Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Check Icon Print Icon Note Icon Heart Icon Filled Heart Icon Single Arrow Icon Double Arrow Icon Hamburger Icon TV Icon Close Icon Sorted Hamburger/Search Icon


Learn the basic technique (it’s easy) and use it in five sticky, gooey desserts

Fine Cooking Issue 95
Photos: Scott Phillips
Save to Recipe Box
Add Private Note
Saved Add to List

    Add to List

Add Recipe Note

Caramel-Pecan Brownies

Turning sugar into deep, golden caramel has always been more magic than chemistry to me. Though it may be culinary chemistry, the technique is surprisingly quick and easy. And once you learn it, you can put it to all kinds of delicious uses. Caramel is great for coating nuts, fresh fruit, or the bottom of ramekins for crème caramel and other caramel-topped desserts. And it can add a touch of sweet and gooey to anything from cakes to tarts to brownies.

In this article are some of my favorite caramel desserts, starting with a satiny caramel sauce enriched with cream and butter. Vanilla ice cream never had it so good. The fudgy caramel-topped brownies and decadent chocolate-almond tart make the most of another delicious marriage: caramel and chocolate. Sweet caramel-glazed pears top a tender ginger and cinnamon cake, and orange and espresso flavor a classic crème caramel. No matter which of these desserts you make, you’ll be making magic.

5 Tips for Perfect Caramel

One of two things can go wrong when making caramel: The caramel burns, or sugar crystals form, so the caramel goes from liquid and smooth to crystallized and solid. Here are a few pointers for making a perfectly smooth caramel every time:

1. Watch bubbling caramel like a hawk. Caramel cooks quickly and will turn from golden amber to a smoking mahogany in seconds. Burnt caramel has an unpleasantly bitter taste.

2. Use clean utensils. Sugar crystals tend to form around impurities and foreign particles.

3. Acid helps. Adding lemon juice to the sugar and water helps break down the sucrose molecules and prevents sugar crystals from forming.

4. Swirl, don’t stir. Stirring tends to splash syrup onto the sides of the pan, where sugar crystals can form. So once the sugar is completely dissolved in water, just gently swirl the pan to caramelize the sugar evenly.

5. A pastry brush is your friend. Keep a pastry brush and some water next to the stove; you’ll need it to wash off any crystals that might form on the sides of the pan.

Rich Caramel Sauce

The color of caramel

The longer you cook caramel, the darker it gets. For most of my recipes, cook it to medium amber (below left); take it to medium-dark amber (below right) for the Crème Caramel.

medium amber
medium-dark amber


Leave a Comment


Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Delicious Dish

Find the inspiration you crave for your love of cooking

Fine Cooking Magazine

Subscribe today
and save up to 50%

Already a subscriber? Log in.


View All


Follow Fine Cooking on your favorite social networks

We hope you’ve enjoyed your free articles. To keep reading, subscribe today.

Get the print magazine, 25 years of back issues online, over 7,000 recipes, and more.

Start your FREE trial