Category Archives: Syrups

Chinese Golden Syrup

Chinese golden syrup is something of an odd duck in the syrup world. It’s an invert caramel syrup that flows at room temperature, even when undiluted with milk or water. That’s a very odd thing, since in order to get sugar syrup to caramelize you have to heat it well past the point at which it will flow once it cools. So how is this accomplished? Simply put, what you see here is a syrup made on top of a syrup, a dark caramel syrup for color and flavor, and a soft-ball stage syrup for flow. I’ll show you how it’s done.

First put half a cup of sugar in a saucepan and add about a quarter cup of water. The amount doesn’t matter much since it will cook out anyway.

Swirl it over high heat.

After a few minutes it will start to turn golden…

…then dark. You want this smoking a bit. Quite brown in the middle.

When you hit your desired darkness (since it’s really up to you), remove the pan from the heat and pour in about a cup of boiling water. Again the precise amount isn’t important here since you’ll cook most of it out later (temperature is as much a measure of a syrup’s water content as it is a gauge of how hot it is). Watch out as it will splatter some. The hot water will at once cool the caramel and keep it from turning instantly into candy.

Scrape up any hardened sugar that’s on the bottom of the pan and return it to the heat.

Add a full cup of sugar…

…then about a tablespoon and a half of lemon juice. A pinch of tartaric acid (cream of tartar) will also work here. This plus the heat will help break the un-caramelized sucrose molecules into pieces. The caramel you already made is acidic, but a little more acid will speed the process along.

Stir all that up and let it cook again for a minute or two…

…until it’s up to the soft ball stage, about 235 degrees Fahrenheit. It will bubble more than this when you’re actually cooking it. Watch your fingers!

While it’s still hot pour it through a sieve to remove any bits of lemon flesh.

Cool and you’re done!

For those of you who are curious, this homemade syrup is the functional equivalent of a refiner’s syrup like Lyle’s Golden Syrup, which is to say it’s a thick, golden invert syrup. It is not a taste equivalent, however. To get that you’ll need to pay up for the real thing!

For those of you who are wondering why a syrup made of caramel and soft-ball syrup still flows at room temperature, it’s all those broken molecules. Those little single sugars simply tumble over each other more readily than the bigger sucrose molecules from whence they came. Which is cool.

This is a very handy thing to know how to make should you ever need a high-viscosity corn-syrup-like syrup but can’t make it out to the store. All you need is sugar, water and acid. Bingo!

Filed under:  Chinese Golden Syrup, Chinese Golden Syrup, Pastry | 30 Comments

Making Espresso Syrup

Part of the fun of being deeply into pastry is discovering the odd little components you never knew existed, but which make your dinner guests’ eyes bug out of their head as they demand to know: what IS that??

Espresso syrup is one of them. A very simple combination of deep, dark caramel and espresso, it’s great for flavoring all sorts of cream fillings, or drizzling strategically on plated desserts. If you’re familiar with making caramel — or even if you’re not — making it is a stroll in the park.

Start by combining a cup of sugar and about a quarter cup of water in saucepan.

Set it over high heat and swirl it gently.

It’ll get darker…

…and darker…

…and darker until it starts to smoke prodigiously. Cook it until you see a deep brown-black spot in the center of the pan.

At this point add 4 ounces (half a cup) of warm espresso. Careful now…it’ll hiss and bubble.

Drop the heat to medium and whisk the mixture. Keep the heat on as long as there are still any hard bits remaining.

You want it nice and smooth, about like so:

Allow it to cool completely, then pour it into a jar for storage (if you want to spike it with a little rum or something beforehand, who am I to stop you?). It will keep for weeks, even months, though it will lose some of its potency with the passage of time.

Filed under:  Espresso Syrup, Pastry | 14 Comments

“Heavy” a.k.a “Decorating” Syrup

Heavier still are these sauce-like syrups that weigh in at a ratio of 1.5 parts sugar to 1 part water or more. You typically find them in plated desserts where they’re puddled or drizzled around to create various decorative effects. The recipe is:

8 ounces water
14 ounces sugar
Flavoring elements of your choice – extracts, citrus peels, whole spices, etc.

Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stir until the sugar completely dissolves. Allow the mixture to cool, then strain it. At that point other elements can be added like fruit juice and/or liqueurs, up to about 1/4 cup.

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Cake Syrup

I’d put up photo tutorials for syrups, but in all honesty there’s not much to photograph (a pan of water with sugar being poured into it, that’s about it). Plus, the result would be a heck of a lot of syrup in my house! Cake syrups are typically a little heavier than poaching syrups, at a ratio of 1 part sugar to 1 part water by weight. A typical recipe goes like this:

8 ounces water
8 ounces sugar
Flavoring as desired

Combine in small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cool the mixture, then add either a teaspoon of the extract of your choice or 2-3 tablespoons of your favorite liqueur.

For a Coffee Syrup add three tablespoons of instant coffee or instant espresso powder to the mixture before simmering.

For a Cognac Syrup, add an equal weight of (8 ounces) of cognac. Now that’s good syrup!

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Poaching Syrup

A fruit poaching syrup is typically the lightest of the syrups used in the pastry kitchen, at a ratio of 1 part sugar to 2 parts water by weight. Heavier syrups are sometimes used, certainly, but in general if you’re simply poaching peaches or pears, this is the formula you’d use:

8 ounces water
4 ounces sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or a little vanilla bean if you’re getting fancy)
2-3 lemon wedges

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil — done! Boil the fruit for five minutes, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer until the fruit is soft.

The nice thing about poaching syrups is that they can be strained and used again, either to poach fruit or as a light cake syrup.

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Simple Syrup

Simply syrup is used mostly for drinks like sweet tea or for cocktails. It’s very light, made of 1 part sugar and 1 part water by volume. To make a simple syrup, combine:

1 cup (8 ounces) water
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar

Heat for about three minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Allow it to cool before using.

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