As I’ve written before, I am a disaster with desserts—or at least anything that requires chem lab sorts of measuring and timing (I’m giving myself more gray hairs just thinking about it). However, I have found an exception. I freaking love simple recipes that make use of caramelization and/or the maillard reaction—aka “browning.” Browning things on purpose, I mean.
Without getting too nerdy, caramelization is a process that takes place when sugar is exposed to high heat—usually around 330 degrees F and up. Foods with a higher sugar content caramelize more (shocker)—this is why you often see sugar listed in ingredients for dishes like caramelized onions—it enhances the process.
The maillard reaction is a reaction that occurs between an amino acid and a reducing sugar. Foods that undergo the maillard reaction include: baked goods like bread and cookies, seared meat, french fries, black garlic, and caramel, among other things. Basically, it’s a reaction between a protein and a sugar that can occur at temperatures around 250 degrees F. You don’t need to add sugar, though, since there is naturally-occurring sugar present in almost all foods, even if to a very small degree. It’s possible for both reactions to take place in a single food—caramelization occurs after the maillard reaction has worked its magic.
Okay, tangent over. I just thought I’d share the science behind my current favorite dessert. Read More »