat. For the sturdiest decorations, try for 1/8- to 1/4-inch-thick strands. Don’t worry if there are some puddles of caramel along with the strands—they’ll make the decoration sturdier.
Let the decorations cool completely, 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully remove from the baking sheet with a metal offset spatula (if they’re stuck, gently twist the pan as you would an ice cube tray to loosen). Store in an airtight container in a dry place at room temperature for up to five days.
Quick caramel cleanup
The easiest way to clean a caramel-coated pan is to boil water in it until the sugar has completely dissolved. Then you just pour out the water, let the pan cool, and wash with soap and water.
For ramekins or other vessels that can’t go directly on the stovetop, pour boiling water into the ramekins, let soak until cool, and repeat if necessary until all the caramel is gone.