For all my American readers out there (apparently there are 149 of you, according to Google Analytics), I bring you a special bonus episode: golden syrup! What is golden syrup? It's basically a caramelized sugar syrup that is light, bright, and slightly tangy from the use of lemons (which serves both chemical and taste purposes). It's used when you need a liquid sugar that has a bit of thickness to it, and a light caramelization. I think. I'm not exactly sure. But I do know you can use it when making brandy snaps or treacle tart. So there's that.
And it couldn't be easier. It's a multi-step process, and it takes about an hour, but most of that time is spent on the couch watching TV, and it only has three ingredients. The first step is to take some sugar and a little water and let her cook over low heat. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to golden syrup.
You're looking for this first batch of sugar and water to become a caramel color -- light or dark is your preference, depending on how nutty/burnt you like your flavors to be. I'm a fan of anything that's a little over-cooked (except steak), so I let it go somewhat dark. Your big bubbles will turn into tiny bubbles, then into tiny brown bubbles, and you know it's time to move to the next step.
Which is to throw in your boiling water, the rest of the sugar, and as little or as much lemon as you want, though you have to throw in some lemon, because the acid keeps the sugar from crystallizing and becoming a chunky, gloopy mess (or so that's what the chemists tell me). Make sure your pot is on a low setting, so it's just barely bubbling (not boiling), and let it go for 45 minutes. At the end, you'll have golden syrup. Let it cool to room temperature and toss it in the fridge to thicken, and snack on the lemons, which have now become candied lemon peel -- don't you love a recipe with no waste?
makes 2 cups
100 grams GRANULATED SUGAR
3 tablespoons WATER
500 grams GRANULATED SUGAR
300 grams (3/4 cup) BOILING WATER
1 quarter LEMON
1. Dissolve first part of SUGAR into WATER over low heat, and cook until caramelized -- the darker your caramel color, the deeper your flavor, so personal preference wins out here, but I would aim for a dark golden orange color
2. When you've reached your desired caramel color, pour in the second part of SUGAR and BOILING WATER, and LEMON slice and bring to a boil, then down to a simmer, and cook for 45 minutes
3. Let mixture cool before pouring into a jar or can (preferably sanitized), and store in the fridge
This isn't really part of the technical bake, but Paul Hollywood's scones are really not that interesting by themselves, and if you're going to pair British scones with something, it might as well be clotted cream. And jam. But I prefer to work with fat (surprised?), so I bought the jam and made the cream.
The problem is, when I had this great idea to have myself a right British tea time with clotted cream, I realized I had no idea what clotted cream exactly is. I've had tea in England before (and on the Upper West Side), so I recall having clotted cream at some point in my life, and it being amazing, but I couldn't wrap my head around what exactly it was. Was it just lightly whipped cream? Was it some sort of tangy buttermilk concoction?
It turns out, clotted cream is cream that has been cooked a bit, then cooled, which naturally thickens the liquid into a spreadable paste. Why is this? Well, heavy cream is 36% butterfat, and a lot of the remaining 64% that isn't fat is water. When you cook down the cream, the water slowly evaporates, and some sort of science happens that leaves us with a butterfat that is much higher--somewhere around 55% or above. With less water and more fat, the cream thickens, and because of the heating, it takes on a tanginess that gives it more depth than heavy cream's bland (but addictingly delicious) profile.
And it's a painless process. Most recipes call for you to stick it in a pan the oven on the lowest setting overnight, but seeing as A) creeps me out to leave my oven on overnight, and B) that seems like a racket for the energy company, I found a stovetop version, where you have a little more involvement (once an hour for a few hours -- do it while you do laundry like me!), but it doesn't take nearly as long, and I feel like it saves some natural gas.
Anyway: make this, love this, eat this with scones. And let me know what else I should use clotted cream for, because I made an entire jar, and I only wanted a couple tablespoons for my pastries.
Stovetop Clotted Cream
makes 8 fluid ounces (1 cup)
1 pint HEAVY CREAM
1. Pour HEAVY CREAM into a large, wide-bottomed pan and place on stovetop
2. Turn stove to the lowest setting possible, and let sit for 1 hours
3. After 1 hour, use a spoon to skim off the top layer of "skin" that has formed, and place into a bowl
4. Continue to skim the skin off the top of the pan once an hour, until pan is nearly empty
5. Let skimmed cream sit in a bowl and come down in temperature -- don't worry, it will look curdled and gross, but trust it
6. Place cream in a jar and put it in the fridge for at least 4 hours
7. Stir cream to make it all come together, keep refrigerated
A personal challenge to conquer every technical challenge, and select signature bakes, from The Great British Bake Off
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