>Adventures in making Burnt Sugar Essence

>This year I wanted to try the West Indian Black Cake recipe as it appears in Laurie Colwin’s “Home Cooking” (a few years ago I made Nigella’s version, which skirts the Burnt Sugar Essence issue by substituting molasses. But I was still intrigued by the challenge of making/finding this odd ingredient.)
Colwin’s instructions are, at best, vague: If it’s unavailable, Betty suggests putting a pound of sugar in a heavy skillet with a little water and boiling it gently until it begins to turn black. You do not want to overboil. It should be slightly bitter, black and definitely burnt.
Probably makes perfect sense to an old fashioned pro, but some of us need more help than that. Anyway, I did just as I understood it, adding water at the start and letting it gently boil. For a long time. Eventually the water started to evaporate out, so I added some more. After 45 minutes I figured nothing was going to turn black, and settled for the molasses-brown color I had achieved. Off the heat, the sugar near the bottom of the pan hardened and crystallized, while the top remained liquidy enough to pour out. I thought, it’s now or never with these cakes, or the sugar will harden up.
As you can see, these cakes are nowhere near black, and Colwin maintains that her babysitter’s cake was indeed black. They are not even close to chocolate brown, but they taste delicious nevertheless.
Some searching around on the internet let me to some adventurous bakers who have gone this path before me. They say, melt the sugar to a syrup, then remove from heat, add water and stand back. When it stops reacting violently, you have burnt sugar essence.
I still have half a bowl of fruit marinating in the fridge. Guess I’ll try their suggestion next time, maybe for Easter.

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3 Responses to >Adventures in making Burnt Sugar Essence

  1. Anonymous says:

    >While in Elgin I wanted to make the banana bread that you for which you so kindly supplied the recipe. Back home I have it printed out. Couldn’t find it on your blog and had to use the original that wasn’t translated into American measurements. Long way of saying perhaps you could have a separate file for recipes so they can easily be retrieved. Just a suggestion.The burnt sugar loafs look delish!ql

  2. Tanya says:

    >Hello there! I know this has been posted for quite some time. Very nice. It seems that you did everything right. However, it is best to brown the sugar on it's own first before adding the water. Believe me, it will turn black!!! It may set off an alarm or two, but it will turn black..Believe me!! As soon as it is black, slowly add boiled water to it and keep stirring. Voila, burnt sugar essence. I like to put on the fans above my stove so the smoke is not too horrid. Hope you find helpful. P.S. I like to make batches and store in my glass jars (when warm), so I dont have to re-live the burning aroma often. When you are ready to use it the next time, the burnt sugar will be VERY thick. Not to worry!! Before using it, place your closed jar of essence in hot tap water. After a few minutes or so, you will notice it will "loosen up" in consistency. To make a batch of burnt sugar essence, use 1 lb. sugar, brown or white, and 1 cup of boiled water.(I prefer brown sugar but it doesnt matter). Good luck!­čÖé Sincerely,TanyaA woman of Caribbean descent

  3. Marcellina says:

    >Thank you Tanya! I have been using a jar of Blue Mountain Country burnt sugar, but I will definitely want to try your method out!

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