This comment suggests something about the true definition of "caramel":

Actually, caramel is not made with "milk and/or cream, butter, and sometimes vanilla". While US recipes are fond of adding these things to caramel, they are not an essential part of the definition.

I am very interested in what a true caramel recipe and production is. What actually is the definition?

Also, I want to toy around with butterscotch, caramel and toffee - I like them all. Is there something along this line that uses molasses, even if it's not caramel per se?

  • I left your second question about molasses in, since it's perhaps related in that it's asking about definitions and names of candy, but you might need get better answers if you post it separately. – Cascabel Mar 6 '16 at 15:48
  • For your second question - Brown sugar has molasses in it, I think you can even buy brown sugar with more molasse content for stronger flavor. – Sarumanatee Mar 10 '16 at 13:53
  • Thank you for that clarification. I appreciate it. I do use dark brown sugar, which is what I think you are saying. It's nice to know these things. – Mark Votaw Mar 21 '16 at 2:48

When heated, sugar will caramelize and turn into caramel. No other ingredients are required.

According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking published by Scribner, 2004, p. 688:

Caramel is first of all the brown, sweet, aromatic syrup produced in caramelization, which may be used as a coloring and/or flavoring ingredient in many preparations. But cooks use the same word to mean the combination of caramelized sugar and various milk products, ideally cream, which are mixed while the sugar is still hot so that the milk solids are browned and generate color and aroma as well.

  • Can't go wrong with Harold McGee ;-) -> +1 – Stephie Mar 6 '16 at 8:57
  • Thank you very much. That makes perfect sense and I get it now. Stephie, it looks like I'm going to have to look up Harold McGee. – Mark Votaw Mar 21 '16 at 2:49

Here is how I create my caramel crunch:

I dissolve 4 parts sugar and a pinch of salt in 1 part luke warm water, making sure that all the crystals have dissolved. This has two advantages. First, you make sure that the sugar crystals actually are dissolved, which sometimes is not the case when you heat the sugar directly. The dissolution in water gives you more granular control on the intensity of caramelization and almost eliminates the possibility of burning the sugar.

Next, I bring the mixture to a boil on high heat. This causes the water to evaporate. Be patient, after a while the mixture will start to get light brown and the number of bubbles increases, it will look a bit like bath foam. Stir rapidly now!

When the color of the caramel is something like a light cognac, take it from the heat and continue to stir until the bubbles are gone. Pour the caramel on a baking tray layed out with baking paper. I tried it once with a silicone ice cube tray, too, with good results. What you should have after some time is crystal clear caramel.

You can add some Cointreau or a splash of lime juice to the original solution. or after taking the mixture from the heat, which is the only time when Milk products or other ingredients sensitive to heat should be added, too. My personal favorite is adding Cointreau and chopped almonds.

  • 2
    This doesn't really answer the question. Also, we are not a recipe exchange site. – James McLeod Mar 6 '16 at 20:29
  • @JamesMcLeod Well, it is a way of making caramel (and actually a downscaled method of industrial production of caramel), which was requested as per "I am very interested in what a true caramel[...]production is". Which in turn, per tour, is on topic: "Cooking & food preparation methods", at least as far as I have understood it – though I'd appreciate being corrected if my understanding is wrong. Forgive my side notes, please. Food tends to get me carries away. ;) – Markus W Mahlberg Mar 6 '16 at 21:57
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    Understood, and I am not the DVer - just explaining why you might encounter down votes – James McLeod Mar 6 '16 at 23:21
  • @JamesMcLeod I could not care less about down votes, but I appreciate the kind effort. – Markus W Mahlberg Mar 6 '16 at 23:22

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