The History of Caramel

June 30, 2014

caramel ice cream
If you haven’t been to Praline’s yet this summer, you’ve denied yourself the chance to try Praline’s delicious salty caramel ice cream. This flavor combination is a summertime “cannonball into the pool” burst of flavor. There’s sweetness, then saltiness, then sweetness, then more saltiness.

We love it so much.

But what are its origins? And how did it end up in our ice cream (among other places)?

Like many of our past excursions into sweet treat history, this one has some mystery. Caramel and caramel candies have been with us for centuries, but their exact origins are a bit murky.

Some say the Arabs first discovered caramel around 1000 A.D. This was a crunchy type of caramel, created by crystallizing sugar in boiling water. So when did caramel arrive in our fair land? It’s believed that American settlers were making hard candies in kettles. This was around 1650.
So how did it become soft? There is a working theory that milk and fat was added to the recipe at some point, resulting in a chewy treat. It’s also believed that sugar beet juice may have been used to produce caramel, as regular sugar was considered an expensive luxury back in the day.

Today, caramels can have different textures. “Short” caramels tend to have a softer texture. “Long” caramels are chewier. It’s our opinion that both textures are delicious.

Caramel becomes caramel when milk solids are heated with sugar ingredients. Sugar syrups are then added to the milk and the fat and allowed to caramelize. Most mass-produced caramels are flavored with vanilla as well.

Caramel sauce has long been a favorite topping for ice cream sundaes, right up there with hot fudge and strawberry.

Is it any wonder caramel has been so popular and remains a favorite sweet treat? It’s all about simple ingredients combined in just the right way. The results are delicious.

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