The biggest challenge when making caramel is knowing the fine line between the desired deep amber color and a bitter burnt mess. When I teach my caramel classes, I always tell students this trick:
Tip for Better Baking: When making caramel, keep an ice bath nearby. If your caramel is about to burn, simply dip the bottom of your pan into the ice bath to quickly stop the cooking.
To make an ice bath, find a bowl or container that’s bigger than your caramel making pot and fill it up half way with ice and water. If the caramel looks like it’s about to burn, take the pot off the heat and dip the bottom into the ice bath to quickly cool it down.
Once you get experienced with making caramel, this step isn’t always necessary. You start to learn the personality of caramel and are able to judge when it’s at the desired deep amber color. However, an ice bath provides a nice safety blanket to use when you aren’t yet comfortable with the caramel making process.
Here’s another tip for making caramel sauce: Tips for Better Baking #30