Since the 1800's, the crunchy sweetness of caramel corn has brought joy to young and old alike. This versatile treat can include nuts, chocolate and other additives, but it is just as divine on its own. The perfect batch of caramel corn is golden brown, crunchy, shiny and free of crystallized sugars. If you're having trouble with crystallization, a few guidelines can help you prevent this caramel corn faux pas!
Once a batch of caramel corn has crystallized, there is nothing you can do to change it. Understanding why sugars tend to crystallize will help you prevent this from happening with future batches. Sugar prefers to remain in its natural, dry state, and it doesn't take but one tiny crystal to encourage the whole batch to turn into a crystallized mess. Once crystallization occurs, it will turn the texture of your caramel corn or other candies into a grainy, sandy blob that loses its favorable crunch.
The State of Utensils
No matter what tools you use in making caramel corn, the most important factor is cleanliness. There should not be a speck of anything left on utensils or in bowls. Just one speck of dirt can encourage a sugar crystal to latch on and start to ruin the entire mixture. Start with clean, dry utensils and bowls, and never double-dip. Always wash and dry utensils, including candy thermometers, between uses.
In order to discourage sugar from crystallizing, you need to include ingredients that will not allow it to get back to its original, dry state. Molasses, brown sugar and corn syrup are all essential ingredients in making the perfect, crystal-free batch of caramel corn. These sugars of different composition and size will not allow the smaller crystals of white sugar to rejoin. In addition to different sugars, adding a fat, such as butter, will also help keep the sugars from coming together again.
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