Simple syrup is a solution of equal parts (by weight) sugar and water. It can be used to sweeten and add moisture to cakes and other desserts.
It's also handy for sweetening cold drinks like iced coffee and iced tea, since granulated sugar doesn't dissolve as well in a cold drinks as it does in hot ones.
There are also a slew of cocktails that use simple syrup, like the Old Fashioned and the Mojito.
The thing about simple syrup is that traditionally it's made by boiling the water and sugar until the sugar dissolves. The resulting syrup is then cooled and then stored in a bottle or jar. You can infuse it with orange flavor by simmering orange peel in the syrup, which might be nice for brushing onto the layers of a classic genoise cake.
There are a couple of problems with this technique, however. One, if you should accidentally splatter a drop of boiling-hot simple syrup on yourself, you're going to be in a lot of pain. And two, the pot you used to simmer the syrup is going to be a pain to clean — so much so that you might prefer the pain of being burned by the stuff.
And also, you have to wait for it to cool.
Fortunately, you can make simple syrup without boiling. Just combine the sugar and water in a jar or bottle and let it sit for about 20 minutes, giving it a shake or stir every five minutes or so. Zero cleanup, zero waiting for it to cool, and zero chance of sustaining second-degree burns.
Still, boiled simple syrup will keep a lot longer, because boiling gets rid of any bacteria that might cause it to go bad. But we're talking the difference between keeping for three months with the stirred syrup versus more or less indefinitely with the boiled kind. So if you're planning to use it up quickly, the shaken version will work just fine.
Of course, if you're not cooking the syrup, you can't flavor it by simmering orange peels in it. But you can just stir in half a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice (per liter of syrup), or 1/4 lemon juice and 1/4 cup orange juice.
And if you're just using your simple syrup to sweeten drinks, feel free to leave out the citrus juice altogether.
By the way, you can buy a simple syrup kit which is basically a bottle with markings on it to indicate how much sugar and water to add. You just cork it and shake it up. Totally unnecessary, but still kind of cool and might make a nice gift.
- 1 quart filtered or distilled water
- ½ lb granulated sugar
- Peels of about 3 oranges, sliced
- Combine the water, sugar and orange peels in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir to combine, bring to a boil and cook until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat, remove the peels and let the syrup cool. Transfer to a bottle or jar. Store in the fridge for longest life.