It is not, reader Bryan. Caramel has so many molecular whatsits in it that the sucrose molecules would need flashlights to find each other. First there’s all the fat from the butter or the cream. Next you have all the broken up pieces of sugars that the caramel-making process creates (the heat of caramelization literally destroys some of the sugar molecules, breaking them into pieces which recombine into all sorts of Franken-cules, most of which still have no names). Last you have some invert sugar, since the broken sugar pieces are acidic, and the slightly acid environment breaks some of the remaining sucrose into glucose and fructose.
And while I’m talking caramel, now is a good time to address a similar question from reader Cindi, who’s been trying her hand at candy lately. She asks:
I can’t seem to make hard candies that don’t have a yellow tint. I assume the yellow comes from the start of caramelization, but is there anything I can do about it?What to professional candy makers do?
Alas, Cindi, there’s nothing that I can think of. Even though you’re not technically at the caramelization point when you boil syrup to that degree, some of that weird molecular detritus is going to be created. Commercial candy makers get around the problem by boiling their syrups in vacuum chambers, so the syrup boils the moisture out without actually getting hot enough to caramelize any sugars. For indeed it’s not the heat that creates the different thicknesses, it’s the moisture content, but then you probably knew that already. Thanks for the great questions!