Thursday, May 2, 2013

Caramel Week: Red Wine Caramel Sauce

Welcome back for my second recipe as part of Caramel Week!

Truth: caramel making always made me super nervous. The molten sugar? The burning? The crystalizing? Cleaning?!? No thanks. Obviously I was missing out on some crazy mouth parties.

I've seen a great many fruit-flavored caramels, and several booze caramels, but it wasn't until I had a half a bottle of red lying around (trust me - a rarity) that I wondered if I could combine that with caramel. Yes - it took booze to help me take the risk of making a caramel sauce. And I don't mind telling you that I failed THREE TIMES before I finished. But when I did...

So worth it. First I tried cooking a simple caramel before adding wine and butter... but without the fat to bind to the sugars, I got lumps of sugar in my wine. The second time, I tried a recipe without water in the sugar, it didn't melt - I just got a giant disc of hard sugar. The third time burned (from amber to burned in the blink of an eye). 

But the third time, I finally had it figured out. First the wine was reduced by half while being infused with a little bit of vanilla bean. Then, and a basic caramel was started (sugar with a little water). Then, the wine was added to the cooked caramel - the reduction helped create a homogynized mixture. A little cream, butter, and grey sea salt finished off the sauce. The dark wine (I happened to have malbec on hand) created a very deep flavor despite not creating a very deep caramel color. The final texture is somewhere between "pourable" and "spreadable". It would be great in pie, dipped with fruit, licked off fingers... really anything.

Be sure to check out the other caramel week contributors, as well!

  • Friday--Country Cleaver-Pear Caramel Mini CheesecakesMunching in the Mitten-Caramel Cake

  • Red Wine Caramel Sauce
    Adapted from

    1/2 Vanilla Bean, halfed lengthwise and scraped
    1 cup red wine (I used malbec, but about anything would do)
    1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
    1/4 cup water
    2 Tbls butter
    2 Tbls heavy cream
    Pinch grey sea salt
    1.  Add the vanilla bean pod and scrapings into a small saucepan. Add the wine. Simmer over Medium-Low heat until reduced by about half (mine took ~10 minutes).
    2. Meanwhile, add the sugar and water to a separate pan. Stir to dissolve. Over Medium-High heat, melt the sugar until it forms a pale amber color - it will continue to deepen as you remove it from the heat.
    3. Remove the pods from the wine reduction discard. Add the wine to the caramel by pouring it down the side of the pan. Stir thoroughly to combine. Add the butter until melted and combined. Finish with the cream. Add a heavy pinch of grey sea salt (to taste, of course).
    4. Pour into a mason jar to cool. Will stay about 1 week in the refrigerator.


    1. This is why you're my other soul mate.

    2. So pretty! What a great way to class up some ice cream - or make eating caramel out of the jar classy. Not that I've ever done that standing in front of my fridge. Ok, I do that a lot...

    3. I had no idea you could use red wine to create a caramel sauce. Eyes wide open, now.

    4. Oh lady, I am so beyond behind on my commenting for Caramel Week, really. This is such a phenomenal idea and *so* fancy. Considering how my popcorn crunch adventure went, I cannot imagine actioning this three times to get it right! IOU for the R+D.

    5. How long will this keep? I'm trying to figure out if I can make this holiday gift baskets.

    6. Yum! My mind is spinning with all the things I could put that caramel on…a spoon for starters. I’ve only made cooked sugar mixes for toffee. One thing I learned is that a good pan helps–like you said “heavy bottom.” it makes a difference in the even heat distribution.