Caramel is an old and firm favorite for desserts, with ice cream, and in just about any other way you choose to eat it. So often, though, the caramel can be too thick for the purpose. What you need to do is to make it thinner.
How to Thin Caramel
To thin caramel, you need to add more liquid, in the form of thick cream, milk or water. The caramel is heated and the liquid poured in, slowly and bit-by-bit. It must be constantly mixed into the caramel. When the caramel has reached the desired consistency, it must be allowed to cool thoroughly. Cream or milk can be added to most caramel sauces. If, however, the caramel contains butter, then it should be thinned with water.
There are steps you should follow to thin the caramel and make sure it doesn’t burn, or that the sugar doesn’t crystallize.
What is Caramel?
Caramel is the form that sugar takes when it is heated slowly and steadily up to a temperature of 340 °F (171 °C). The sugar effectively burns, which means it turns brown and has a characteristically rich, bittersweet flavor. However, if the sugar is heated too much, then it will actually burn and the flavor will become bitter.
As the sugar heats slowly, the crystals are broken down, resulting in the golden colour and the characteristic flavour.
To make a caramel sauce, ingredients are added to the heated and caramelized sugar. Some recipes use butter, cream, and vanilla essence. Others use water and cream.
The ingredients are added to the sugar that has been heated to create caramel. The mixture must be allowed to simmer gently, and a thick caramel sauce is created.
The flavor of caramel sauce is a mixture of slightly bitter, almost burned sugar and the residual sweetness of the sugar.
Caramel can be thinned by adding more liquid to it. What liquid you use can depend on the ingredients of the caramel. The combination of sugar and butter or cream needs to be kept in a balance. If that changes, the caramel may separate or change in character. It can also affect the flavor.
A. Add cream or milk to thin the caramel
If the caramel was made with cream or milk, you can add thick cream or milk to thin it.
You will need to add enough cream to thin the caramel to the consistency you need. Remember that it will be thinner when it is warm and will always thicken as it cools. This means you should add enough cream to thin the caramel so that it is runnier than you need.
Depending on the amount of caramel you are thinning, you should judge the amount of cream or milk to add. Begin with a teaspoon of milk or one and a half teaspoons of milk. If the caramel doesn’t thin to the consistency you are looking for, then you can add more.
Steps to follow to thin the caramel on the stove
- Spoon the caramel into a saucepan. It should not stick to the sides of the pan. Scrape it off the sides, so that it is spread on the bottom of the saucepan.
- Put the pan on the stove, on very low heat. The caramel doesn’t have to be hot to be thinned and, if the heat is too high, the sugar in the caramel may crystallize, or it may burn.
- As the caramel is heating up, stir it consistently with a wooden spoon or spatula, making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the saucepan.
- Add half the amount of cream or milk to the caramel. Pour it into the saucepan slowly, stirring all the time. When you have mixed the cream or milk thoroughly into the caramel, turn off the heat and leave the caramel to cool.
- Don’t try to touch or taste the caramel until it is just about completely cool. You don’t want to burn your tongue or finger.
Steps to follow to thin caramel in the microwave
- Pour the caramel into a glass, heat-proof dish. Make sure you scrape it off the sides of the dish.
- Set the power level on the microwave to low. Cook the caramel in the microwave for one minute. Take the dish out and stir it. Repeat this step if the caramel is not warmed up enough. Make sure you don’t let the caramel get too hot, because it may burn, or the sugar could change consistency.
- Add a little of the cream or milk to the caramel, stirring all the time. Return the bowl to the microwave and let it cook for 30 seconds.
- Remove the bowl from the microwave and add a little more of the cream or milk, stirring all the time. Return it to cook in the microwave for 30 seconds.
- Repeat this until the caramel is thin enough for what you need.
- Let the bowl with the caramel stand in the microwave until it cools. If it’s in the microwave, then no-one will touch it by accident.
B. Add water to the caramel
If the caramel you are thinning has butter in it, then use water, rather than cream or milk. If you do use cream, then there may be too much fat in the caramel and it could separate.
Steps to follow to thin the caramel with water
- Spoon the caramel into a saucepan, making sure none of it sticks to the sides. You may need to use a spatula to scrape it off the sides.
- Put the plate on low, so that the caramel will heat up slowly. Don’t allow it to get too hot, or the sugar may boil. This will change the flavour and character of the caramel.
- Pour the water into the caramel bit-by-bit, stirring all the time. Add enough water to the caramel to make sure that it becomes a little thinner than you need. The caramel will thicken slightly as it cools.
- When the water has all been added and mixed in thoroughly, remove the saucepan from the heat and turn the plate off. Leave the thinned caramel to cool completely before testing it.
Conclusion to How to Thin Caramel
Caramel is made when sugar is melted to the point just before it burns. This gives it a brown color and a slightly bitter taste. Caramel sauce is usually thick, especially when it is cooler. To thin it out, you should heat it slightly and add milk or cream. If the caramel is made with butter, you should use water.
Frequently Asked Questions to How To Thin Caramel
Can I use water to thin caramel?
To thin caramel, you need to add a bit of liquid. You can use water to do so, but should only use it if the caramel is made with butter. Rather use cream or milk when you can.
Can I thin caramel in the microwave?
You can either thin caramel on the stove top or in a microwave. However, it will need to be stirred often, preferably all the time. This means using the stove top is easier.