Caramel is both easy and difficult to prepare. And there are so many myths about the cooking process! How about “you must not stir caramel while it’s cooking!” Let’s see if it is true or myth.
There are two ways to prepare caramel: with or without water. In both cases, pick fine crystallized sugar. The finer the crystals the easier the sugar will melt, and the chances that clusters will appear or caramel will burn are lower.
It is preferable to cook caramel using dry method. Water slows down the cooking process because for the sugar to caramelize, water should evaporate first.
To prepare dry caramel, warm up an empty saucepan and pour in sugar in small portions so that it covers the whole bottom. When sugar melts, pour in next portion, and repeat the same way until all sugar caramelizes.
If you cook with water, its amount should be three times less than the sugar. Here it is important not to stir the caramel while you cook, because otherwise you will get a pomade consistency. To stop the cooking process of such caramel, place the bottom of the saucepan in a vessel with cold water.
Color of caramel:
The darker the caramel the more bitter it is. But light color of caramel means the caramel is too sweet and does not have a distinct taste. Right caramel should have a nice brown color. To make sure you get a good color, use a thermometer. If it’s 160C – it is light, if it’s 180C – it’s brown.
Lighter caramel is great for covering Choux, and darker caramel is great for custards and, for example, tart Taten.
- Use a saucepan with wide and thick bottom so that the layer of sugar that covers the bottom is not thick and the process goes smooth. Cook on low or medium heat.
- To avoid sugar clustering, add a couple drops of lemon juice or vinegar because the acidity prevents clustering and improves crystallization.
- To get a liquid caramel that does not harden or crystallize over time, carefully pour a little bit of hot water into the caramel when you reached a desired color, and let it boil for 30 seconds.
- For caramel sauce, add butter to dry caramel (no water) and then slowly add hot cream. This way, if you add butter first and then cream, caramel will have a nice nut aroma.
- To get a soft stretchy caramel, add a few grams of gelatine in the end.
- A pinch of salt enriches the taste of caramel.
- You may aromatize caramel with spices, vanilla seeds, pouring those in in the beginning. If you want to prepare a fruity caramel, deglaze (stop the cooking process) with hot fruit puree.
- Make sure to store caramel in an air-sealed vessel so that no moisture gets in.