It was all lumpy and gritty looking so I raced to the computer and typed my help message - no time for research. Raced back to the kitchen and whisked also brushed the sides yet again with wet pastry brush. No luck. Raced back tot he computer in search of answers. Got the answer from chococat and raced back to the kitchen and found it has turned a lovely amber and all crystal bits were gone. The sides were still gritty looking but the rest was perfect. Poured in cream and it was done. Thanks so much for your help. I have no idea why it was going so wrong and then turned out so well.
Here is the recipe I was making:
1 c sugar
1/2 heavy cream
2 lg egg yolks
1/2 unsalted butter
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 c powdered sugar
Stir sugar and 1/4 c water in saucepan over med/low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to med/hi boil until syrup turns dep amber. Swirl pan and brush edges with wet pastry brush. Remove from heat, add cream. Stir until caramel bits dissolve (over low heat if needed). whisk egg yolks in med bowl. Very gradually whisk hot caramel into yolks. Cool to room temp. Beat butter and salt in large bowl until fluffy. Add powdered sugar and caramel. Let sit 1/2 hr and beat again.
This is such a great frosting!!! Perfect for a pecan cake or spice cake.
Thanks for your help ladies (or gentlemen?)
Has happened to me a few times (I love creme caramel!)-- usually i can salvage it by adding some water (a couple of tablespoons) and brushing the crystals off the sides of the pot with a brush. Be careful because it can splatter. Most of the crystals dissolve once the sugar gets up to temperature, but there are always a few that never go away-- fortunately it doesn't really matter for creme caramel, but it might be a problem if you are making caramels.
To avoid the problem, I follow the Cook's Illustrated protocol that adds a bit of lemon juice and corn syrup to prevent crystal formation-- works every time.