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While I’m not a fan of actual coffee I do love espresso drinks. Sitting around in a coffee shop sipping a breve and thinking of photo and recipe ideas is one of my all-time favorite things to do. I don’t go to a coffee shop every day because I don’t always have time (plus I’m not rich) so I make a fair amount of espresso drinks at home.
I always try to think of new embellishments for them and here’s one of my latests: pumpkin spice caramel sauce. It’s delicious. Homemade caramel sauce is delicious already even without the spice because you have control over the cooking process and can let it cook longer and therefore make it more caramely-tasting than most store-bought sauces, which just taste sweet. The pumpkin spice adds a hint of fall flavor and comfort feel to the sauce that I really liked.
Now, caramel sauce is very easy to mess up but I think I’ve finally figured out the tricks. But first things first: caramel sauce will get burning hot and you have to be very careful when making it. Don’t touch the pot or the sauce until the process is completed and the sauce has cooled. To be super-safe wear safety glasses. I do that. Yes, I wear safety glasses when I make caramel sauce, that’s not a joke. (I also wear them when I deep-fry stuff). I recommend you do the same.
Anyway, back to the sauce: you start by putting cold water into a saucepan, then you add sugar in a mound into the middle of the pan. The sides of the saucepan HAVE to be completely clean and clear of sugar. That’s a must but it’s easy to accomplish if you put the sugar in the middle. Then you turn on the heat to high and do nothing other than watch. No stirring, no touching. The mix will start to bubble and eventually turn golden brown. Then you turn the heat down until you have a nice, deep amber color. Then turn the heat off.
Then, standing back, you very SLOWLY whisk heavy cream in (the sauce will bubble violently, so watch out). Then you add the spice, let everything cool a bit and you’re done. You can use the sauce on a whipped cream-topped espresso drink like I did in the photo or drizzle it on anything from ice cream to apple slices. Store the sauce covered in a glass container in the fridge for up to a week.
Pumpkin Spice Caramel Sauce Recipe
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- Put the water in a saucepan.
- Add the sugar in a mound into the middle of the saucepan. Be careful not to have any sugar on the sides of the pan.
- Turn the heat on to high and without any stirring or touching of any sort, let the sugar/water mix come to a full boil. Be careful, the mix will get very, very hot. Do not touch the pot or the caramel under any circumstances.
- Keep boiling the mix on high heat (still without any stirring) until it starts to turn golden brown.
- Turn the heat down to medium and continue to boil until the mix reaches a deep amber color.
- Turn the heat off.
- Standing back, very slowly start to whisk the cream into the mix, a little bit at a time. The sauce will bubble violently and is still very hot, so be careful.
- Once all the cream is whisked in, add the spice and whisk until incorporated.
- Let the sauce cool until you can handle it easily and fill into a glass container. If it’s too thick by the time you want to use it, gently warm it up over a pot of hot water or in the microwave.
Food Photography and Styling: I thought showing just a jar of caramel sauce would be too boring so I drizzled the sauce on top of a nice espresso drink instead. I wanted to make the domed whipped cream and sauce topping look large and dramatic and to do that I lit the set from the back and chose a cup with a nice wide opening that would let me show a large area of cream and sauce. I put an actual hot espresso drink in the cup because I wanted to show the cream partially melting. That meant I had to work super-fast because the whipped cream wasn’t waiting for anyone, I had a total of about 30 seconds before the whole thing was a huge, overflowing mess. I needed some background items and the sauce jar and a “caramelized” spoon (ha!…ahem) seemed natural choices for that purpose.
Nikon D600, 105mm, f/8, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.