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A Squeeze Of Lemon Juice Is All You Need To Stop Caramel From Crystallizing

caramels and caramel sauce
caramels and caramel sauce - New Africa/Shutterstock

Mastering the art of making caramel can sometimes be a challenge, especially when faced with the dreaded crystallization. Nothing spoils the allure of caramel quite like the formation of unsightly sugar crystals, which can turn a smooth, luscious caramel into a gritty mess. Fortunately, there's a simple solution that can help prevent this culinary catastrophe: a squeeze of lemon juice.

Understanding the science behind the process is key to achieving perfect results. Caramelization occurs when sugar is heated to a high temperature, causing its molecules to break down and undergo a series of complex chemical reactions and resulting in the characteristic flavor and color of caramel. However, if the sugar isn't properly dissolved or if even a single sugar crystal finds its way into the mix, it can act as a seed, triggering the formation of more crystals and leading to crystallization. This is where lemon juice comes to the rescue. The acidic nature of lemon juice prevents the formation of sugar crystals. Just a small squeeze of lemon juice added to the sugar as it melts can make a big difference in the outcome of your caramel.

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How Lemon Juice Saves Caramel

caramel sauce churro
caramel sauce churro - Gabriel Paz/Shutterstock

Lemon juice contains citric acid, which breaks table sugar (sucrose) into two smaller sugar molecules (glucose and fructose). Those smaller molecules are less likely to form crystals. Just a half teaspoon of lemon per cup of sugar will prevent crystals from forming and ensure that your caramel remains smooth and velvety. You can add the lemon juice to the dry sugar when you put it in your melting pot. If you've forgotten to include it and see crystals starting to form, you can add the juice to melted liquid sugar –- but be careful. Adding liquid to the hot sugar can cause steam and splashes of molten sugar to bubble up.

When adding lemon juice to your caramel recipe, it's important to exercise moderation. Too much lemon juice will make your caramel taste tart, ruining the sweet profile. A small squeeze of lemon juice is all it takes to stop the crystals without compromising the flavor balance of your caramel.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.