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Caramel/Caramelized Sugar [MERGED TOPIC]


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I am assuming you are talking standup caramel, not caramelized sugar caramel.

You know, sometimes, just when I think I'm getting this cooking thing down, one of those...moments comes around: standup caramel! As opposed to...caramelized sugar caramel. There's a difference? I mean, you heat up the sugar until it turns brown and...caramel. But no! That would be too simple, wouldn't it!

Standup caramel. Caramelized sugar caramel. How is there...why is there a difference?! (I'm not even sure anymore which one I'm talking about!)

I'm at that breaking point again, where I just want to give up cooking again altogether and go back to processed meats and instant (imitation) potatoes!

Thanks,

Starkman

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I am assuming you are talking standup caramel, not caramelized sugar caramel.

You know, sometimes, just when I think I'm getting this cooking thing down, one of those...moments comes around: standup caramel! As opposed to...caramelized sugar caramel. There's a difference? I mean, you heat up the sugar until it turns brown and...caramel. But no! That would be too simple, wouldn't it!

Standup caramel. Caramelized sugar caramel. How is there...why is there a difference?! (I'm not even sure anymore which one I'm talking about!)

I'm at that breaking point again, where I just want to give up cooking again altogether and go back to processed meats and instant (imitation) potatoes!

Thanks,

Starkman

How about we try this another way (don't want you to have go back to processed meat) - do you mean caramelized sugar ( like the sauce for creme caramel - or chewy caramels (that rely on the maillard reaction to get that caramel colour and flavour) like the recipe I posted in the eGCI?

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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

Unless you are cooking sugar simply to cook the sugar to "caramel" and thus have a hard candy product at the end, people add water to make it easier to get the cooking process started. Many cooks are intimidated by the "dry cooking" method for making caramel products which include a milk product (e.g. cream), glucose or corn syrup, etc. Adding the water helps to mix the initial ingredients together. By the time you reach your desired temperature, the water will have mostly boiled away.

Steve Lebowitz

Doer of All Things

Steven Howard Confections

Slicing a warm slab of bacon is a lot like giving a ferret a shave. No matter how careful you are, somebody's going to get hurt - Alton Brown, "Good Eats"

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In my experience, it seems that when caramelizing sugar using the wet method crystallization issues tend to happen more frequently when there is too much water to be boiled off or when it is cooked too slowly. If all you are going to do is boil the water off anyway, start with as little as needed to moisten all the sugar.

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Trying to make the ice cream using this recipe: http://uktv.co.uk/food/recipe/aid/555087

I put the water in a pan, added the sugar and brought slowly to the boil, not stirring at all. Using a pastry brush, I dabbed the innter sides of the pan to make sure crystals did not form on the edge but alas I ended up with a big block of hard sugar.

Question: Do I need to bring the sugar to 180 degrees C (Caramel stage) or just until, like it says, it looks golden (about 120 degrees C).

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How about we try this another way (don't want you to have go back to processed meat) - do you mean caramelized sugar ( like the sauce for creme caramel - or chewy caramels (that rely on the maillard reaction to get that caramel colour and flavour) like the recipe I posted in the eGCI?

Hiya, Kerry.

I guess I was talking about that caramel colou and flavor process: heat some sugar (and water) in a pan until it turns caramel in color. But you mention a "caramelized sugar" like the sauce for crem caramel or chewy caramels...I didn't know there was such a process. I thought it all started with the same "caramelized sugar" process.

"Ah," you say. "He is not a maker of confections," to which I would say, CORRECT! So I'm lost at this point about that other process you mentioned, but I do know now that the water isn't that big of a deal when just doing the sugar-in-the-pan thing.

Thanks,

Starkman

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How about we try this another way (don't want you to have go back to processed meat) - do you mean caramelized sugar ( like the sauce for creme caramel - or chewy caramels (that rely on the maillard reaction to get that caramel colour and flavour) like the recipe I posted in the eGCI?

Hiya, Kerry.

I guess I was talking about that caramel colou and flavor process: heat some sugar (and water) in a pan until it turns caramel in color. But you mention a "caramelized sugar" like the sauce for crem caramel or chewy caramels...I didn't know there was such a process. I thought it all started with the same "caramelized sugar" process.

"Ah," you say. "He is not a maker of confections," to which I would say, CORRECT! So I'm lost at this point about that other process you mentioned, but I do know now that the water isn't that big of a deal when just doing the sugar-in-the-pan thing.

Thanks,

Starkman

Oops, looks like I screwed up with my brackets.

I think of 2 forms of caramel

1. Sugar that has been heated until it turns brown and changes to a nice caramel flavour - this is the stuff I'd pour into the baking dish for the creme caramel. When the custard cooks it melts the caramelized sugar and you end up with the sauce on top of the custard when you turn it out.

You can make this caramel either dry or with different amounts of water. If you add too much water you have to wait for it to boil off before the sugar can get hot enough to caramelize.

2. Chewy caramel - you take sugar and dairy (such as milk or cream) and cook together until the protein in the dairy and the reducing sugar react together in what is called the maillard reaction. This causes the browning and the change in flavour - different from the caramelization in the first process.

Generally you will be taking this caramel to a particular temperature to get the texture you are after - so again - too much water means that it will have to be boiled off before it can reach that temperature.

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I tried the wet method of caramelizing sugar--I'm fairly certain that this is what you're talking about, not making the sweets known as 'caramels'--once only (the recipe stipulated it, but did not indicate why), and it called for an amount of water that just made the sugar wet, but not soupy (I'm sorry this is imprecise, but it's been a long time, and I never revisited the method). It took longer than the dry method, and the end result was identical, so it doesn't seem to have anything to recommend it.

If you aren't comfortable with the dry method (which only requires you to use a pan with a heavy bottom, and not get impatient and crank up the heat), I'd add just enough water to make the sugar look thoroughly wet, or you'll be hanging over the pot for ages, muttering at it to hurry up.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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Did you add the hot water to the sugar after pulling the sugar off the heat? My guess is that too much of the second addition of water evaporated. That second addition is there to make the sugar liquid at lower temps, since the first water cooks out well before color develops. You can always take that hard caramel sugar and warm it gently with a little water and use it.

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Ah! Well, that makes more sense now, Kerry. Thanks.

You also cleared up something else that was on my mind. When I watch a cooking show and they talk about making caramel by heating sugar/water in a pan until it's brown, they will often say something about it getting real hard, but then, just as you noted, when they turn out a custard-based dish over the caramel, it's liquid! I was, like, "what?" Glad to know it wasn't my brain falling into the processed meat syndrome again!

I think I'll just have to go out to the kitchen and make some caramel just for the experience of it. (If I end up with black tar, someone here's getting beaten badly...by THREE wet noodles!)

Thanks much,

Keith

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Ah! Well, that makes more sense now, Kerry. Thanks.

You also cleared up something else that was on my mind. When I watch a cooking show and they talk about making caramel by heating sugar/water in a pan until it's brown, they will often say something about it getting real hard, but then, just as you noted, when they turn out a custard-based dish over the caramel, it's liquid! I was, like, "what?" Glad to know it wasn't my brain falling into the processed meat syndrome again!

I think I'll just have to go out to the kitchen and make some caramel just for the experience of it. (If I end up with black tar, someone here's getting beaten badly...by THREE wet noodles!)

Thanks much,

Keith

If you end up with black tar, dissolve it in water and keep it around as colouring for pumpernickel.

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My $.02,

I always start with a little water when cooking sugar, but instead of wiping the sides with a wet brush I just keep a domed lid on the pot. The water as it evaporates drips down the sides and helps prevent the crystals. I take the lid off when it's all melted and bubbling evenly then bump the burner and bring it to the desired temp/color. hVane't had a problem with crystallization since I was shown this way by a pastry chef I worked with.

Sleep, bike, cook, feed, repeat...

Chef Facebook HQ Menlo Park, CA

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One of the great things about caramel and sugar stuff is that it's so cheap to play with! If you spend an afternoon trying out different methods, looking at temperatures and similar things you will learn a lot and only spend a few bucks in the process. It's much less scary and confusing after you've done it a few times (and I'm no expert myself!).

And like Kerry hinted at, cleaning pots is as simple as soaking in a bit of water to unstick the caramel/burnt stuff :P, since sugar dissolves in water readily.

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My $.02,

I always start with a little water when cooking sugar, but instead of wiping the sides with a wet brush I just keep a domed lid on the pot. The water as it evaporates drips down the sides and helps prevent the crystals. I take the lid off when it's all melted and bubbling evenly then bump the burner and bring it to the desired temp/color. hVane't had a problem with crystallization since I was shown this way by a pastry chef I worked with.

If I understand you correctly, you get the mixture to a boil, cover it, and then by "bump the burner" you mean bump up the heat? Not sure I understand how much more you can get the heat up! Can you elaborate?

Thanks,

Starkman

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One of the great things about caramel and sugar stuff is that it's so cheap to play with! If you spend an afternoon trying out different methods, looking at temperatures and similar things you will learn a lot and only spend a few bucks in the process. It's much less scary and confusing after you've done it a few times (and I'm no expert myself!).

Yes! That is very true, and I'm going to do that probably...well, maybe tomorrow!

Starkman

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  • 2 years later...

I am wondering why caramel over flan (or creme caramel) stays liquid at room temperature.

If I make caramel by cooking sugar until golden brown, and add nothing else to it, then cool it, it becomes solid. However, if I pour it at the bottom of a flan or creme caramel mold, cook the dessert, put it in the fridge, then invert it, the caramel flows as a liquid over the sides of the dessert. Why is that?

I have a guess: the caramel mixes with juices from the flan batter, which prevent it from crystallizing even at cold temperatures. Is this right?

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I have a guess: the caramel mixes with juices from the flan batter, which prevent it from crystallizing even at cold temperatures. Is this right?

Yes, I think you have hit upon it. It's about the water. I once made a 'hot fudge' sauce (really, a sort of chocolate caramel) that froze too readily upon contact with ice cream. A tablespoon of water was all that it took to rectify the situation (although I'll admit that it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure that out).

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Sugar is hygroscopic.

Exactly. Sugar draws water out of the custard and melts. Sometimes if you try to unmold a flan too soon you find an undissolved disc of sugar. I find it best to let them sit overnight to make sure the caramel has completely liquified.
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  • 1 year later...

Have an inquiry to the masses, what are your thoughts on dry vs wet caramels? I have come across a couple caramel recipes (one I use regularly) that calls for a dry caramel, but I have a hard time doing it in large batches without crystalizing or burning the sugar...so I guess my question is if I were to use a wet caramel in those recipes, would I achieve the same result in consistency, or does adding water to the sugar to create the caramel alter it in some way that's less desirable.  I would like to make caramels in larger batches without the stress I currently run into when doing a dry caramel.  Any thoughts?  I thought I'd pose the question and see the response before doing any experimentation.

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