caramel shard

trying to figure out what i did wrong when attempting to make caramel shards (for the butterscotch brownie recipe via Claire Ptak / Violet Bakery). here's an image & descrip of my #caramelshardfail - oy!! will chalk this up to complete learning experience....but am thinking that perhaps i simply didn't keep it on the heat long enough.



Amy May 2, 2016
Even if you swirl undissolved sugar into the melted pot, it WILL crystalize the entire batch. I like to use a spray bottle to gently spritz the sides of the pan as it starts to boil. But do not spray them down into the pot once everything has liquified. Also, you may add a bit of lemon juice or corn syrup to the pan with the sugar before you begin to help intercept crystalization. Not a sure bet, but it helps.
hardlikearmour April 29, 2016
It looks like the sugar crystallized. What is the recipe, and what was your process? My guess is no interfering agent and either you stirred the mixture or some undissolved sugar crystals got introduced.
helicopterina May 1, 2016
thank you so much for your reply, @hardlikearmour . yes, that first attempt did crystallize but oddly, there was absolutely NO stirring involved -- i only swirled. was following the recipe here: I tried a second time following same recipe, same technique (no stirring, only swirling) but kept it on longer. still no success. finally was able to get something decently caramel like using a brown sugar caramel recipe by Sam Sifton on -- this was fairly successful but refused to harden when spread thinly and left to cool. so i just poked goopy little bits of it all over the blondie recipe i was making (instead of having broken shards to spread around the batter in the pan) and the end result was quite wonderful. lesson learned is that caramel is darned HARD and even the same recipe/technique followed to a fare-thee-well with care & scrupulous attention to detail is hard to get to come out consistently two times in a row. YIKES!
hardlikearmour May 1, 2016
I imagine some sugar crystals stuck to the edge of the pan, didn't melt, then dropped into the mixture. Next time try using more water to start so it's easier to dissolve the sugar, and put the lid on the pan. That way the steam with run down the sides washing the crystals in. Once the sugar has all melted and the mix has started to boil, remove the lid. All of the water will boil off as it's cooked, and once that happens the temperature of the mix will start to rise and the sugar will caramelize. Swirl occasionally until the mixture turns the caramel color you're looking for. You could also add a tad of lemon juice, cream of tartar, or corn syrup to the mix. This either inverts (i.e. fractures the sucrose molecules into glucose and fructose) or adds invert sugar to the mix. Having the other sugars in the mix helps inhibit crystallization -- the sucrose molecules have a harder time hooking up when there are other molecules in the mix.
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