Looking for tips to melt or caramelize sugar.

I had trouble making the candied pepitas for my pan roasted Brussels sprouts and the caramel sauce for flan (1 cup sugar with 1/4 cup water.). Both times, the sugar crystallized into hard white clumps. I suspect something has changed in the processing of granulated white sugar. Does anyone have any tips or advice on how to successfully melt sugar? I followed the instructions using a medium heat and stirring often.

 
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