No-Cook Simple Syrup Is the Best

Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich will be going rogue on Food52 — with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.

Today: Simple syrup can be even simpler to make — Alice explains how.

Simple Syrup on Food52
Simple Syrup on Food52

What could be easier than simple syrup? You just heat equal parts of sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved, then let it cool, use a bit of it, and store the rest in the fridge for another use. Easy, right?

But if you’re like me, you hate waiting for a batch of syrup to cool in order to use it, you don’t like washing an unnecessary pot, and maybe you don’t want leftover syrup in the fridge (mine is too crowded already). Making a small amount of syrup is even more irritating: It’s shallow in the pot, so some of the water evaporates by the time the sugar is dissolved, which makes the syrup extra concentrated (too sweet). You still have to wash the pot and wait for the syrup to cool before you use it.

More: Think outside of baking and add flavored syrups to your next cocktail.

Step away from the stove! Sugar dissolves in cool water (or any other watery liquid, including fruit juice or purée, alcohol, coffee, etc.) in as little as 10 minutes, if you’re willing to stir it a couple of times.

Stirring Simple Syrup on Food52
Stirring Simple Syrup on Food52

To make no-cook simple syrup:
Stir equal parts of water and sugar together thoroughly. Wait 10 to 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid looks clear. (To make extra heavy syrup, increase the amount of sugar). That’s all!

To make exactly the amount of syrup you need:
This is the part I like best: 1 cup of sugar dissolved in 1 cup of water makes 1 1/2 cups of syrup (because 1 cup of sugar becomes 1/2 cup when it’s dissolved in liquid). This means that for every 1 cup of syrup needed, just mix 2/3 cup sugar with 2/3 cup water. For example, if your sorbet recipe calls for 1/2 cup of simple syrup, simply mix 1/3 cup sugar with 1/3 cup of water.

More: If you have extra simple syrup, freeze it in an ice cube tray.

Infusing Simple Syrup on Food52
Infusing Simple Syrup on Food52

To infuse your syrups:
Fresh ingredients such as herbs, fruit, and vegetables taste fresher and brighter infused in cold rather than hot syrup. Use them to create flavored sodas, cocktails, and sorbets, or to splash on a fruit salad. Bakers can combine them with liqueurs and brush them on cake layers.

Here are some tips for further experimentation:

Stir a generous quantity of herb leaves (torn or roughly chopped if they’re large) or whole sprigs of herbs like rosemary or thyme into the syrup and chill it for up to 10 hours for soft leaves like mint, basil, and tarragon (these start tasting decayed after 10 hours) or a couple of days for sturdier herbs like thyme, rosemary, or even rose geranium leaves (very yummy). Strain and discard the herbs and store the syrup in the fridge. If any syrup is not as flavorful as you like, add fresh herbs after discarding the spent ones. If any syrup tastes too strong, add equal measures of sugar and water.

Other aromatics
Add grated citrus zests or finely sliced or grated ginger to syrup and let it infuse until you like the flavor and strength.

Fruits and vegetables
With a juicer:
There is no need to actually infuse; just substitute juiced fruit or veg for the water when making the syrup.

Without a juicer:
Make the infusion with 1 part water, 1 1/2 parts sugar, and 2 parts finely shredded (or a chunky purée of) vegetables such as carrots, beets, celery, etc., or crushed or finely chopped fruit. Stir and let the mixture stand at room temperature for a couple of hours, stirring a couple of times. Strain the mixture through a fine strainer, pressing on the solids to extract as much syrup as you can. Discard the solids. Store in the refrigerator.

More: Add some simple syrup to improve your iced coffee.

Get excited about Alice's forthcoming book Flavor Flours: nearly 125 recipes — from Double Oatmeal Cookies to Buckwheat Gingerbread — made with wheat flour alternatives like rice flour, oat flour, corn flour, sorghum flour, and teff (not only because they’re gluten-free, but for an extra dimension of flavor too). 

Photos by James Ransom

This article originally appeared on The Case for No-Cook Simple Syrup