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Caramel/Caramelized Sugar [MERGED TOPIC]


viva
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Question for all of you...

At what temperature does sugar become "burnt" and not just "dark brown"?

Here's the story: I am making RLB's Chocolate Praline Crunch Buttercream. The recipe for the praline is to cook 2/3 cup sugar in 1/4 cup water, to 370F (!) and then pour over hazelnuts. The praline is then ground to a powder and mixed into a chocolate buttercream.

I've never cooked a sugar syrup to that high a temperature (370!). I actually only wound up cooking to about 325-330, because the syrup was turning a very brown color, and I was afraid to burn it. I poured it over the hazelnuts and it's cooled nicely to a clear burnt sienna brown (maybe a little deeper than the dark Karo syrup color). To me, it tastes a little smoky, definitely not sweet.

Thoughts? Is it overcooked & burnt and I should scrap it & begin anew? If it is overcooked, what temp would you recommend cooking the sugar to?

Much obliged...

Edited to add a photo...

gallery_19995_308_1101151925.jpg

Edited by viva (log)

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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Sugar burns at 375F. You can get very dark caramel at 335F. I've never cooked sugar to 370, but then, there are lots of things I haven't done.

EDIT TO ADD HANDY LINK: Sugar Stages

Edited by Patrick S (log)

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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Hmmm. According to that (I found a similar chart in the Cake Bible), I was on my was from light caramel to medium caramel. I think it might be okay, particularly once I mix the praline powder with the chocolate buttercream...

But just in case, I'm making an almond praline (I'm out of hazelnuts) and will cook to the light brown stage. I let it cook to about 300, and it tastes less bitter than the other.

ETA: It's a little confusing in the charts... according to them, at 320, the sugar will "liquefy" and start turning from clear to brown. Well, my sugar starts turning amber at around 270. I think I understand the "liquefy" part, because at around 270-280, the sugar suddenly becomes a lot more fluid.

I'm not sure I fully understand all of this... was using two thermometers as well, just to verify the accuracy of the temp. Maybe a nice eGCI course complete with photos? :biggrin::unsure:

Edited by viva (log)

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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For a praline, you definitely want the sugar on the darker side. I don't have my notes handy, but 370ºF seems a bit high for that, and more suitable for use as caramel coloring. The color of your praline looks fine to me, but if you prefer the taste of the lighter, use it.

One thing to consider, too, is that since you are grinding it up and adding it to something (buttercream) that is already sweetened, it may ultimately be too sweet. A darker, more bitter caramel in your praline might be a nice counterpoint.

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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Those are very good points - I think the dark is too bitter for eating (for me), but may actually work nicely in the buttercream with chocolate. I personally don't like very sweet desserts, and we'll have plenty of other cakes on T-Day for those that like their stuff on the sweet side. It's just nice to have a little validation that it's not burnt!

I'm also making RLB's Caramel Cage to go over the frosted cake...very excited as I have never worked with caramelized sugar in that way before.

Thanks all!

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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I'm also making RLB's Caramel Cage to go over the frosted cake...very excited as I have never worked with caramelized sugar in that way before.

Oh, it's fun, once you get the hang of it! I'd spend some time practicing if you can. It's one of those skills that benefits from practice. I'd also make more than one, if you can. In case the first one breaks or sticks to the bowl (I'm guessing here that it's molded over the bottom of a bowl?) or whatever.

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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  • 1 year later...

I want to make some chocolate-covered burnt sugar caramels, like the

amazingly fine version from Recchiuti's, but better. I think there is

room for improvement because their caramel doesn't have the buttery

richness of my favorite recipe.

These are the ingredients for my standard caramels:

2 C sugar

1 C light corn syrup

1 C sweetened condensed milk (1 standard can is more than 1 C--use

ONLY one cup)

1/2 C heavy whipping cream

1/4 C butter

1 C milk (I have used whole and skim milk both with good success)

(the whole thing is here, for the curious:

http://www.well.com/user/debunix/recipes/V...aCaramels.html)

I'm sure that just taking that recipe and cooking longer to get darker

caramels would be a disaster on several levels--they'd be brittle, not

caramels, and the protein from the milk would scorch and be nasty.

My idea is to take a portion of the sugar, melt it to caramelized it

and "burn" it appropriately, then add that back to the recipe,

substituting for a portion of the plain sugar, so I get some of the

smoky burnt flavor without scorching all.

Does this sound like a reasonable approach?

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I couldn't get your link to work, but I guess from the ingredients that the technique for your caramels is something like ...

Combine the sugar, light corn syrup, whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, and butter in a heavy saucepan. Place over a high heat and stir continuously, keeping the sides of the pan clean.

Heat the mixture up to 120C/250F, ie until the caramel reaches a light golden colour.

Now add the whipping cream. Take care when adding the cream, as the caramel may spit. Remove the pan from the heat and stir. Leave to set.

If so, then your suggested approach is one I have used successfully. Though I'd be as curious as you to know of other approaches.

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I couldn't get your link to work

This is the correct link.

http://www.well.com/user/debunix/recipes/V...laCaramels.html

I hate it when the software in the pasted document adds ellipses!

And thanks for the reassurance. I'll try about 1/2 of the sugar (to melt/burn) for the first attempt.

Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)
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Try the following:

Cook sugar until dark amber, stir in corn syrup corn syrup. Take off burner.

At this point milk/condensed milk/cream should just boil.

SLOWLY pour dairy into sugars.

Heat to 250 without stirring, take off heat, stir in butter.

Try adding a smoked salt enchance the flavor. You may have to adjust the ratios to get the right texture, but you will get a much more flavorful caramel.

Formerly known as "Melange"

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I think I was a bit too timid with the first batch--I let the sugar boil up to a light amber, then smelled a bit of scorch and pulled it off the heat. I foolishly forgot to leave the corn syrup separate from the other ingredients I'd heated to just shy of a boil in another pan, so adding the sugar syrup to that turned it into strands and lumps of hard sugar that gradually dissolved, and then I finished the caramels the usual way.

Preliminary taste-testing of the pot and spatula reveals a perfectly good, but also quite ordinary, caramel. I need to be bolder with the sugar syrup, the salt, and this time I will reserve the corn syrup to mix the sugar syrup into, to see if I can avoid the crystallization step.

Now I just need to find some volunteers to eat a couple of pounds of caramel, and try again.

:rolleyes:

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I tried again and this time let the caramelizing sugar go to a dark amber, and the resulting caramels have a nice hint of bitterness, but are still much richer than the typical sugar-only caramel.

I changed the mixing order to reflect the suggestions above better, having the corn syrup and the butter, milk, cream and sweetened condensed milk heating in separate pots while making the caramelized sugar. I poured the heated corn syrup into the sugar when it reached the dark amber stage.

Then I poured the mixture into the near-boiling dairy, and ran into a problem: it seemed to curdle--a very fine graininess formed that did not resolve during the remainder of hte cooking, and the finished caramel has a slightly rough surface compared to the previous batch.

Might this have been an artifact of adding the sugar/corn syrup mixture while it was too hot, or did I overheat the dairy mix (a few bubbles appeared just before I added the sugar/syrup, but it did not ever come to a full boil until the mixture was complete) before it had all the sugar in it?

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There is no need to heat the corn syrup. Adding it at room temperature will slightly reduce the temperature of the sugar, decreasing the risk of overheating your milk. It sounds like you did not overboil it.

Also, if you add cold butter after removing the pot from the heat, it will halt the cooking of the caramel.

Formerly known as "Melange"

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Thanks again for the very helpful comments.

I wanted to minimize the temperature differential when I added the corn syrup to the burnt sugar--it was quite spectacular as it was, with the corn syrup warmed up a bit. But it was still at least a hundred degrees cooler than the sugar syrup, so it probably did not make enough difference to be worthwhile.

It should be safe to cool the corn/sugar syrup mix a bit before adding it to the dairy (obviously not waiting for it to crystallize, but down to 200-220 degrees), right?

And thinking about adding the butter after removing the pot from the heat: the butter has some water in it--isn't that going to alter the water balance and the final texture if I've cooked the caramel to a specific salt/water balance?

Despite the less-than-perfectly shiny surface appearance, this is one terrific caramel. The texture is soft enough to work well with a chocolate coating, I got the burnt sugar just about perfect--a hint of bitterness that adds a bit of mystery to the flavor, and about a teaspoon of fleur de sel (I don't have an accurate scale for such tiny quantities) balances the flavor perfectly.

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It probably wouldn't hurt to cool the sugar, but it isn't necessary. It will only increase the time required to bring the mixture up to the final temperature.

I didn't realize how much butter your recipe called for; try reserving a tablespoon to incorporate at the end while bringing the temperature up by one or two degrees.

Formerly known as "Melange"

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It probably wouldn't hurt to cool the sugar, but it isn't necessary. It will only increase the time required to bring the mixture up to the final temperature.

If overheated sugar syrup didn't curdle the mixture, any other ideas on what did? This is something I've never seen in 20 years of using this recipe.

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It is highly probable that the syrup was too hot, but the temperature decrease from the addition of room temperature corn syrup should be enough to avoid that problem. I also wonder if some of the sugar may have crystallized. Let us know how your next batch turns out.

Formerly known as "Melange"

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I made my usual chewy caramels last night, but I took half the sugar with a bit of water and caramelized it to a nice dark brown first. I then added the remaining sugar and glucose, brought it to 145 degrees C. I added butter and honey, then preheated 35% cream and cooked up to 121 degrees C. I let it sit overnight in the caramel rulers and tonight went to dip it. Problem is it was much softer than usual.

So what do you think I should try next? Should I use my usual recipe but add additional sugar browned, rather than using half the sugar browned? Or should I just cook the caramel to a higher temperature?

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From my limited experience--only two batches made iwth browned sugar--it didn't seem to affect the final texture at all; the batch made with sugar browned to a darker amber was softer, but I attribute that to my deliberately cooking it to a slightly lower temperature because the previous batch came out a bit hard.

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  • 4 years later...

Hello all,

I've seen caramel made with various water content (using one cup of sugar for the conversation here): sometimes just a splash of water, other times a 2-to-1 ratio of sugar/water, and sometimes even more water.

So, the question is, how does the amount of water ratio to sugar affect caramel?

Thanks,

Starkman

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I am assuming you are talking standup caramel, not caramelized sugar caramel. The more water, the longer it will take to cook to a specific temp. While it is cooking, more sugar will invert. It doesn't make a lot of difference (other than the inversion) how much you start with. The longer it cooks, the dark the color and more pronounced the flavor.

Ruth Kendrick

Chocolot
Artisan Chocolates and Toffees
www.chocolot.com

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