What sugar should you use?
White, brown, red or cane sugar? You can use any type of sugar and experiment for different tastes and colours (the more natural the colour the more naturally flavoured the sugar). You could also use fructose mixed with a little water for quicker caramelisation and a light, orange-gold colour.
- Put your sugar in a pan of average size (the quantity of the sugar will depend on how much you need) over a medium heat.
- Shake the pan a little to get an even layer of sugar.
- Leave it to melt and shake again to even out the sugar. Do not stir whatever you do. Your melted sugar will soon boil and colour.
- When the caramel has turned liquid, pour it into in a container with a little cold water to stop caramelisation. You could also add a knob of butter or a few drops of lemon juice.If your caramel softens too quickly, pour a little water in it (be careful as it may sizzle) and stir well. If lumps develop, reheat your caramel to smoothen it.
The more the caramel cooks the darker and the more bitter it will become, so adjust your cooking time: pale caramel is used for pastries and cakes, and amber for topping.
- Use a very clean pan.
- If you are afraid of burning your sugar, add a little water at the beginning. To stop your caramel from softening and forming lumps, add a few drops of lemon juice to your water/sugar mix before heating.
- Avoid temperature variations during cooking.
You can flavour your caramel by adding all sorts of ingredients to it:
Vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, cloves. Simply mix the spices with the sugar before heating. For vanilla, only use the seeds inside the pod.
Orange, grapefruit, tropical fruits. Make a pale caramel, take off the heat and add the juice and/or pulp. Heat again until you get a syrupy mix that will thicken as it cools down.
Rose, jasmine, gentian, bergamot. Add flower water or syrup to cooled pale caramel.
Thyme, rosemary etc. Before cooking add a few pinches of herbs to the sugar or pour pre-prepared, cooled herbal tea in a little at a time during heating.
Butter, liquid cream, milk etc. Melt the butter on a low heat then add the sugar while mixing to get a smooth caramel. Add milk or cream to the sugar before heating.
Balsamic vinegar, coffee, chocolate, hazelnut. Add to the sugar before or during heating.