Hungry for more? Check out the new Exploratorium website about the Science of Food .
The Accidental Scientist: Science of Cooking Exploratorium
Candy Bread Eggs Pickles Meat Seasoning

photo of fudge recipe: Pralined Almonds
In this recipe, sugar breaks down into, well, something else. The process is called caramelization, and even Ph.D. chemists don’t exactly understand it. But it’s good.

Learn more about caramelization .

Recipe Conversions

When making candy, the syrup gets very hot. Kids, don’t try this without the help of an adult!

What Do I Need? .
1/4 cup granulated sugar  
1/2 cup blanched, slivered almonds
a heavy, shallow saucepan
 a wooden spoon  
 a cookie sheet  
 a candy thermometer  
What Do I Do?  

For caramelizing sugar
Caramelizing isn’t especially tricky. Caramelizing dry sugar is one of the easiest of the caramelizing methods. Other methods involve dissolving the sugar in water and/or adding an acid. Since melted sugar forms an extremely hot and sticky syrup, stir with great care so it doesn’t spatter.

1. Sprinkle the sugar evenly on the bottom of the saucepan. Heat it slowly over low to medium heat and you’ll notice it first begins to melt, then gradually becomes a molten syrup.

2. As it gets hotter, about 320° F, it changes to a pale, amber color. Then, within a matter of seconds, it becomes a rich, deep caramel and is at a temperature of about 338° F.

3. When it’s almost as dark as you’d like, remove the pan from the heat, as it will continue to cook slightly. If you let it get darker, or heated to 350° F, it quickly develops a bitter then burnt flavor.

For pralined almonds
1. To make pralined almonds, add the blanched, slivered almonds to the syrup when it reaches the desired shade of amber.

2. Once the almonds are coated with syrup, transfer them to the cookie sheet. Because the almonds tend to clump, pull apart any large clusters once they’re cool enough to handle.

Did You Know?
Caramel , from the phrase kurat al milh or “ball of sweet salt,” was invented by the Arabs, and one of its first uses was as a depilatory for harem women.


Share & Discuss
At what temperature did your syrup first begin to color?
What Else Can I Try? .

A winter salad : Combine pralined almonds with sliced avocado, fresh orange segments, and butter lettuce. Toss just before serving with a light vinaigrette.

• Any leftover almonds can be pulverized in a blender, stored in an airtight jar, and used in pie crusts or as toppings for other desserts.

Caramelized onions : Try adding a little sugar to onions as you finish sautéing them, raise the heat slightly, and you’ve got a decadent topping for a hamburger.

Share & Discuss
Share your own ideas for using caramel or pralined nuts.
(recipe adapted from The Inquisitive Cook by Anne Gardiner and Sue Wilson , with the Exploratorium)  
- - - Candy Home Page - - - Kitchen Lab - - -


© Exploratorium | Use Policy | Privacy Policy