I’ve been on a kick recently of making flavored simple syrups. The inspiration comes from our local queen of artisanal snow cones (yes, I said artisanal and I meant it!), Lindsay Laricks and her company, Fresher Than Fresh. Anytime I see that sweet Shasta trailer parked in front of Hammerpress (during most First Fridays in the Crossroads) or on Sundays at the delightful little park at 17th and Summit close to Blue Bird Bistro, the West Local, etc., it brings a smile to my face. I need to thank FTF for helping me discover how cool that little up-and-coming neighborhood is, too. The lure of the snow cone helped me discover something I hadn’t experienced about Kansas City yet! lol
So, um, if you haven’t gotten off your butt and tried FTF yet, you need to before she closes up for the season, which is FAST approaching its end. To have to wait until next year is a travesty. She also makes freezer pops that are the same stuff, just in the classic shape we all know and love from our childhoods.
My inspiration to try to make some more of my own flavored syrups comes from Lindsay’s Espresso with Mexican Cane Sugar flavor. When you get this flavor (and you should!), they drizzle a little sweetened condensed milk on it, too. I know it sounds a little sketchy, but trust me.
The espresso flavor is to die for, but what was really intriguing was the subtle hint of warm spice in the background… was that cinnamon? Nutmeg? Allspice? All of the above??? I asked Lindsay and she confirmed it was cinnamon, so in preparation for the cold season ahead, I decided to give making my own version of this syrup a shot (no pun intended) so I could add it to my morning coffee when I wanted something a little different. Linday’s snow cone syrup also has a nice hint of carmelized sugar flavors, which I tried to reproduce, and maybe a little hint of molasses or something.
Making simple syrup is, well, simple. You take a cup of sugar and a cup of water, put them in a pan and boil until dissolved. They keep pretty well, although I read somewhere that making a more sugary syrup will keep longer, so to use a 2:1 sugar to water ratio in that case. I did just that about a year ago to have simple syrup on hand for Old Fashioned’s, and it kept unrefrigerated for all that time with no problem at all.
About a week ago I had some strawberries about to go bad and I made a 1:1 simple syrup with them, but didn’t refrigerate it, and the syrup had mold growing on it within a couple days. Word to the wise.
To make fruit-based syrups, like the strawberry one I just mentioned, which would work for any fruit as far as I can tell, simply add the 1:1 ratio of sugar and water to your pan, as well as chopped up fruit, and boil the lot until the sugar dissolves and fruit starts to break up and everything thickens. Remember, fruits have a lot of water in them, so boiling off some won’t be a problem. Once the syrup started cooking nicely I mashed the fruit up with a potato masher and kept on trucking. When I felt like it was done, I simply strained it through a fine wire mesh colander to get the seeds and stuff out. Worked like a charm and it was delicious, the one time I got to use it!
For the coffee-flavored syrup, I just made a small batch and decided to use the richer solution, so I did one cup sugar to 1/2 cup water. I wasn’t sure which type of sugar to use, as a trip down the cooking aisle of Whole Foods showed all kinds of possibilities. I also spotted “vegan sugar” which is truly the lowest form of manipulation of those poor souls, as there is no meat in sugar to begin with. So, vegans who fall for that ploy get to spend an extra dollar for the same sugar. Duh.
Anyway, I chose turbinado sugar, which is evaporated cane juice that still has some molasses in it. Basically chunky brown sugar, but a little “drier” and not as molasses-y. It’s that fancy big-crystal brown-colored sugar you see in the coffee shops. I thought it would have some caramel notes and etc.
So, I did one cup of turbinado, 1/2 cup water and for the coffee flavor itself, I used a few demitasse-spoonfuls of instant espresso. Cooked it up and then added a cinnamon stick to get some cinnamon notes like Lindsay had. I was surprised to see that the sugar dissolved completely very quickly, so I’m guessing that because the crystals are so large, that maybe there isn’t as much density, so one cup of turbinado is less sugar than a cup of regular white refined sugar. That said, it still tasted great. I wasn’t sure how long to leave the cinnamon in, so I probably let it boil with the sugar solution for a couple minutes. I was afraid of making a REALLY cinnamon-y concoction, which wasn’t what I was going for.
Once I figured it was done, I tossed the cinnamon stick and let it cool and poured it into my squirt bottle. The syrup is really dark and nice and thick. It may be a little strong on the coffee flavor, so next time I’ll back off the amount of instant espresso by about 50% I think. I don’t pick up the caramelized flavors I loved so much in Lindsay’s, so I’m thinking maybe cook it longer to cause some caramelization and add water back in, or maybe the flavors are there and are overpowered by the instant espresso/fact that I’m using the solution in a big cup of strong coffee. I wonder about adding a hint of vanilla after the solution cools, too. I could also be using the totally wrong sugar, so this is a work in progress, but a very acceptable first try and it tastes great in coffee. I got almost zero cinnamon flavor in mine, too, so the cinnamon sticks I bought at the grocery store are pretty weak and require a lot more cooking to get into the mix. I wonder if maybe using ground cinnamon would be the way to go.
This will give me something to do this winter! lol