To make caramel, heat up sugar until it forms a rich color and flavor—perfect for sticky, sweet desserts and candy. We love adding caramel to ice cream sundaes, popcorn and cakes. One of our favorite supersimple recipes is for salted-caramel cheesecake topped with flaky fleur de sel and homemade caramel. Another buttery confection, croissant bread pudding from Nigella Lawson, douses stale croissants in creamy homemade caramel spiked with bourbon. It's an incredibly decadent yet effortless dessert. Find these recipes and more in Food & Wine's guide to caramel.

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Chai Caramels with Salted Pepitas
Rating: Unrated 1
To achieve a perfectly smooth caramel, Jami Curl of Quin Candy in Portland, Oregon, suggests gradually incorporating, in this case “poking,” the granulated sugar into the corn syrup base instead of stirring it in. “Stirring sugar encourages recrystallization,” says Curl. “That will create a grainy texture in your finished candy that nobody wants.” Slideshow: Pepita Recipes