I wish I was one of those coffee purists, who can enjoy the depth of flavor with no added sweetness. Alas, I'm simply not. The Mister's little Welsh Nain (that's Welsh for grandma) always said, when asked if she took sugar: "I'm sweet enough already." Every time, she said it. Without fail. In that awesome sing-song voice of hers. I, however, am apparently lacking in inherent sweetness, and so must seek a little addition to my coffee. Oh well, we all have our flaws, right?
Anyway, I noticed a while back that the coffee creamer I'd been buying, which I'm quite sure had originally been all natural, without any gross additions, now had artificial flavors, and the sugar had been supplanted by corn syrup. Yuck. I have to say, I got a mite indignant about that. (Don't even get me started on those creamers with the mile-long lists of unpronounceable ingredients!) And I stopped buying it for a while. Tried my coffee with cream and sugar. But I really missed the flavor (I was a vanilla girl, through and through). The Mister, attempting to alleviate my concerns over fake food additives, suggested that since I had only a tablespoon or less a day, it probably wasn't that big a deal. And he was probably right. But still. On principal, people, I didn't want to give my money to that sneaky company any longer.
Well, that set those wheels a'spinning in my brain, and I realized, hey! Why not make my own coffee creamer? Surely, all I need is some simple syrup, steeped with a bit of flavor, and some cream, right? So, I determined to come up with my own, truly all-natural coffee creamer.
I tested and tweaked, first trying my go-to flavor, of vanilla, combined with a simple syrup, made of equal parts sugar and water. But, the syrup was too thin, and because I used vanilla essence, it wasn't quite right. (I struggle with justifying the expense of vanilla beans sometimes. Oh, they're lovely. And so bloody expensive!) Then, I tested and tweaked a bit more, until Voila! I hit upon a darn tasty recipe, that is pure goodness. Autumn inspired me a bit, seeing all those warming spices coming out: cinnamon, allspice, cloves...and yep, a little vanilla.
Here it is:
Lightly Spiced Coffee Creamer
1 1/2 cups sugar*
1 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp allspice berries
3 or 4 cloves
1 tsp vanilla essence, or half a vanilla bean, cut lengthwise
*I use organic sugar, which makes my simple syrup a light brown color. Regular granulated sugar will result in a clearer syrup.*
In a small saucepan, place sugar, water, and spices, over low heat. Allow to steep for about half an hour, stirring from time to time. When the flavor is at the right intensity for you (mine was rather subtle, I didn't want to be hit over the head by it), turn the heat up and allow the simple syrup to simmer gently for about 5 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved fully, and the syrup thickens. It should be nearly, but not quite, the consistency of honey, or thick maple syrup. Remove from the heat, fish out the spices, and allow to cool completely.
I store the simple syrup in a jam jar in the fridge, and mix it with the cream as I need it, since the cream will go off well before the syrup will. For guests, I mix up one part simple syrup to two parts cream, in another jam jar, give it a shake, and it's good to go.