Last week I posted No Churn Cinnamon Ice Cream to go with all of your favorite apple or fall desserts. Today, I’ve got another little “accessory” for those fall treats…Apple Cider Caramel Sauce!
I was planning to post a cookie recipe today, but it had to go back into redevelopment. Hopefully, the third (or is it fourth?) time will be a charm on that one. I was over confident and thought I had the recipe nailed, but I’m going to give it another try with a few more adjustments and see how it works out.
In the meantime, have I got a new caramel sauce for you! First, let’s just talk about my fave o’ fave caramel sauce, 10 Minute Buttermilk Caramel Sauce.
For my long time readers, you know I put that stuff on EVERYTHING! It’s amazing on this Chocolate Turtle Zucchini Cake and this Spiced Applesauce Cake. Of course, it’s amazing on ice cream. It’s buttery and creamy and rich. It’s my go to easy and incredibly delicious caramel sauce.
But, I have been wanting to experiment with an apple cider version. I love apple cider! There’s an orchard that we go to every year that has the best apple cider. I love honey crisp apples and drinking that cider tastes just like biting into a sweet juicy apple.
I’ve been experimenting with some apple desserts (see above) and really working on trying to get the apple flavor to come through. Sure, when you’re making apple pie and have apples right there and ready to bite into, you’ll get that apple flavor.
But when the apple flavor is more hidden…when the apples aren’t right there in front of you…does the apple flavor come through? It depends on the recipe.
So, I wondered how “apple-y” an apple cider caramel would taste. Apple Cider Caramel Sauce. Sounded good to me!
I started with the cider. I hadn’t yet been down to the orchard to get my favorite cider, so I picked some up at the grocery store.
Once I had the cider, it was time to reduce it. We want to concentrate the flavor, so we’re going to boil a full 2 cups down to 1/2 cup.
You’ll need a large heavy sauce pan for this step. A heavy sauce pan will conduct the heat more evenly than a lighter weight pan. The larger size will give the sauce ample space to bubble up. The larger surface area also allows more room for the water to evaporate. So, the process will be faster than if you use a small deeper pan.
Mine took 20 minutes, but I was working on something else at the time, so I didn’t have it boiling at it’s highest heat. Your time will vary based on the size of your pan and how high your heat is. You don’t have to watch it 100%, but stay nearby. It can go quickly…maybe 10 minutes if you’re cooking at a higher heat than I was.
To check how much your cider has reduced, just pour it into a pyrex measuring cup. If it hasn’t reduced to 1/2 cup, just pour it back into the pan and continue to boil it until it does.
Then, just add the butter, salt, cream, sugar, corn syrup and baking soda. Stir it up and bring back to a boil. The mixture will foam up and remain foamy while it continues to boil. It only needs to boil for another 7-9 minutes, maybe less, depending upon your sauce pan and heat.
You’ll see in the photos that the color starts out pale and deepens as you boil it. Give it a stir it every so often. Once it reaches a beautiful deep caramel color and the foam seems to be dissapating (bottom left photo) you’re done.
Remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla and apple pie spice.
What’s in apple pie spice? It can vary by brand. Mine has cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and cardamom. If you don’t have apple pie spice, you can use 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and add a dash of each of those spices. You can also add all spice or ginger to the cinnamon. Or, you can just add cinnamon.
I only added 1/4 teaspoon because I didn’t want the spice to over power all that concentrated apple flavor we just created. If you want to double the spice, you’re welcome to do that. I’m sure it will be fab.
What you end up with is a glossy, rich, chock full of apple flavor caramel sauce. You’ll know as soon as you taste it that it’s no ordinary caramel sauce. It’s sort of like eating a caramel apple!
(A note about the sweetness. When I developed this recipe I accounted for the additional sweetness that the cider would bring and reduced the amount of sugar I would normally use. Everyone loved it as is, but I’m going to try to reduce the sugar even more next time I make it, and see how that works.)
When it’s hot off the stove, it will be at it’s thinnest. It will thicken as it cools. The photos in the post show the thickness when the sauce has cooled for a bit. It was still warm to the touch, but not hot.
Once you refrigerate it, it will thicken up even more. It will be thick enough to stand a spoon upright in it. At that thickness, it’s spreadable. That’s great if you want to spread it on cookies or cake or graham crackers.
I usually spoon out whatever I think I’m going to use and heat that up for a few seconds in the microwave. That way, I’m not heating up the whole jar every time I need a spoonful or two.
I didn’t have any issues with the sauce crystallizing when I stored it. It was as creamy and luscious as when I first made it. If, for any reason, you get some crystallization during storage, just add some milk or cream to it before you reheat it. That should dissolve any crystals that may have formed.
I have to tell you that I could have taken 100 more shots of the caramel pouring out of the pan or off the spoon. It was just so shiny and gorgeous.
Now that you’ve got this luscious Apple Cider Caramel Sauce…what are you going to do with it? Well, for starters, it would taste pretty amazing on top of the No Churn Cinnamon Ice Cream.
Or, imagine it drizzled over apple pie or apple crisp… It has so much caramel apple flavor, it would be great drizzled over a simple pound cake. And of course, pancakes and waffles.
Ooh, how about on top of your oatmeal!?! Yes, add some chopped apples and nuts to it. Yum!
My husband had some with one of the “failed” recipes I mentioned in the beginning of the post. They were sitting on the counter next to the sauce. So, he made the match and labeled it a winner.
Basically, like any caramel sauce, it’s simply going to add something special. Of course, I did just catch someone in my kitchen today, grabbing a small spoonful and eating it plain. It wasn’t me…well, it wasn’t me that time.
I know you’re reading this…you know who you are ;)
Apple Cider Caramel Sauce
- 2 cups apple cider
- 1 cup brown sugar see notes
- 6 Tablespoons salted butter cut into smaller chunks
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon apple pie spice
In a large heavy bottomed sauce pan, bring the apple cider to a boil. Continue to boil over medium high heat until reduced to about 1/2 cup. This will take anywhere from 10-20 minutes depending upon the size of your pan and how high your heat is.
Stir in the sugar, butter, salt, cream, corn syrup and baking soda. Bring back to a boil. Mixture will foam up and remain foamy while it's boiling. Reduce heat a bit so that the mixture continues to boil but doesn't boil over. As long as the mixture is bubbling, you're good.
Boil for about 7-9 minutes, stirring every so often until foam begins to subside and sauce is turning a rich caramel color. Any residual foam should completely disappear after stirring.
Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and apple pie spice. Use immediately, or allow to cool for a thicker sauce. Allow to cool completely before storing. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
*I used 1 cup of brown sugar, but I might try 3/4 cup next time. I accounted for the additional sweetness from the reduced apple cider, but I'd like to see if I could reduce it further.
*The corn syrup should help prevent any crystallization when storing, but if you do end up with crystals, just add a splash of milk or cream to the mixture when you reheat. The crystals will melt back into the sauce.
*I used salted butter and a pinch of salt to balance out the sweetness. I didn't want to take away from the apple flavor, so I didn't add as much salt as I would in a salted caramel sauce. But, if you'd like a bit more salt, go ahead and add more to taste. I would use fleur de sel or sea salt.
*You can also adjust the spice to taste. I only used 1/4 teaspoon. Feel free to add more if you want a stronger spice flavor.
*Apple pie spice is a mixture of spices with cinnamon being the most dominant. If you don't have apple pie spice, you can just use 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and, if you have it, a dash of clove, nutmeg, ginger and/or all spice. My apple pie spice also included some cardamom.
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