sugar

Nougat

Posted on February 16, 2021 at 5:50 am

Nougat is something I always associated with a sickly sweet, weirdly papery, somewhat stale confection. Freshly home made nougat is far from that, and well worth making at home.

A couple of warnings. You will be handling sugar syrup, also known as culinary napalm. Please handle with extreme care, you don’t want 3rd degree burns. The second warning is that this stuff is horribly addictive, so beware your waistline!

2 egg whites, room temperature
2 3/4 cups granulated sugar (500 g), plus 2 tablespoons
1 cup / 12 ounces (by weight) honey
1/3 cup / 80 ml water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (optional)
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped from inside (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups add-ins (toasted nuts, seeds, dried fruit, etc)
special equipment: candy thermometer, pastry brush

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.

Use a clean, dry stand mixer to whip the egg whites to stiff peaks with 2 tablespoons of the sugar. In the mean time, in a small saucepan, over medium heat, bring the honey to 250F on a candy thermometer. Also, at the same time, in a medium saucepan, combine the remaining 2 3/4 cups sugar, water, and corn syrup (if using). Over medium heat, bring this mixture to 300F on a candy thermometer. Carefully and gently swirl the mixtures in their pans now and then, use a pastry brush dipped in water to brush any sugar from the sides of the pan. You want the honey to hit its temp first, followed by the sugar shortly thereafter.

With the mixer running, slowly pour the 250F honey down the side of the bowl into the egg whites. Let the mixer keep running, and as soon as your sugar mixture hits 300F, slowly pour the sugar mixture into the bowl as well, using the same technique (down the side of the bowl). Continue mixing for five minutes or so, until the temperature of the nougat is no longer hot. At this point, stir in the vanilla bean seeds and extract. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and fold in the nuts and seeds by hand.
Transfer the nougat onto the parchment-line baking sheet, cover with another sheet of parchment and allow to cool completely. Cut into desired shapes (the cleaner you can keep your knife the cleaner your cuts will be), and wrap in squares of parchment paper, or candy wrappers. Store in an air-tight container.

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Peanut butter and dark treacle popcorn

Posted on May 21, 2020 at 4:20 pm

This is one of those tweak recipes that makes you go WOW. It’s sweet, salty, savoury, and with a touch of bitterness. It’s also gluten free and vegan. Feel free to substitute to cater for allergies.

This recipe makes a decent snack size portion for 2 to 3 people. It’s also quite filling!

  • 1/4 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1/2 cup dark treacle (or molasses, or honey, each will change the overall flavour)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • heavy pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • Pop the popcorn via your preferred method. I stick it in the microwave on popcorn setting.

    While the popcorn is popping, put the treacle and the sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Once it’s boiling, add a heavy pinch of salt. Stir in the 1/2 cup peanut butter, bring back to the boil and then take off the heat.

    Decant the popcorn into a large bowl. Pour over the treacle / peanut butter mix and stir. Allow to cool before you destroy it!

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    Cinnamon rolls

    Posted on July 9, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    Cinnamon rolls are delicious, but a little bit time consuming to make. It is well worth the effort, though, especially when you get your littles involved in making them!

  • 1/2 cup milk (120ml)
  • 1/2 cup water (120ml)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups all purpose flour (375g)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar (65g)
  • 1 packet / 1.5 tsp active dry yeast
  • These are the ingredients for an enriched dough. We will be revisiting enriched dough for a number of recipes.

    Add all the ingredients in a large bowl, or a food processor, or mixer with the dough hook. Mix until the dough comes together in a sticky ball. If you’re using a food processor, the dough will suddenly clump around the dough attachment and the body of the processor may start to “walk” across your counter.

    If you are getting your little one to mix it in a bowl, they will need to give the dough a good solid mixing until it all comes together in a soft ball. This should nicely tire out the little one as an added benefit 😉

    Turn out the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Allow the dough to rise once. This will take about 20 to 30 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size. Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll it out into a rough rectangle.

    FILLING

  • 1 to 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) ground cinnamon
  • Brush the inside of the dough with the melted butter. Thoroughly mix the sugar and the cinnamon and sprinkle liberally over the buttered area, leaving around a half inch (about 1cm) gap at the edge. Loosely roll the dough together to form a tube. Pinch the tail edge to form a seal. Cut the roll into 1 to 1.5 inch slices (2.5cm to 3.75cm). Place them into a lightly buttered baking dish and cover with plastic wrap or tea towel and allow to rise for 30 minutes to 1 hour or until double in size.

    Preheat your oven to 350F / 180C. Bake cinnamon rolls for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Top with water icing.

    FINAL THOUGHTS
    While making this recipe, I have sometimes felt a little disgruntled about the appearance of my cinnamon rolls. They are not visually perfect like the ones you get from those multi-zillion dollar companies.

    Thankfully, I eventually realised that once the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls hit people’s noses, nobody cares about what they look like: they are far too busy stuffing their faces and asking for “more, please!” to worry about cosmetic trivia 🙂

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    Water icing

    Posted on July 9, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    Water icing is simple and cheap to make. It’s also super flexible, suitable for many sweet treats!

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 – 3 tbsp hot water
  • a few drops vanilla (optional)
  • lemon juice (optional)
  • other flavourings as appropriate for your recipe
  • Sift the sugar into a bowl. Decide what optional flavourings you are going to add, if any, and have them to hand.

    Stir in the hot water until the icing is a little thicker than you want it to be. Add in any of the optional flavourings you want, then recheck the consistency. Add a little more hot water at a time, if needed, until it reaches the right consistency. Allow to rest for 30 minutes before use.

    What do I mean “right consistency”? It depends on what you want it for. A drizzle on icing would need to be more liquid, icing for cinnamon rolls would be a little thicker. If in doubt make it a little thicker than you think it needs to be, try it on a small sample, then tweak the thickness as necessary.

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    Instant hot chocolate

    Posted on December 2, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    Hot chocolate comes in two varieties: the ones worth drinking, and the ones that you can afford.

    With 4 simple ingredients you most likely already have in your pantry, you can make your own!

    3 cups dried non-fat milk powder
    2/3 cup sugar
    2/3 cup baking cocoa
    1/2 tsp salt

    Shake ingredients thoroughly to completely incorporate. Add 1/4 cup of the mix to 1 cup of boiling water and stir. Instant hot chocolate.

    This mix makes a little over a quart of instant hot chocolate powder. The extra mix over the quart? Well… you need to taste test it, don’t you 🙂

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    Treacle

    Posted on March 24, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    In British cooking, “treacle” is a general reference to sugar syrups. In theory, molasses and corn syrup could be considered “treacle”, but in realistic terms it refers to Lyle’s Golden Syrup or their Dark Treacle.

    One problem is that Lyle’s Golden Syrup is achingly expensive in the USA, and dark treacle is basically unheard of. (Many recipes will suggest substituting molasses for black treacle. This will work on the science of cooking, but not at the flavour level: dark treacle is different to molasses.)

    As usual, the answer is “make it yourself”.. but you wouldn’t be here if that wasn’t an option, would you 🙂

    Here I will show you how to make both Golden Syrup and Dark Treacle. The only difference is in the technique.

    GOLDEN SYRUP

    • 200g / 7oz sugar
    • 60ml / 1/4 cup water
    • 600ml / 1.25 US pint boiling water
    • 1kg / 2.2lbs sugar
    • 1/4 lemon / 1.5tbsp lemon juice OR 1/4 tsp food grade citric acid

    Get a deep pot and put the first two ingredients into it. Apply medium low heat and use a candy thermometer to track the temperature until it hits “hard crack”, 150C/300F. You do not need to stir this mixture, it will take care of itself.

    Once the syrup hits the target temperature take it off the heat, remove the thermometer, and add 600ml / 1.25 US pints boiling water slowly, stirring all the while as the water will boil up. Once all the water is added, add 1 kg / 2.2lb of sugar and 1/4 of a lemon (or 1.5 tablespoons bottled lemon juice), squeezing the lemon into the pot before you drop the wedge into the pot.

    Bring the syrup back to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes. After that, allow the syrup to cool slightly and strain the lemon bits through a sieve into hot mason jars. One batch should make about 1 quart of golden syrup.

    DARK TREACLE

    • 200g / 7oz sugar
    • 60ml / 1/4 cup water
    • 500g / 1.1lbs sugar
    • 250ml / 1 cup boiling water
    • 1/4 lemon / 1.5tbsp lemon juice OR 1/4 tsp food grade citric acid

    Welcome to Golden Syrup’s evil brother, Dark Treacle (cue thunder). (IMPORTANT NOTE: PLEASE SEE UPDATE)

    You start the same as Golden, with the first two ingredients into the deep pot. You will not need the thermometer as we are going way beyond the point most candy thermometers can go!

    Apply medium low heat and watch the sugar solution. You will need to watch carefully, because you are going to basically burn all this sugar. Keep watching and smelling as the solution goes through the colour stages, from golden to brown to mahogany almost all the way to black. You will see smoke coming off the sugar, which is the point at which your nerves will start to twitch: you need to get ALL this sugar solution to black, while stopping short of a fire in the pot!

    Once the starter solution is jet black, take it off the heat.

    DANGER: THIS SUGAR SOLUTION IS WELL IN EXCESS OF 200 CELSIUS / 400 FAHRENHEIT SO HANDLE WITH CARE

    Allow the boiling syrup to cool down slightly for a minute or two, then add 500g / 1.1lb of sugar. The sugar syrup will want to seize up, but this is OK. Now add 250ml / 1 cup of boiling water and, as before, squeeze 1/4 of a lemon OR add 1.5 tbsp lemon juice to the mix. Bring the dark mess to a boil then reduce to a simmer for between 30 and 45 minutes.

    This is where the technique gets tricky. With the dark molasses, you will need to test the syrup with the jam test: take a small amount of the treacle (a teaspoon) and drop it onto a very cold plate or saucepan lid. Once it has cooled down, give the treacle a poke with the spoon: if it’s too liquid, it needs more cooking. If it’s too thick (sets solid) add about 1/4 cup boiling water, stir well to integrate, then do the test again.

    How can you tell if the consistency is right? It should be about the same texture as corn syrup: thick and syrupy, but not set solid.

    Once you have made Golden and Dark syrups, what can you do with them? Well, they both go great on pancakes… but I have a better use for them. Watch this space!

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    Blueberry Syrup

    Posted on July 19, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Blueberries are in season just now, so get out there and pick some yourself!

    Once you have a ridiculous amount of blueberries, what can you do with them? Well, I am here to help with a short series, starting with blueberry syrup.

    Prepare your jars and lids by thorough washing with soap and hot water. I also boil the jars for 10 minutes which sterilises them.

    6.5 to 7 cups of fresh blueberries, washed and sorted
    4.5 to 7 cups of sugar OR 3 cups of natural frozen fruit juice
    2 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh or bottled

    Mash the blueberries with a hand held masher, food processor, hand blender, or whatever other method you want to use. The hand masher can be very cathartic if you need to work off some stress. Just saying.

    Add the lemon juice to the blueberry mush, bring it to a boil and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes – they should be nice and mushy. You now need to make a choice – bits, or no bits? If you want to have a completely smooth syrup with no bits in it, you’ll need to strain the mush with a jelly bag, cheese cloth, or whatever. If you are not bothered about bits, as I am not, you can just move on to the next step.

    Add all the sugar in one go. If you need to control added sweeteners, use the fruit juice concentrate instead of table sugar. I added 5 cups of sugar, and am extremely pleased with the result. Bring the blueberry mush and sugar to a boil for about a minute and keep an eye on the texture – you’ll want the syrup to still be a little liquid-y when you put them in the jars as they get some extra cooking time during the hot water processing. Over-cooking at this point could result in a blueberry candy rather than a pourable syrup!

    Fill your jars – either pint or half pints – lid, ring, and boiling water bath process for 10 to 15 minutes*. Remove the lid of your BWB processor, wait for 5 minutes, then lift the jars out of the BWB and place the jars on cookie sheets to cool overnight.

    Pour over pancakes or waffles and enjoy.

    *as usual this is the time for 1000 feet above sea level or less. If you are above 1000ft, please check with the USDA processing guidelines for how much extra time you need to add.

    Yield: with 5 cups of sugar I got 4 pint jars, or 8 jelly jars. With 7 cups you should get about 5 pints or 10 jelly jars.

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    Pancake syrup

    Posted on April 4, 2011 at 8:21 am

    This is what I think of as an “almost-recipe”. It is substantially right, but there is one thing it falls down on that makes the recipe fail: if you read the comments, people complain about it recrystallising.

    Recrystallisation comes as no surprise, because there is nothing in the recipe to prevent it. Table sugar is sucrose and fructose bound together with a connecting bond (please note, this is a gross over-simplification – this level of molecular chemistry is outside the remit of this blog!) and this bond is very powerful. If you break the bond by use of heat, it will re-form itself as soon as the heat comes off which will re-form the sugar crystal. If you want to have a syrup at room temperature, you need to interfere with that bond, which you can do by introducing an impurity – glucose.

    OK, so where do you get the glucose from? Honey, Golden Syrup, Golden Eagle syrup, and, if you absolutely have to…. from corn syrup (note: not high fructose corn syrup).

    Now that I have established how to turn this from an almost-recipe into a real recipe, here’s the working version:

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons glucose syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple flavored extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • In a saucepan, combine the white sugar, brown sugar, glucose syrup, and water. Bring to a boil, and cook for about 3 minutes. Stir in the maple extract and vanilla, and remove form the heat. Let cool to room temperature and decant into glass jars or jugs. Serve lavishly over pancakes, waffles, or stirred into some home made yoghurt.

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