Q:

What happens when sugar is heated?

A:

When sugar is placed in a pot or pan over a flame or another source of heat, it transforms from a solid to a liquid substance. It develops a different taste and smell, and the most common term for the result of heated sugar is caramel.

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The molecules in heated sugar break down and produce several different compounds. Its color shifts from white to amber before taking on a brown hue, and its sweet taste is replaced by a more bitter flavor. While heating sugar, keep a careful watch to prevent burning and crystallization of the sugar. Use a large pot or pan with a light-colored interior to observe any fluctuations in color.

Caramel can be created in two different varieties: dry and wet. To make dry caramel, put the sugar by itself in a pot or pan, and place it on a range at top temperature. The sugar transforms into a dark liquid, and as long as it is not stirred too much, it does not crystallize.

To make wet caramel, add a little water to the sugar as it cooks. While the sugar is dissolving, wear oven mitts since caramel is incredibly hot. Keep a bowl of ice on standby to treat any burns. Also use the ice to stop the caramelization process. Submerge the caramel in the ice when it appears done.

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