I have a chocolate syrup recipe that calls for around 1 cup of sugar and 3 cups of water. I have found that the recipe turns out better if I caramelize the sugar. However, when I add the water to the caramelized sugar, the sugar immediately hardens (due to the temperature difference, I assume). I have tried boiling the water, which helps, but the problem still exists(the melting point of sugar, according to wikipedia, is 320F, so there is still a significant temperature difference). Stirring until the hardened sugar dissolves is tedious and often leaves me with small, undissolved chunks. Is there a better way to dissolve caramelized sugar without it hardening?


Walk away.

No, really - it works. Once you add the water to the sugar, it will likely harden and clump up (I don't know how to stop that happening). But once it does, you can just walk away, and leave it to sit till it cools down.

A lot of the sugar will just dissolve on its own, given time and enough water to dissolve into. Some mixing (occasional stirs as or after it cools) will dissolve some more. And at the last, when most of it has dissolved, you can gently start heating the pan up again, stir it around, maybe bring it to a boil for a bit, maybe add a bit more water and heat some more to get at those last undissolved chunks...

It's sugar, in water. It will dissolve until the water's saturated. It takes time to dissolve on its own, and that's annoying if you want to use it right away - hence measures like heating, or stirring, or crushing the dried caramel to stir into water that way. But it really works just as well, and is less tedious, just to give it some of that time and let it dissolve away.

I did this when making a caramelized burnt-sugar syrup, and it worked. Adding the water was pretty spluttery at first (the caramelization had to be stopped pretty fast), but I did notice the caramel hardening to the bottom of the pot once it had settled a bit. I gave it a few stirs, and walked away to take care of something else - and by the time I got back to it, most of the lumps were well on their way to dissolving.

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    That's also how you clean up the caramel pan afterwards. Just fill it with water and come back in a few hours. It doesn't even need to be hot water. Sugar, even caramel, really, REALLY wants to dissolve in water. (So much so that it'll suck water right out of the air if there's any humidity at all, which is why caramel becomes sticky.) – Joshua Engel Dec 14 '16 at 14:54
  • Also boil the water first and add a lid on the pot as fast as possible after adding the water. That should help to keep the temperature above boiling for longer which should help. – Nobody Jun 1 '20 at 8:21

Random things to try:

  • Add the molten caramel to the hot water (not the other way around), slowly, stirring vigorously as you add it.
  • Allow the caramel to cool (in a heat-proof plastic bag, or on a marble slab as in candy making, or even on parchment paper), then crush it. Put in cold water, heat while stirring (similar to melting granulated sugar)

I'm pretty sure the second one will work (assuming the caramel becomes hard; if not melting syrup should work fine too); the first one might, it's probably quicker though at a higher risk of burns...

  • Excellent suggestions- increasing the surface area of the sugar to make it dissolve faster. I think this requires some experimenting to see if they will save effort. – Sobachatina Mar 9 '11 at 13:35

You can caramelize the sugar without melting it. Perhaps that will give you the results you are after. http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2016/05/dry-toasted-sugar-granulated-caramel-recipe.html

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    Very clever approach – michael Dec 8 '16 at 17:52
  • The way I always made caramel/water mixtures was to melt the sugar dry and then add the water. When melting the sugar, there is always a period of time when it is still crystalline but starts being browned a bit like in the picture. But the caramel flavour would be pretty weak if you stopped at that point and added water. – Nobody Jun 1 '20 at 8:15

Put the water in with the sugar and boil them together.

  • But the sugar will never caramelize that way- until you boil out all the water and then you are back where you started. – Sobachatina Mar 9 '11 at 13:31
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    If the water was added gradually as the sugar caramelised it should be possible to get a very liquid caramel. Most caramel calls for some water to be added to the sugar before you start to heat it anyway, it's just a matter of slowly increasing that so the sugar dissolves but still caramelises. – ElendilTheTall Mar 9 '11 at 14:43
  • I had never added water before caramelizing, but I see that you are right and several recipes call for small amounts. I will try that next time. – michael Mar 9 '11 at 14:50
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    @derobert Nope... a syrup can reach far higher temperatures than 212°F ;) – rackandboneman Dec 9 '16 at 14:05
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    How do you then explain syrups (especially inverts) taking on a nice golden hue and a more complex flavor if you cook them long enough, even if they don't hit "officially sanctioned caramel temperatures"? What could also be tried is creating caramelization at the surface (blowtorch?) and stirring that back into the syrup. – rackandboneman Dec 9 '16 at 17:40

Don't caramelize the sugar first.

My chocolate recipe calls for equal amounts of water and milk, and to get the sticky-effect (that I presume you're after by caramelizing your sugar) just boil it for as long as possible. Adding milk instead of water will have the milk boil and if you're not careful it will overflow. But if you keep a close eye on it, and keep at it it will eventually just be bubbling, and with the steaming reducing the watery-ness, it will become nice and thick.

  • It's the flavor rather than the consistency that the caramelization improves. – michael Mar 9 '11 at 14:49

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