Sugar sugar sugar.... yes we use it a lot, in cooking and baking. Of course we all love this sweet treat, yum yum. Here is a little article on what is caramelization. :)
Caramelization is the oxidation of sugar yielding intense flavors and non-enzymatic browning. Caramelization is primarily utilized in the food, as well as baking industry, for the characteristic browning colorization and nutty, clarified resulting flavors. Mechanically, the chemical reaction involves the break down of sugar and removal of water as steam via applied heat, releasing volatile chemical compounds producing browning and flavor attributes.
Temperatures at which caramelization occurs depends on the type of sugar at hand. Sucrose, galactose, and glucose caramelize at 160˚C (320 ℉), Maltose at 180˚C (356 ℉), and fructose caramelizes around 110˚C (230 ℉). Fructose yields the highest reacting sugar, and is why bakery items formulated with honey or high fructose syrup create products with greater browning. The reaction rates can be slowed down or increased via alteration of the medium’s pH range. Around a pH of 7 or neutral, the reaction rate is the slowest. Below 7 or within an acidic pH range the reaction rate of caramelization is rapidly increased.
Caramelization is not only utilized in baked products to produce color and flavor, many bakers utilize caramelization to use, of course, caramel in baking applications. Caramel can be used as a filling, topping, or as a glaze. Flan and custard cake varieties commonly have a thin glaze of caramel drizzled topically. Hardened caramel can also be used in decorating applications because of the molding properties before complete hardening.
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