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When I read recipes involving boiling a soup/dessert and adding sugar, they often say to add the sugar towards the end of the boiling. Why is that? Are there consequences of adding sugar early?

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Thanks for editing! In case you didn't save it: you can click on the "edited <time> ago" link to see the old versions of your question and copy out the other questions to post them separately! –  Jefromi Jun 3 '13 at 4:43
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Very few soups have sugar added... and there are many, many types of desserts. Can you give an example or the recipe of one you are interested in to make it easier to answer? –  SAJ14SAJ Jun 3 '13 at 5:10
    
'Soups' probably isn't the best word choice, but the recipes I was talking about were Chinese pear soups used in traditional Chinese medicine. But really, the question pertains to whenever I need to add sugar to a boiled liquid base. –  user22979 Jun 3 '13 at 5:40
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in many recipes at the end you get the suggestion to "adjust" the taste with salt and sugar. It makes sense to do it at the very end because salt and sugar do not need to "cook" and it is hard to anticipate how much exactly you need to add. At least, this is what I do with tomato sauce (if it tastes too acidic a pinch of sugar helps) and minestrone. I would be very nervous about adding just the right amount of sugar (or salt) right at the beginning - particularly because once it is in there, you are not going to get it out. –  Walter A. Aprile Jun 3 '13 at 8:50
    
+1 for Walter. I think you should post this as an Answer, it deserves more than just a comment against the question. –  vincebowdren Jun 3 '13 at 16:55
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2 Answers

To add onto Walter's answer, adding sugar towards the end for taste when boiling ensures that the sugar dissolves faster so that the results of your addition are more accurate and immediate.

If you added the sugar before boiling, you run the risk of adding too much sugar because you tasted it before all the sugar dissolved and you added more as a result.

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There might be a chemical reason for the delay in adding sugar. The properties of sugar change dramatically with exposure to heat, which is how caramel and other candies are made. While caramel usually requires high heat (well above boiling - 300 degrees F and up) over a short period of time, the same chemical reaction can occur at lower tempuratures when the sugar is cooked for a long period of time. This could dramatically affect the flavor of the soup/dessert you are cooking.

An interesting article on sugar/caramel cooking experiments that explains what's going on: http://www.curiouscook.com/site/sugar/

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