How to caramelize sugar without melting it

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I’ve been professing my love for Serious Eats and how it changed the way I think about cooking (including totally revolutionizing my home pizza game years ago) the last couple of days.

For those of you in the New Haven area who are fans, Kenji of Serious Eats (and formerly their Slice blog) is coming to the Festival of Arts and Ideas next month (


Stella Parks - “CIA trained pastry nerd”

I wasn’t going to bring this up, but it’s the second time in two days that I came across this. Shouldn’t it be “CIA-trained”? Has the spot market price on hyphens gone through the roof?

/in any case…I’m going to have to try this. Step one: buy some white sugar…


Anyone know if the products would be fermentable with typical brewer’s yeasts?
While the malt may predominate, it seems like this could impart additional carmel flavor.

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This is seriously interesting, i might have to try it. I’m particularly interested over the idea of it being lower in the glycemic index, though the author didn’t go into specifics as to how much… but any improvement over the usage of regular sugar is welcome.

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Daniel Pinard, who used to have a cooking show on Radio-Canada, experimented a little with low(er) temperature cooking. On one show he showed how he had ‘fried’ some potato strips by placing them in a cake pan, covering them with oil and baking them in a slow over for something like four hours.

One good thing was that, he supposed, it greatly reduced the possibility of creating acrylamides.

Caramelized sugars are less fermentable than simple sugars. Which is good if you want your end product to stay sweet. I don’t know exact numbers, but attenuation will be lower with caramelized sugars. . . .

And I suddenly just realized that what’s happening in this post is almost exactly the same thing that’s happening in crystal malts, except it’s taking place in sugars that are sitting in loose crystals instead of sitting inside of grain. But the basic fact of caramelizing without liquefying sounds an awful lot like the production of crystal malts


You’re right, that’s probably contributing. I’ve read Maillard reactions are a thing in malting, but wikiP says that’s a reaction between sugars and proteins. Not sure on the relative importance of one vs the other. Since every batch of barley is likely a little different in sugar & protein content, the balance between the two sources may shift the final sweetness:booziness ratio.
Will give it a whirl.

As an ex-appliance control designer, I want to point out that setting your oven to 300F doesn’t mean that you’re cooking at 300F all the time. They intentionally put a large temperature swing (typically 15F above and below the set point) into the system. I was told at the time that it was to ensure that baked goods browned properly and that foods cooked in more closely regulated ovens didn’t look right after baking. Also, crusts didn’t form properly.

If you’re trying to reproduce the results from the article, your mileage may vary as your oven may not have the same swing (and may even just be way off temperature) as the one used by the author.

So, YMMV, but it seems even the failures will be delicious, so give it a shot.


300 ºF works out as very close to 150 ºC, which is convenient for those of us outside the USA. It depends what you’re cooking, but there are certainly recipes which cook at that temperature. I am not sure I would run an oven at that temperature just to caramelize the sugar, but you could do something else with the oven.

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