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What Went Wrong? Sugar Crystallizing in Caramel Sauce

Over the weekend, I was attempting to make caramel sauce as an edible gift when something went terribly wrong. The result? An epic caramel bourbon vanilla sauce fail. During my first attempt, I boiled the sugar and water mixture over medium heat — but before it could turn amber-colored, the mixture suddenly and unexpectedly became a hardened mass of sugar.

The second time around, I adjusted my method, fully dissolving the sugar first over medium-low heat. Then I boiled the sauce gently, occasionally swirling the mixture. But the mixture took longer than expected to turn caramel in color, and, after about 10 minutes of boiling, it too turned into a crystallized mess.

After two tries, I feel more determined than ever to figure this out. Do you have any ideas what might've gone wrong? Should I have cooked through the crystallization stage? Was the heat too high?

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