Monday, September 5, 2005

Microwave Caramel

Shirley Corriher has a very interesting discussion of caramel, it's chemical composition, and how difficult it is to make. After all the caveats, however, she supplies a recipe which is supposedly very easy, and relies on the knowledge of chemistry occurring during the formation of caramel. Consider:

  1. 1/2 cup sugar

  2. 1/4 cup corn syrup

  3. 2-4 drops lemon juice

Put the above into a microwave safe two cup container (thoroughly mixed). Run the microwave on high until bubbles begin to form on top of bubbles. Then 'watch the mixture carefully'. As soon as it begins to turn tan, remove it. It will continue darkening once removed. If you don't feel it is dark enough, return to the microwave for ten seconds, and another ten if needed. Time taken depends on how dark you want the caramel, and the strength of your microwave. So, guess as best you can.

I tried this today, and in typical male fashion, decided that if it wasn't distinctly dark, it wasn't cooked enough, and kept putting it back into the microwave. Eventually it was dark enough, and I relented. I've never seen caramel preparation, only the candies and sauces labelled caramel. These are all opaque, but I suspect this is due to the addition of dairy products. My experiment was clear, and after it had cooled, was totally crystalline. It's a pain to cut a chunk loose, but definitely has a smoky caramel flavor.

I'm gonna try again some other day, and stop sooner. According to Corriher, longer cooking produces more, shorter sugars, leading to a denser crystalline matrix. So I took it to the limit, I suppose. I want to try for something more gooey next time. Dunno why, as caramel is not generally my choice of candy. Guess I just enjoy the chemistry!

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