Caramel is made by cooking sugar until it changes colour. It’s made with very little water and sets incredibly hard.
Quantities will vary according to how much caramel you want to make. 300g of sugar can be made into hard caramel with six tablespoons of water.
Stir the sugar and water together in a deep, heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Once the sugar is dissolved, stop stirring. Use a pastry brush dipped in water to get rid of any crystals of sugar clinging to the sides of the pan. If not removed, they can turn your caramel grainy.
Increase the heat and bring the syrup to a boil until the sugar turns golden-brown. Caramel can burn very easily, so watch it carefully.
When the caramel is done, plunge the base of the pan into a sink full of cold water for a minute. This stops the caramel from cooking further and getting too brown. It can now be used to top meringues or as the base of a crème caramel.
To make praline, stir toasted, skinned almonds or hazelnuts into the caramel a few minutes before it is finished cooking. Pour the mixture out onto a baking tray lined with parchment and allow to cool completely. It is extremely hot so don’t touch until fully cooled. Once set, break the hard caramel into pieces and blend in a food processor to a fine powder. Use as a delicious topping for desserts such as ice-cream.
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