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Everything posted by takomabaker

  1. I've tried. I really have. I was in my corporate cafeteria a few weeks ago and the crock with softened butter for my English muffin was depleted. I got a few of those teeny containers of margarine instead. I'm supposed to be watching my cholesterol. After I ate my muffin with that awful stuff, I was looking at the label on the top of those little, tiny containers of margarine and realized that the fat per serving was 3 grams -- the same, if not worse, than butter. And, frankly, the trans fat health issues are at least equal to cholesterol health issues. So, what's the point? It tastes crappy and it's not better for you. I suppose not all margarines are equal to butter in fat, but how much are you saving? Enough to ruin a good English muffin? No way! I feel the same way about Splenda and other artificial sweeteners. Sugar is 16 calories a tablespoon. Do anyone benefit enough from saving 16 or so calories in his or her iced tea that it is worth consuming something that tastes horrid? Again, no way!
  2. Late answer... I've been so BUSY lately. The buttercream that I make at home is not as stiff as the buttercream that I make in class. I can pipe the buttercream that I make in class, but the SAME recipe at home is too soft to pipe. Of course, once I put it in the refrigerator it stiffens up, but it is basically just firming buttercream that is too soft -- not correcting the original problem with the texture. I keep thinking that my problem is either that I am am either not bringing my water and sugar to the correct soft ball stage, or my butter is not at the correct temperature when I add it (or I am not letting the syrup/egg mixture cool enough before I add my butter, which would also be a problem). Devin's meringue/butter temperature ratio tip is very helpful, as is your butter guideline. I think that it is going to be a matter of trial and error until I get it right. When you have a PC standing over your shoulder in a classroom setting, it is a lot easier that calculating all of the variables at home.
  3. Last night, I JUST started reading Chocolate Obsession and read Michael Recchiuti's recommendation of using a squeeze bottle for ganache filling. He also gives a really detailed technique that minimizes mess and waste. It's my new favorite book. I had to buy it after I was in San Francisco for a week on business and made a pilgrimage to his shop in the Ferry Building. (It was a religious experience.)
  4. I can NEVER get stable buttercream at home, but I take pastry courses and have no problem in class. I have experimented with different peak stages of my eggs, different temperatures of my simple syrup, the temperature of the butter when I add it, etc. I'm still a doomed buttercream maker. Last night, we were making Italian buttercream and it suddenly occurred to me that in class we use Plugra, and at home I use regular, unsalted Land o Lakes. So, I started wondering if the fat/water content of the premium v. "regular" unsalted butter might have something to do with stability. I just had this lightbulb go off last night, so I haven't have a chance to experiment, but I figured I'd ask the advice of those more experienced in buttercream their opinions first? Could this make a difference?
  5. I am a non-smoker who opposes smoking bans purely for the Orwellian implications, but I do have a question... Has anyone really looked at the statistics that the anti-smoking zealots use to "prove" that there is no negative economic hardship? I have a friend in the hospitality industry in New York who could not figure out why corner pubs were folding left and right in Manhattan, yet the "statistics" told of a booming restaurant and bar industry. She reviewed the report that was used in New York to justify the existing ban and that is used around the country to argue for new bans. Apparently (and I am getting this second-hand, so to speak, and have not reviewed the statistics personally), prior to the ban, New York categorized businesses with a liquor license separately from businesses that did not sell liquor. However, after the ban they ended this distinction (according to my friend's theory, for the sole purpose of legitimizing the ban) by lumping in the fast food and carry-out establishments with actual restaurants, bars, and nightclubs when they stopped categorizing businesses based on whether or not an establishment had a liquor license. Therefore, for every "Joe's pub" that goes out of business due to the smoking ban, four McDonald's open in Queens and cancel out the failure of the pub. Whereas, before the ban, the McDonald's and the "Joe's pub" would not have been in the same fiscal category. That, according to my friend, is the "proof" of the purported economic boom in the restaurant and bar industry in New York following the ban, despite "closed" signs in businesses around the city. And, of course, if this is true I didn't even need my freshman statistics course to tell that something smells rotten -- and it isn't the cigarette smoke. Like I said, I cannot back up my friend's observation, but these "statistics" are used to argue for smoking bans around the country. And as far as I can tell, if my friend is correct, no one who argues against these bans has ever picked up on this. Has anyone actually reviewed the statistics that show how restaurant and bar business "thrive" in places like Montgomery County or New York by actually removing businesses with liquor licenses from those without liquor licenses -- which was apparently the established norm before the bans? Just curious...
  6. takomabaker


    The new Fine Cooking magazine has a great article on muffins that includes a pineapple one. This is a "teaser" link about the article. They want you to buy the magazine for the recipes, but there is some other good stuff in this month's issue: http://www.taunton.com/finecooking/pages/fc_077_048.asp
  7. Question: (and I've been following this topic sporadically so I apologize if this has already been covered) Are almond flour and ground almonds interchangable? I sometimes get ground almonds at Trader Joe's but I have been unable to find any for months. But when I was in Whole Foods last night I got a bag of almond flour. I've looked through my pastry books and some recipes call for almond flour, and some for "homemade" almond flour made primarily with ground almonds. What I was wondering is if the almond flour I purchased is essentially the same thing as the "homemade" almond flour. Thanks!!
  8. They had an apple and saffron dessert when I was there a few months ago that was my favorite. I've also tried their yogurt and apricot dessert that was also wonderful, but the apple and saffron is my favorite.
  9. I've never noticed them before, but ever since I've been reading this topic I've starting noticing apple bread recipes in my cookbooks as I've been looking them over for Thanksgiving. I haven't tried this one, but I ran across it in "Four Star Desserts" and Emily Luchetti has NEVER done me wrong (she rules). This is, OF COURSE, a paraphrase of the recipe instructions: Morning Apple Cake Four Star Desserts 5 apples, peeled, cored and coarsely grated 1-2/3 cups AP flour 2/3 cup WW flour pinch of ground cloves 1 tsp. cinnamon pinch of mace 1 tsp. baking soda 1/2 tsp. salt 1/2 lb. unsalted butter (softened) 1-2/3 cups granulated sugar 2 large eggs 1 tsp. vanilla extract 1 cup (4 oz.) toasted and chopped walnuts 1 9" buttered and floured bundt pan Sift together flours (WW and AP), spices, baking soda and salt. In electric mixer using paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light. Add eggs and extract. Lower speed of mixer and add dry ingredients. Stir in walnuts and apples. Pour batter into pan. Bake about 1 hour or until skewer inserted in middle is clean. Let cool in pan before unmolding. Can be made a day in advance.
  10. I don't think that they mean WAY out of DC (like Shendandoah Valley), right? I mean, as much as I love some of the restaurants in my old college town of Staunton, VA, I'm not going to drive 3 hours for a milkshake at Wright's Dairy-Rite (although sometimes it's tempting). The restaurant mentioned most recently, El Mariachi, is in Rockville. (And I completely agreed with them. The shrimp dish they mentioned is my favorite!) So I figured they were looking for neighborhood restaurants with exceptional specialties in the suburbs. Here are some of my personal favorites: Mantu at Afghan Restaurant in Alexandria Ropa Vieja and cuban sandwiches at Cubano's in Silver Spring Carne Asada at El Golfo in Takoma Park Ribs at Red Dog Cafe in Silver Spring Mutter Paneer at Woodlands in Langley Park PePyoke KyetThun Gyaw (yellow beans) or LetThoke Sone (mixed noodles) at Mandalay in Silver Spring
  11. A coffeehouse/cafe up the street from my home in Takoma Park, MD changed hands a few years back. The Sunday morning that I went in to find a new "play area" complete with toys and screaming children was the last morning that they had my business. I'm sure that they do quite nicely with the yuppie set who appreciate the play area for their children and I certainly don't begrudge them their chosen clientele. I just find other places to hang out.
  12. I own Nick Malgieri's Great Italian Desserts and it seems quite good, but I have to honestly admit that I haven't done anything but read it thus far. I bet others have actually tried the recipes!
  13. I've been using a recipe from Cook's Illustrated for years. Basically, you sweat the innards (seeds and stringy stuff) and some onions or shallots in butter, then add water to this mixture and use it to steam the the squash flesh. Then you strain the "stock" that was the steaming liquid and combine it with the steamed squash flesh in a blender until it is your desired soup consistency. Obviously, there were some spices and I think some heavy cream also in the recipe, but I don't remember the specifics. It's the technique that makes this really good (and it IS really good). I've been considering a first course this year by spooning this soup around a savory flan and maybe garnishing it with some fried sage leaves. Or the tempura sage leaves in this month's Food and Wine. I'm still mulling it all over....
  14. My grandmother used to make me saltanosiai with blueberries and she put sour cream on top. That picture made me tear up... I lost her almost 3 years ago! I noticed that the menus that you were kind enough to post are in English. Is this typical, or do they have menus in both Lithuanian and English? Did people predominately speak English or Lithuanian? Thanks again for the vicarious thrill!
  15. I've been known to use muscat.
  16. I found this when I was looking up another recipe. Thought it might help. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/recipe_views/views/231118
  17. Sorry for the late reply, my online time has been sporadic. They are the boar's bristle pastry brushes. Click on "food related" and then "baking and pastry brushes" and then "pastry brushes". Sorry I couldn't get a better link. The link is taking me only to the home page. Is it any of their pastry brushes or a specific one? I'd like to order one. ←
  18. This is my favorite turkey and stuffing recipe. I used it every year for about 5 years, we got tired of it and tried others for a couple of Thanksgivings,but now I am back to it again this year. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/recipe_views/views/2810
  19. I was leafing through an old "Fine Cooking" magazine from a few years back while looking for a recipe last week and found a review from the editors raving about this pastry brush: http://www.brush.com/cgi-bin/Brush.storefr...iew/60010020108 They said that it did not shed, that the natural boar's bristles absorbed and released butter and oil like a dream, and that it cleaned up beautifully. I have ordered one, but have not received it yet so I cannot speak from experience. It comes in different sizes as well.
  20. I have been looking for the same thing for a Macintosh, with no luck at all. Anyone else on a Mac that uses this type of software?
  21. The Politics of Pastry I just ran across this yesterday!
  22. I am SO grateful for the professional advice here because I've been having trouble with buttercreams as well. When I was taught Italian buttercream in a pastry course, we learned to tell if the syrup was ready when it reached soft ball stage and we didn't use a thermometer -- just a cup of ice. Although my buttercream was perfect in class, I have never been able to duplicate it. I always thought the problem was most likely in the temperature of my syrup because achieving the perfect soft ball stage of the syrup AND getting it into the meringue is tricky. I either undershot it and the syrup had not reached the correct temp or I overshot it and the syrup had gone past the correct stage. Either way, I ended up with meringue soup. Then I took a cake decorating/finishing course in which we made and used Swiss meringue. When I asked the instructor why we used Swiss meringue rather than Italian or French, he told me that Swiss meringue is easier to make and the focus of the class was on the decorating and finishing and he didn't want it to turn into a class on buttercream. This made sense, and I have been successful with Swiss BC, but I find it does not have the firmness or the stamina of Italian or French. So, here I go again. This time armed with a thermometer and the indispensable advice here. I'm very excited. I'm thinking Halloween cupcakes for my office! THANK YOU!!!!!
  23. Have you thought about getting her a cooking class gift certificate instead? Most cooking schools have beginner techniques classes and I would think she would get more out of class that a cookbook. My first cookbook was The Silver Palate. I was an English major in college, and I used to go to a "book barn" in rural Virginia to get a lot of the Penguin classic literature paperbacks that I needed for my classes because they were MUCH less than my campus bookstore. I picked up The Silver Palate from the book sale for about $3 on an overstock table and I would put stickies on the pages of the things that I wanted to cook when I graduated and had my own apartment. (This was circa. 1987.) And I did end up cooking my way through that book in the first few years after graduation! I lost the cookbook in one of many subsequent moves and ended up having to buy another copy. But, if only for nostalgic purposes, it's still one of my favorites.
  24. I had a business lunch at Zaytinya in Penn Quarter, DC yesterday and had the BEST DESSERT. The lunch was a great shared mezze selection that I really enjoyed, but the desserts that the table shared were fabulous. The Apples and Saffron, described on their menu as "saffron cream with apples, cinnamon crumble and spice syrup" was wonderful. I think it would be pretty easy to create a reasonable facsimile at home. It was basically diced apples caramelized with a nice spice mixture like cinnamon, star anise, cardamon, etc. (I'm speculating about the spices because I have no idea what was actually used) and was surrounded by a saffron-infused creme anglaise. That was basically it, but the flavors were fabulous. The apples and saffron paired suprisingly well together. They also served a molten chocolate-cinnamon cake that was not that exciting, but I'm kind of over the whole molten chocolate cake thing. But they had an apricot/yogurt cream "parfait" that was also great. The menu describes it as "Yogurt Cream with apricot two-ways and Samos Island Muscat-vanilla gelee". It is difficult to describe because, frankly, it was scarfed before I got much more than a taste. but the taste that I got was fabulous.
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