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  1. Thanks to all who responded. The Maillard reaction makes perfect sense and I suppose it’s tunnel vision that kept me stumped for so long (I associate it with steak and toast, not cream and butter). Looking forward to playing with caramel now that I can make it a little more intelligently.
  2. I've been making caramel for quite a while and aside from a few tragedies in the early 2000's (crystallization and subsequent soaking and jackhammering to rescue a pan), I've been relatively successful. I follow certain recipes for certain purposes...so far. Just to be clear, I'm talking about caramel candy here, not the sauce or the combo of water and sugar. The candy you use in a homemade Snickers bar. So I've been playing with Peter Greweling's recipes from his home version of his cookbook, just to keep the quantities down, and while the caramel with the sweetened condensed milk is fine, it makes a cloyingly sweet candy bar when combined with all of the other ingredients. What I'd really like to do is cook my sugar to a dark brown and add the cream and butter after I've gotten that bitterness. I'm getting ready to improvise to make my candy more grown-up. I Which leads me to my question: I've seen recipes calling for the sugar to be caramelized prior to the milk fat being added and recipes calling for everything to be dumped into a pan and cooked together. Assuming that the final temperature of the final product is the same, is there any textural difference between these two methods, and if not, why is one specified over the other? I know that cooking everything together reduces the risk of crystallization, but so does adding the invert sugar. I've looked all over to try to find an answer as to why someone would choose a dry or wet caramel over a "kitchen sink" caramel (that's my description--if there's a common one that I don't know, please share). While an answer would be good, I'm just as interested in hearing if anyone has ever played around with this or has any theories as to what the differences between the two methods are and why you do what you do. I'd love to do a taste test, but honestly, I don't know if my waistline or insulin levels could withstand the process.
  3. Joe's Peking Duck in Philly's Chinatown was a standby for me throughout the 80's. I moved away in the 90's but continued to visit it until I heard it closed. I remember reading that the owner had opened a new place in Bucks County, I think. Does anyone have the name, address, opinions on the new place? In the alternative, is there another place in the area that's even close? I still dream about the noodle soup. Marjorie
  4. We had a similar problem with our yellow cake last year that drove me crazy. What happened is that the cake seemed to separate into two different layers while baking. The top layer was very rough and light with a coarse grain, and the bottom layer was rubbery and dense with tunnels running through it. I can't tell you what to do with your recipe (esp. without knowing what it is), but after trying countless numbers of times to tinker with ours, we finally figured it out. We had to add a little more flour to make the cake more stable (which made it less moist, but we compensate with a soaking syrup when frosting). We substituted in fluid flex for oil, which lightened up the cake and tightened up the grain, and then we added an additional 45 seconds of mixing to make sure the batter was completely emulsified and held together better. FYI, we also had trouble with chocolate cake along the same lines. Our chocolate cake recipe now changes in the summer; we add more leavening. It's a fine line to walk, b/c if there's too much baking powder, the cake just crumbles when you cut it, but if there's too little, you can almost bounce it. When it cools down outside and there's less humidity, we get a more consistent product. I understand your frustration when something you've made countless times at home starts turning out differently each time at your bakery--especially when you're doing it in such huge quantities that waste becomes a factor. There are ways to work around it in the meantime (we baked cake in half-full pans, so although we used twice as many pans, at least we weren't throwing out product) and if you keep trying, you will figure out something that works for you. Have you tried reading Cookwise or the Cake Bible? There's discussions of baking chemistry that might give you some insight into the balanace of your formulas. In the meantime, good luck! Marjorie
  5. Or combine equal parts ganache and nutella. When sandwiched between hazelnut macarons, it's divine. Marjorie
  6. We have a kick ass cherry pie that is from the Pie and Pastry Bible with a little tweaking (a little more sugar and a little more thickener so it doesn't run). Here's the recipe: 14 oz. cream cheese pie dough 7 oz. sugar 1 oz. cornstarch pinch salt 1 ¼# frozen tart cherries ¼ tsp. almond extract Roll out dough to 2 and line pan. Save scraps for lattice top. Combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, cherries, and almond. Stir thoroughly so mixture coats cherries evenly. Cherries should still be frozen. Place filling into pie shell. Press down. Roll pie dough scraps to 2 and make lattice top for pie. Freeze. To bake, preheat oven and baking sheet at 400 for 20 min. Cover frozen pie with foil. Remove heated sheet from oven, cover with parchment, and place pie on baking sheet. Bake pie at 400 for 20 min. Remove and reserve foil, return pie to oven, and lower heat to 375. Bake 30 min. To translate for home bakers: Pie dough should be rolled to about 1/4-1/8" thick. We use a convection oven, so if you have a conventional oven, raise your temperature 25 degrees. And we make pies in advance and bake them off frozen. If you want to bake your pie after assembling, omit the first baking of the pie for 20 min. covered. And make sure you keep the pie in the oven till the juices in the MIDDLE bubble. if you remove it when the juice around the edge is bubbling, the middle won't be thick and it will run.
  7. Wendy, can you let us know how you keep your cream from weeping? I'd love to skip the stabilizing part b/c it just adds more work for me, but my cream starts to fall apart after about 6 hours or so. Using gelatin gives me a day or two to unload the dessert.
  8. Multiply your recipes by 10? Good luck! ← Or by 16 if you're not metric. One of my favorite tricks! Marjorie
  9. I think in the Pie and Pastry Bible, there are recipes that call for using a very thin slice of sponge cake between the curd and meringue to soak up any seepage. The width is 1/8" I think, so it's difficult to tell there's anything there. I've never tried it, but it sounds like it might work. If you don't have a sponge, maybe some soft cake crumbs would do the trick. Good luck. I don't even do meringue toppings any more b/c they're so tempermental. Marjorie
  10. I try to avoid using script on the sides of cakes. Printing is much easier. Marjorie
  11. Yes. Betty Van Norstrand's bc recipe was high in confectioners' sugar and dried stiff after 24 hours at room temp, so decorations could be made ahead and placed on the cake when needed. the best part was that the flowers, even when dried, would absorb some moisture from the cake and not be crunchy like royal. It was the best of both worlds. If anyone took her class at the CIA and can post the recipe (assuming it's OK with BVN), it was a nice recipe; firm, without being too dry. Other buttercream recipes with meringue powder or high proportions of conf. sugar will also dry firm enough to peel paper away or make shapes in advance. Obviously, none of these contain real butter! To get petals to curve around, can you try using a curved leaf tip instead of the 104 or 103 (I don't use them, so I don't know the numbers)? In the alternative, you can try piping he flowers from the outside in, pipe the outside petals first and go inwards, or else pipe the center on a nail and place it inside the outline of outside flowers.
  12. For bended daisies, use a crusting decorators BC (I used to have B. Van Norstrand's recipe, but palm crashed and it's gone; now I use Winbecklers) and pipe the daisy on a waxed paper square on top of flower nail. But don't pipe the whole daisy; just do 3/4 of it. Fold the wax paper into a cone-like shape. It's hard to describe in words; pinch two perpendicular sides together, and use the sides where the flower is not complete. Then put the paper on a sheet pan and put something heavy on the paper to hold it in place while it dries. When the flower is dry, peel the paper away very carefully and place the daisy on the cake. You can also place daisies, either complete or partially formed, into flower formers and dry, then place on the cake when dry for a more 3D effect than piped-on flowers. You can tuck these into hard-to-reach places and they look very cute. I don't bother with them most of the time because of how much longer they take, but for a wedding cake, they would look great. I've heard the cupcake cafe uses a french buttercream, and the pictures in the book look shinier than a shortening buttercream, but eating massive gobs of the french buttercream sounds really unappealing to me. Make sure your bride likes this stuff; when I've used italian or french bc for customers not expecting it, they are disappointed not to get a sugary bakery buttercream.
  13. They've had that for a while and I've been lusting after it too.
  14. You know those chocolate covered cherries that you make by wrapping in fondant, dipping in chocolate, and the fondant liquifies? I'm guessing something like that is going on here. Or else, the cocoa takes a while to absorb into the buttercream (I used to add way too much milk when I first made this), but maybe once it gets going, it just keeps absorbing--moisture from the butter, milk, and even from the cake. B/c we don't do a lot of fondant, and certainly not on the scale you are , it's not a huge problem for us, but I would be very interested in learning exactly why this happens, just from a food science standpoint. So if anyone has any further insight, please let us know!
  15. I have noticed that my chocolate buttercream gets softer and "soupier" as it sits between the cake layers. Usually I consider this a positive sign, but there have been cases in the summer where cakes have slid because of how much the icing softens. Like you, I use cocoa, not chocolate. I'm not sure why this happens, since the icing stays very firm when it's not sandwiched between two layers of cake, and the only thing we've done to deal with it is reduce the amount of liquid in the summer and make sure the cakes are thoroughly chilled when they go out the door. I too thought your cake was adorable. Most cake artists I know are their own worst critics--I'm sure your clients were thrilled. Good luck!
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