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Jun 12, 2013 06:27 AM

How to keep homemade sweet dessert sauces from crystallizing?

I know corn syrup can be used in place of sugar, but I'm wondering if there's a more technique-based secret. Because when I've made chocolate sauces with sugar(no corn syrup) at home, sometimes they've stayed liquid and smooth even when refrigerated, other times they've crystalized as soon as they've cooled. I just can't figure out why! I know there must be a reason, and I'd like to know what it is so I can cook a little more intelligently in the future;)
Thanks for your insights.

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  1. From my understanding . . . . .

    Sugar is very tricky. It only takes one undissolved sugar crystal to facilitate sugar re-crystalizing in whatever you've made.

    So that crystal can come from within the liquid, clinging to the side of the pot you were heating things in, on a utensil you used to stir, etc, etc, etc.

    The actual chemistry will depend on a whole host of things but that is my understanding of the over-arching reason. Adding corn syrup is a "trick" to prevent this re-crystalization of sugar, so even adding a little can help keep sauces smooth.

    1. What else do you put in your chocolate sauce?

      Generally, a more concentrated sugar solution is more likely to crystallize, and it will crystallize faster at cooler temperatures. If you'd rather not use corn syrup, you could try honey or a cane syrup like Lyle's Golden Syrup. Fat should also get in the way of crystals forming, so between the cocoa butter and dairy fat in most chocolate sauce recipes I'm surprised it would crystallize. Is it actually grainy or just solidified from the fats being cooled? Are you having different results with the same recipe and ingredients or are you trying different recipes? Finally, what result do you want? If the chocolate sauce is to be served warm, like hot fudge, those tend to be pretty solid at refrigerator temps. If you want something runny straight from the fridge you might look for a recipe using cocoa powder instead of dark chocolate, so you have less cocoa butter to solidify.