I attempted to make Vietnamese caramel syrup (for use in savory dishes) from a recipe in a Vietnamese cookbook, and it was a total disaster. Hopefully someone can explain what happened and how to do it right.
The recipe says to put 1/4 cup of water and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil without stirring over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes, until the mixture is a deep brown and the bubbles become sluggish.
Well, after 10-15 minutes the mixture was nowhere near brown. Maybe a slight golden tinge, but no more. So I kept simmering. After maybe 20 minutes, small clumps of crystals began to form, and at 25 minutes, the entire bubbling surface of the mixture was covered with crystallized clumps (still nowhere near a caramel brown color).
I figured I should just procede with the recipe as instructed, removing the pan from the heat and slowly pouring in 1/4 cup hot water, then returning to the heat and stirring constantly over med-high heat until the caramel is dissolved.
That's what the recipe said, anyway. I whisked for a few minutes as the mixture thickened up considerably, although the clumps of crystals never really fully dissolved. After five minutes or so, I added one teaspoon lemon juice (as instructed by the recipe) and took the pan off the heat to cool.
Within a couple minutes, the entire mixture had seized up into a rock-hard block in the bottom of the saucepan that I had to pry out using a metal spatula as a chisel.
Any ideas on what happened and how to do it right next time?