Caramel is a type of sugar that has been cooked to the point where the molecules break down and form smaller, more complex sugars with a brown color.
Caramel can be made by heating sugar over medium-high heat until it melts and turns golden in color.
Making caramel is actually very similar to making candy apples or fudge, but without adding any milk or chocolate.
A candy thermometer can be used to determine the temperature of caramel or simply watch as it begins to brown and darken in color.
Caramel thickened and cooled can be used as an ingredient in many food recipes, such as sweets, bread, sauces, and frostings.
As long as the process of adding sugar to water is not rushed or done without thought, it is virtually impossible to burn the caramel.
This article will discuss the process of thickening caramel sauce to be used in many different food recipes.
How to Achieve a Perfect Caramel Sauce?
To create a caramel sauce that can be used as-is or thickened, it is important to heat the sugar on medium-high heat until it melts and turns golden brown.
Once this color has been reached, using a wooden spoon, stir the caramel to cook evenly.
Avoid stirring too fast or touching any part of the hot mixture with your fingers, as either of these actions may cause the sugar to harden and clump up.
When adding sugar during caramel making, it is important to stir constantly to dissolve into the water.
Once all of the sugar has been added and dissolved, turn down the heat slightly so that the mixture continues to cook without bubbling or scorching.
For most recipes, it is best to make caramel that has reached a dark amber color.
For recipes that require using caramel sauce as a topping, it is best to stop cooking the caramel when it reaches an almost-brown color, thicker and less runny than the sauce made from golden-brown caramel.
The temperature of the caramel-making mixture can have a profound effect on the consistency and flavor of your final product.
The easier, smoother caramel is to make, the lower in temperature the sugar should be when you begin cooking it.
One way to prevent overcooking your caramel sauce is to begin by heating the sugar mixture to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, then turning down the heat to allow it to cook without bubbling until it reaches the desired color.
Why Your Caramel is Too Light?
Once the desired color is reached, it is time to remove the caramel from heat and let it cool slightly before adding additional ingredients.
If any kind of milk or protein-containing ingredient (such as butter) is added while the caramel mixture is still hot, then a thickened consistency will be impossible to achieve.
The sugar in caramel makes for a slightly acidic, sticky ingredient that naturally thickens as it cools.
The longer the caramel mixture is allowed to cool and cook, the thicker it will become.
While cooking or waiting for an item to bake in a recipe with caramel sauce as an ingredient, it is advisable to use ice water baths or a slow oven setting so that the caramel does not continue to cook any longer than necessary.
How to Thicken Caramel Sauce?
Ideally, a caramel sauce should be added to the recipe while it is still hot.
If cooled further and then reheated again, the sugar may become grainy or harden.
Several methods can be used to thicken caramel sauce, and the method you choose depends on how thick your final product should be.
1 – Using Flour or Cornstarch
Adding either flour or cornstarch into warmed caramel will help thicken it, but as with most other food recipes, adding too much of these ingredients will ruin the flavor and texture of your caramel.
If you do not want to add as much thickening power, another option for making thin or semiflour-like caramel is using a cornstarch slurry.
To make this mixture, stir 1 teaspoon of cornstarch into 1 tablespoon of water until fully dissolved.
Then gradually add it to the saucepan with the caramel and cook over low or medium-low heat.
2 – Simmer the Sauce Over Low Heat
Another of the simplest ways to thicken caramel sauce is to simply simmer it over low heat until you achieve your desired consistency.
This method can be time-consuming, but if your sauce is supposed to be thin in texture and not too sweet, then this will be the best way for you.
3 – Let the Sauce Cool
After removing the saucepan from heat, you can do two things: Let it cool and thicken further on its own, or you can place it in a refrigerator to expedite the process.
Whichever method you choose, if your caramel is currently too thin for use in recipes that call for a thicker consistency, cooling it will help you achieve the desired texture.
4 – Using Butter
If you have used too much sugar in your caramel sauce and it is now overly sweet, removing some of the excess sugar can help reduce its sweetness.
The easiest way to do this is by melting down your caramel and then pouring it into a dish containing unsalted butter.
As the mixture cools, some of the sugar will dissolve in the butter and will be easier to remove later.
5 – Using Corn Syrup
Corn syrup can help thicken caramel if used in small amounts so that the flavor and texture do not become altered or the texture too sticky.
Mix two tablespoons of corn syrup into your caramel sauce and stir it well to combine the two ingredients into a smooth consistency.
6 – Using Heavy Whipping Cream
Heavy whipping cream can also be used to thicken a recipe’s caramel content, but only if you are adding another liquid ingredient along with it.
Mix 1/4 cup of cream to 1/2 cup of caramel and slowly stir it together until fully combined.
The heavy whipping cream will thicken the sauce while adding a creamy texture.
7 – Add More Sugar
If all else fails and your caramel sauce is still too thin even after you have attempted to thicken it, adding additional sugar can help bring the consistency to a more appropriate final texture.
Stir in 1/4 cup of granulated sugar to your sauce and allow it to dissolve fully before you begin using it in recipes.
8 – Add Tapioca Flour
Tapioca flour can be used to thicken caramel, but you must remember not to add too much of it.
Add 1/4 cup of tapioca flour and 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter to a saucepan containing warm caramel.
Whisk the mixture together until it is smooth before removing it from heat.
Allow the sauce to cool and thicken before using it in recipes.
In conclusion, caramel sauce serves various purposes and can be a great addition to some desserts.
It can also be used as a delicious topping for many sweets, or it can become the focal point of your caramel-themed recipes.
Keep in mind that caramel sauce is quick to thicken if you are using the wrong method.
So before adding any ingredients to your warm caramel, it is best to first test out said ingredient one at a time until your desired consistency and flavor have been achieved.