pistachio syrup with xanthan

I really want to batch my pistachio syrup in with my more stable ingredients without the oil separating out. The bottle looks so gross as it settles, and then if the batch is left too long the fats start to solidify around the neck. The syrup does the same on its own, and the clear syrup left after the milky solids have risen looks beautiful and tastes amazing, but I don’t want to lose up to half of my volume skimming the top off to get to that. I can accept that my syrup will probably be milky and opaque.

If I could be bothered straining the seemingly never ending tiny particles of nut then I might have something a little prettier, but I also don’t want to spend hours on the clarification of one syrup, and it’s kind of important to me that I keep that oily texture to some extent. When you’re eating or drinking something you can tell if it’s creamy, but potentially that’s a different thing to actually tasting the fats that make it creamy. Researchers at Deakin University in Victoria, Australia, have suggested that fat could be the sixth flavour that we can perceive, alongside salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami. (foodnavigator)(flavourjournal).

I can batch commercially produced orgeat without separation being a problem, so the solution has got to be in the emulsifier. I’m still figuring out the practical applications of xanthan gum but I know I have a one major potential problem to avoid… If I add too much xanthan then the syrup will be incredibly thick, maybe even jelly-like, which will alter the texture of the drink it’s used in. I’m really happy with the flavour profile already, so I don’t want to drop my sugar content to make room for more viscosity. Looking ahead, what if I can stabilize the syrup, but then it won’t bond in the batch. Well, then I guess it’s not really stable, and it’ll be back to the start.

So for now, I have set aside 200mL of my already prepared pistachio syrup mixed with 0.1g of xanthan, (I know I should have weighed that pistachio syrup. I always do this to myself, mixing my units of measurement), so I’m using between 0.05% and 0.1% of total ingredients. The swelling of the xanthan had already added 30mL to my total volume when I left it to refrigerate though. I’ve left it for 24 hrs to allow time for it to separate if it’s going to.

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.