- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup half and half
- 10 tablespoons softened butter
- 1 lemon, cut two-inch long strips of lemon peel, as much white pith removed as possible (use a vegetable peeler to do this, or use 2tbsp lemon zest instead)
- 8 sprigs thyme
- Sea salt, to taste
Heat the half and half to a boil on the stove in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Set aside.
Pour sugar into a medium saucepan with tall sides over medium-high heat and watch closely. Once sugar starts to melt, use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to slowly stir sugar in a circular motion around the pan until completely melted. Cook sugar until it’s a pale brown color, like ale.
Turn off the heat and add 4 tablespoons of butter, taking care to stand away from the sputtering. Add lemon peel, thyme, and half and half to pan, return to medium-high heat, and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.
Pour the caramel with thyme and lemon peel into a heatproof container, such as a glass measuring cup, and let it sit, stirring frequently, for at least 20 minutes, or until its temperature goes down to 140°F. Once cooled, remove thyme sprigs but leave the lemon peel.*
Using a blender or immersion blender, mix the remaining softened butter into the cooled caramel until the lemon peel is fully blended and the caramel is smooth, about 2 minutes.*see note* Add salt to taste and blend.
At this point, the caramel may be used as a sauce to drizzle as desired. If a thicker consistency is desired for filling, refrigerate caramel until completely chilled. Stir a few times before spreading as desired.
Keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 7 days. *If you don’t have a blender, you may remove the lemon peel pieces at this point and thoroughly stir in the remaining butter by hand, or use fine lemon zest from the start.