I am always looking for excuses to put sour cream in and around my mouth. I consume it all the usual ways (tacos, nachos, dips), but I’ve also been known to add it to leftover pasta (yes, even a tomato-based sauce!) and scoop it into my face with nacho cheese Doritos. This is why it’s surprising to me that I’ve never thought to add it to caramel.
Caramel has three main tasting notes: sweet, browned (but not burnt), and buttery. The last two make it less cloying than a simple syrup, but sour cream brings a bright hit of lactic acid, giving your caramel sauce even more dimension. This is particularly helpful if you need a sauce for a rich, ultra-sweet dessert, as that extra tang can help cut through those dominating flavours.
There are a lot of recipes for sour cream caramel, so perhaps I’m the last one to find about it, but it’s now my mission to spread the good news. My favourite happens to be very a simple one from Portland chef Jenn Louis. (It also comes in the form of an Instagram post, which is very much my vibe.)
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If you have extra sour cream in your fridge, make sour cream salted caramel . . 2c sugar 1c sour cream 1t vanilla 2t lemon juice 2T unsalted butter 1-2 t salt Place sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Do not stir. Cook over medium heat, shaking pan, until amber in color. Reduce heat to low, add sour cream and stir with a wooden spoon. Add vanilla, lemon juice, butter and salt. Stir to combine.
Because I do not need two fairly large jars of caramel sauce, I halved this recipe, which produced the two small jars you see in the top photo. I used salted butter (because that’s all I ever have) and I still ended up adding a healthy pinch of salt. The result is a sauce with a delightful tangy surprise at the end. At first you’ll be like “this is the caramel I know and love,” but then the slightly sour goodness of sour cream will swoop in at the end, disrupting your palate and your very concept of what a caramel sauce should do. It’s also a great way to use up the last half cup of sour cream, assuming you don’t want to scoop it into your mouth with nacho cheese Doritos.
To make it, you will need:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt (double if using unsalted butter)
Add the sugar to a sauce pan and heat over medium heat, shaking gently if needed to help it melt and caramelise evenly (do not stir). Once it turns a nice medium-dark amber, remove it from the heat and carefully add the sour cream (it will foam), stirring with a wooden spoon. Stir in the remaining ingredients, and serve warm or at room temperature over cakes, fruit, or ice cream.