Sugar, like salt, has been used as a preservative since ancient times. Once essential for the preserving of fruits throughout the winter–it was used as a sort of sweet pickling brine. Today simple syrup is more relevant than ever and is easily one of the most versatile ingredients in the baker’s kitchen.
Perfect for adding moisture and sweetness to any baked good, it can also be used to create reductions, fruit sauces, and cocktails. In a pinch it can replace corn syrup and when reduced enough, even edible glue.
There are two basic formulae for creating simple syrup: the 1:1 ratio and the 2:1 ratio, often referred to as “rich simple syrup”. The 1:1 consists of equal parts sugar and water and is more commonly used in baking. Brushed over cakes it helps keep them moist and is the perfect accompaniment when used to dress a fruit salad. Whereas the 2:1 ratio syrup is reserved mainly for cocktails. Markedly sweeter, and more viscous it effectively cuts through the alcohol, the bitters, and the acids most often employed in a good cocktail and marries them together in a smooth and enjoyable drink. Simple syrup is truly the unsung hero in both the pastry kitchen and behind the bar.
Just as the name implies, simple syrup is very easy to make with nothing more than sugar, water, and a pot, you can make your own in a matter of minutes. But wait, there’s more, not only is it useful and easy to make, it’s also the perfect vehicle for flavor. Rosemary, lemon, vanilla, lemon: simple syrup is the ideal vehicle for adding flavor to whatever you’re making.
Hot + Cold
There are two schools of thought when it comes to making simple syrup. Some swear by the hot method, insisting that heating the sugar and water together on the stovetop, is the only way to go. It certainly is faster and there is no fear of undissolved sugar granules at the bottom of your syrup. Others counter that heating the syrup cooks off delicate aromatics. This can be especially important when infusing your syrups with herbs and spices. Heat also results in the breakdown of sucrose into simpler molecules: fructose and glucose, and causes a thinner syrup.
Of course, any technique has its downsides. Cooking does kill some of the bacteria and microbes present and lengthens your syrup’s shelf life. If you don’t go through your simple very quickly cold-processed syrup might not be the best choice for you. Now that we’ve presented the pros and cons of both methods you’ll be able to make the well-informed choice that’s better suited to your needs. What the heck, try them both out and see which you prefer.
As easy as its name, simple syrup is a cinch to make and the perfect vehicle for flavor infusions!
- 8 ounces (1 cup) sugar
- 8 ounces (1 cup) water
- rosemary, vanilla beans, etc. (optional)
- 16 ounces sugar extra fine
- 8 ounces water
Measure out your water and sugar into a saucepan, and set over medium heat.
Heat the sugar and water, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. If flavoring your syrup, add in your herbs, spices etc. and let everything come to room temperature. Strain out your additions and transfer to a container to store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Combine sugar and water in a container and give it a brisk stir.
*We recommend using extra-fine sugar, as it dissolves much better.
Stir the mixture every 15-20 minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved. If infusing with flavors add them in now. For soft leaves like mint, basil, and tarragon, infuse the syrup for approximately 10 hours. For sturdier herbs like thyme and rosemary, it's safe to continue infusing for up to a couple of days. Strain and discard the herbs and store the syrup in the fridge. If any syrup is not as flavorful as you like, add fresh herbs after discarding the spent ones. Inversely if the syrup has become too strong, add equal measures of sugar and water until it tastes just right.
*Follow the same instructions for both the 1:1 and 2:1 ratio syrups.
*If any syrup is not as flavorful as you like, add fresh herbs after discarding the spent ones. Inversely if the syrup has become too strong, add equal measures of sugar and water until it tastes just right.