CARAMEL CONFUSION!!!

Discussion in 'Pastries & Baking' started by futurebaker, May 22, 2013.

  1. futurebaker

    futurebaker

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    I followed a recipe that involves creating a caramel for topping:

    http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/caramel_sauce/

    I followed the recipe as directed. It suggested that if I have a saucepan with a thin bottom, then pour some water into the sugar to help it dissolve. I don't have a saucepan, so I just used a regular cooking pot.

    The sugar melted and started dissolving, but after a while the sugar began to harden again.. It then crystalized again. What did I do wrong? Should I have kept on cooking it? 

    Right now I am boiling the rock candy out of the pot. I remember that when I was making marshmallows with my Chef at school, he told me that when melting sugar, use water and a pastry brush, and brush the sides of the saucepan so sugar doesn't crystalize and clump up on the sides. He told me that if I don't do that, the melted sugar touching the crystalized sugar will ruin the entire recipe. 

    If this recipe wasn't the right one, I would love to try a different one. Or maybe try again. I just need to know what will make delicious caramel quickly /img/vbsmilies/smilies/licklips.gif

    (I don't really have anything for the caramel, its just that I wanna make caramel haha)
     
  2. laurenlulu

    laurenlulu

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    Good Mornin FB!

    I've never agreed with the adding water to sugar method, it does recrystallize and needs to be cooked beyond that point anyway so it's an extra pain in the ***, in my opinion. Plus, it is harder to dissolve the clumps that form because of the water. Adding some corn syrup to your sugar helps to dissolve it evenly and also inhibits crystallization of the final product if your technique wasn't spot on.

    Anyway, the color of your caramel depends upon how quickly you heat your sugar. You can make a light colored caramel by gently heating your sugar or a dark amber one by heating quickly.

    I also don't agree with the instructions to wisk. Gentle stirring or tilting will keep your caramel smooth.

    When it reaches the soft ball stage remove it from heat and stir in your butter. At this point I like to add vanilla or bourbon or some other flavoring agent, stir til the bubbles calm, then add a little cream.

    Hope my method helps :)
     
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  3. j20832

    j20832

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    I always use the dry burn method (no water) and have never had a problem.  Yes, it is a fairly quick process, but you don't really have to have the burner cranked to medium high.  Start lower and just cook it longer.  I usually let the sugar go to the point where it looks like an old penny and then add whatever I am using to thin it (cream, butter, milk), it will initially clump with the addition of a liquid, but will dissolve back into it when the temperature gets up there.

    I am also a fan of gently stirring and not whisking. Let most of the sugar melt and some will darken before all the sugar melts, then just use the corner of a high heat rubber spatula to gently move the unmelted sugar around pushing it to the middle of the pan.  Once it is all melted, let it go until it gets the color you are looking for, turn off the heat, add whatever liquid/fat, then turn it back on to re-melt the clumps that will surely form.  At this point I would use a whisk.

    This is the method I have always had success with for making the base for ice cream and a sauce for "salty caramel" bread pudding. 
     
  4. laurenlulu

    laurenlulu

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    j, I see that you are an "other" too, what does yours mean?

    I am a PM Chef, in charge of the kitchen when the Sous leaves at 230 and in the absence of the Exec.
     
  5. j20832

    j20832

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    Lauren, I used to work in a restaurant, mostly prepping, cooking, and expediting lightfare, but now volunteer in supervising my church's commercial kitchen, sometimes cooking, sometimes supervising food prep and sanitation (I also do a few catering jobs a year, mostly BBQ).  I have no culinary school experience, just learned on the job and love to read and experiment.  As such, I don't post in the professional forums even though I have technically been ok'd to do so.  Maybe if a question came up that I have prior professional experience with, maybe...

    Anyway, I am intrigued by the corn syrup and will have to try that in the future.  I would imagine that helps to stabilize the caramel particularly if making a sauce that will have to be held for a few hours.

    Thanks,

    Jay
     
  6. futurebaker

    futurebaker

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    I'll also use the corn syrup method. That should moisten the dry sugar without crystalizing it and help the melting process. This is all so helpful! I believe I should do 1/4 of the amount of dry sugar needed as corn syrup to get the other 3/4 of the sugar going.

    Also I will keep my heat constant. I forgot to mention that when I was heating the sugar, I was worried about the bottom of the sugar cooking more than the top amount of sugar, so I turned down the heat from high to medium. I believe that this has also been a big reason why my sugar crystalized again.

    Okay, sometime I will try the recipe again once I get more sugar haha. I will keep my heat constant, stir lightly instead of constantly, use a 1/4 portion of the sugar as corn syrup, and not whisk until I add the butter and cream. 

    This has all been a great learning experience! I don't really have a use for the caramel sauce yet. I could maybe use it as a topping for pate a choux!! I LOVE it!!! Or if we get icecream I can use it for the more common topping, haha. 

    Anyways thank you so much for helping me /img/vbsmilies/smilies/lol.gif  My next project will be some french bread and I believe I can nail it. (haha last time I accidently used yeast that's been expired for quite sometime) I love breads, so this is something I'm confident about!!

    Thank you!!!!

    FutureBaker /img/vbsmilies/smilies/chef.gif
     
  7. foodpump

    foodpump

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    You don't really need to use the "brush the sides of the pot down with cold water" technique.  I just slap down a lid or pie pan on the pot and let the condensation build up and trickle down the sides of the pot--no crystalization.

    Like others have said, try adding a bit of corn syrup to the mix to prevent crystalizaton. Also, I always put liquid to the pot first, then the sugar on top.  This prevents "dry spots" whihc tend to burn or discolour very quickly.  Some Italians make a dry caramel by putting olive oil in the pot, then sugar, and then cooking it.  Meh, whatever works.....
     
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  8. laurenlulu

    laurenlulu

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    Thank you for your reply, Jay :) As you know, culinary school is not a necessity if you have the passion to learn and practice on your own. It doesn't make your knowledge any less valid than someone who went to school.. Actually, two of the most ignorant cooks I know graduated from a culinary program.

    Yes, try the corn syrup. It keeps the caramel silky and pourable if not overcooked.

    Happy Friday!
     
  9. coyote

    coyote

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    I've never tried the corn syrup trick, will have to on my next batch. I usually add a smidgen of acid to my sugar.. either a little lemon juice or a pinch of cream of tartar to help with crystalizing. 
     
  10. foodpump

    foodpump

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    A-yup, that'll do, as will brown sugar or mollasses, which will prevent crystalization, but only corn syrup will make it silky- smooth like laurenlulu describes.
     
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