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Everything posted by bkeith

  1. Unbreakable gel is different. Best I can tell, it's essentially CMC (Tylose) mixed up into a paste with an acid ingredient to keep it pliable. I've not done much with either (played with the gel a bit, only seen Sugarveil demonstrated), but one big difference is the consistency of the product as you're working with it. Sugarveil would have to be pretty loose to go through the airpen ("patented Sugarveil dispenser"). Unbreakable gel is quite stiff; you need to use a sugarcraft gun or clay gun to pipe it -- using a bag would be like trying to pipe gum paste. I'm also guessing the the Sugarveil stuff would be a much pleasanter eating experience since it's got sugar. As Annie said, it's basically modified royal icing. Unbreakable gel is flavorless and has a mouthfeel like chewy raw spaghetti.
  2. I'll second that. I keep a container of caramel sauce in the fridge (with cream), and just stir some of that into my standard French buttercream when I need caramel buttercream. The bonus is that there's always caramel sauce in the fridge in case a rogue bowl of ice cream comes a-knocking.
  3. Harrumph. If I wanted my browser window resized, I'd resize it myself. Grump grump mumble damn impertinent website designers grump mumble grump.
  4. Just to add to Keith's response, I have an KopyKake airbrush and have used it for both color and luster dust. I've totally destroyed my airbrush by sending the dusts through it, probably because I let it get gunked up once and have never been able to get it clean since. Now my brush spits and doesn't do fine lines anymore. Basically it's worthless. Since, I've purchased a cheap Badger airbrush set from Michaels (using a coupon) and for $13 got an airbrush that I can use STRICTLY for doing dusts and such. I've heard the Badger is better for this application because the dust never goes through the brush, making it impossible for the brush to get clogged. I haven't used mine yet so I don't have any firsthand experience with it but it sounds logical and others have said it works. So, rather than destroying a $100 airbrush, I think this investment is well worth it if you plan on using a lot of dusts and are lazy like me and don't get things cleaned well! On another note, does anyone have any idea if my airbrush can be saved? Or do I need to buy a new one? ← Bummer about your airbrush. You might try disassembling it (careful -- there are some delicate pieces in there, and the trigger is a B***H to put back together if you're not paying attention when the little unattached piece falls out so you don't know where it comes from and have to spend an hour and a half tinkering with it to get it to go back together correctly), and soaking all the parts in airbrush cleaner overnight. They rinse and dry with a soft cloth, and reassemble. That might loosen the gunk enough to get it out of there. Worth a shot, anyway. I belive there's a shematic of the brush at kopykake.com to help with the disassembly and reassembly. The cheapo Badger brush interests me. I'm guessing that's the same one Wendy has mentioned for spraying cocoa butter. It's on my list to try, but I haven't gotten to it yet. Great thought with using it for luster as well. I'd be concerned that the result wouldn't be as smooth as I'd like it to be for some luster applications. But one never knows until one tries - heck, they're cheap enough. And if it doesn't work for luster, I can always use it just for cocoa butter. If you get a chance to use luster in it, let us know how you like it.
  5. Yep, do it all the time. I've got a couple of those glass bottles that you'd use to hold large amounts of color, and I just keep luster color in them. When I need to airbrush luster, I just pour in some grain alcohol, shake it up, and attach to the brush. Make sure to give it a shake occasionally as you're working so that the color doesn't settle at the bottom and clog up the intake. I've kept luster in small squeeze bottles. Add some alcohol, shake, and squirt into one of the small color cups. This method works for the Kopykake style airbrush too. Just make sure to clean the airbrush thoroughly after using luster. The stuff will clog up your brush if you let it sit in there and dry.
  6. Two books by Carole Faxon: "Joy of Airbrushing" and "More Joy of Airbrushing". Not sure if they're still in print since she passed away, but they both have lots of great info in them. There's also a great book by Roland Winbeckler: "Airbrush Techniques for Cake Decorating" with a companion book of patterns. Roland's books are available from his site. Looks like he's got one of the Faxon books too as well as a couple others I'm not familiar with. Best advice I've got is to not be scared of the thing. I've learned at least as much by playing with it as I have from books or demos. FWIW, I've got the Kopykake Airmaster compressor and an Aztec brush.
  7. Hmmm, just off the top of my head, I think it would be neat to make graham cracker-encrusted marshmallows as a fondue dipper. Make a batch of marshmallows (see the marshmallow thread mentioned above), but line the pan with graham cracker crumbs. Pour in the mix, and sprinkle with more crumbs instead of potato starch. When you cut them, roll the individual pieces in more crumbs, and you should have a neat little package ready to impale on your fork and dip. As I said, this is just off the top of my head. It may well turn out to be just a big old mess.
  8. Baking soda is a browning agent in addition to a leavener. I'm guessing it helps with the color of the finished product.
  9. Just kinda thinking out loud here, but I wonder if you'd have better luck doing them in stages. Since the problem seems to be coming from the difference in how long it takes the ears to set vs the body, would it make sense to fill and empy the mold a few times, making a successively thicker shell, letting it set between pourings, then filling the cavity to form your solid bunny? I have no empirical evidence that this would improve, destroy, or make no difference in your success rate, but since you've been struggling, it might be worth giving it a whirl. At the very least, I'd expect a more even shine over the whole piece since the outer shell would set at about the same rate over the whole bunny. My two cents.
  10. Well, there aren't that many brands available for purchase, so I'm not sure shopping around will yield tremendous differences (though there's one brand that seems never to dry - Bakels - I think that's weird). For dipping, I'd say either make the pieces well in advance so the surface can dry thoroughly enough to accept the dip, or make your own so you can control the fat content. As far as assembled flowers vs. pieces, it depends on the effect I want and the construction of the flower. For something like a stargazer lily, I'll airbrush the blush onto the individual petals, airbrush the base of the petals with a pale green where it joins with the stem, use a paintbrush to get the dots of darker color on, airbrush with a light pearl dust, then assemble (don't want to pearlize the pistil or stamens). With a cattleya orchid, I'll airbrush the individual petals with any specific color effect, but wait until it's all assembled to do the pearlizing, since there's no part of it I don't want to hit. With a rose, you can't really airbrush the individual petals, so the method depends on the effect you're going for: you can make the rose with white paste, dip it and let it dry, then airbrush the petal tips (darker color down inside the rose with color variation at the edges). Color the paste and just airbrush the petal tips (generally lighter color down inside graduating to darker at the tips, with or without other color accents), Or make it white and try to airbrush the whole thing (darker at the tips fading to white down inside the rose -- not exactly naturalistic, but a nice effect). Loading too much dust onto the brush is very common. I generally load the brush, then work the color through the bristles on a paper towel before brushing the petals. That'll break up any clumps of dust that give unexpected color blotches, as well as knock a good amount of excess color off the brush so you have more control. You can usually go back to the same little pool of color on the paper towel a time or two as you're working before going back to the dust jar for more color.
  11. Same here in Virginia. For a while, you couldn't get grain alcohol at all, but now it's available with a reduced proof. Gotta love those lawmakers. Luckily, I live near enough to Washington, DC and Maryland that I can run across the border to get what I need (don't tell the authorities -- I'm not sure it's legal to transport across state lines).
  12. Cool! Gotta go try that! I swear, Annie, I've picked up a million tips and tricks over the years, but I think I learn something from you every time I visit eGullet. How much would you charge for a Vulcan mind meld?
  13. A few thoughts from someone who's probably tried it all: Dry dusting: Alan Dunn's technique of using multiple colors/shades of dust on a single petal really give striking results. It takes a good eye for color, though, as well as additional time. So a lot of folks doing gum paste stick to a single color dust. When I first learned, I was taught to wait until the petals are completely dry before dusting, but I find I get much better results when dusting damp or semi-dry gum paste. The dust sticks better, the coloration is better, and I've got more control over what goes where. It's easier to knock a petal out of shape and/or break little frilly bits if the petal is half-dry, though, so I wind up needing to support the petal with my hand much better as I dust it. I'm usually about 3 petals into the process when I think "I should've worn a glove". As for brushes, the rule I was taught and think works well is that round brushes are for surfaces, flat brushes are for edges. A flat brush is more likely to leave a hard line when used on the flat surface of a petal. Soft, natural hair brushes are pretty much all I'll use. Dipping: To make a dipping solution, I'll usually use airbrush color diluted with grain alcohol. For a less shiny result, use dry color dissolved in grain alcohol (the more water in the solution, the shinier the dipped piece will be). Wendy -- I'm guessing you use shortening when you roll out your pieces? That'll block some of the dip and leave you with lighter color and/or blotchy spots. The commercial flowers you've dipped have been dry much longer, so any shortening they may have used in the rolling/forming process will have dried up and/or migrated from the surface so that it doesn't block the color. The commercially made flowers may well also be rolled/worked with just cornstarch, since those folks work pretty fast and don't need as much working time with the petals. Airbrushing: Definitely the way to go in my book. If you've got good control of your brush, you can get really great effects really quickly. Takes some practice, but well worth the time spent. I do keep a number of small squeeze bottles for custom colors. Standard airbrush colors are often too strong/vibrant or not quite the right shade for my taste. So I keep little mixtures of my own (e.g. my base leaf color is leaf green + a little brown to mute it a bit). I also like to layer colors for better effect -- similar to Dunn's dusting with multiple colors. For airbrushing with dusts, make a solution of your luster dust in grain alcohol. It won't want to stay dissolved, so you need to shake it every time you pick it up. I keep some in a little squeeze bottle, and every time I add some to the airbrush, I give the bottle a shake, squeeze in a few drops, and spray. I try to keep the brush moving too, but that's a bit iffy, so it's best to use just a little of the solution at at time. When you're done, make sure to clean the airbrush thoroughly to prevent build-up of residue. HTH
  14. Hey Josette, That looks great! Congrats! You make me proud. Watch the height your outer petals -- we want roses, not pinecones.
  15. If you're going to substitute for butter in a chocolate cake recipe, I'd personally go with plain shortening rather than margarine. I'm not a big fan of shortening in baked goods per se, but I really, really HATE artificial butter flavor. I even have to hold my breath as I walk by the concessions stand at the movie theater.
  16. You beat me to it. That's what I'd suggest. Use straight royal icing to pipe the borders, then thin the royal with corn syrup to flood consistency to fill in. For better sheen, set the cookies under a gooseneck lamp (or heat lamp) for 10 minutes or so to set the icing surface. The icing will dry fairly quickly to let you stack/store the cookies, but will remain chewy underneath so it doesn't shatter when you eat the cookie. To avoid the two steps of piping a border then flooding, I'll sometimes just dip the face of the cookie in royal thinned with corn syrup and clean the edges with my finger. Another option if you don't mind forgoing some of the shine is rolled fondant. While the cookies are baking, roll some fondant fairly thin, and cut it with the same cutter you use for the cookie. When the cookies come out of the oven, place the rolled fondant shapes directly onto the hot cookies. The heat will melt the back of the fondant a touch and make it adhere, avoiding the need to glue it onto a cool cookie later. Gives a good working surface with little fuss. I haven't tried it, but I bet it would work with modeling chocolate too.
  17. The main differences I've found are that meringue powder royal can be rebeaten once it gets over-relaxed - fresh egg white royal can't. I've never gotten it back to "day 1" strength, but I've revived some batches this way. But fresh egg white royal is much stronger, especially if it's hand-stirred rather than made on a mixer. I prefer it for large runouts and lace pieces, neither of which is likely to be eaten anyway.
  18. bkeith

    Cake Fondant

    You might try sticking them in the fridge. No guarantees, but it should keep them pliable longer than just sitting at room temp. And if they're well wrapped, they shouldn't get dewey enough to stick together and give you a hassle when you go to unwrap them. Like I said, no guarantee, but I think the fridge would at least increase your chances of having usable viney things by the time you go to use them.
  19. I don't recall off the top of my head at what temp the water is all gone, but it's much higher than 230F. True, pure water would be all gone by the time you reach 230 degrees, but when you start dissolving things in water, you get compounds that don't behave exactly like either of the original bits. Same principle is behind the fact that when you cook/bake with liquor, all the alcohol doesn't necessarily cook out right away, even though the boiling point of alcohol is much lower than that of water. I'm sure there's still some amount of water in the mix even as the temperature approaches 300F. I'm also pretty sure that the water is pretty much gone before true caramelization starts at around 320F. Have to dig through Magee to find the actual numbers.
  20. I used cocoa paste -- a paste made from cocoa powder and water. That's what was recommended in the article I was working from. It was frustrating because I could never get it dark enough. I think next time I might try tempered chocolate thinned with a little cocoa butter. All the swirly bits were painted freehand with some of the cocoa paste thinned to a workable painting consistency, and gold lustre dust mixed with lemon extract.
  21. "Fifteenth Anniversary Concert". Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA. Did that with a silk screen (first time). Neat technique, but I need to work out some kinks. The fondant wasn't as big a beeyach as it could have been. In the past, I'd have tried to cover it all in one go. But I used another of your tips -- wet spatula to join seams, and boy did that make things easier. Why didn't someone tell me that years ago?!?!
  22. I don't have any particularly useful knowledge to share, but I'll add there's a coloration thing that goes on too. When boiling sugar for pulling/blowing, the faster you can bring the syrup up to temp, the whiter the finished product will be. I don't know why, except that possibly some of the sugar molecules are caramelizing at a lower temp than others, and the faster you can come up to the right stage with your syrup, the fewer of them will do that. Dunno. I'm guessing something similar is happening with the firmness (firmth? -- we don't say warmness, now do we?) of the caramel. But I don't know enough about the interactions going to know what exactly. Also, apropos of not much, did you realize that the slower you cook a custard, the lower the setting point will be? Related? Dunno. Where's a good food scientist when you need one?
  23. I'll second (third?) the Americolor suggestion. Their navy is awfully good. You'll still need to use a bunch, but it'll get you there quicker than most anything else I don't have the photo handy, but I did a marine fantasy cake with graduating shades of blue (navy on the bottom tier up to light blue marbled with white on the top). For the darkest part, I used Americolor navy gel paste along with some lighter blue and green marbled in for visual interest. Covered, then went at it with the airbrush (again with Americolor navy) to darken it a bit. Also, when you're going for color that intense, color your fondant a day or two in advance. By the time you get that much color kneaded in, the fondant gets really flaccid and hard to work with. Best to give it a little time to firm back up.
  24. I got this recipe from Annie on a different thread and just used it last week -- the recipe I had been using called for a higher proportion of corn syrup. I used 2 lbs Guittard white callets (910g) to 7/8 cup corn syrup (300g). Works like a champ. Much easier to handle than the recipe I was using before. Thanks much, Annie! FWIW, I used it to create the labels on this beast: Just shy of 3 feet tall, it was. Loads of fun to make. Of not until after it was done did it dawn on me that I might have trouble fitting it into the back of my CR-V. I think I had about 1/4" to spare as it slid in.
  25. In my experience, the answer is almost always yes. Not sure why it is, but cake folks in general tend to be pretty willing to share knowledge, even those in the upper echelons. There will of course always be the few who want to protect their fiefdoms and tell you to buzz off. But for the most part, decorators are pretty free with information. And it never hurts to ask. The worst anyone can do is say no. Edited to add: P.S. As far as books go, I don't have any new titles to add, but will toss in my two cents. The Maytham book and the Woolley book are both good resources for the number of different flowers they show if nothing else. I'll often grab one of their books as a starting point, then do my own thing as I'm making the flower in question. Alan Dunn is amazing. His work and that of Tombi Peck are almost intimidating, especially for someone starting out. Certainly something to strive for. I definitely think it's possible to learn from books, but say that with an asterisk attached. I started with gum paste by picking up a book and giving it a go. Did what I thought was a decent job considering it was a first effort -- of course I look at a photo now and think "Feh!". But it's amazing the leaps and bounds I made after that by attending a one-day class, just in getting down the basic techniques. No matter how well written a book is, there are going to be assumptions made and text edited in such a way that what the author writes and what you interpret are two different things. That's just a given due to the different ways we all process information. The ability to see a process in action and to ask questions while it's happening are absolutely invaluable. I'm pretty sure I could have gotten to where I am with gum paste eventually if all I ever had access to was books, but it would have taken a lot longer. I'd have to make all the mistakes (some multiple times), and work through solutions on my own instead of getting the great advice I've gotten from instructors and demonstrators over the years. HTH
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