© Randal Oulton
Caramel is sugar syrup that has been heated between 180 and 210 C (356 – 410 F.) The heating causes the syrup to thicken a great deal, and to gradually change colour from golden to dark brown as the temperature increases.
Caramel can refer to a candy made with this heated sugar syrup, or, to the substance when used as a flavouring and colouring for desserts and sauces, breads, beverages, etc.
When it sets, it can set quite hard — as in for instance the burnt sugar topping on a crème brûlée.
Caramel is also one of the mostly widely-used and longest-used food colourings in the world. The colouring is now found in almost everything, as it is cheap and safe to use, and provides a pleasing eye appeal. It is water soluble.
The E number assigned to caramel colour is E150. There’s subnumbers a through d (e.g. E150c) assigned to it based on what it’s most appropriate for.
Caramels, Butterscotch, Taffy, Toffee
- Caramel and Taffy are soft; they are cooked to a firm-ball stage of 123 – 125 C (245 – 250 F);
- Butterscotch is harder; it is cooked to a soft-crack stage of 132 – 143 C (270 – 290 F);
- Toffee is hardest of the four candies; it is cooked to a hard crack stage of 150 to 160 C (300 to 310 F.)
A further difference between Taffy and Toffee is that Taffy is pulled; Toffee is poured into a mould.
The best way to clear a pot in which you’ve made caramel (by accident or on purpose) is to put lots of water in it and boil it.