I’ve noticed lately that in a lot of cookbooks the recipes that require caramelized sugar often just say “add 2 cups caramelized sugar” but they don’t tell you how to actually make the caramelized sugar yourself. It seems like a simple process, but actually it’s really easy to mess up and its really really easy to burn yourself making caramelized sugar.
I believe that you really do need a candy thermometer to do this right, because it may look like it’s a caramel brown but still be in the soft crack stage when you really want it in hard crack stage, so its best to know for sure what the temp is before you pour it out.
You will need:
A med saucepan
A candy thermometer
A wooden spoon
A cooking brush (or a small paintbrush)
First, for every Cup of sugar that you are making add 1 tablespoon of water and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. I find these proportions to work best, the lemon juice helps to stop it from crystallizing. Place in saucepan on high heat. Stir often but not continuously.
While its first heating up get your brush wet with warm/hot water–you might just want to keep a bowl of water on the stove to dip it in. As you stir your sugar mixture some will cling to the sides and start to crystallize, you want to just take the wet brush and brush that back into the mix as it happens.
Once the mixture is liquid and starts to bubble check the temperature. Around 250 degrees it should be a squishy ball when it dries. Be VERY CAREFUL the liquid is really not now, so don’t touch it or do something silly like lick the spoon –I almost always end up doing this and it really hurts!
So once the mixture has boiled for about 10 mins it should shrink down and start to turn a golden brownish color. It looks like this from about 275-350, so you need to check your temp before you stop cooking. Also be sure to keep brushing the edges down throughout the whole process. You need to get it to 302 degrees and then you can turn off the heat and pour it into your pan, or do whatever you’re going to do with it.