Caramel

Caramel can rightfully claim a special place among confectionery products. Her taste has been familiar to us since childhood. Today, caramel can be used as an independent product, as well as being part of various desserts and pastries. In addition, it is added to coffee and hot chocolate and is used as a flavoring agent for a number of soft drinks. How did ordinary boiled sugar win worldwide recognition?

Historical background

For the first time, sweets resembling modern caramel appeared about three thousand years ago in Greece and China. There they adapted themselves to boil the syrup from barley molasses, so that viscous sweet cakes were obtained. However, the very word "caramel" owes its appearance to the Latin name for sugar cane ("cannamella"). The first sweet, in composition reminiscent of modern, was prepared in India about two and a half thousand years ago. It was at this time that they learned how to boil sugar cane and got the first real sugar in history.

It is believed that caramel owes its appearance to chance and the Indian caste system.

Legend has it that the Dalits - the so-called "untouchables" who occupied one of the lowest places in the caste hierarchy - picked up the leaves that were left after the sugar cane stalks were sent for processing. They roasted their "prey" on fire, as a result of which they got a kind of modern caramel.

Soon the new delicacy was introduced in the Roman Empire. Here, sugar and the product from it were almost instantly "appointed" as a drug.

Thus, the legendary physician Galen prescribed candied fruits and burnt sugar as a cure for nervous diseases and indigestion.

A new stage in the "biography" of caramel falls on the XIV-XVI centuries. At this time, confectioners and cooks began to experiment with the use of sugar, which at that time was a rare and expensive product. The first caramel products were used to decorate dishes intended for the aristocracy and royal houses.

In Russia, a delicacy appeared in the 15th century and was called “lollipop”. These were the same, transparent and reminiscent of ice, sweets on sticks, which are still popular with children.

In 1614, in the English city of Pontefract, the so-called "licorice thalers" began to be sold. These were coin-shaped lozenges made from licorice (licorice). This type of sweetness was also considered a medicine - pharmacists recommended it for indigestion and sore throats.

About eighty years later, licorice, brought to England by the Benedictine monks, began to be used with sugar that had fallen in price, after which licorice candies became incredibly popular.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, caramel began to be used to prepare a completely new type of dish. Fruits were covered with liquid caramel - apples, citrus fruits, nuts.

As a result, an unusual and very tasty delicacy was obtained, which quickly won recognition.

And in 1899, the first truly healing herbal hard candy appeared. Its creator was a pharmacist from Germany Karl Soldan.

When his little daughter Lucy fell ill and flatly refused to take the herbal decoction, Soldan resorted to a trick. He cooked a sweet syrup based on this broth, adding sugar to it, and then, when the syrup hardened, he offered the baby delicious sweets, which went with a bang.

It is believed that this is how the well-known trademark Dr. C. Soldan’s appeared, which to this day produces medicinal syrups and lozenges with eucalyptus and menthol for sore throats.

Types of caramel

To date, there are many types of caramel. However, all of it is divided into two main categories: hard and soft. Hard candies are usually made from hard candy, including lollipops, while soft candy is added to confectionery products or used as a food additive.

Depending on which kind of syrup was used during preparation, there is caramel based on maltose, sucrose and glucose.

Finally, hard caramel, from which sweets are made, comes in different flavors: fruit, liqueur, chocolate, berry, mint.

Product preparation technology

The essence of the original recipe for making caramel remains unchanged throughout the history of this delicacy.

It involves heating sugar and water to a certain temperature, after which the syrup is poured into molds and cooled.

In modern industrial production, technology has become somewhat more complicated. Cooks from all over the world began to prepare caramel using molasses and a special invert syrup.

Invert syrup is a product that is prepared from fructoseand glucose mixed in equal parts .

In addition, modern industrial caramel includes flavors and thickeners, as well as other substances that extend its shelf life and improve palatability.

Calorie content and chemical composition

Since the raw material for making caramel is sugar, the calorie content of this delicacy is very high. On average, the energy value of 100 g of caramel is 378 kcal. In terms of nutrients, the product consists almost entirely of carbohydrates (92.9 g), fats in it 0.8 g, and proteins 1 g.

Chemical composition: vitamins
Vitamin E 0.2 mg
Vitamin PP 0.2 mg
Vitamin K 1.8 µg
Vitamin B12 0.3 mcg
Pantothenic acid 0.62 mg
Vitamin C 0.4 mg
Choline 8 mg

sugar in its pure form and cannot be a source of any for useful substances, in fact, it has a rather impressive chemical composition, including vitamins, macro- and microelements.

Chemical composition: macro- and microelements
Iron (Fe) 2.8 mg
Phosphorus (P) 60 mg
Potassium (K) 90 mg
Sodium (Na) 41 mg
Magnesium (Mg) 37 mg
Calcium (Ca) 31 mg
Zinc (Zn) 0.44 mg
Fluorine (F) 27 µg
Copper (Cu) 0.018 mg

Useful properties and harm

One One of the main beneficial properties of caramel is its ability to soften the throat in diseases of the upper respiratory tract.

At the same time, it is noteworthy that not only special medicinal lollipops, which are the brainchild of pharmaceuticals, but also ordinary burnt sugar, even cooked at home, have a similar effect. When caramel is absorbed, saliva is released, softening the inflamed mucous membrane, as a result of which inflammation and pain pass faster.

Also, caramel is an excellent remedy for hypoglycemia, in other words, with a sharp decrease in the level of glucose in the blood. A sweet treat can be used as an emergency remedy for a mild form of this pathological condition.

However, at the same time, sugar, which is the basis of this product, can cause serious harm to human health.

This delicacy should not be abused by people who are overweight and who want to get rid of extra pounds. The fact that caramel is a high-calorie product speaks for itself.

Many types of sweets contain fruit acids. Therefore, the abuse of this delicacy can lead to problems with the teeth.

Products containing molasses and fruit acids can provoke dysfunction of the intestinal environment and also contribute to the development of pathogenic microflora. This is fraught not only with manifestations of dyspepsia, such as flatulence, pain and diarrhea, but also with the appearance of a rash on the face, chest and back.

Ingesting large doses of glucose is a serious burden on the pancreas. Therefore, with diseases of this organ, it is better to refuse delicacies.

According to recent studies, the information that sweet stimulates the brain and sharpens cognitive abilities is not entirely true. The thing is that subconsciously a person perceives dessert as a kind of reward for work. Therefore, the brain seems to receive a signal: "That's it, stop working, it's time to rest." That is why you should not get too carried away by eating sweets, including caramel, trying to "spur" yourself before work.

How to choose high-quality caramel

To choose a truly high-quality product that will be not only tasty, but also healthy, several factors should be taken into account.

First of all, soft caramel is considered less harmful than the so-called hard candy. During its preparation, the sugar mass is stretched, as a result of which it is saturated with oxygen. It is also less harmful to tooth enamel.

Pay attention to the color. Refrain from buying too bright, "acidic" shades of the product. Unnatural colors indicate that dyes were used in the preparation, which will not bring any health benefits. It is better to choose caramel in natural shades: golden, cream or coffee.

Stuffing matters a lot. Thus, sweets filled with fruit puree or jam, as well as chocolate, nuts or marzipan are the safest. But milk filling is not the best option. The thing is that refractory fat is used for its manufacture, which can only be digested at temperatures above sixty degrees Celsius. Therefore, our body, whose temperature ranges from 36 to 37 degrees, simply cannot cope with it. With caution, you should also approach lollipops with a "refreshing" effect, unless it is a medical medicinal caramel intended for a sore throat. Conventional sweets most often use not natural, but chemical menthol, which can cause an allergic reaction

The shelf life of natural caramel is very short. If the surface of the candy is sticky or damp, it means that it is running out and it is better to refrain from acquiring such a treat.

Cooking hard caramel at home

Caramel is a delicacy that can be prepared at home. Dealing with this is not difficult at all, you just need patience and minimal skill.

First of all, prepare a saucepan with the thickest possible bottom.

The ingredients you will need are the following: one cup of sugar, a quarter cup of water, and half a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to help keep the sugar from crystallizing.

All the ingredients must be mixed and then boiled over very low heat. It is believed that the readiness of caramel can be checked by dropping a little syrup into a glass of water - it is necessary that it does not spread, but resembles chewing gum, that is, it stretches. Please note that caramel is better undercooked than overcooked - otherwise you will end up with regular burnt sugar.

In the event that you are going to sculpt some figures from caramel, the main thing is not to let it harden quickly. To avoid this, after removing the saucepan from the heat, place it in a large container of hot water so that the contents harden as slowly as possible.

Please note that nuts or chocolate pieces can be added directly to the caramel. This must be done before removing it from the fire. Don't forget to mix well.

To avoid crystallization of the sugar, cook the caramel over very low heat and do not stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Also, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice can be added to caramel to prevent the appearance of sugar crystals.

If you have some skill, you can make caramel without using water. To do this, melt two cups of sugar, stirring constantly, over high heat. When the sugar begins to become liquid, reduce the heat without ceasing to stir. Once the sugar has melted, reduce heat to low and continue stirring until completely dissolved. Pour the finished syrup into silicone molds.

Preparing soft caramel

To prepare soft sweet-salty caramel, you will need the following ingredients: 300 g of sugar, 335 g of fresh cream with a fat content of 30 %, 65 g butter and a teaspoon salt.

Divide the sugar into six portions of 50 g. Pour the first portion of sugar into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and put on fire. Melt, then add the next portion to the pan. Please note that you can not stir! Thus, melt all the sugar.

Put the cream on the fire and heat almost to a boil, but do not boil. Remove sugar from heat, add salt and butter to it, then mix thoroughly. After that, in small portions, stirring constantly, pour hot cream into the syrup.

Put the caramel on the fire and heat over low heat until it takes on the color of milk chocolate.

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After that, remove the pan from the heat, pour the contents into a mold, wrap with cling film and refrigerate for a day.

Cooking apples in caramel

To prepare two large apples in caramel you will need 150 g of sugar and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Apples are better to choose not too sweet, but sweet and sour, because otherwise, in combination with caramel, the delicacy will turn out to be sugary.

Wash the apples and dry thoroughly. Prepare the dishes where you put the finished treat. A wide, flat dish works best for this. Lubricate it with unscented refined vegetable oil so that the apples do not stick.

Pour the sugar into a saucepan, pour in the lemon juice and melt over medium heat, remembering to stir constantly.

Once the sugar is completely melted, put the apple on a skewer and dip into the caramel. Act as quickly as possible. The apple should be completely covered in caramel, so if you can't dip the whole apple, pour it over with a spoon.

Put the finished apple on a plate and let cool. When the shell begins to harden, you can roll the delicacy in chopped nuts or coconut flakes.