So far in the Solid Liquids project, I experimented with using the food dehydrator, oven, and microwave to dehydrate liqueurs into flavored sugars. The project index is here.
Well, thanks to a Facebook friend, I now have a much more efficient way than all the others I've tried. Lauren Mote, co-owner of Kale & Nori Culinary Arts, wrote me to tell me the way she's made liqueur sugars. She wrote:
So I have found the easiest way to do this is actually culinary and through "almost" candy making.
If you cook down the spirit, and remove the water molecules, the liquids eventually crystallize.... the trick is "agitation". When you're trying NOT to crystallize, which is making candy, brushing the edges of a pot with water constantly prevents crystals from forming in the sugar. However, when you agitate the liquid and sugar, the crystals form. Continue to agitate, on low heat past the candy making stage, do not burn it. You will concentrate all of the flavour, without a microwave. Once the crystallization starts, it's really really really fast! Remove from the heat, keep mixing until the mixture turns light and powdery. Let cool on a SilPat non-stick baking sheet. Once cool, blitz in a food processor and sift through a tea strainer. What you're left with is completely concentrated, amazing powdered spirit. I did this with Cointreau and it was really amazing.
I wasn't sure I was doing it right but I tried it out with Campari, and it works! In short, add the liqueur to a metal pot,
Heat it so that the alcohol burns off, then it starts going into the candy phases as the water burns off.
Stir it with a metal spoon (perhaps you have a barspoon around). Not long after this point the frothiness dies down a little. You'll notice sugar crystals on the bottom of the pan as you stir it and the volume of the liquid seems to shrink a lot. Though it still looks quite liquid, it's ready.
Pull it out and as fast as you can, scrape it onto a silicone Silpat or other non-stick pan. You'll see that it is sugary and full of crystals. This dries really quickly.
Then you can stick it into a spice grinder and get your powdered liqueur.
The process takes less than two hours, and it seems to work with larger quantities of liqueur just as fast. Sweet.In future posts, we'll finally start dehydrating liqueurs other than Campari.