Essentially burnt sugar, caramel's delicious toffee flavour is used in dessert recipes such as crème caramel or caramelised oranges. Use caramel while still soft or allow it to set. It can be spun in strands to make sugar nests or spirals to decorate desserts and cakes. Add cream to caramel and it becomes sticky toffee sauce. For a great treat make caramel shortbread.
Place 175g/6oz white caster sugar (do not use brown sugar) into a heavy based saucepan and place over a medium heat until the sugar starts to melt at the edges. Shake the pan occasionally until all the sugar has melted, stir once or twice to make sure all the sugar crystals have dissolved, then cook until the sugar turns a dark amber colour, shaking the pan once or twice so the caramel colours evenly. Remove pan from heat or it will continue to cook and burn. Pour the caramel onto a greased foil-lined baking tray and leave to set.
To make a pouring caramel, add 2 tbsp cold water (cover your hand with a tea towel the caramel will spit and splutter). Stir well and return to the heat if necessary.
To make praline, add 50g/2oz chopped nuts (almonds or hazelnuts) to the caramel then pour onto a foil lined tray to set. When set, break up then crush to a fine powder.