Salt and caramel are a match made in heaven. This rich, buttery sauce is ideal with poached pears, but it's also terrific with ice cream or drizzled over a dense chocolate torte. Fleur de sel is a prized French sea salt, and the combination of salt and caramel is really terrific. We like Maldon sea salt, which happens to come from England, but any sea salt you like will work just fine. Because this recipe contains cream and butter, the caramel sauce is not shelf-stable- be sure to refrigerate the leftovers...if you actually have any!
Combine the sugar and water in a large heavy-bottom skillet or saucepan. (We find it easier to make caramel in a 12- or 14-inch skillet — because of the skillet’s greater surface area, the sugar caramelizes more rapidly and evenly, and it’s easier to control the process.) Place the pan over medium heat and stir until the sugar melts.
Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until the syrup is a deep amber hue, swirling the pan as the syrup begins to color to ensure that it caramelizes evenly. Add the cream very carefully; the mixture will bubble and spit. Reduce the heat to low and whisk until the sauce is thick and creamy. Then stir in the butter and the salt, whisking until smooth.
Serve the sauce hot or warm. It can be refrigerated, covered, up to 4 weeks. Reheat over very low heat or in the microwave until it’s pourable.