Why It Works
- A tiny amount of brown sugar is all you need for a rich and complex flavor.
- Cream of tartar acts as a catalyst for acid hydrolysis, breaking a portion of the sucrose into fructose and glucose and making this syrup wonderfully smooth and thick.
- Baking soda neutralizes the cream of tartar's acidity, so the syrup tastes deep and rich rather than tart or tangy.
Whether your heart belongs to maple or Mrs. Butterworth, made-from-scratch breakfast syrup will hit the spot in a pinch. It's ultra-luxuriously thick and rich, sweet but not cloyingly so, tempered with plenty of salt and vanilla—no corn syrup in sight! With just a touch of butter, it's perfect for drizzling over pancakes, waffles, and French toast, too.
- 5 ounces water (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons; 140g)
- 9 ounces granulated sugar (1 1/4 cup; 250g)
- 1 3/4 ounce light brown sugar (3 tablespoons; 50g) or 1/2 ounce dark brown sugar (1 tablespoon; 14g) (see note)
- 3/4 teaspoon (3g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume or use the same weight
- 1/4 teaspoon (1g) cream of tartar
- Scant 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 ounces water (1/4 cup; 55g)
- 1/4 ounce unsalted butter (1/2 tablespoon; 7g)
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine water, sugar, brown sugar, salt, and cream of tartar in a 1-quart stainless steel pot. Place over medium heat and stir with a fork until bubbling hard around the edges, about 5 minutes. With a damp pastry brush, wipe all around the sides of the pot to wash down any visible sugar crystals. Clip a digital thermometer to the pot and cook the amber syrup until it registers 234°F, about 8 minutes.
Immediately stir in the baking soda with a heat-resistant spatula (the syrup will bubble vigorously), followed by the remaining portion of water. Continue cooking until the syrup returns to 234°F, about 2 minutes longer. Pour into a Pyrex measuring cup to halt cooking, then stir in butter and vanilla. Cool to a safe eating temperature, about 100°F, and serve. Cover leftovers as soon as possible to prevent syrup from forming a skin and refrigerate up to 3 months in an airtight container.
1-quart stainless steel pot, pastry brush, digital thermometer, heat-resistant spatula
You'll be surprised at how intense a touch of dark brown sugar can be, so don’t add more than a half ounce until you’ve made a batch for yourself. For light brown sugar, you’ll need about three times as much to get the same malty flavor.