Toasting sugar in a low oven allows for a range of caramelization without ever sacrificing its crystalline structure. The result is a sort of "granulated caramel" that can be used in any recipe as a one-to-one substitution for plain sugar. A mere hour of toasting will dramatically tame the sugar's sweetness, while extended periods of time will develop a more intense caramel flavor. So play around and find out what style works best for you.
Why It Works
- Gentle heat allows caramelization without harming sugar's crystalline nature, which allows slow-toasted sugar to behave exactly like regular granulated sugar.
- Glass and ceramic are poor conductors of heat, insulating the sugar for slow and even caramelization.
- Occasional stirring eliminates hot spots, so the sugar won't overheat or liquefy, while encouraging the evaporation of water (a by-product of caramel).
- Yield:Makes 4 pounds (9 cups; 1.8kg)
- Active time: 15 minutes
- Total time:Up to 7 hours
- 4 pounds (9 cups; 1.8kg) granulated white sugar
Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 300°F. Pour sugar into a 9- by 13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Toast until the sugar turns ivory, about 1 hour. Stir well and continue roasting, now stirring once every 30 minutes, until darkened to light or sandy beige, 2 to 4 hours more depending on personal preference. Beyond that, the sugar will begin to liquefy.
If you notice any liquid caramel around the edges, pour dry sugar into a stainless steel bowl. (The sticky caramel will remain stuck to the baking dish.) The sugar will be screaming-hot coming out of the oven, in excess of 212°F, so take care not to touch it. Set aside and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. If needed, grind the lumpy caramel in a food processor until powdery and fine. Transfer to an airtight container; store and use cup for cup or ounce for ounce in any recipe in place of plain sugar.