Once Thanksgiving is over and December arrives, it is officially acceptable to both be excited about and start preparing for everyone's favorite gift-giving holidays, by which I do not mean my birthday, half-birthday, or the anniversary of the day that I first learned how to eat an oyster. No, I'm talking about your other favorite gift-giving holidays: Christmas and Hannukah.
It's time! Light the lights! Drink peppermint mochas out of starry red cups! Make the presents!
Yes, make them. Nothing says "I like you, you're special" like a handmade present. Don't you want to tell someone you care about them a jar of homemade caramel sauce's worth?
You do. Get caramelizing. Jar it up, and wrap it up pretty. Write a nice note. Do it in pen, even! Merry HannuChristmukah.
What makes this salted caramel sauce special is the addition of cream cheese and fresh thyme - they add a fresh tang and an earthy savoriness, respectively, to the sweet and creamy caramel. Use this as a dip for your favorite fruit (I'm thinking about apples or pears this time of year) or crunchy pretzels, or spread on a slice of cinnamon toast, or scooped atop your favorite ice cream, or licked from a spoon straight out of the jar. ...What? You know you'd do it, too.
Salted Caramel Thyme Dip
- 1.5 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup cream cheese
- 1 teaspoon course sea salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and water and place over medium low heat, until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil, without stirring, until the mixture turns a deep amber color, swirling the pan occasionally to evenly distribute heat. Once your sugar reaches stage amber, quickly remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until smooth and incorporated (caution: the mixture will hiss and bubble up once you add the butter -- keep your face and fingers away from the pan).
Next, whisk in the cream cheese, spoonful by spoonful, until combined. Stir in the salt and thyme, carefully pour caramel into a glass jar or container and allow to cool to room temperature. Enjoy immediately or cover tightly and store in the refrigerator until ready to eat. The caramel will keep in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.
Yields about 1.5 cups caramel sauce.