It’s time for the weekly Nerd Word!
caramelize |ˈkarəməˌlīz; ˈkärmə-|
verb [ intrans. ]
(of sugar or syrup) be converted into caramel.
• [ trans. ] [usu. as adj. ] ( caramelized) cook (food) with sugar so that it becomes coated with caramel.
Caramelization is a chemical reaction which occurs when sugar is heated to the point when the sugar molecules break apart. This then triggers a series of chemical developments. From a singular sweet crystal a cook may create hundreds of unique compounds. Some may bring big flavors or aromas, while others provide the golden color we recognize in caramels. Caramel is often composed of white sugar, or table sugar. The sucrose molecules literally break apart into their glucose and fructose factors before beginning to detach and reattach into new molecules. When cooking sugar, is it vital that the cook be mindful of the relationship between sugar and heat. As the sugar cooks, the sweetness will begin to decrease, the color will deepen, and the flavor will begin to turn bitter. There is a fine line between caramelized and just plain burnt.
Caramelization is a process used not only for making caramel confections, but is often employed in the cooking of vegetation, which contain natural sugars. Onions are commonly caramelized, and as a result, become deep topaz in color and nearly sweeter than sugar itself. Onions are a good place to begin when entering the world of browned sugars. You may simply heat several tablespoons of butter or olive oil in a frying pan. Slice one or two onions and add them to the pan, along with a teaspoon of kosher salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring often until the onions are golden brown and translucent. These are a particularly good when added to pizzas or served with creamy goat cheese.
Wishing you all a wonderful week of culinary adventures.