Every chef has had their share of trouble with getting the right consistency for caramel. Caramel is like a fussy child. You have to keep an eye on the kid all the time because all it takes is a split second to go from sweet to cranky. Making caramel is exactly like that. One split second from beautiful brown to burnt. Here are five tips to get your caramel to behave a little.
First things first, you have got have your ingredients at hand. There is no way your caramel is going to wait for you to thaw that butter or get the cream out of the refrigerator. Get what you need measured and ready.
A heavy bottom vessel is a must if you are making caramel for the first time. Over time you’ll be able to use any vessel if you know the remaining tricks. But to be safe, just use a thick bottomed vessel to spread the heat more evenly.
3. Stay put
You know how we train our dogs to heel, stay and talk? Caramel teaches you how to stay. And boy, have you got to stay. I know the heat can get crazy but staying is a lot more rewarding.
4. Sugar dissolved before it boils
Make sure all of your sugar is dissolved before it begins to boil. One of the best ways to get this right is to stir as much as you can to dissolve the sugar before you put it on the heat. The sugar crystals will make your caramel crystallise if you don’t dissolve all of it. Which brings us to the next point.
5. Keep washing the sides down
With a pastry brush, keep washing the sides of your pot as the sugar dissolves. Stop washing the sides once the sugar has stopped crystallising. In case you find the sugar beginning to crystallise once it is boiling bring the heat down to low and wait for the sugar to dissolve before letting it boil again.
6. No stirring
Avoid stirring once you have kept your sugar on the heat. Stirring may cause your sugar to crystallise. Too much stirring and you may end up with a dry crumbly mixture instead.
7. Candy thermometer is your best friend
Granted, there are ways to know the right consistency of the caramel you’re looking for such as inserting a small amount in ice cold water. But the best way to get your caramel at the temperature you want is to use a candy thermometer. It’s a good idea to invest in one if you do a lot of baking.
8. Ice Bath
Finally, once you have your caramel ready at the consistency you want, it needs to stop cooking before it begins to burn. To do that you need an ice bath ready to put the pan of caramel in to cool it and stop the cooking process.