I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spied a recipe that promised butterscotch brownies or cookies or cake bliss within that suggested you make your butterscotch confection with … butterscotch sauce. From a jar. Or butterscotch chips. From a bag. Sorta like those sandwich recipes that tell you to get out two slices of bread and some deli meats (um, thanks?), it’s kind of a letdown but I just assumed that butterscotch must be a thermometer-requiring, magic wand-waving difficult thing to make. That would explain it, right?
Well, I’ve been hoodwinked, bamboozled, misled and so have you because butterscotch — deadly good butterscotch, butterscotch so transcendent it might could bring tears to your eyes — is ridiculously easy to make. Five ingredients (spoiler: one of them is salt) + five minutes on the stove = I just can’t. I’m simply not savvy enough to apply language to how awesome it tastes.
And I was having one of those mornings that I suspect any of you who have ever been a parent of a young tot — even a spectacularly cute one — has had, where you start to feel like you’ll never ever have time again to do a single thing that you once loved, and there on my ancient list of recipes I’ve wanted to make one day was the kind of awesomeness that took minimal ingredients (and ones that, odds are, you already have on hand), barely any time (as in, less time than the shortest nap), damn near blew my mind with its homecooked deliciousness and all of my frustrations temporarily vanished into thin air. Now that there is the wave of some magic wand, I tell you.
Yield: About 2/3 to 3/4 cup sauce
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons, 2 ounces or 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (about 109 grams) packed dark or light brown sugar (I used dark)
1/2 cup (118 ml) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) flaky sea salt (or 1/4 teaspoon regular salt), plus more to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons (8 ml) vanilla extract, plus more to taste
Melt butter in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar, cream and salt and whisk until well blended. [A flat whisk works great here.] Bring to a very gentle boil and cook for about five minutes, whisking occasionally.
Remove from heat and add one teaspoon of the vanilla extract, stirring to combine and this is where, despite the simplicity of the recipe, you get to feel all “chef-y”. Dip a spoon in the sauce and carefully taste the sauce (without burning your tongue!) to see if you want to add additional pinches or salt or splashes of vanilla. Tweak it to your taste, whisking well after each addition. I ended up using a full teaspoon of flaky salt and the listed amount of vanilla to get a butterscotch sauce with a very loud, impressive butterscotch flavor but the strength of your vanilla and intensity of your salt may vary.
Serve cold or warm over vanilla ice cream, roasted pears or pound cake. The sauce will thicken as it cools. It can be refrigerated in an airtight container and reheated in a microwave or small saucepan.
To do ahead: This sauce will keep at least two weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.
To gift this up:
I’d go the canning route in small jars. (You’ll want to scale the recipe a bit, as it makes less than a cup.) I am not practiced enough in canning to give advice but you should most definitely check out the awesome Food in Jars blog for tips. Whoops! A few readers have warned that butter-and-cream-type confections are not safe to can. A big thank you for keeping the Smitten Kitchen botulism-free! (You can still put these in small jars, but warn that they are, indeed, perishable and should be kept in the fridge.)