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I want to know what is the extra step that make the difference between:

  • Caramel Sauce;
  • Soft Caramel;
  • Chewy Caramel.

I will take Christophe Michalak recipe:

  • 100 g sugar;
  • 100 g cream;
  • 20 g butter.

What is the key step that will make the difference. And what if we added less cream, so we can be aware from slightly oily caramels.

  • What do you mean by "extra step"? It is up to the recipe. – rumtscho Jun 4 '16 at 15:18
  • I mean the step of cooking, that will make the difference between a liquid, soft, chewy and hard caramel – androidnation Jun 4 '16 at 15:22
  • The cooking step that will change the texture. Is it the temperature ? The cream quantity ? The butter ? – androidnation Jun 4 '16 at 15:24
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There is no "extra step". The recipe proportions determine which type you get. Standard caramel is just chewy. If you add fat or milk proteins (insider tip: try milk powder), it becomes soft. The more fat, the softer.

Also, if you add liquid, it becomes liquid, and can be used as a sauce. The more liquid, the lower the viscosity.

Also, it is a continuum, there is no hard divide. You can't say that up to 30% cream it's a soft caramel, from 31% cream it's a sauce" or similar.

A recipe should tell you which kind it produces. The one you posted looks a lot like a sauce to me, although I don't have ratios handy to say for sure. I tried searching for it, but the only one I found was https://djoudjousemetauxfourneaux.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/sauce-caramel-maison-recette-de-christophe-michalak/, which has much less liquid and more butter, and is still supposed to be a sauce.

  • Not sure I understand the "standard caramel" part - with just sugar it's hard, right? I think maybe you mean with a standard ratio of sugar and fat it comes out chewy, and then more fat (or milk proteins) on top of that makes it soft? – Cascabel Jun 4 '16 at 18:14
  • I haven't made it in years, but I think you can make soft caramel with just sugar if you don't get it too dark. Or maybe it was only possible when you add acid? But the clear fatless kind is much chewier than the one which has added fat (or protein) – rumtscho Jun 4 '16 at 18:17
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The temperature of the caramel when you stop cooking will make a significant difference in the texture/solidity of the caramel product. This is what candy thermometers are for. For example, if you want:

  • caramel sauce that remains soft when frozen : thread stage
  • chewy caramel at room temperature : firm-ball stage
  • caramel for popcorn : hard-crack stage

It's hard to tell from your question what the difference between "soft" and "chewy" caramel is, but you should be able to refer to the standard candy making temperature guidelines.

Examples of caramel recipes that finish heating below 170 C:

  1. http://www.marthastewart.com/948380/classic-caramel-candies
  2. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/22774/caramel-candies/
  3. https://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/candy/recipe-caramels.html#
  4. http://www.ediblelife.net/archives/iblelife.net/2013/04/the-best-caramel-popcorn-recipe-ever.html

These recipes combine all ingredients before beginning the caramelization process (sugar is not done first).

  • 1
    This is not caramel at all. Sugar begins to caramelize around 170 Celsius, everything below it (including thread stage, hard ball stage and hard crack stage) is sugar syrup and does not look or taste like caramel. Any stage after starting the caramelization is solid once cooled down, it has to be mixed with other things to make it either soft or liquid. – rumtscho Jun 4 '16 at 17:32
  • @rumtscho I think we are making different assumptions about the order of cooking. I am familiar with combining all ingredients, then cooking. I assure you that caramelization does occur, with corresponding color and flavor changes. Based on a caramelization temperaure of 170C, I would presume this means caramelization occurs only because the mixture is heated unevenly. Maybe you are assuming you cook only the sugar first, then add other ingredients? – mattm Jun 5 '16 at 19:20
  • My understanding was that sugar starts to caramelize very quickly at around 170C, but it does caramelize slowly at lower temperatures. I'm not sure it's fast enough to matter for recipes like these, though - it sounds like it takes hours. – Cascabel Jun 5 '16 at 19:29
  • @Jefromi Please make the caramel popcorn in #4, and explain to me why this does not meet the definition of caramel. I have made this recipe this year, and it definitely both finishes cooking with the mixture temperature below 170C and would be called "caramel" by non-professionals. – mattm Jun 7 '16 at 2:11
  • @mattm Um, okay, I can try it sometime, perhaps. But it also doesn't look like the sugar is all that brown. Does it taste caramelized? – Cascabel Jun 7 '16 at 2:12

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