Eight Things to Do With Simple Syrup

 

Simple Syrups

Simple syrup is a vital bar ingredient. Most good bartenders wouldn’t dream of starting a shift without a healthy stock of liquid sweetener. That’s because simple syrup dissolves easily into cold drinks and makes scaling recipes easy—an important factor when you’re furiously batching cocktails at a high-volume bar. But simple syrup has plenty of applications in the kitchen as well. Along with salt, sugar is an age-old preservative that was once essential for storing fruits in the cold months—you can think of simple syrup as sort of a pickling brine for sweet stuff. Bakers, meanwhile, keep sugar syrup on hand for glazing, and brush layer cakes with it to keep them fresh and moist.

Start by checking out our three Simple Syrup techniques. Depending on what you get up to, your syrup may require some modifications—it’s good to add glucose to the mix when you’re candying fruit, for example, to prevent crystallization. But all the ideas below begin with a simple solution of sugar in water.

From there, the sky’s the limit.

1. Create custom infusions

Bartenders regularly wow their customers with exotic-sounding “housemade” ingredients such as lemongrass or blueberry syrup. What they may not mention: infused simple syrups are shockingly easy to make. And they have all sorts of fun uses—try, say, setting up a DIY cocktail bar with a few different spirits, simple-syrup infusions, mixers, and garnishes. Your party guests will love building their own drinks while experimenting with new flavors. No need to heat the mixture either; cold-processed infusions have a distinctly bright, vivid quality that’s especially appealing when working with fresh fruit.

2. (Half-) candy and cure citrus fruits

If you find most candied fruits to be cloyingly sweet, try our technique for Half-Candied Blood Orange. We blanch the fruit in salt water—the salt diffuses into the pith, masking its bitterness. The best part? You can use any citrus you have on hand.

Equally versatile: our method for smoothly textured Cured Lemon Peel. We cook the peel sous vide with a 1:1 simple syrup, slice away the pith, then keep it around in the fridge until we’re ready to use. Wake up a weeknight dinner by sprinkling cured peel atop chicken, salmon, or our Chickpea Tuna Salad, or serve it alongside your favorite ice cream or sorbet.

Get creative—there’s no limit to the uses for this bright, addictive snack.

Half_Candied Blood Orange_5

3. Whip up some sorbet

One of the all-time best uses for leftover simple syrup: work it into a light, refreshing sorbet.

4. Dress fruit salads

Use simple syrup in a just-sweet-enough dressing to transform a simple bowl of fruit into a cohesive dish with a great glossy look.

5. Moisten layer cakes

Baker pro tip: brush simple syrup onto cooled layers of a layer cake to keep your confection fresh and moist. Adding a little booze—rum, vodka, etc.—will reduce the risk of a too-sweet treat and keep the cake nice and moist.

6. Mix muddle-free cocktails

The extent to which bartenders hate making mojitos may have been overstated, but there’s a reason those mint coolers have a bad reputation. It takes time and energy to muddle drinks à-la-minute, and it’s easy to overbruise delicate ingredients if you’re not being careful. Often, cocktail recipes that call for muddling can be adjusted by using simple syrup instead. A great example: this muddle-free Old Fashioned from Seattle’s own Robert Hess.

7. Design elegant garnishes

Start with our gluten-free, Flourless Carrot Cake, topped with super-cute candied carrots cooked sous vide in simple syrup.

Jellied Beans_1

8. Make jelly beans with actual beans—seriously

For the Jellied Beans in our Fruit Minestrone, we sous vide navy beans and a simple syrup made with sucrose and glucose syrup to yield toothsome little candies that will last in the fridge for months.

Want to mix a cocktail with simple syrup right this minute? Check out our very own Yard Bird, a smooth libation made with rum, Cynar, and two kinds of bitters. And of course, we’d love to hear about your favorite uses for simple syrup—let us know in the comments!

A DIY Christmas Spectacular | We Built a Gaggle Roaster

So we occasionally get up to some elaborate DIY exploits that involve cooking, fire, and metal fabrication. We’ve staged some pretty large exploits in the last couple of years (we’ll be sharing some photos from those events soon), but I thought some of you might be interested in the relatively small one we threw together for a holiday celebration last Saturday night.

The Construction Phase
We dubbed the device “The Gaggle Roaster.” It’s a rotisserie spit that can carry half a dozen geese, each one dangling by its legs. We did this so the weight of the bird would stretch the skin taut, and so that we would get radiant heat shining over the entire surface of the bird. This ensured evenly cooked birds with really crispy skin, which was a major goal. Each bird rotated at about 2 rpm. We geared it so the birds would counter-rotate, which means that each bird rotated in the opposite direction of the one next to it—there was no good reason for this other than it looked cool.

I sketched out the idea for this about  a week prior to the party. Our group of makers — including several of our friends at Furlong Fortnight Bureau — gathered to rapidly build and test the device at our friend Rusty Oliver’s shop (The Hazardfactory) between the hours of 5 pm and 3 am.

Our constructors included Neal Stephenson, myself (Chris Young), Rusty Oliver, Nathan Pegram, Daniel MacDonald, and Larry Felser.

We also fabricated a giant roasting pan, complete with our own custom gas manifolds to roast some vegetables to go with our geese. On full blast, this is probably something like a 500,000 BTU/hr stove top.

Here’s a view of Rusty Oliver (left), Daniel MacDonald (center), and Nathan Pegram (right) working on final assembly:
Rusty-Oliver Kevin-MacDonald Nathan-Pegram
Here’s Nathan tensioning the very long bike chain that drives the gearing:
Our careful engineering efforts involved load testing with about a 4X geese-overloading factor:

The Party Phase
Here are some photos from the actual gaggle-roast. No sous vide was involved, we went old-school — like 16th century British old-school.

Basic Cooking Method:

  1. Build a linear chain-driven, counter-rotating rotisserie spit that will suspend half a flock of birds.
  2. Build a large hearth with high emissivity material (firebrick is ideal)
  3. Build a very large fire that is at least 25% longer than the length of the spit, so that the ends of the spit see as much glowing infrared energy as the center.
  4. Once firebrick is warmed up, suspend birds and begin roasting. Surface temperature of birds should settle around 160 °F / 71 °C until core temperature of bird reaches something like 140 °F / 60 °C.
  5. For the final sear, move the geese closer to the fire and turn up the intensity of the radiant heat by blasting large volumes of air at the fire. A leaf blower or Shop-Vac blown in reverse will do nicely.
  6. Once the surface temperature of the birds reaches something like 270 °F / 132 °C, remove the birds and let them rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Carve and serve with a giant pan filled with choucroute and new potatoes.

Here are some photos that Ryan grabbed during the event:

Plumes of Combustion
Geese in Silhouette
 A Gaggle of Roasting Geese
 Turning Up The Heat!
Glowing White Hot

Forging Crispy Skin

And, yes, this was really delicious.

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday — Chris, Grant, Ryan and the rest of the ChefSteps team.

ChefSteps is Chris Young, Grant Crilly and Ryan Matthew Smith.
Sign up for our free online sous vide cooking class and join our forum.