Syrupy sweet

Our food ex­perts, Fran Ab­dal­laoui and Pamela Clark, de­mys­tify the world of su­gar syrup and caramel.

The Australian Women's Weekly - - Ask The Experts -

Per­fect su­gar syrup

The sin­gle most im­por­tant thing when mak­ing a wa­ter and su­gar-based caramel is to en­sure that all su­gar crys­tals dis­solve to pre­vent crys­talli­sa­tion. To guar­an­tee this re­sult:

Use white su­gar or caster su­gar; white su­gar will usu­ally give a clearer re­sult.

Dis­solve the su­gar be­fore the mix­ture boils by stir­ring over medium heat.

Dip a pas­try brush in wa­ter and brush down the side of the pan to re­move any undis­solved crys­tals (Step 1, above, right).

Once boil­ing, don’t stir the mix­ture – only swirl the pan lightly if needed to even out the colour (Step 2).

When is the syrup ready?

The most ac­cu­rate way to test is with a candy ther­mome­ter, avail­able from kitchen­ware and cake dec­o­rat­ing sup­pli­ers (Step 3). If you don’t have a ther­mome­ter, here are the tests to see if your syrup is ready. Take the pan off the heat and drop about a tea­spoon of the su­gar syrup into a glass of cold tap wa­ter (Step 4). Gather up the su­gar syrup with your fin­gers.

Soft ball 116°C Syrup will form a soft, sticky ball that can be flat­tened. Used for Ital­ian meringue and frost­ings.

Hard ball 122°C Syrup will form a hard ball that holds its shape. Used for con­fec­tionery and soft stick­jaw tof­fee.

Small crack 138°C Syrup will form firm but flex­i­ble strands. Used for but­ter­scotch and firm nougat.

Crack 154°C Syrup will form brit­tle threads. Used for brit­tles, tof­fees, hard con­fec­tionery and spun su­gar.

Caramel 174°C Syrup will range from light golden at about 160°C, to dark caramel above 174°C. Used for pra­line, con­fec­tionery, brit­tles and sauces.

Achiev­ing per­fect colour tricks

Once the caramel starts to colour, swirl the pan gen­tly to en­sure it colours evenly, but don’t stir. It will colour quickly and will con­tinue to do so off the heat. If you are new to mak­ing caramel, it’s bet­ter to re­move it from the heat a lit­tle ear­lier and wait for it to con­tinue to deepen off the heat. If your caramel is the per­fect colour on the heat, chances are it has gone too far, as it will con­tinue to darken. To stop it, place the saucepan in a sink with enough cold wa­ter to come one-third of the way up the side of the pan to cool rapidly.

How dark should caramel be?

If a caramel is too light, it will sim­ply taste sweet; too dark and it will be bit­ter. A midgolden caramel is ideal as it will of­fer less sweet­ness and more caramel taste.

Care and stor­age

Take care when mak­ing caramel, as it reaches a high tem­per­a­ture. If a liq­uid is added to a caramel it will splat­ter, so stand back and add grad­u­ally. If it sets into hard pieces, melt it over a low heat. Don’t make or pour hot caramel in plas­tic – only use heavy-duty, heat­proof glass, ce­ramic or metal. Store tof­fee-based items in an air­tight con­tainer in a cool, dry place.

Step 2

Step 1

Step 3

Step 4

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