Brown rice syrup is a relatively new addition to my pantry, but it's a welcome one. I first discovered it in pursuit of my ideal granola bar recipe, but have since found that it's quite a versatile baking ingredient. It can take the place of corn syrup in many recipes, and its unique nutty-sweet flavor adds depth and character to everything from brownies to a bowl of oatmeal.
Brown rice syrup is made by breaking down rice starches into simpler sugars through an enzymatic reaction, straining the resulting liquid, and then boiling it into a syrup. The result is a thick, light brown syrup with the consistency of honey and the nutty, grassy flavor of cooked brown rice. It's less sweet than sugar, but definitely sweet enough to satisfy a sweet tooth.
I use rice syrup most often for making my homemade granola bars. It's an excellent binder and the flavor works well with the other grains, nuts, and dried fruits I use in my bars. I also like it for adding sweetness to savory sauces and braises and use it as I would honey or molasses. If you like the flavor, try drizzling it over oatmeal or pancakes, or using it to sweeten a cup of tea.
In baked goods, brown rice syrup has much the same effect as corn syrup, which is why it makes a good substitute. A little bit of syrup will gives cakes and other baked goods a more tender crumb, a finer texture, and increased browning. Rice syrup will also give brownies and cookies a denser, fudgier texture. The flavor of the rice syrup definitely comes into play, though; I like it in recipes that use whole wheat or other whole grain flours where the earthy and nutty flavors compliment each other.
I'm curious to try rice syrup in candy-making. Its flavor wouldn't work for everything, but I don't see why it wouldn't work from a purely functional standpoint. I'm thinking of trying it in toffees and other candies with deeper caramelized flavors.
Brown rice syrup is widely available at any store with a decent health food or natural foods section. It will keep at room temperature for about a year, but refrigerating does help prolong its shelf life. It can be pretty thick, sticky, and difficult to pour, but warming it slightly on the stovetop or in the microwave will make it easier to work with and mix with other ingredients.
Do you ever use brown rice syrup in your cooking or baking?
Related: Alternative Sweeteners: What's the Deal with Stevia?
(Images: Emma Christensen)