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troubles with caramel

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
so im having trouble with making caramel sauce, ive tried multiple times and it never mixes throughly it comes out clumpy and bitter...is this because of the heat being too high (i usually boil it at med-high and then back to med once it starts boiling) or something else? thanks for any suggestions
post #2 of 20
Might just want to cook sugar till golden or dark brown and add heavy cream with a hand whip keeping your head away for the steam is very hot.
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post #3 of 20
Unlike caramel, which includes butter, caramel sauce is usually made using only sugar and water and cooked to the soft ball stage. Not that you couldn't use butter; you certainly could. But the simple caramel sauces don't typically include butter. Unless you're burning the sugar I don't see why it should become bitter. Are you adding ingredients other than sugar and water? You need only melt your sugar in a sauce pan or skillet (low to medium low heat is about as high as I would recommend) while stirring in constantly until it is golden brown. Then begin to stir in boiling water (you could use milk or cream if you prefer) VERY SLOWLY and continue stirring until a candy thermometer immersed in the mixture (don't let it touch the bottom of the pan) reads about 234 and 240 degrees. It's probably better to remove the mixture from the heat sooner rather than later (e.g. remove at about 236 degrees) as it will continue to rise in temperature after it has been removed from the heat source. Temperatures in sugar mixtures don't increase in heat in a linear manner as water does. They tend to change temperature in spurts. They may hang on a temperature for several minutes then suddenly shoot up several degrees almost instantaneously so you've got to watch them very closely.
If you need to test for a soft ball stage, try taking a small amount of your prepared syrup and dropping it into chilled water to cool it down enough to handle. It will form a ball and be soft enough to flatten when pressed between your fingers.
Here's a pretty good recipe that you like:

http://www.elise.com/recipes/archive...amel_sauce.php
My failures in life are few. The most blatant of these is my attempts at retirement. I've studied the process carefully but cannot begin to understand how it is done.
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My failures in life are few. The most blatant of these is my attempts at retirement. I've studied the process carefully but cannot begin to understand how it is done.
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post #4 of 20
Sorry to differ from the last statement...but I agree with Panini and that is the classical way of doing it that she described(or one way)
Culprit says to take the sugar and water to 234-240 but that is wrong.....if you JUST have sugar and water then it will not brown till about 305 (caramel stage in candy making)....if you have Dairy in there they it WILL brown at 234-240 but not with just sugar and water.
Also, if you are only cooking sugar and water then you do not want to stir and it is completely unneeded to stir...

Here is a recipe for caramel sauce....
8 oz sugar
2 oz water
3/4 tsp Lemon Juice
--------
6 oz Heavy cream
Milk - to thin out

1)Put sugar water and lemon juice in a pot and cook(wash down sugar crystals with water and a brush) till the sugar is a light brown color(caramel stage)...bring off heat and let sit....
2)Bring heavy cream to a boil and then add to the caramelized sugar you just created...
3)Mix together with a wisk and if needed you can return to heat...
4)Then cool this mixture and if it is too thick(when cooled) you can add milk to thin it out....

Try it out
Robert
www.chocolateguild.com
post #5 of 20
Hey Toasty1435,
What is your recipe and procedure?

Robert
www.chocolateguild.com
post #6 of 20

Going to sound pretty dumb...

Joy of Cooking has a recipe for caramel sauce. Straightforward and seemingly foolproof. (I'm an old fool so I speak from authority)

The promoted F&B manager that was still obsessed with the bakery dept hadn't gotten it right for months, kept crystalizing on her. We used it for garnish on desserts.

I found the recipe and it was perfect every time. :bounce:
(bear in mind all the pots we used were pretty beat up, scratched and dented aluminum types, nothing like gently treated copper or anything)

April
post #7 of 20
Caramel sauce can get it's color/flavor through two separate and unique processes. Some recipes use one, some the other, some both.

1. Browning cream/butter
2. Browning sugar

Because of the proteins in cream, a cream/butter based caramel sauce will begin to color at very low temps, especially with prolonged cooking- temps as low as 200. The milk solids in butter perform the same way, to a slightly lesser extent. The nutty/toasty notes of browned cream/butter make for a fairly mild tasting/lightly colored caramel, assuming of course the caramel isn't brought too much above 300 deg for any duration of time. If you expose a cream based caramel to temps above 300 degrees for too long- the cream will eventually brown too much and go bitter. A kraft caramel is a good example of the type of caramel (light color/mild flavor) that lightly browned cream produces.

Cream browns in the 200-300 degree range. Sugar, on the other hand, doesn't begin to color until 305, so you can see how were talking about two different processes here:

Cream = low temperature browning
Sugar = high temperature browning

A lightly colored/mildly flavored browned sugar sauce is in the realm of possibility, but, generally speaking, browned sugar caramel sauce is usually darker/more flavorful than it's browned cream cousin. Getting the right color when browning sugar not only takes some practice, but it involves some understanding of the complex flavors being created and how society perceives them. Caramel, coffee beans and roux all share similar turf when it comes to public perception. Although you have some people that grew up with very darkly roasted coffee beans or very dark roux, most people aren't accustomed to them and prefer slightly lighter versions. A penchant for darkly roasted, bitter (more alkali) flavors isn't something people are born with, it's acquired. Darkly browned sugar caramels are the same way. I'm not saying that dark caramel sauce is bad, but if you're not accustomed to it, you might find it bitter. Also, much like darkly roasted coffee beans and very dark roux, the window between dark and burnt caramel sauce is minuscule. As you cook it, it will be a lovely shade of reddish brown and a split second later, it's black. Another important factor in this equation is that sugar will continue to cook after to you take it off the heat (unless you add liquid) so whatever shade you remove it at, it will end up slightly darker.

When browning sugar for caramel sauce, I think it's a good idea to err on the side of caution and under brown it, at least until you both master the practice and ascertain how dark you prefer it.

I, personally, am not a big fan of darkly roasted flavors, but a browned cream caramel isn't flavorful enough for me and a browned sugar caramel, when browned enough to become flavorful, tends to be bitter. For this reason, I utilize the best of both words by utilizing a 2 stage process to brown both the sugar and the cream. I lightly brown my sugar at the high temp, add cream, lightly brown that at a lower temp, then add water to achieve the consistency I want. I find this gives me a very rich bold flavor without any bitter notes from over browning either ingredient.

One last thing to consider when browning sugar is the dessert it's being used in. Although for a caramel sauce for ice cream, I'd go very light with my sugar, for a flan (where the layer of sugar is fairly thin), I might go a few shades darker.
post #8 of 20
In making caramel adding fats such as milk or cream these act as what is known in some circles as interfering agents or invert agents. The fats bond with the sugar molecules not allowing them to fall out of solution while boiling any shaking or stirring of the mixture during this time will cause the sugar molecules to fall out of solution thus crystallization. Are you using a candy thermometer? Shirley O Corriher in her book "Cookwise" lists the temp for caramel between 244-248F which I agree. Whats your corn syrup to sugar ratio? In caramel making you are aiming for a smooth texture. I have to agree with Scott and Culprit on their thoughts about your dilemma. Candy making is a science experiment go here and you will learn a lot more

http://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/candy/index.html

Rgds Rook
post #9 of 20
Just make caramel in a pan and add cream right? The trick is making the caramel. Be vigilant and don't let the edges burn.

Seems like it's a lost art. Most of my peers just dumped sugar in a large pan and made caramel that way.
post #10 of 20
Just make caramel in a pan and add cream right?

yes:D
I think I have probably made enough caramel sauce to fill an inground pool:crazy: I've made it in every imaginable pan to include a scout mess kit, cake pans, tilt skillets etc.
Sometimes you can add so much information to a subject it becomes scary to make. I personally don't use the lemon but I always put a pinch of salt.
That steam hit in the face is always a RUSH. And good for the complexion too. That's how I stay so young looking:D ;)
FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #11 of 20
I agree Pan and Kuan its so simple really I don't know why theres such a problem with it? Oh well, dead issue not much more I can add except to say good luck I am on to wrap christmas gifts. Merry Christmas Pan & Kuan and everyone else here to.

Rgds Rook
post #12 of 20
[quote=aguynamedrobert;150475]Sorry to differ from the last statement...but I agree with Panini and that is the classical way of doing it that she described(or one way)
Culprit says to take the sugar and water to 234-240 but that is wrong.....if you JUST have sugar and water then it will not brown till about 305 (caramel stage in candy making)....if you have Dairy in there they it WILL brown at 234-240 but not with just sugar and water.
Also, if you are only cooking sugar and water then you do not want to stir and it is completely unneeded to stir...

Touché, Chef Robert. You claim "if you JUST have sugar and water it will not brown until about 305 degrees..." OK, let's agree that sugar will not brown below that temperature. Then you say, "if you have Dairy in there they (sic) it WILL brown at 234 - 240..."


Then, in your recommended correct method, you suggest

"1)Put sugar water and lemon juice in a pot and cook(wash down sugar crystals with water and a brush) till the sugar is a light brown color(caramel stage)..."

My method doesn't add water until the sugar is browned.
What I'm curious about is, if my sugar won't brown how does yours?
My failures in life are few. The most blatant of these is my attempts at retirement. I've studied the process carefully but cannot begin to understand how it is done.
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My failures in life are few. The most blatant of these is my attempts at retirement. I've studied the process carefully but cannot begin to understand how it is done.
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post #13 of 20
Culprit, if you cook sugar and water long enough, the water will boil off and the sugar will brown.

Robert, for what it's worth, I think you misread Culprit's previous post. If you take another look at it, you'll see that the sugar and water wasn't being browned at 240 degrees, but browned first, thinned with water and then taken to 240 to achieve the desired consistency.
post #14 of 20
Culprit its a real simple method honest. Put your sugar and water along with your lemon juice in your pan over low heat stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture begins to boil then stop stirring bring heat up to med high insert your candy thermometer and boil. Don't crank your heat back after it boils your increasing the amount of time it will take to get to carmel stage and you do not want that leave your heat as is med high. Fats such dairy interact with the sugar crystals and act much the same way corn syrup or glucose would in a sugar mixture they bond with the sugar crystals keeping them in solution. If they fall out of solution you get what is known as crystallization. Caramel is what is known as non-crystalline, crystalline candy is fondant and fudge. Key thing here is man don't rush it, Shirley O Corriher in her book Cookwise gives the caramel stage at 244-248F.

Rgds Rook
post #15 of 20
Hum...well lets just say I'm confused with all the posts and what everyone thinks....if I did misquote then I apologize...

A sugar syrup will brown at about 305 Degrees F.

A Caramel will brown because of the dairy in it and can brown much before sugar...depending on the cooking method it can be low 200's to 240 Degrees F.

Lots of confusion but that is what I have to say on that one....haha...

Hope everyone had a great Christmas,
Robert
www.chocolateguild.com
post #16 of 20
Well you know the farmhouse way is to put a can of condensed milk in the oven right?
post #17 of 20
Ouch, that boils over and you got a mess to clean up.

Rgds Rook
post #18 of 20
Dulce de leche (caramelized condensed milk) is a perfect example of a browned dairy (in this case milk) caramel. It doesn't have quite the depth of flavor of browned sugar, imo. I prefer the two combined. Browned dairy and browned sugar- something you can't do when starting with a can of condensed milk.

And I've never heard of anyone putting a can in the oven. I have heard of people boiling the cans, something condensed milk companies have been warning people not to do in recent years. I've never heard of it happening, but apparently the cans can explode.
post #19 of 20
There's usually a couple of ways to get things done. As one does tasks over and over again they tend to be considered easy. Anything involving cooking sugar is is not easy. For someone in the beginning stages of cooking sugar then I would definately reccomend using thermometers and noting what the sugar is doing at certain temperatures. I don't want to come off aloof, I just have this aura in the kitchen where I seem to know where the sugar is at depending on the amounts, but trust me, the question posted happened to me a lot and I burned many pounds of sugar in the beginning.
There are quite a few ways to expedite and slow down the cooking process. Lids-no lids-brushing etc. It's good to hear about them all.
pan
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post #20 of 20

Cream Caramel

I learned a lots through sharing and hearing the different approach to a solution.

Let me quote Tetsuya, "Don't be afraid of failure, and learning is a discussion with others".

Let me share my experience of making cream caramel. How to unmould a nice cream caramel with smooth caralised top with enough liquid to be presentable. For a 20 or more cm round creme caramel ideally start with at least 120g of sugar combine with a dribble of water in a non-stick sauce pan, cook it slowly over medium heat to a rich,teak-red caramel to coat the base of tin. It should be hard,glassy layer when you pour the caramel into tin. Don't let it sit around for too long or it will start to absorb water from the humid air and begin to dissolve. Put the custard mixture together ASAP after the caramel is made, ladle it slowly into tin while the latter is still firm. For results, bake the creame in a water bath at around 150 or 160 deg C- the thinner the custard layer, the more gentle the heat should be. Done when still jiggly in the centre. Cool caramel on a rack,cover tin tightly with foil and chill for at least 3 or mor hours to firm custard. Run a thin-bladed knife around the edge of the custard to unmould. Place a serving plate upside down on top and holding the tin and plate tightly together to invert them and put them down. The custard should fall neatly onto the plate. Carefully lift off the tin - the liquefield caramel will flow out - and voila!
"The truth cook hold in his palm the happiness of mankind", quote Normal Douglas, South Wind.
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"The truth cook hold in his palm the happiness of mankind", quote Normal Douglas, South Wind.
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