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Sunday, 16 September 2012

Caramelised Sugar - Transforms desserts from simple to elegant & Sophisticated

Image Courtesy of La Vida en Buenos Aires

Let's talk caramelised sugar...
Even the simplest of desserts, can be transformed into an elegant and more sophisticated one simply by garnishing it with caramelised sugar shapes. I usually do this when I want my desserts to be very impressive. I caramelise some sugar, and either thread it over a lined baking tray for a free-form thread look, or even drop it in predetermined shapes. Sometimes, I even go the length of creating cages and sugar boxes to encase the dessert for a more sophisticated presentation. You won't believe how a simple dessert - even as simple as a chocolate cake - can be transformed into an upscale patisserie style dessert once caramelised sugar comes into the equation!

This is especially true for my upcoming recipe (as per request: How to make and serve Caramel Popcorn in events). So before posting the caramel popcorn recipe, I thought to write a post about Caramelised Sugar first, which can really change the look and feel of your desserts, and which I will later on use in creating a more exciting and elegant looking caramel popcorn fit to serve in Afternoon Teas, and even Cocktail Parties & Receptions!

So read on, I know you will love this post...


Nothing more beautiful than caramelised sugar. I find it fascinating!

Making Caramelised sugar
TIP  Do not let the idea of a thermometer throw you off! Most people are intimidated by recipes that call for using a thermometer, but you really shouldn't be. A thermometer like a knife is a very basic kitchen gadget that you need. From candy making to doneness of meats, a thermometer is one of your good friends in the kitchen. It can help you take your cooking to the next level. So make sure you own one, and go for recipes that call for specific temperatures, they usually produce foods that are perfectly done and consequently impressive.
Candy Thermometer

In the case of Caramelised sugar, we are talking about a candy thermometer as in the picture on the right.

With that said, you can still make caramelised sugar without the use of the the thermometer, rather using the colour to judge the desired doneness. However, if you are going after specific sugar stages, using a thermometer is your safest bet.

The caramelised sugar we are referring to for garnish in this recipe is a basic melted sugar, no additions, no water, no flavourings... just sugar granules in a pot heated to thread consistency (indicated by candy thermometer) or light caramel colour.

To Make  You will simply place the sugar in a heavy saucepan, and place it on medium heat until it melts and starts to get darker in colour.

Make sure to 

  • Be very careful when working with hot sugar. Sugar burns are very dangerous and painful.
  • Swirl the saucepan to  move the sugar, and do not stir it. 
  • Use a damp pastry brush to water down the sugar that gets stuck on the sides so it does not burn, or affect the consistency of your finished caramelised sugar.
  • Work on days that are not humid, humidity affects the sugar and the caramelised sugar won't turn out or will become too wet and melt on days when humidity is over 60%.
  • Sugar continues to cook even after removing from the heat therefore continues to darken. Make sure to remove it from the heat a few minutes before reaching the desired colour.
  • Work fast with caramelised sugar because it is very temperature sensitive and sets very fast.
  • Be very careful with set sugar, as it is very fragile and easy to break.

How to wash sown sugar with a damp pastry brush

Once your sugar is caramelised, and reaches the thread consistency, you can go ahead and drizzle it (very carefully into the desired shapes - onto a work surface lined with baking paper. Leave the sugar to set in a cool and dry place, then use these shapes to garnish your deserts.

To make a caramelised sugar cage  use a muffin tin. Turn it upside down and spray the bottom-side-up muffin holes with oil spray. Drizzle the caramelised sugar all around the hole in what looks like a woven bowl of sugar threads. Leave to set, carefully remove and use for garnish.

Once set and done, the sugar will be very fragile, so be careful when handling it. Use it to top desserts, or place on the side of desserts for a unique presentation. You can use these caramelised sugar shapes to garnish, cakes & cupcakes, desserts in cups, pies & tarts, or even ice creams..

Free-form dropped caramelised sugar


Very simple, but very impressive. I hope you have enjoyed learning a bit more about caramelised sugar and how to use it in creating unique dessert presentations. Make sure to drop by again soon for more fabulous foods, presentations and of course mouthwatering recipes. Meanwhile do let me know what you think of caramelised sugar? Do you think you will be using it to dress your desserts from now on? Keep the conversation going, leave us a comment :))

My next post will be on :  How to Make & Elegantly Serve Caramel Popcorn. 
Yes! Making a favourite classic even the more fabulous!!


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