Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tip # 221: Caramel Cures: Avoid a Sticky Situation

Known for its characteristically smooth and chewy texture, caramel is one of the most popular and beloved candies. However, even caramel’s biggest fans are not willing to risk dental work for sticky caramel. If creating an unhappy customer isn’t enough, caramel that is too sticky can also lead to difficulties during the manufacturing process, thus creating a very sticky situation.

Below we’ve identified the top seven common causes for sticky caramels and possible solutions, presented at RCI's Caramels, Toffees & Brittles course.

  1. Not enough fat – Increase the percentage of fat and/or the amount of milk being used in the recipe. A minimum of 8% fat is recommended when making caramels. 
  1. Excessive inversion – Inversion occurs when sucrose (a disaccharide) is broken down into glucose and fructose. This can be caused by extended cooking times (especially under acidic conditions) and the use of the enzyme invertase. Increasing reducing sugars will add to the flavor and color of caramel – but too much can cause excessive stickiness.

    Check the pH of premix, water and other ingredients, including scrap, to identify excessive inversion as the problem. Caramel premix should have a neutral pH (6.8-7.0). 
Two possible solutions for adjusting pH levels:
a)     Add low-pH flavors at the end of cook sequence or use buffered flavors.
b)    Increase premix pH with the addition of basic salts, such as sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate (both considered natural and should be approximately 0.1% of batch)

  1. Not enough milk – A minimum of 3.7% milk protein solids or higher is recommended
  1. Low cooking temperature – Increasing the final cooking temperature slightly will produce caramel with a harder texture. Even one or two degrees can make a significant difference. Additionally, do not allow the moisture from the cooking process to drain back into the kettle.
  1. Too much corn syrup – Too much corn syrup can create a tender caramel, but also lead to stickiness and lack of body. Adjust the ratio of sugar to corn syrup (reduce the corn syrup or dextrose equivalent of corn syrup)
  1. Too much humidity – An overly humid environment can make caramel sticky and create a less than desirable layer of scum on its surface. Too avoid exposure to excessive humidity, pack and store cooked caramel away from steam kettles and in an area with a relative humidity of 40-50%.
  1. Lack of emulsifiers – The addition of mono and diglycerides (generally 1-1.25%) will produce caramel that is less sticky.
Great caramel doesn’t happen by accident. With all the factors that play into the science of making caramel, even one or two degrees, for example, can mean the difference between coveted caramels and a sticky mess.

Make your customers stick, but not your caramels! Registration for RCI’s Caramels, Toffees & Brittles course opens tomorrow, February 15. This three-day intensive course is designed to help candy makers (RCI members and non-members) understand the science behind recipe formulations and learn troubleshooting techniques for caramels, toffees and brittles. Participants will gain hands-on experience in the kitchen making variations of these coveted confections for several different applications.

Visit retailconfectioners.org/caramels for more information and to register for the course, starting February 15. Note: This course is limited to the first 24 registrants and is expected to sell out quickly.


Stay connected with RCI through Facebook for more tips and inspiration dedicated to the retail candy maker. Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

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