If I had to point at one of my mayor food related obsessions, syrups would have to be it. Syrups offer the base notes when it comes to flavour and scents to any good bake.
Anyone who is serious about baking has to have a good repertoire of syrups, that will help enrich and solidify the foundations of the bake at hand. A syrup, simply put is a solution of sugar to liquid as prepared to a 1 is to 1 ratio. They have a wide range of uses in pastry, for example, soaking babas and other Savarins, dipping biscuits and working fondant, I personally cannot imagine baking a cake which I would not be eating on that same day and not soaking it in a homemade syrup.
Making a good syrup at home is quite easy although a bit time consuming, always use organic fruits for the juice and never use normal tap water, if you have filtered use that if you don’t buy a good quality mineral water. Since you will be reducing a sugar solution all the nasty flavours that would result from pesticide residue in the case of sprayed fruit or Iodine in the case of unfiltered tap water will become intensified after reduction, ruining the syrup altogether.
Always use some kind of citrus, even if making a syrup that has nothing to do with citrus, flavoured syrups benefit from a hit of acidity, which helps lift the sweetness, also always add half a teaspoon of fine salt, it makes the sweetness taste somehow better, same principle as sprinkling salt on a slice of orange.
When using a zest such as in an orange syrup always mix the zest together with the sugar, before adding the liquid, the sugar will absorb all the essential oils present in the zest, they will not vaporize when heating, making the end result taste intensely the way you intended it to be, the colour will also oxidise less, making the syrups luminous, transparent and beautiful. And beautiful things are worth having.
I am including a recipe for a Rose and Earl Grey syrup, this is great to flavour panna cottas, giving a simple vanilla cake an interesting twist and in summer its great mixed with cold mineral water and lots of ice for a quirky yet sophisticated rose and earl grey ice tea.
500ml Mineral Water
500ml Rose Water
Juice of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 kg caster sugar
250G Plus 100G organic rose petals (you can order these online buy the pink ones for a nice colour)
150G Earl Grey(you can use tea bags, however loose leaf is better )
- In a heavy bottomed pot, measure out the sugar, and mix with the 250G rose petals and stated quantity of earl grey tea, set aside with the lid closed for about an hour, this will infuse the sugar with the rose and earl grey scents.
- Measure out the water and rose water quantities and add to the sugar, also the juice of the lemon.
- Put the pot of low heat with the lid on for half an hour, don’t rush this, if you heat quickly at this point all the esters present in the rose water and the petals will denature, after half an hour these molecules will have somehow stabilised themselves and will resist higher temperatures.
- After thirty minutes, remove the lid, and raise the flame, the solution will come to a quick boil, keep an eye on the pot, at this point to avoid the sugar from boiling over but avoid too much stirring so that there is no crystallisation.
- Test the solution repeatedly with a spoon, when the solution thickens when it comes in contact with the cold spoon, the syrup is ready.
- Sift the solution through a fine sieve and pour into a sterilised jar to which a further 100grams of rose petals is added, although this is optional, it is worth it as it will infuse the syrup further, and will look quite beautiful. This is a perfect present to give to a girlfriend or a sensitive male.