Caramel is a sugar-based confection that is used in popular desserts like crème caramel and chocolate pudding. It can also be used for more "adult" applications, like mixing with bourbon whiskey to create a delicious cocktail. Used on its own, it also has its own flavor profile, which includes notes of buttery goodness and rich vanilla butterscotch.
Caramel can be made by taking any number of sugars — white cane sugar, brown sugar, table sugar (sucrose), muscovado sugar — and melting them together with water or milk in a stovetop-safe pan over low heat until they reach the desired consistency.
Caramel is a high-sugar content food that can be a very good addition to your daily diet — but only if you use it in proper moderation. On its own, caramel contains no beneficial or therapeutic medicinal properties, and has no known side effects, other than being delicious. But when combined with other ingredients, some of its properties may change.
The general consensus among experts is that it's safe to eat on its own and that the minor ingredient variations don't make much difference when it comes to nutrition. However, if you're allergic to caramel color — a dye used in some kinds of caramel candy — then caramels made with this variety should be avoided since they won't have the same flavor without the dye.
Caramels are a type of confection made by heating sugar and milk or cream together until the mixture reaches 240 °F (116 °C). This is when the sugars caramelize and turn a deep golden colour. The mixture thickens, then cools to form a chewy candy with an evenly hard exterior.
Caramel is made from heated sugar that turns brown in the process of caramelizing, which happens at about 340°F (~170°C). Caramelization occurs as heat breaks down some sugars while other ingredients in addition to sugar react with each other and generate new flavors. The process is also an important step in making other candies, such as chocolate.
The term "caramel" can refer to all these different foods (and more) depending on how they are cooked. The term is often used interchangeably with "candy". When sugar is heated until it melts, it becomes caramel and when it has been heated long enough to caramelize the sugars completely, the mixture of melted sugar and water will become hard and chewy. However, when a candy is called "caramel," then the word usually refers to a candy made from candied sugar or syrup mixed with butter or oil.
Most caramels are made with cooked sugar syrup, but some are made with raw sugar. In each case, the cooking makes it a new type of candy rather than simply reheating it. For example, caramel candies with nuts (such as pecan or pistachio) are often heated in an oven afterwards to break down the hard shell of the nuts. Caramels can be formulated to achieve various flavors, textures and colors. They vary by country where they are produced, but generally fall into two varieties: chewy and hard (also referred to as firm). The main difference between caramels and other candies is that they contain no flour or other fillers such as starch.