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Homemade caramel what I am doing wrong?

In the past year I've been attempting to make caramel at home. I have the ingredients down pat: sugar, water, salt. I put it on the stove and let it boil. I watch it. One time it burned. This time I watched closer. It turned brown but remained transparent. It did taste alright. What did I do wrong? Do I need to invest in a candy thermometer?

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    Basic Caramel
    4 cups granulated sugar
    enough water to moisten the sugar
    caramelize to desired color and add:
    3 cups heavy cream to arrest the process
    4 ounces butter cubed
    2 tsp salt
    pinch of baking soda to colour

    The above given web address is a good site where you can get real professional answers.

    A candy thermometer is a good investment and a valuable addition to your kitchen tool collection. You'll find it is used for more than just candy making.

    1. It seems to me that it looked alright. If it tasted alright too what is the problem? What are you using it for? You add cream and butter only for specific purposes (e.g. making caramel sauce). If you are making it for creme caramel you just pour it directly into the baking dish.

      I have made caramel many, many times, and have never used a thermometer; I go by colour. Of course the colour varies from time to time. I never use salt.

      1 Reply
      1. re: souschef

        I use it as in ice cream. I make salted caramel ice cream.

      2. you are forgetting the cream (!)

        8 Replies
        1. re: monocle

          Yes, that, but you don't always need cream for caramel; depends on the ultimate usage, as souschef pointed out. A thermometer is not needed specifically for caramel, but it's are a good investment for other baking projects, plus they can double as a deep fry thermometer.

          1. re: bushwickgirl

            Could you recommend a certain model?

            1. re: BigE

              I have a thermometer made by Taylor that goes from 80 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. There is no model number marked, but the scale is about 7 inches long. In addition to temperatures, 'hard crack', 'soft ball' etc are all marked on the scale.

              It is a mercury/glass thermometer set into a metal holder, and the temperatures in F and C are engraved into the metal. At the back of the holder is a slideable metal clip so that you can clip the unit onto a pan.

              The lower end of the temperature range is for chocolate work, but you can't seriously use it for that as the resolution is not fine enough. For chocolate work I have (but have not used much) the Cordon Rose Chocolate Thermometer marketed by RLB.

              1. re: souschef

                Taylor, fine product and I recommend that brand also, (I own this). This model ranges from 100° to 400°:

                http://www.amazon.com/Taylor-Classic-...

                This model from CDN ranges from 75° to 400°, but as souschef commented, you can't really use these for chocolate work and the low 75° end is not that important:

                http://www.amazon.com/TCG400-Professi...

                  1. re: souschef

                    Like it ok?? Mine ranges from 100° to 400°, it's pretty new (purchased in the last 2 years). Is your's older? Did Taylor shorten the temp range?

                    1. re: bushwickgirl

                      Yup, I like it okay; I use it mainly when making buttercream. I bought it many years ago; probably more than 10. They did not shorten the range; the markings are numbered from 100, but there are gradations below than may be extrapolated to 80.

                      1. re: souschef

                        Oh, ok, yes that's true, I just took a better look at the thermometer. Yes, buttercream, that's mostly what I use mine for these days.

                        I just posted about your nice canelés at the "what are you baking..." thread, but dropped the post; I'll do it later; I'm a little beat (tired) today. My post was very positive, and now I want to make them also due to your enthusiastic report, but the rent must be paid before I can justify buying copper molds. I'll have to start saving my pennies in a serious way; maybe I'll stop buying cookbook for awhile.;)

        2. This thread has really peaked my interest, so I "googled" (salted caramel ice cream recipes and techniques). A lot of recipes and good information is available....just for the reading.

          Hope you find what you are looking for....Good Luck

          1. You are technically making caramel, but one of the best caramel recipes I've tried also had heavy cream, vanilla, butter and Lytle's Golden Syrup (instead of corn syrup).

            Thank goodness for the internet... here's the recipe: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

            A candy thermometer is a good thing to have and has many uses beyond caramel.

            3 Replies
            1. re: dave_c

              I just checked out that recipe. It is not a recipe for making caramel; it is a recipe for making caramels! Huge difference! Caramel is made with sugar and water, period.

              1. re: souschef

                My bad, as a layman, when I see caramel I assumed the OP we referring to the chewy candy.

                Also, the OP mentioned salted caramel ice cream which the recipe I listed would make a delicious caramel sauce or addition to an ice cream base.

                1. re: dave_c

                  I'm a layman too; regret choosing the handle souschef. I'm an engineer, not a chef.

            2. YAYME, what is your intended use for the final product?

              2 Replies
                1. re: YAYME

                  YAYME. I just noticed that you wrote in your OP that your caramel "remained transparent". Unless you add butter and/or cream, water and sugar cooked together until caramelized looks transparent. No problem there, that's what it does. Adding cream and/or butter will result in the sauce taking on an opaque appearance.

                  The recipe I use for caramel ice cream calls for adding cream to the caramelized sugar for a caramel sauce, to mix into the ice cream custard base before freezing.

              1. Having just recently discovered salted caramel ice cream (and salted caramels, my newest addiction), I would love to have any successful caramel ice cream or salted caramel ice cream recipes.

                1 Reply