2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. fleur de sel
2 cups heavy cream, warmed
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
In a deep heavy bottomed pot, mix the sugar, water and salt and stir til well mixed. Cook over high heat til sugar starts to color around the edges of the pot, swirling the pan to promote even caramelization of the sugar. Don’t stir or the sugar will crystallize, that is, harden. Continue cooking, swirling occasionally til the caramel is very dark mahogany in color and lightly smoking. It should be on the verge of burning, 10 to 15 minutes.
Immediately remove the pot from the heat and while stirring with a whisk or wooden spoon, add the warmed cream in a steady stream. Since you’re taking the caramel to the dark side, you have to work quickly and begin adding the cram right away to stop the cooking process. But you don’t want to add it all at once, so pour it in a continuous steady stream. Be careful. The mixture wills team and bubble up furiously. Wear an oven mitt on the hand that’s stirring in the cream. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a metal bowl. Stir in the vanilla and let cool at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour. Refrigerate, uncovered, for several hours to thicken.
Whisk before using or transferring to an airtight jar for longer storage. It will keep refrigerated for at least 1 week.
Tip: Warming the cream separately helps to keep the caramel from shocking into a hard mass when you add it. Be sure to add it quickly because you need to stop the cooking process as soon as the caramel turns the color you want. Otherwise, it will keep cooking and it can go from perfect to brunt in just a few seconds. Be sure the pot is heavy bottomed to promote even cooking, deep enough to hold the caramel when it bubbles up and light colored, such as stainless steel, so you can see the color of the caramel as it’s cooking. When mixing in cream, use heat proof utensils such as a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.