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Caramelization: Heating Sugar Until It Melts and Turns Golden Brown

August 31, 1989|JOAN DRAKE | Times Staff Writer

When granulated sugar is slowly heated, it melts and turns golden brown. This process is known as caramelization.

The sugar must be melted in a heavy pan (not iron) over very low heat. Pour it into the pan (Step 1) and stir constantly with a long-handled spoon. The sugar will become lumpy (Step 2) as it begins to melt.

After a few minutes the sugar liquefies, turning the color of straw. If you continue to heat it, the sugar will turn deep brown, then will become black and burn.

To halt the caramelizing process, remove the pan from the heat and stir in one-quarter cup boiling water (Step 3), or the amount called for in a recipe. Because of the temperature difference between the sugar mixture and even boiling water, it must be added slowly to keep spattering to a minimum (Step 4).

In addition to stopping caramelization, the water dilutes the sugar to a syrup that can be used in recipes such as flan. If the sugar was simply allowed to cool, it would harden into a brittle mass.

The syrup may be stored in a heat-proof jar. Although it will harden on standing, the syrup will remelt if jar is gently reheated in hot water.

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