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Why do my caramels begin to granulate over time?

I've been monkeying with putting together a solid caramel recipe, and I've finally perfected it. I get gorgeous perfectly chewy caramels every time, but after 5-7 days, the edges begin to develop granulation, and over the course of a few weeks, the entire thing crystallizes. In my googling, I've only found info on caramels seizing, which is not a problem for me.

As far as method goes:
*I cook my corn syrup-sugar-water mixture to about 285-290 with no stirring, keeping an eye out for errant crystals, which get washed down with hot water and a silicone pastry brush.
*At 290, I add my hot cream/butter/salt mixture and then cook back up to about 243-245, occasionally stirring with a whisk, stored in a glass of hot water
*I pour the caramel out into a cooking-sprayed silicone loaf pan, allow to cool for a few hours, then cut into rectangles and wrap in waxed paper.

What am I doing wrong?! They're amazing for a few days, but then they seem to go to shit. I want to send these out in christmas cookie packages, but I don't want them to suck when they arrive.

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  1. hmmmm, sugar is really tricky and as you know one stray crystal somewhere can ruin everything.

    My first guess might be increasing the amount of corn syrup to see if that helps stabilize the caramel - it sounds like you're doing the other basics correctly (mainly avoiding adding any crystal sugar)

    That said, when I make caramel it doesn't hang around that long . . . . so maybe mine would crystalize too . . . .

    1. Post the complete recipe with proportions - that may give us a clue. I have never had this trouble with caramels, but I suspect the high heat of your first cook is the issue. My recipe calls for a high temp of 236 (mine are quite soft), but even for a firmer caramel I've never seen temp higher than maybe 250 called for.

      1. Thanks for the input guys!

        When I've made caramels where everything is cooked together to th 240ish temp, I've experienced some where they've granulated. Cooking to a higher temp theoretically should reduce the likelihood of having any granulation.

        I don't usually have these around very long, but found one that had been tucked in my purse for 6 days and found that it had begun granulating. After that, I kept a few aside each batch to see if they did the same, and they did.

        Here's my recipe
        1 1/4 cups heavy cream
        4 tablespoons (half a stick) unsalted butter
        1.5 teaspoons iodized or sea salt

        1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
        1/4 cup corn syrup (more or less)
        1/4 cup water (doesn't need to be measured, just enough to start melting the sugar)

        I combine the cream ingredients in a pyrex measure and microwave til hot, and wait for the sugar mixture to come up to a high temp.

        6 Replies
        1. re: LaureltQ

          Your recipe calls for MUCH less corn syrup than mine does, and a good bit less than a lot of recipes I've seen (take this Martha Stewart "classic," for instance: http://www.marthastewart.com/948380/c... ). I would try getting rid of the water entirely and adding more corn syrup - try 3/4 c to the amount of sugar you're using.

          If that doesn't solve the problem, skip the initial cooking of the syrup (as in the MS recipe, where you combine everything and just cook it once) or reduce the temperature. It's really just a hunch I have, but I feel like cooking the sugar syrup to the soft crack stage is causing it not to want to stay in suspension with the fats in the finished caramels. I could be COMPLETELY off base with that, but the higher temp is not necessary in any case, so no need to waste time getting it that hot.

          1. re: biondanonima

            Great! I will try tripling the corn syrup and see where that gets me.

            I really do prefer cooking to a high temp on its own, because it can be ignored and doesn't require stirring to prevent burns until all of the sugar crystals are definitely melted, then after the dairy is added it can be babysat and stirred.

            1. re: LaureltQ

              You'll probably find that the sugar crystals melt much more quickly and evenly with the extra corn syrup - it has much more moisture than sugar and will dissolve it very quickly. As I mentioned in my first post, I never cook mine past 236 and I've never had an issue with unmelted sugar crystals or burning, and I don't really stir it too much, even in the initial stage.

              1. re: biondanonima

                You add your cream/butter in before heating? I will try this method this weekend and report back with the results!

                1. re: LaureltQ

                  I don't, but that Martha Stewart recipe calls for everything to be heated together, and I've seen many other recipes that do it that way as well.

                  1. re: LaureltQ

                    I use a recipe quite similar to the linked MS one, with everything but vanilla in the pot before heating, and it works fine.

          2. How are you storing them? Humidity can cause issues, including crystallization. Otherwise I agree with not enough corn syrup.

            5 Replies
            1. re: babette feasts

              After several hours, I wrap them in waxed paper and pack away in take-out type boxes. They are not airtight, and we live in the Seattle area, so I suppose humidity could be affecting them. I will try increasing the corn syrup in my recipe, then storing half like I normally do, and half in an airtight container(maybe with some rice in the bottom to absorb additional humidity?) and see where that gets me after a week.

              Thanks for the input on this guys! I am excited for more testing!

              1. re: LaureltQ

                I'm in Seattle, too. I wrap mine in cellophane and usually keep them airtight, but even when the box is uncovered they have been fine. You could also try more butter.

                Off the top of my head, my recipe is (all by weight) about 30 oz sugar, 6 oz butter, 6 oz honey/cane syrup/golden syrup/glucose, 24 oz cream. So that would be about 4-1/3c sugar, 1-1/2 sticks butter, 1/2 to 2/3c liquid sugar, 3 c cream. My proportions are not all that different from yours.

                Does your sugar mixture caramelize before you add the cream?

                1. re: babette feasts

                  When it gets up to about 190ish, it'll just start turning the lightest shade of caramel, but not generally.

                  What is your method for cooking them? Do you cook everything at once, or cook the sugar mixture before adding in the cream/butter?

                  1. re: LaureltQ

                    I caramelize the sugar on its own (wet method) to the desired color to develop caramel flavor then add everything else (pre-warmed) and cook to about 250F. Pour into a prepared pan, let cool, wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap, then cut and individually wrap a day or two later.

                    1. re: babette feasts

                      I will add this method to my trials!