Why doesn’t it matter how much water you add?

Reader Belli wants to know why, when you’re combining the water and sugar at the outset of the caramel- or candy-making process, it doesn’t really matter how precise you are with the water. Doesn’t water content make a big difference to the texture of the finished candy?

The answer is that water content certainly does matter in the end, but not so much in the beginning. The reason, because you’ll boil almost all the water out of the syrup before you’re done. So whether you moisten a cup of sugar with a quarter cup of water or a half a cup of water doesn’t make a lot of difference. You’re going to boil away nearly all of it no matter what thickness of syrup you’re making: soft ball, hard crack or caramel.

The main thing is that the sugar is good and wet at the start. All you need then is a flame and a thermometer and you’re good to go! Although in the case of caramel a thermometer isn’t as necessary as you can judge your ultimate cooking point by the color.

For more on what happens when you cook a sugar syrup click here!

2 thoughts on “Why doesn’t it matter how much water you add?”

  1. I had this feeling that adding water to sugar when starting to make caramel won’t do any harm – but why many recipes still call for “dry” sugar cooking? As far as I understand it will only make process shorter (because there is no water to boil out), but this dry cooking scares me, as I always fear burning sugar at the edge of saucepan.

    1. Great question. I’ll answer that on the main page I think, Antuanete!

      – Joe

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