Kitchen Skills with Spinneys: master the art of caramelising

A sweet little trick you’ll use time and time again

Who can say no to the taste of toasted sugar? It’s sinful for a dessert to shy away from lashings of caramel sauce, and deep-brown onions – cooked slowly until soft and rich in flavour – have expertly completed many a main course. If you agree, grasping the craft of caramelising is a necessity – something’s got to feed the habit:

How to: caramelise onions

Caramelising onions is a slow and steady race; if the pan isn’t too full, the process should take around 45 minutes to one hour. Thinly slice onions into rings. Set a saucepan with a little butter and oil (butter can burn on its own) over a low-medium heat and add the onion. For softer onion rings use just a small amount of butter and oil – if crispy is what you’re after, be a little more generous. Cook until they’re deep brown in colour.

Practice with:

Caramelised onion fettuccine
Caramelised red onion fig and blue cheese tart
Blueberry goats’ cheese and caramelised red onion loaf

How to: caramelise sugar

There are two ways to make caramel. The dry method requires placing sugar in a pan over a medium heat until it liquefies, swirling the contents rather than stirring (stirring can cause the sugar to clump). Pay very close attention to the change in colour – it has a tendency to burn.

An easier option is the wet method which has a deeper flavour because of its longer cooking time. Start by placing sugar and water – enough to cover the sugar – in a pan. Cook over a medium heat until the water evaporates and the sugar dissolves; you can always add a touch of lemon juice to prevent crystalisation. Once the mixture has turned a dark caramel colour remove from the stove.

Note that these methods act as a base for caramel sauce – like in this indulgent caramel and dark chocolate recipe – you might want to add additional ingredients (butter, cream, chocolate) to get the flavour you’re looking for. Thinking of throwing in a little sea salt? We couldn’t agree more – in fact, we’re quite infatuated with salted caramel.

Practice with:

Apple galette with salted caramel sauce
Caramel apple pecan pie
Ginger caramel popcorn

If all this sweet talk has got you wanting more, we’ve got plenty of recipes to fix those caramel cravings.