Several Rouxbe Essential Vegan Desserts students, who are enrolled in the September course, contacted me to say that brown rice syrup, is no longer available in their local shops or even online. It’s an essential ingredient in their Gluten-Free Lace Cookie assignment. hadn’t noticed the shortage, since my pantry is well stocked with this unique liquid sweetener, one that has long been favored by macrobiotic bakers. I have several jars each of brown rice syrup from Lundberg and Susanne’s Specialties, my go-to brands.
Time to sleuth.
First, I went to my local MOM’s Organic Market, Center City Philly, and to my surprise, there was no more Lundberg brown rice syrup on the shelves. I’d found it there before. It was the same story at the new Sprouts Market; none at Whole Foods either. Online to Amazon, I was surprised to see only brands that were unfamiliar to me, or 12- and 15-pound containers of Lundberg and Sweet Cloud. Something was up.
There are other quality liquid sweeteners: maple syrup, sorghum, barley malt, molasses, silan, and yacon, but each one has unique qualities and cannot be swapped one for the other. I reviewed the Gluten-Free Lace Cookie lesson in Essential Vegan Desserts. This recipe uses rice syrup very specifically: to make thin crispy cookies. I use it to make vegan honey and caramel, and what I call rice syrup ‘gold’. It does not go into any of my cakes, as it bakes up gummy.
Suzanne’s Specialties vs. Lundberg
Like anything else, different brands may have slightly different colors and flavor profiles, but traditionally, brown rice syrup is made from rice that’s been partially milled and then treated with enzymes to break down its natural starches into sugars. The resulting liquid is boiled down into a butterscotch colored syrup with a honey-like consistency.
Was brown rice pulled from the shelves as a result of the arsenic scare, as first reported in the 2012 Dartmouth study? I hoped not. That study asserted that brown rice syrup (all rice in fact) contained a high percentage of arsenic. Arsenic, which is naturally occurring in soil and water, comes from the rice itself, and brown rice registers a higher amount than does white rice. At that time, I changed the way I cook organic brown rice (rinse, soak, cook in abundant fresh water) and rotate my foods, per my usual habit. I also called my favorite brown rice suppliers, Suzanne’s Specialties and Lundberg Rice Syrups, and learned their products have no detectable limits of arsenic or very low, respectively. Nothing has changed today. Here is the link to the Lundberg statement: http://www.lundberg.com/info/arsenic-in-food/arsenic-faq/
So why is it so hard to find brown rice syrup?
The grocery manager at MOM’s said they hoped to have Lundberg’s back on the shelves again. Whew. He’d heard it was being repackaged. (Lundberg confirmed this, and it will be back within a couple of months.) The manager at Sprouts said he’d had some requests and hoped to stock it soon.
Suzanne’s has lots of stock and their brown rice syrup is excellent. Call or order online from the N.J.based company. 16 ounces is 5.00 US and a gallon is 30.00
As for me, I will continue to use brown rice syrup, but I did spend yesterday working to replace the rice syrup from the Gluten-Free Lace Cookies in More Great Good Dairy Free Desserts and Essential Vegan Desserts.
Maple syrup per usual plus agave and barley malt replaced the brown rice syrup. As expected, the color of these delicate cookies is darker and the flavor is different but very tasty.
Maple syrup per usual plus coconut nectar baked a cookie that closer to the original. The thin batter made a lacier cookie but more tests are needed before I publish the recipe.
Both were half recipes, of course— that is how I test. Once I’m happy with testing results, I’ll be sharing the new recipe with you.
I’d love to know what you think about the brown rice caper.