In Which There is Heaven Sauce

I mentioned that at our Game of Thrones festivities, we ended up pouring our White Walker Russians over vanilla ice cream. Well, of course, that wasn’t all we poured over vanilla ice cream. Like the taco bar that served us for dinner, I made sure there was an ice cream bar to serve us for dessert.

Most of the toppings were store bought – toffee bits (ALWAYS GET THESE PEOPLE), chocolate chips, nuts…but the caramel sauce was most definitely homemade. And vanilla bean filled.

And it. Was. Awesome.

Caramel sauce a-bubblin’.

I’ve tagged many a caramel sauce recipe to test in the last few months, but the one I went for was from Annie’s Eats, and involved a whole vanilla bean. Now, vanilla beans are expensive. And this sauce would probably still be pretty tasty without it. But does the bean but this over the top into crazy-good land? Maybe. Maybe it does.

My sundae of choice – vanilla, caramel, chocolate chips…

Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce

I could (ok, and maybe sometimes did) eat this with a spoon. The buttery, vanilla-y richness is just. So. Good. It dresses up even the plainest vanilla ice cream, but I basically put it on any kind of ice cream I could get my hands on until it was gone. It will firm up in the fridge, but add a little heat and it quickly loosens up again.

Yield: 1½  cups

1 cup sugar
1¼ cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
¼ tsp. coarse salt
½ tsp. vanilla extract
Spread the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Place over medium-low heat, watching carefully.  When the sugar begins to liquefy around the edges, use a heatproof spatula to gently stir it towards the center.  Continue stirring very gently until all the sugar is melted, taking care not to over stir.  Measure out the heavy cream in a liquid measuring cup and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream.  Set aside.  Once the caramel reaches a deep amber color, immediately remove the sauce pan from the heat. (To test the color, spoon a drop onto a white plate or bowl.)  Carefully whisk in half of the heavy cream along with the vanilla bean seeds.  The mixture will steam and bubble violently.  Stir until the cream is well incorporated, then whisk in the remaining cream.  Stir in the salt and the vanilla.  If any sugar has hardened, place the saucepan over low heat and whisk until smooth. 
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  If needed, it can be rewarmed in the microwave or in a saucepan over low heat.

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