Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I've got a little secret..... can't tell anyone. Come on, lean in closer to your computer, I have to whisper. This is my little secret to moist cakes, feeding the birds, and wonderful appetizers. It's awesome, really. But I'm only gonna tell ya once. Now, do I have your attention? Good.
Simple Syrup
Blind sided ya - didn't I!! Well, here it is. It's not complex. Most secrets aren't. But I'll show you ways to make this stuff POP!
Take 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water. Place in saucepan and heat, stirring, over medium heat until sugar melts. Remove from heat and let cool until lukewarm. Pour into a jar with a lid and store in refrigerator.
That's it! Really. OK, so now what do you do with this stuff? That's where the secret comes in. If you make cocktails, such as the now popular Mojitos, this is the simple syrup they usually tell you to go to the grocery store and buy. I don't normally make cocktails, so that's not a recipe I keep. I don't have friends much more sophisticated than Miller-lite in a can! But Simply Recipes has a great recipe for Limeade that is a version of simple syrup and non-alcoholic. Just the thing on a hot summer day!
I bake a lot. Simple syrup is a great ingredient to keeping cakes moist. After you've baked a cake, but before you've iced it, sprinkle a little simple syrup on the top. I "flick" some onto the sides too. Not too much, because you don't want a soggy cake. Just a little. Go ahead and ice as usual. Your cake will stay moist a lot longer - really. That's a good thing in my home, since I can't let my three sons eat an entire cake in one night, even though they are more than capable!! LOL!
One thing I like to do is flavor my simple syrup, especially for cake flicking (hey, I've invented a new skill!). Often I add a drop of real vanilla to the simple syrup before I "flick", but sometimes I add a drop of Fiori di Sicilia. Never heard of it? Well, click the link and head on over to King Arthur Baking. It is wonderful. Very unusual - a little citrus and a little vanilla. Plus, the stuff lasts forever in your refrigerator. In addition to adding it to my simple syrups, I like to add it into my baking when lemon extract is called for. Mmmmmmm......
So, where do the birds come in? Ah, glad you asked. Simple syrup is the ingredient in hummingbird liquid. No need to go to the store and buy that expensive stuff. Make up a batch of this, then add one cup simple syrup to two cups water to your hummingbird feeder. I add a couple of drops of red food coloring to help the buggers find the feeder - but once they've found it, no need to even do that. Make sure you change the water every few days, because it can "go bad" - like grow weird stuff in it. I also try to make sure my hummingbird feeder is out of direct sunlight as much as possible.
I also have a wonderful recipe that is super simple for an appetizer using simple syrup. I'm sorry I don't have a photo right now, but here's a link if you'd like to see one. I few years ago I discovered a wonderful blog called 28 Cooks. It was the cooking adventure of a then 28 year old woman in New York City. She is very daring and is a great photographer. She came up with a great appetizer recipe using cherries - which is a little different. I like different.
Spiced Cherries
1 cup simple syrup
1 t pickling spice
2 star anise
2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and halved
Place simple syrup, pickling spice and star anise in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer about 5 minutes. Place cherries in a small bowl and pour syrup mixture over cherries. Gently stir and allow to sit until cooled. Cover and let sit in refrigerator 24-48 hours to blend flavors.
When ready to make appetizers you will need a nice serving cracker. I like water crackers. Spread a little goat cheese spread on each cracker and top with a drained spiced cherry. I've found it is best not to make too many of these. They are a nice little "tuck in" to an appetizer tray for a special treat
OK, that's my secret. Now it's yours. What you choose to do with it is up to you. If you sell it to Bon Appetit, then send me a royalty check!! LOL!! Enjoy!

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