A few years ago we were in San Francisco, and among all the good food we tried was something called "Caramel Milk." It's like hot chocolate, but caramel-flavored. I'm tempted to call it "caramel hot chocolate," but that seems a bit misleading, since it's not caramel-flavored chocolate, but just caramel-flavored…well, caramel. Anyway! It was really good and I wanted to figure out how to make some myself. So I've been faithfully working toward that goal for some time now.
Hot chocolate, let me hasten to say, is still a regular part of our lives around here. We drink it (pretty much) daily. Often we make it in our Vitamix blender (1 cup chocolate chips to four cups milk; add flavoring like a handful of mint leaves, 1/4 c. of peanut butter, or a teaspoon of orange extract; blend for 5 minutes or until hot), but we also like to change it up with this Parisian Hot Chocolate or a nice cup of Stephen's cocoa mix every now and then. And this Caramel Milk is not a replacement, but a great addition to our repertoire ("Bring all the good that you have and let us add to it!"). We love it!
This is really so simple to make, just like hot chocolate. A lot of recipes just say "stir caramel sauce into milk and heat." Which is right. But I never have store-bought caramel sauce around, and I like my favorite salted caramel sauce recipe better anyway. This time of year, I like to have it constantly on hand. I just cook up a big batch of it (it takes all of 10 minutes), and then we eat it on crepes, waffles, ice cream—and in this caramel milk.
Hot Caramel Milk (to feed a large family! :))
For the caramel sauce:*
2 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. butter
1 c. cream
1/2–1 tsp. salt (depending on how salty you like it)
2 tsp. vanilla extract (or 1 tsp. ground vanilla**)
Melt butter in a saucepan. Stir in brown sugar and cream. Bring mixture to a gentle boil, stirring frequently. When mixture is smooth and begins to thicken, remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
To make caramel milk, measure 8 cups of milk into a large dutch oven. Stir in 1 1/4 c. of caramel sauce (hot or cold). Heat caramel milk gently, stirring, until it is hot and steamy. Serve with whipped cream and an extra drizzle of caramel.
*You will have extra caramel sauce. Lucky you.
**I add these ground vanilla beans instead of vanilla. I'm a bit obsessed with this stuff at the moment, because I never knew there was another way to get these lovely vanilla-bean flecks and flavor without the trouble and expense of scraping out the bean. But I bought a jar of this ground vanilla and I find myself adding a pinch of it to practically everything. It smells and tastes so good! But, of course, regular vanilla is lovely too.
Mmm, those vanilla flecks! And the color of this milk is so beautiful to me. So warm and wintry. If that makes sense. :)