DANGER WILL ROBINSON! “Pancake Syrup” is not Maple Syrup. Pancake syrup is most likely the dark corn syrup we talked about last week. If you want your pancakes to taste amazing stay away from “Pancake Syrup” and stick to real, expensive, Maple Syrup. The good news: you don’t have to turn your pancakes into “pancake-maple soup” to enjoy the unctuous benefits of Maple Syrup. A light drizzle will sweeten and enhance your pancake batter delightfully. So you’re spending the same amount of money anyway. Here’s why:
Maple syrup is no more than the sap of the maple tree siphoned off, then boiled down from 40 gallons of sap to ONE gallon of syrup. During this process the sap caramelizes, giving maple syrup its lovely golden to amber color.
This is how maple syrup is graded – by its color – denoting the amount of caramelization. Grade A comes in Dark Amber or Light Amber, and Grade B is the strongest and darkest, which Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering likes to use for cooking. We are also not opposed to using maple syrup in cocktails – ask for one to be made at your next cocktail party! Lula is religious about finding all ingredients that work well with whiskies. Also, for your next Brunchbe SURE to ask for Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering ‘s Homemade Maple-Vanilla Yogurt.
Yuck.Well, maybe not so much…in that corn syrup will not crystallize.If you read my article “The Transparency of Pecan Pie” you’ll get even deeper into this subject.Did you know that corn syrup – a highly refined product from corn starch – is only 65% as sweet as white sugar?But it doesn’t turn frostings and pies and candies grainy so it’s a decent ingredient for this sort of stuff.The only difference between light corn syrup and dark corn syrup is caramel coloring.Can you tell I’m a fan?
February is the month of love and I’d like to celebrate the life of one of my great true loves, my pug Oscar.We lost Oscar on January 14 after sixteen and a half remarkably joyous years – much longer than pugs are expected to live.I’m sure it was love that kept him alive.In fact, Oscar had at least 9 lives, and one of his nicknames was “the energizer bunny”.Nothing could kill him or keep him down – not ingesting an entire turkey net with metal clamps at both ends, not eating an entire block of rat poison (yes I was TOO a good mommy!), nor a myriad of other things, some much less savory than these that we will not detail here.Oscar and I were soulmates – both terribly hedonistic and putting pleasure above all else.Just as I would wither on the vine without loving touch so would my son and pal, who demanded massages on a daily, neigh, hourly basis.During his last years the massage had to be gentler and kept to his upper quadrant as his poor hind legs were a bit too tender from arthritis.He always needed to be “touching”.
Oscar was as stubborn as me, or I guess more so, because he usually won.I’ve often said it’s a great thing for me that he was born with such a lovely temperament because had he been anything more than cutely ornery I would have been in terrible trouble.He taught me a really big lesson regarding the battles vs the war.He also gave me the greatest gift – one that I was perfectly petrified I would never have since I couldn’t have children – the gift of unconditional love.
I’ve never known a more expressive face, human or otherwise, and we had multitudes of conversations – me with my words, and he with his eyes, mouth, and ears, and tail, and feet, and neck, and yes, even his voice. People often commented “how can he be so comical and so regal at the same time?” He was so social all of his life (to put it mildly; another nickname was “ho”) – he went virtually everywhere with me the first 2 years, ALL stores (except grocery as I found out it wasn’t allowed).He has been to doctor’s offices, mechanics, hardware stores – in fact Beck’s Hardware in Walnut Hills cried with me the week Oscar died.He was beloved by so many – often his welfare was asked after before mine.Even at the end of his life when he was blind and deaf, once he caught a whiff of someone new in the house he found his way to them to greet them.
Oscar had the worst breath on the planet.Some of that had to do with the fact that he was attacked by a Jack Russell Terrier and had to have his whole right jaw stitched up, and he never completely healed.As destroyed as he was, he gave kisses to the vets and techs who helped him that night.As a result, he started losing teeth on that side, and some in front, and his tongue lolled out all of the time.When he was asleep and that tongue was sticking out I swear I could have eaten him with a spoon.
There is not a soul on the planet that was more interested in food in all of its components than Oscar.I know I know, dogs all love anything to eat, but Oscar was different (of course).He was a gourmand.His absolute favorite was crispy salmon skin, and he loved a good cup of coffee with cream and sugar.Sadly Oscar was born into a litter that was not kept with its mother for very long, and food was tossed loosely into a playpen for the puppies to fight over.As a result Oscar’s only issue was coming from a culture of “fear of not enough” – like so many of us come from – and he, like we, manifested his perceived lack in mysterious ways.One of Gordon’s favorite Oscar food stories revolves around a T-Bone steak.Oscar weighed 20 pounds.A T-Bone was about half as big as he was.We thought he’d enjoy gnawing on the bone.What could it hurt, right?A gift we thought!So we put him in the front yard and gave him his bone.He immediately took the long end of the T and swallowed it.No, he didn’t choke…he just kept trying to get the wide end of the T into his mouth and down his gullet.We, in quick hysteria, rushed to him to save him from sure suffocation, but he would have NONE OF IT.Growling and biting down and digging in he demanded to be left alone to HIS bone as he hacked and chewed and hacked and chomped…and as Gordon RIPPED the bone from his throat that tail just started wagging like “who, me?C’mon…whatdya have to go and take it from me for?!?”and immediately the love was restored.Always, love restored. That tail wagged so hard it hit both sides of his head. It’ll never be goodbye my boy – you’ll always be with me, unconditionally loved.
Now we begin our foray into the liquid sugar realm, starting with honey. EVERYONE knows about honey – and I will refrain from diverging onto the windy path of ecology and how the bees, by producing honey from whatever region in whatever flavor, help feed the world by their pollination. I’ll just say this one thing PROTECT THE BEES PLEEEESE!!!
Honey is the worlds oldest known sweetener, and its flavor varies all over the world depending upon what nectar the bees have been feeding on, including something as weird as the flowering buckwheat plant. Lavender honey is one of my favorites, but then again all things lavender please me greatly! Have you ever had eucalyptus honey?!? Respond to this blog and let me know the most unusual honey you’ve ever had – I’m curious!! You can liquefy crystallized honey by microwaving it in 10 second increments until it liquefies (if you can get it out of the jar to begin with!).
A light brown, partially refined raw sugar, Demerara originally was called so because it actually came from Demerara – once a colony that has now become the country of Guyana.The sugar has large crystals and is somewhat brown in color, but there are no additives.It is crunchy with a warm caramel flavor. It is an excellent topping for baked goods – it won’t break down and melt during the baking process.
Demerara has become so popular that it is now produced in many other countries, and is generically referred to as “turbinado” which is more of a descriptor of the PROCESS, rather than a type of sugar.The terms are pretty much interchangeable.Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering uses demerara A LOT in many applications…because it’s DEEEELICIOUS!
This stuff is plain weird to me. Please let me know if you’ve used it. I’m going to have to find some just to say I’m familiar with it! Block sugar comes from either the juice of sugar cane or the sap of the palm tree. The first place I’m going to look is in one of our local Indian markets where it will be called “Jaggery” or “gur”. If I can’t find it there I’ll head to the taqueria where I’m told it will also be sold under the name “piloncillo”. The juice is boiled and poured into molds where it hardens and then you pick off a “cube” or “shard” and throw it into your coffee to melt, or rub it over toast. It can also be used in baking but you have to melt it first with another liquid ingredient. There’s not much Lula doesn’t know in the food realm but this will be a new experience!! I LOVE it when I learn while I teach!!
Confectioner’s Sugar, also called 10-X, is nothing more than granulated white sugar that has been finely ground to 10 times smaller than its original crystal size, and then cornstarch is added to prevent clumping. This sugar is prized for its “dissolvability” and is used in candy and icing applications. Lula’s for Lunch…and More!Catering makes a FABulous Citrus White Chocolate Ganache using 10-X – enjoy this pic of our 7-Spice Cake with the ganache drizzled all over it.
Did you know you can make your own confectioner’s sugar? Simply put one cup of granulated sugar in a blender (NO…not a food processor – it doesn’t work!!) with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch added, and blend away for exactly 3 minutes. Poof! You’ve magically whipped up your own 10-X!! Give yourself a smooch.
OK! So, we’ve talked about what I’m calling “cupboard sugar” (white granulated), and now let’ talk about the OTHER cupboard sugar – BROWN. Funny – brown sugar IS white sugar, only with molasses added (more about this particular liquid sugar later). The more molasses is added, the “dark”er the brown sugar is – so you can guess what’s happened when your supermarket brown sugar is labeled “light” or “dark” brown sugar. Since molasses is a liquid, it will evaporate. When your brown sugar hardens this is what’s happened. To prevent this as much as possible, simply wrap up your sugar tightly so air can’t get in (I use a rubber band after I’ve rolled up the bag as tightly as possible squeezing all of the air out – high tech, I know!) If it DOES happen, warming the sugar in a 250 degree oven for five minutes should do the trick. Let the sugar cool before you use it.Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering tends to use more dark brown sugar than light simply because we love its dense, deep flavor. As an aside…I hope the picture associated with this article is not lost on you…sometimes I just can’t help myself with the humor and politics!!
For the next few weeks I’m going to prime you on sugar in all its forms. We’re going to start with the “dry” – a 5 part series, and head into liquid – a 7 part series. Let’s start with what you have in your cupboard/on your counter (at least I do – as bad as sugar is for you I want my white granulated sugar in my coffee every morning!!) Because everything coming out of my kitchen is scratch, I don’t feel so badly about the tablespoon or two of the refined white stuff I have every day, because there are no “hidden” sugars in the other stuff I make.
GRANULATED WHITE SUGAR: refined from either cane or beets, is the most versatile of all sweeteners – with no distinct flavor of its own. We can substitute other stuff if we like but this most ubiquitous of sugars is a staple in every home, for use in baked goods AND savory cooking – it (as do all sugars) tempers acidity in some foods like tomato sauce, and aids in browning in baked goods like bread. I just have to add another pic because it’s too good not to. This is the “love”, folks! 🙂
In Lula's Kitchen, Love is ALWAYS our First Ingredient!