My caramel hardened into sugar crystals

I was making a batch of salted caramel sauce, I quadrupled it (which may be the problem!) and it was taking the natural progression but then it created a hard crystalized top and slowly the majority of pan is white hardened crystals. What happened?!?

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hardlikearmour
hardlikearmour December 12, 2011

Sucrose (aka granulated sugar) likes to form a crystalline matrix - all it needs is a "seed" for the process to start. To help interfere with the process it is typical to add an "invert" sugar to the mix, most commonly corn syrup. Another option is to invert part of the sucrose by adding an acid to the mix (cream of tartar or lemon juice.) The acid breaks the bonds between sucrose molecules, turning them into glucose and fructose molecules. The non-sucrose sugar molecules hamper crystallization by getting in between sucrose molecules so it's hard for the sucrose molecules to join together into crystals.

Some other tips:
1. Keep the lid on the pan until the sugar and water have come to a good boil. The steam formed acts like brushing the sides of the pan down with water, but much easier.
2. Swirl the pan, but don't stir the mixture until you add the cream (the fat in the cream also helps hamper crystal formation.)

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