Why Does Golden Syrup Crystallized? The Full Guide

Golden syrup is a popular sweetener used in many recipes, from pancakes to cakes and cookies. However, have you ever noticed that your golden syrup has developed gritty particles or crystals?

This can be frustrating, especially when you’re in the middle of baking. But why does it happen?

In this article, we’ll explore the science behind crystallization and how to prevent it from happening to your golden syrup.

So grab a cup of tea and let’s dive in!

Why Does Golden Syrup Crystallized?

Golden syrup crystallizes when the sugar molecules in the syrup stick together and become insoluble in water. This process is natural and can occur after long storage at cool temperatures or even because of air bubbles in the syrup. However, it can be quite harmless.

The free glucose and fructose present in golden syrups are more water-soluble than the original sucrose. As a result, golden syrups are less likely to crystallize than a pure sucrose syrup. The free fructose content gives the syrup a taste sweeter than that of an equivalent solution of white sugar. When substituting golden syrup for white sugar, about 25% less golden syrup is needed for the same level of sweetness.

However, if your golden syrup has developed crystals that you think would spoil a dish, simply warm the can gently in a pan of hot water to dissolve them and then use as specified in the recipe.

What Is Golden Syrup?

Golden syrup, also known as light treacle, is a thick and amber-colored form of inverted sugar syrup. It is made by refining sugar cane or sugar beet juice into sugar or by treating a sugar solution with acid. It has an appearance and consistency similar to honey and is often used as a substitute where honey is unavailable or prohibitively expensive.

Golden syrup is not to be confused with amber corn syrup or amber refined sugar. Regular molasses, or dark treacle, has both a richer color and a strong, distinctive flavor. Golden syrup was first canned and sold in 1885 by Abram Lyle & Sons (now part of Tate & Lyle) refinery in Plaistow, Newham, London. It was formulated by the chemists Charles Eastick and his brother John Joseph Eastick.

Golden syrup is commonly used in a variety of baking recipes and desserts. It offers tempered sweetness and a distinct caramel color and flavor. It contains fructose and glucose, simple sugars that come with significant textural advantages. Fructose is particularly hygroscopic, which means that it retains lots of water and gives baked goods a quality that engineers refer to as plasticity, and that we recognize as chewiness. Additionally, golden syrup’s fructose content means that it doesn’t crystallize in stored baked goods as readily as white sugar does, so cookies stay moist and chewy long after they cool.

Golden syrup is especially popular in the UK and several English-speaking countries with ties to the UK. It is kept on hand for baking and as a condiment for drizzling over pancakes or porridge. These days, it’s also readily available in American supermarkets.

Understanding Crystallization

Crystallization is a natural process that occurs when sugar molecules stick together and form insoluble crystals in water. This process can happen due to various reasons, such as long storage at cool temperatures or air bubbles in the syrup. When enough of the sugar molecules cluster together, they become insoluble in the water, resulting in gritty particles in the syrup.

The chance of crystallization is high in a syrup prepared with a high 2:1 ratio of sugar to water, also known as a rich syrup. In this case, the sugar molecules are more likely to cluster and crystallize. To prevent crystallization, additives like lemon juice and cream of tartar can be added to the syrup. These additives are acids that break down sugar molecules into glucose and fructose through a process called inversion. This process reduces the number of sugar molecules available to cluster together and physically blocks the remaining sugar molecules from one another.

However, adding too much of these additives can change the flavor profile of the syrup. To invert enough sugar without affecting the flavor, prolonged exposure to heat is needed. Simmering the syrup for 10 minutes instead of merely bringing it to a boil inverts enough sugar without affecting flavor.

When heating a solution, it allows it to hold more dissolved material. When partially crystallized sugar syrup is heated, the water in the syrup can contain more sugar, allowing the sugar crystals to dissolve. It’s essential to dissolve every sugar crystal in the syrup because any remaining crystals can cause others to crystallize.

In general, a sugar crystal grows from a “crystal seed,” which can be a clump of sucrose molecules, a speck of dust, or a gas bubble. Stirring causes sucrose molecules to be pushed into one another, forming crystal seeds throughout the syrup. The resulting crystals will be smaller when more crystal seeds are present because sucrose molecules can join any of a larger number of crystal seeds.

Golden syrup contains free glucose and fructose that are more water-soluble than sucrose. Therefore, golden syrups are less likely to crystallize than pure sucrose syrups. When substituting golden syrup for white sugar, about 25% less golden syrup is needed for the same level of sweetness.

How To Prevent Crystallization

Preventing crystallization in golden syrup can be achieved by adding an acid or corn syrup to the sugar-water mixture before cooking. The acid, such as lemon juice, interferes with the crystallization process and helps to keep the syrup smooth. Corn syrup contains glucose, which reduces the chance of sucrose molecules clustering together and forming crystals.

It is also important to use a clean pot or pan when cooking the syrup, as sugar granules can latch onto any particles left on the pan and crystallize to form a solid mass. Use a wet pastry brush to wash away any sugar that sticks to the side of the pot or pan as the sugar heats, as this will prevent it from hardening and crystallizing.

When cooking the sugar and water mixture, avoid stirring it when it comes to a simmer. Sugar is temperamental and can treat a spoon or spatula as particulate, something to latch onto to crystallize. Cover the pan loosely with a lid or baking sheet to trap steam in the pan, which will help keep the sides of the pan clean.

Finally, prolonged exposure to heat can help invert enough of the sugar without changing its flavor. Simmering the syrup for 10 minutes instead of merely bringing it to a boil will invert enough of the sugar without affecting flavor. Once done, pour the mixture into a clean container and allow it to cool before storing it in a cool place. By following these steps, you can prevent crystallization in golden syrup and ensure that it remains smooth and delicious.

What To Do If Your Golden Syrup Crystallizes

If you find that your golden syrup has crystallized at the bottom of the container, don’t worry! There are a few ways to fix this issue.

First, you can transfer the crystallized syrup back into a pot, add more lemon slices and boil again. Lemon is used to prevent sugar crystallization, and adding enough acid (lemon) should prevent the sugar from crystallizing. Slice the lemon about 1/2-cm thick and leave the lemon seeds intact as this works as a natural preservative for the golden syrup. Caramelized lemon slices can also be used for lemon tea.

It is recommended to boil syrup using a pot with a smaller top opening. This will prevent too much evaporation during the boiling process. Over-evaporation will cause the syrup to be too thick when it turns golden brown.

If you prefer not to add lemon slices or if you don’t have any on hand, you can also try heating the syrup gently in a pan of hot water to dissolve the crystals. This method works well if you only have a small amount of crystallized syrup.

Another option is to add more water to the syrup. By adding water, the sugar crystals can dissolve again. Simply re-heat the syrup, evaporate the water and try again!

It’s important to keep in mind that crystallization is a natural process and doesn’t necessarily mean that your golden syrup has gone bad. However, if you’re concerned about the quality of your syrup, you can always start over again by making a new batch.

Conclusion: Enjoying Perfect Golden Syrup Every Time

To ensure that your golden syrup maintains its smooth, liquid consistency, it’s important to store it properly. Keep it in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and heat sources. It’s also a good idea to avoid exposing the syrup to air, as this can lead to the formation of crystals. Make sure to seal the container tightly after each use.

If you’re using golden syrup in a recipe, be sure to measure it accurately. Using too much or too little can affect the texture and flavor of your final product. Remember that golden syrup is less sweet than sugar, so you may need to adjust the amount of other sweeteners in your recipe accordingly.

When cooking with golden syrup, it’s important to keep an eye on the temperature. Overheating can cause the syrup to caramelize and darken, which may not be desirable in certain recipes. If you need to heat the syrup, do so gently and slowly.

Finally, don’t be afraid to experiment with golden syrup in new ways! Its unique flavor and texture make it a versatile ingredient that can be used in a wide variety of dishes, from baked goods to cocktails. Try drizzling it over pancakes or waffles, stirring it into oatmeal or yogurt, or using it as a glaze for roasted meats or vegetables. With a little creativity, you’re sure to find new and delicious ways to enjoy this classic British sweetener.