How to Make Caramel: Delicious Homemade Caramel Recipe
Nobody would believe that the sweet and decadent confectionery we add to our puddings and desserts was originally intended by the 1st century AD Arabs as a hair treatment. Yet, over the course of several centuries, we have learned to use caramel to impart a different sweetness to our desserts and beverages. You can buy a bottle of this confectionery ready to put over your food. Or, you can learn how to make caramel syrup or sauce and start wowing your family and friends.
The process of making a good caramel starts with an understanding of how caramelization takes place. Caramel results from the breakdown of sugar molecules with the application of heat. This changes the white, crystal-like granules into a brownish to reddish liquid that we all love to pour on our favorite foods and beverages.
Sugar contains sucrose. People call it a disaccharide because it contains two monosaccharide units. These are glucose and fructose. Plants have varying levels of sucrose. Sugar beets and sugar cane are two of the plants that contain high sucrose levels than other plants. That is why manufacturers of granulated sugar almost always use either of these plants.
The molecules of glucose and fructose have a very strong chemical bond. This allows them to form sugar crystals. With the application of heat, however, this chemical bond gets altered. This turns the crystals into liquid form.
Making a Caramel Syrup
The most basic caramel syrup recipe calls for the combination of sugar and water. Heat is then applied to this solution. At a certain temperature, the water in the solution starts to evaporate. It leaves behind the sugar molecules in the solution. This is how to make caramel syrup.
- 1 cup of granulated sugar
- 6 ounces of water, divided into 2 ounces and 4 ounces
- Get a small saucepan with a heavy bottom. Pour 2 ounces of water and the sugar. Whisk well to dissolve the sugar.
- Turn on the stove to high heat. Keep on whisking the solution until it boils.
- Let the solution continue to boil without stirring. Watch the solution as it turns from translucent to one that’s colored golden amber.
- Add the remaining 4 ounces of water very slowly. You might want to stand back as the caramel mixture can pop and sputter. It can burn your hands if you are not careful.
- Lower the heat to medium. Keep on cooking until the solution has reduced a bit. You may want to let it cool down for a few minutes before checking its consistency with your fingers. It should be sticky.
- Pour the caramel syrup into a container, cover, and refrigerate.
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Making a Caramel Sauce
There are recipes that call themselves ‘caramel syrup’, yet they include cream and/or butter. One has to understand that a caramel syrup is different from a caramel sauce or a butterscotch. However, they do look the same. The only difference is the addition of a different ingredient. If you add butter to the water-sugar solution, you will get a butterscotch. If you add cream right after cooking the sugar-water solution, then you will get a caramel sauce. Here’s how to make caramel sauce.
- 1 and ½ cups of granulated sugar
- ¼ cup of water
- 2 cups of heavy cream
- A pinch of salt
- Dissolve the granulated sugar in water in a small saucepan. Turn on the stove and bring the solution to a rolling boil over high heat.
- Once the solution changes in color to light amber, remove the saucepan from the heat.
- Pour the heavy cream into the caramel in a very slow and deliberate manner. The solution will still be very hot. The addition of the cream can cause it to bubble and splatter. As such, be very careful.
- Stir the mixture until you have a uniform color.
- Pour the caramel into a container, cover, and put in the refrigerator.
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As mentioned, there are some recipes that put butter in the caramel together with the heavy cream. This can give the caramel sauce a richer profile. However, classic caramel sauce only requires heavy cream. This is how to make a caramel sauce.
Making a Caramel with Condensed Milk
Making caramel can be quite risky whenever you add either water or heavy cream. The very hot caramel can splatter and this can get on your skin. If you want a safer way to enjoy caramel without getting splattered on, then you may want to learn how to make caramel with condensed milk. One has to understand that condensed milk has a different composition compared to granulated sugar. However, this concentrated form of liquid milk often comes with sugar as a sweetener. You will rely on the caramelization of the sugar in condensed milk to give you a milky caramel. Here’s how to make caramel with condensed milk.
- 1 tin can of sweetened condensed milk, about 13.9 ounces
- Enough water to cover the tin can in a saucepan
- Clean the can of sweetened condensed milk and remove its label.
- Get a deep saucepan. It should be deep enough to accommodate the can of condensed milk, with an allowance of an inch or two at the top.
- Put the can of condensed milk in the saucepan and cover it with water. The tin can should be completely submerged. Remove the tin can and turn on the stove. Boil the water.
- Once boiling, place the tin can back into the saucepan. Simmer for about 3 hours. Do not cover the saucepan. However, you should check it once in a while to make sure that the tin can is still submerged in water. If not, then you can add hot water slowly. You do not want to reduce the water temperature in a drastic manner.
- Turn off the heat and remove the tin can of condensed milk from the water. Let it cool before you open the tin can.
Making a classic caramel syrup is as easy as boiling water with sugar until it turns a golden amber color and has a sticky consistency. Adding heavy cream can help make it richer. Adding butter can also give it a very rich flavor.