A recent study reveals that sugar doesn't melt, it decomposes. The study was led by researchers at University of Illinois.
"This discovery is important to food scientists and candy lovers because it will give them yummier caramel flavors and more tantalizing textures," said Shelly J. Schmidt, a University of Illinois professor of food chemistry.
"It even gives the pharmaceutical industry a way to improve excipients, the proverbial spoonful of sugar that helps your medicine go down."
In a presentation to the Institute of Food Technologists about the importance of the new discovery, Schmidt told the food scientists they could use the new findings to manipulate sugars and improve their products' flavor and consistency.
"Certain flavor compounds give you a nice caramel flavor, whereas others give you a burnt or bitter taste. Food scientists will now be able to make more of the desirable flavors because they won't have to heat to a 'melting' temperature but can instead hold sugar over a low temperature for a longer period of time," she said.
Candy makers will be able to use a predictable time-temperature relationship, as the dairy industry does in milk pasteurization, to achieve better results, she said.
The scientists determined that the melting point of sugar was heating-rate dependent.
"We saw different results depending on how quickly we heated the sucrose. That led us to believe that molecules were beginning to break down as part of a kinetic process," she said.