Caramelizing brown sugar is a technique used by many cooks and chefs to give sugar a different texture, taste and smell for certain recipes from breakfast dishes to dinner dishes along with a wide variety of treats and snacks. There are many uses for caramelized sugar such as to cover apples during Halloween, cake toppings year round, as well as a base for caramel candies.
Add brown sugar to the pan and place on the stove. Turn on the heat to medium, and add water to the brown sugar. You only want to add enough water to make the sugar look like sand when it is stirred together. Stir the water and brown sugar mixture with the whisk.
Add in 1 tsp. of vinegar and stir into the brown sugar with the whisk. This is done to help keep the sugar from recrystallizing after the melting. As the brown sugar starts to melt, add in 1 tsp. of butter and stir in with your whisk.
Watch the mixture as it begins to boil, and stir it gently with the whisk. This will keep it from sticking to the pan, but also helps to distribute the heat to all of the brown sugar mixture, and not just what is on the bottom of the pan. Continue to stir until the color your recipe requests is achieved and turn off the stove and allow cooling.
Test the mixture by using a clean wooden spoon and scoop a few drops of sugar into small amoumt of ice water. If you can use your fingers to make the sugar into a ball, your mixture is done. If it will not form into a ball, place it back on the stove and reheat. The result will be the consistency of wet sand so you can spread it over the dish you are making without it sliding or running off.
The average caramel coloring, a medium brown, is achieved at about 356 degrees Fahrenheit. At 338 degrees a lighter caramel color is achieved. For flan or caramel cages, you'll look for a temperature between 320 and 356 degrees. Many recipes will tell you what type of sugar concoction you are to gain. For candies, you want a clear liquid. For caramel, you want a liquefied brown, and for pralines or nougat you want a dark brown liquid.