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We have sent a few of our stroopwafels to some experts in the Netherlands to compare our waffles with the real thing. The response is always: They are delicious, but they are different from Dutch stroopwafels. There are a few key elements in the stroopwafel, that make the stroopwafel taste like a stroopwafel.
In our production we only use 100% Japanese products, so we use Japanese flour, butter and sugar. Stroop is not available in the Japanese market, so we have to make do with sugar only.
Sugar & Sugar
The Dutch sugar is all beet sugar, whereas most of the sugar sold in Japan is Cane Sugar. Although both of these sugars are 99.95% sucrose, there is apparently a big difference in how these two types of sugar react when baking and the taste and texture of the final product is totally different. Tests show that cane sugar is actually superior to beet root sugar in baking. There is a good article about sugar by Miriam Morgan in the San Francisco Chronicle, which did some baking tests with Cane Sugar and Beet Root Sugar.
In the Netherlands, the “bruine bastard Suiker”, is a dark brown sugar with a deep flavour of molasses and caramel. This sugar has a very similar taste to stroop. The traditional stroopwafel, uses both of these products, which are not available in Japan. We did various experiments and ended up with mainly sugar and beet root syrup, available in the Japanese market.’
By now, I have made quite some batches of caramel for my stroopwafels. One of the tricks making good caramel is to bring crystallisation under control. There are various suggestions about wiping the pan with a water brush and prevent stirring at critical stage and adding interfering agents to prevent crystallisation.
I have applied them all and managed to get good batches of caramel, but once I put them in the stroopwafels, they slowly started crystallizing after a few days… Fortunately, a lot of googling came up with a solution, which I have not seen anywhere in caramel web pages.
I was searching for information of the crystallisation of sugar and found the teacher”s domain “cooking with sugar” page. It had the following statement\r\n
Cream of tartar and gelatin are examples of interfering agents. Cream of tartar is an acid; acids act on sucrose to break it into its two simpler components—the smaller molecules glucose and fructose. Because crystals form when similarly sized and shaped molecules interlock, the presence of smaller molecules among larger ones prevents crystallization. Adding gelatin to water as sugar begins to crystallize causes swelling, which forms a stress on sugar crystals. This stress changes the molecular structure of the sugar. The crystalline structure disappears and a jelly or gum forms.
\r\nAn acid can do the trick, but “cream of tartar” gives a nasty aftertaste, which is similar to baking powder. Instead, I simply use some lemon juice. I have followed this advice and I first boil some water with gelatin. Once the gelatin is disolved, I add the sugar and some lemon juice and let it simmer away. After a while the sugar begins to caramelize. I leave it on the heat, till the caramel turns dark golden brown and I can see little pufs of smoke coming out of the sugar mixture. This means the caramel is ready. I dip the hot pan in a bowl of cold water to prevent any further heating, which prevents burning of the caramel. Then I add the butter and mix it. After that I add a little water to maintainn tough syrupy consistency when it cools down. Too much water will make the stroopwafels leak syrup, too little water will make the syrup to chewy, which makes it stick between your teeth, so it is important to add the right amount.’,
‘Preventing crystallisation in caramel’
In the Dutch language, stroopwafels, means syrup waffles, which refers to beetroot syrup, which is sold in the shops, so I never realized that stroopwafels are actually caramel waffles. Once I found out, I started studying about making caramel, which apparently is another challenge. Making good caramel is a whole different art
With caramel, there are two challenges.\n
- To reach the optimum temperature, without burning the caramel
- To ensure that the caramel does not crystalize.
Fortunately there are many website giving advice on making caramel. I like this Japanese caramel page where you can see the different stages of caramel with the various temperatures.\n\nTo reach the optimum temperature, I am currently using a digital cooking thermometer, which are actually not too expensive nowadays. A lot of caramel websites are talking about candy thermometers, which are made of glass and are quite pricey and prone to cracking, if not used properly. The digital cooking thermometer was about ¥1000 ($10).
The trick is to heat up the caramel and reach the highest temperature before burning point. I found the following temperature gauge on one of the wikis:
The stages of a sugar solution are generally described by the solution”s behavior when dropped into cold water:
- Thread Stage (108°C- 118°C) – the solution thickens into syrupy threads when you pull a spoon out.
- Soft Ball Stage (118°C- 125°C)) – the solution can be pressed into a soft gooey ball. Used to make soft chewy candies like taffy.
- Hard Ball Stage (125°C- 133°C)) – the solution can be pressed into a dense, slightly malleable ball. Used to make harder chewy candies.
- Soft Crack Stage (135°C- 145°C)) – the solution solidifies into a glass-like solid that slowly bends under light pressure.
- Hard Crack Stage (150°F- 168°C)) – the solution solidifies into a hard glass-like solid that breaks or cracks under pressure. Used to make hard candies and brittles.
- Caramel Stage (170°F- 180°C)) – An advanced crack stage, defined by the development of an amber color that becomes tan, brown and eventually dark brown as the temperature continues to rise. Also defined by the development of caramel flavors which becomes deeper, less sweet and more bitter as it darkens.
- Burned Stage (350°F- 176°C)) – The sugar is completely oxidized (burned) and turns black. It is inedible.
The baking911 page describes it all in a nice chart. I live at 800 meters elevation on top of a mountain. So apparently I have to adjust my temperatures with 1 degree for every 200 meters’
Up to now, I have been writing about the dough, but it actually took me quite a bit of experimenting to find the right stroop recipe for the stroopwafels . Stroop in Dutch means syrup, in English. So, obviously, I thought that I would need to make use of stroop, which is readily available in the Netherlands, but of course not in Japan. Stroop is actually sugar beet syrup
Sugar beet syrup
An unrefined sugary syrup can be produced directly from sugar beet. This thick, dark syrup is produced by cooking shredded sugar beet for several hours, then pressing the resulting sugar beet mash and concentrating the juice produced until it has the consistency similar to that of honey. No other ingredients are used. In the Netherlands, this sugar beet syrup (called stroop in Dutch) is used as a spread for sandwiches or pancakes, as well as for sweetening sauces, cakes and desserts.
My first attempt to make the stroop for my stroopwafels was quite a failure. I boiled sugar and water and added butter and some cinamon. In the hot stage, it was quite liquid and tasted like stroop. However, once I used it in the stroopwafels and it cooled down, it actually crystalized again. The resulting stroopwaffles were quite edible, but it was missing the chewy consistency of the traditional stroopwafel.\r\n\r\nSo, I needed to find a way to stop the crystalization. I had some real Dutch stroop in my cupboard, which my mother had brought from Holland when she visited Japan. I made a batch of a mixture of stroop, sugar and butter. It was a bit better than the first batch, but still some crystailisation took place when the stroop cooled down.\r\n\r\nSo I needed to find out the ins and outs of crystallisation and found the website “The Science of cooking“. There is one page about sugar and crystallisation. Apparently crystalisation takes place when sugar is in the form of sucrose. However, sucrose can be split into glucose and fructose and then it does not crystallize. To avoid the formation of sucrose after heating up the sugar, you have to add an interfering agent, which interferes with the binding of fructose and glucose.\r\n\r\nThere are various interference agents:
- An acid, like lemon juice or cream of tartar
- Uncrystalized raw sugar beet syrup
- non sucrose sugar, like corn syrup
- A fat, like butter
Besides interfering agents, there are a few precautions to take\r\n
Francois Payard, pastry chef of Daniel in New York City, says he combats caramel crystallization by simply adding two to three teaspoons corn syrup to one cup sugar and a half cup water.`
He also suggests brushing the inside of the pot with a pastry brush dipped in water to wash off any clinging sugar crystals, although he rarely follows this classic procedure himself since he uses corn syrup.
Another method to avoid crystallization is to add an acid product, such as lemon juice, to undissolved sugar before heating. And do not use water.
After several experiments, I actually found out that the stroop in the stroopwafels is actually caramel. In English, stroopwafel is often referred to as caramel waffles. So I have to practice to make a good caramel sauce and find the best way to avoid crystallization.‘