Tips for Making Caramels (2024)

‘Tis the season to make all things sweet–cookies, cakes and candies. Yes, even candies–those “sometimes tricky” treats that make the holiday so special.

Aunt Emily’s Caramels is one of our most searched, saved and pinned recipes. It has a 5-star rating for a good reason; it makes, classic, buttery caramels you will want year after year. Caramel recipes are relatively straightforward. They typically have a short set of ingredients and directions. That said, attention to detail makes the difference between soft, chewy caramels that almost melt in your mouth and something that will require an emergency trip to the dentist.

Tips for Making Caramels (1)

Temperature is the key in candy making. The most reliable way to know the temperature of the sugar syrup in the pan is with a candy thermometer. A candy thermometer can be purchased at most big box stores, groceries stores or kitchen supply shops. It is important to check your thermometer occasionally to make sure it is accurate. The easiest way to do this is to place the thermometer in boiling water. If it registers 212°F or 100°C, you are good to go. If not, it is time to replace it.

If caramels are too hard, you can try placing them back in a saucepan, adding a couple tablespoons of water and stirring until the thermometer reads 242°F. Pour back into a prepared buttered pan.

If caramels are too soft, that means the temperature didn’t get high enough. Again place the caramel back into a sauce pan with a couple of tablespoons of water and heat to 244°F.

If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can test with a cold water test. Details on how to use this method can be found here.

Tips for Making Caramels (2)

Occasionally, caramels might end up with a grainy texture. This is usually caused by sugar crystals stuck to the side of the pan that didn’t get fully dissolved. It only takes one to set off a chain reaction, and before you know it you have crunchy caramel.The easiest way to prevent this from happening is to brush down the insideof the pan with a little water once the mixture comes to a boil. This will wash any stray sugar crystals back down into the hot mixture and prevent them from interfering with cooling later.

If you have additional candy making questions, you can check out this link for more information. Armed with a little extra know-how, you can confidently make homemade caramels a new family holiday tradition.

Tips for Making Caramels (2024)

FAQs

What are 3 key ingredients that are added to caramels to prevent it from crystallizing? ›

Adding an acid like lemon juice is another way to prevent sucrose from crystallizing. The cream and butter also act as “interfering agents” as the milk proteins in both help to prevent crystal formation. Ingredients such as vanilla, flavorings, salt, and nuts (or baking soda for caramel corn) are all added at the end.

What not to do when making caramel? ›

12 Mistakes To Avoid When Making Caramel
  1. Not assembling your ingredients. Juanmonino/Getty Images. ...
  2. Choosing the wrong pan. Milanchikov Sergey/Shutterstock. ...
  3. Using the wrong sugar. ...
  4. Getting the temperature wrong. ...
  5. Stirring the sugar too much. ...
  6. Forgetting about safety. ...
  7. Not heating your liquid. ...
  8. Stopping before the sugar browns.
Jan 29, 2024

What determines the consistency of caramels? ›

Temperature matters when making caramel. How hot the liquid mixture gets will determine its consistency once it cools. Typically, recipes will provide temperature guidelines, which is why it's helpful to have a thermometer on hand to quickly and accurately evaluate your caramel.

Which method is quickest in caramel making? ›

For the "dry" caramel method, you simply heat the sugar in an empty pan until melted and caramelized. It's quick and direct, but the risk is that some parts of the sugar melt faster than others, and can burn before the rest had made it even to light amber.

What makes caramel soft or hard? ›

Temperature is key when making candy. The difference between a soft caramel and one that's hard and overcooked is all in the temperature. Candy thermometers—like this instant-read thermometer—let you know exactly what stage the caramel is in (thread, soft-ball, firm-ball, hard-ball, soft crack or hard crack).

How do you keep caramel from getting grainy? ›

Add Moisture: If the sugar is melted but you still see a few crystals- sometimes adding some liquid like water or heavy cream to the mixture can help dissolve any sugar crystals that have formed and promote a smoother texture.

Why did my homemade caramel get hard? ›

The water evaporates, leaving sugar crystals behind. If even one sugar crystal falls back into the pan of cooking caramel, it starts a chain reaction of sugar crystals and the entire pan will harden. The result? Gross, grainy caramel that is unusable in most recipes.

What happens if you stir caramel too much? ›

It makes sense to stir your pot, but you have to resist the urge. The reason that caramel turns back into sugar crystals and becomes grainy is because too much moisture has been lost in the cooking process. When sugar is dissolved in water it loses its structure and becomes the liquid that develops into caramel.

What enhances caramel? ›

Here are the foods you should consider pairing with caramel for maximum flavor.
  • Apples. This pairing is very well known. ...
  • Coffee. The acidity of coffee is leveled out by the addition of sweet caramel. ...
  • Chocolate. Candy bars, anyone? ...
  • Ginger.
Dec 27, 2019

Why does my homemade caramel taste bad? ›

You're Not Watching the Pot and the Syrup Got Too Dark

Caramel isn't one of those things you can set and forget—once the sugar starts to brown, the caramelization process happens quickly. If you're not careful, the sugar can burn and take on a bitter, unpleasant taste.

Should I stir when making caramel? ›

Do not stir, but instead swirl and shake the pan to distribute the caramelized sugar in and around the unmelted sugar and to promote even browning. Watch it carefully to make sure it doesn't burn. The caramel is done when it's a deep amber color and all sugar lumps have dissolved.

What is the formula for caramel? ›

Explanation: The typical formula for caramels is C24H36O18 , so the elements of water have been removed from the sucrose.

How do I make my caramels firmer? ›

Avoiding scraping the edges of the pan, and continue to cook, stirring constantly and slowly, until the mixture reaches 245 degrees F, about 10-15 minutes (you can go as high as 248 degrees F for a firmer, but still chewy, caramel, or take the caramel off the heat earlier for a softer caramel; 245 is perfect in my book ...

What are the two methods for making caramel? ›

What Are The Two Methods for Making Caramel? Wet vs. Dry Caramel
  1. Wet caramel is the most common method for making caramel at home. ...
  2. Dry caramel is the more challenging method. ...
  3. Be prepared. ...
  4. Use a light-colored pot. ...
  5. Add corn syrup. ...
  6. Don't mix. ...
  7. Warm the cream. ...
  8. Keep your butter cold.
Mar 24, 2023

How to stop caramel from crystallizing? ›

To make a perfect easy caramel every-time, simply add one or two drops of vinegar and just enough water to wet the sugar. The idea is to lower the PH. you can also use a small pinch of citric acid or cream of tartar if you have.

Do you add milk when melting caramel? ›

The key to getting it right is to use soft caramels as opposed to hard. You must also add some sort of liquid, such as milk or cream, to prevent the caramels from drying out. Knowing these tricks will help you to melt caramels with ease.

How do you keep caramel from seizing when adding cream? ›

Sometimes during this phase the cold fatty additions make the sugar mixture seize up. That can result in chunks of hardened, candy-like caramel and it can be discouraging. Avoid this by using room temperature butter and cream so the temperature contrast isn't as great.

Why is my sugar not melting for caramel? ›

Why is my sugar not caramelizing? If you don't add enough water, the sugar molecules will crystallize and become unstable when you turn off the heat. To fix this, add extra warm water to your pan and redissolve the sugar until it caramelizes.

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