Julia Child's Game-Changing Advice For Finishing Caramel Sauce

There aren't many desserts quite as delightful as a good caramel sauce, which is made by cooking down sugar with water until it bubbles, thickens, and turns amber in color. Unfortunately, the ingredient can seem intimidating for cooks or bakers to attempt, mostly because there is very little margin for error. But, armed with some expert guidance and in the comfort and safety of your own kitchen, there's no reason you should be afraid to try your hand at homemade caramel.

Although it's a pretty straightforward procedure, it pays to be a hawk when watching your caramel to make sure that all the sugar is properly incorporated and it doesn't stick to the side of the pot. Naturally, Julia Child has some advice to address this potential pitfall: trap moisture in your pot with a lid.

Put a lid on it!

Nestled in the caramel section of Julia's recipe for croquembouche is a little note on what to do when your caramel reaches its final boiling stage.

When the sugar, water, and corn syrup have dissolved, Julia instructs home cooks to cover their caramel, using the pot's lid to create steam while the caramel comes to a boil. The steam will condense on the cover and the moisture will drop down the sides, washing away any sugar crystals which may have stuck to the side of the pan. The added moisture also helps the caramel from overcooking to the point of crystallizing. If your caramel crystallizes it will become hard and you'll have a solid chunk of caramel rather than a beautiful sauce. 

When your caramel begins to boil with large bubbles, take off the lead and let it boil to your desired color and consistency. Once your caramel is how you like it, kill the heat, add the lid back on, and place your pot in hot water. The steam and the heat of the water bath will maintain just enough heat to keep the caramel from hardening. 

So, if ever you find yourself in doubt about your caramel sauce, ask aloud: "What would Julia do?"  And from the heavens, you should be able to hear her amazing warble say: "Put a lid on it, dearie!"