Making a simple syrup
Posted: 04 May 2011 01:40 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I am really struggling with making a simple syrup.  It always turns back completely into a solid before it reaches the desired temperature (240F).

I am mixing 1/2 cup of water with 680g C&H cane sugar, and heating on high in a heavy-bottomed pan.  It melts into a clear syrup, starts to boil, hangs around at 230F and then turns into somewhat lumpy table sugar when the water boils off.  If I continue to heat it, it will liquefy again, but it will be brown and around 270F.  Very nice for flan topping but not so nice for a french buttercream.  If I use the syrup before it starts to crystalize from heating, it just crystalizes immediately when it hits the whipped egg yolks.  I don’t think it even really reached thread stage.

I am using a correctly calibrated Taylor candy thermometer.  I have made this successfully at my girlfriend’s house.  I have six failed attempts at making the syrup at my house using various levels of heating and different pots.

My girlfriend lives at sea level and I live at 4,500’.  If this is an altitude issue, any ideas on how to make sugar syrups at altitude?

Tired of using betty crocker instant frosting on my nice cakes.

Thanks!

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Posted: 04 May 2011 11:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Your description of the syrup sounds like it could just be crystallizing.  Your recipe looks to me like it doesn’t contain enough water to dissolve all the sugar crystals.  For 680g sugar, I would use 272g of water.  As long as you have an accurate thermometer, the syrup will contain the correct amount of water when it reaches 240F. 

In addition to starting with more water, you’ll need to make sure that every last grain of sugar is dissolved as the mixture first comes to a boil.  I normally take it on and off the heat a few times at the boiling point while stirring gently, until I’m absolutely sure that there are no remaining sugar grains.  After that, allow it to boil undisturbed (no stirring), and be sure there are no grains of sugar remaining on the thermometer or sides of the pan.

Not sure about the altitude issue, but there are probably others who can help with that.

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Posted: 04 May 2011 11:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Hi, Levain!

Whenever I do anything that requires dissolving sugar in water, I usually start it about an hour (or more) ahead and do these two things:

(1) process the sugar in my food processor to make it as fine as possible, so it dissolves more quickly; and
(2) Let it sit in the water for about an hour (lid on so the water doesn’t evaporate). 

Both of those things get you off to a good start!

I find that if I don’t do at least (1) above, I never seem to get my sugar completely dissolved.  I also do what Julie says and take it off the heat if it’s getting to ‘the next step’ but is not yet all dissolved.

Good luck!

—ak

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Posted: 04 May 2011 01:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Thank you, Julie and Anne.  I have been exercising no care whatsoever about ensuring the sugar is completely dissolved.  Bo Friberg doesn’t mention it, at least not in the recipe section.

That the sugar is just re-crystalizing is consistent with what I see in my cooking pot.  Also, it makes sense that there is less room for error at altitude; water boils here at 203.8F, so there is less time for the sugar to completely dissolve before the water boils off.  Next time I will process my sugar in the cuisinart, use more water and let it sit a long while before heating, and take care with the heating prior to boiling.

It will be a few days before I can get back to this, but I’ll let you know how it comes out.

Thanks again.

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Posted: 04 May 2011 04:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Thanks for the idea of letting the sugar and water sit at room temperature for a while.  That is a great idea!

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Posted: 05 May 2011 12:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Julia and Shirley Corriher add a tsp. or so light corn syrup to their syrup. They say it helps with the crystallization issue.

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Posted: 22 May 2011 02:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I keep a tight lid on the pot when it first comes to a boil for 3 minutes. The steam runs down the sides of the pot and washes down any wayward sugar crystals that could be clinging to the sides.  It?s also a good idea to have a clean cup of cool water and clean pastry brush nearby to wash away any sugar crystals that could be forming around the sides as the syrup cooks. You also have to adjust the sugar temp down for your altitude: for every 1,000 ft above sea level, you have to decrease the temp by 2 degrees. I live at 5200ft, and syrup is ready for buttercream between 225-230.

I would also suggest using only heavy stainless steel or copper pots for sugar cooking. Aluminum can cause crystalizing because of the impurities in it.

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Posted: 29 May 2011 12:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I’m a little confused. When you say simple syrup, are you referring to a syrup meant to soak layers of sponge? Or, more likely, you are referring to a cooked sugar syrup to be used in a buttercream frosting. I ask because you speak about heating it to what sounds like the softball stage (240 degrees F). To make a simple syrup, all you have to do is stir the sugar in the water until it dissolves and bring it to a boil, then just let it stand and cool.

If you’re making this for a meringue buttercream, then you do indeed have to heat it beyond 212 degrees F. But if you are having crystallization issues, I wonder if you are stirring it after it boils. This is a mistake, and can definitely cause re-crystallization. Once the mixture begins to boil you must not stir it again.

Just throwin’ this out there…

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Posted: 05 August 2011 03:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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If you are making one for buttercream, I would suggest using just use corn syrup and sugar and omit the water! Then when at temp add it to your yolks -

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