experimenting with emulsions

recipe trial #1

Inspired by Dave Arnold’s Butter Syrup (cookingissues) and the potential for the use of xanthan gum in nut syrups like orgeat and common emulsions such has hollandaise sauce and mayonnaise, I took a stab at bonding oil and water. Aided by a little google searching I came up with a trial run method using some clarified unsalted butter left over from a butter bourbon fatwash and a 1:1 (by weight) sugar syrup.

Most information I could find recommended that you only use 0.1% xanthan gum to the total amount of ingredients, as the more you add, the more viscous your final product will be. Xanthan swells very quickly in water so it can be a slow process blending it through evenly. Alternate methods I came across suggest either mixing the xanthan into the liquid oil as it would disperse evenly without swelling, or mixing it through your dry sugar before adding water.

To keep things simple and fast for the first trial run, I kept to basic equal parts recipe of melted butter and 1:1 sugar syrup, and chose to mix the xanthan into the melted butter before mixing with the syrup. I also warmed the sugar syrup to 50˚C before I whisked it into the butter/xanthan mixture, so that I could monitor the behaviour of the resulting emulsion as the temperature dropped. Once the temperature dropped below 26˚C the butter and sugar syrup began to separate, so I strained the sugar syrup off.

Both the butter and sugar syrup were far more viscous than they had been originally. The sugar syrup retained a fair amount of butter flavour, and I had accidentally achieved particle suspension (something that xanthan gum can be used for in making sauces and drinks that contain small particles of herbs etc)…. so I think I need to fine strain the sugar syrup again after chilling to remove those small pieces of butter left behind. It almost has the texture and behaviour of egg white.

The final goal of the emulsion recipe is an oil syrup in a “hot buttered” style drink, so I trialled the butter syrup, replacing a liqueur in a blazer recipe my workmate was messing around with and heated the combined ingredients quickly without letting the mixture ignite. We left the drink for up to 20 minutes without it separating dramatically. It definitely had an oily sheen and left traces of oil on the glass, but it retained the flavour and viscosity to the last sip.

So this recipe is half failure/half success. It’s not the result I was looking for, but the result tasted good and was an interesting and fairly stable ingredient in a warm to room temperature cocktail. I would definitely like to try this with an oil or fat that is liquid at room temperature, and it would be worth using sugar and water instead of the 1:1 syrup. The mixture was nowhere near sweet enough before it separated.