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Paul Stanley

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  1. It always separates when you add the egg at first. It looks like bits of brain floating in egg. If you keep beating, it magically re-forms.
  2. Looks fantastic. I really like baba au rhum: it seems like a nice old-fashioned adult sort of dessert. (Though I confess I think it's improved by a healthy slug of pure rum just before serving ...)
  3. I'm no expert, but I can say that when I've done them I've put cool babas into hot (60c) but not boiling syrup, and soaked them for about 10 minutes. This has worked (which doesn't mean that other methods wouldn't work too): I think I'd be skeptical about cold/cold (I don't think much syrup would soak in, if only because it's quite viscous). I've often read that soaking a hot sponge in hot syrup doesn't work, and I've noticed this myself with cakes, but I don't know why it should be. I've never pricked or fiddled with them. I would avoid boiling syrup because the texture will change, and I don't see that it needs to be so hot. If you are heating it as you soak, you probably need to make sure you adjust the concentration if you are doing lots of batches because it's bound to thicken (even if held below boiling). Obviously if you are working with hot syrup you don't put rum in the syrup, or you lose the alcohol. I've never done them a day ahead, but then I'm just a home baker so I reckon more or less the only thing I can definitely supply is something spanking fresh. If you do them ahead, I definitely wouldn't hold them in syrup, because they will become too saturated (you can have too much of a soggy thing): about 15 to 20 minutes soaking seems right to me, followed by a chance to drain, and I think if held in syrup for hours they would become rather unpleasant. They need to be thoroughly soaked, but not utterly denatured.
  4. I live in central London. We shop every 2 days or so, and I often pick up odds and ends for something I feel like making meanwhile, so overall I'd guess some shopping gets done most days. We have a good range of shops within easy reach of home and work, and the only problem is really when they are open. Local shops, except supermarkets, shut by the time I get home. And though I don't mind taking a couple of pork chops home on the tube, I can't really do much more. Main factors behind frequency etc are: 1) I don't like planning, and tend to think only a day or two ahead; 2) I'm usually on foot, so smaller shops are easier; 3) we don't have much space to store stuff; 4) I can't bring myself to believe that fresh vegetables, meat and fish last more than a day or two without serious loss of flavour ... or, in the case of much supermarket stuff here, such as they ever had. I'm not very cost conscious; not that I buy tons of luxurious cuts of meat or fish or enjoy being ripped off; but I'm a poor seeker of bargains. A subsidiary factor is I make a concerted effort not to buy meat, fish, fruit, veg, or bread from the supermarket. I hate British supermarkets with a sort of visceral passion, and will spend some extra time and money minimising (though not eliminating) my use of them. It is a losing battle, though. I do best at weekends, when I have the time to get to the local outdoor markets. So actually a bit more planning might help me do better with that goal, because it's weeknight suppers that are most likely to see me grabbing stuff from the supermarket.
  5. I don't. I think it loses it's flavour. I make it in the bowl I'm going to toss the salad in, then put the leaves on top. Then toss at the table.
  6. I don't have a "go to" recipe exactly, because so much depends on what I'm dressing. To my taste a dressing that is perfect for bitter greens like endive will overwhelm a mild lettuce; sweet things like beets or carrot need acidity or mustardiness that would be totally out of place on tomatoes. And so on. That said, I guess I have some likes and dislikes. Never garlic, in any form. Never balsamic vinegar at all. Usually mix strongly flavoured oils like walnut or olive with at least some neutral oil, which for me usually means a neutral groundnut or grape seed. Not necessarily mustard, though often a tiny bit -- but taste is more important than emulsification. Since I always make the dressing immediately before I use it I don't worry about it splitting, and truth to tell I dislike thick dressings. And very rarely any flavouring at all, except pepper (salt of course, but that's hardly a flavour) and occasionally a teaspoon of minced shallot. Herbs, if I use them, go in the salad not the dressing. Acid/oil ratio varies depending on the salad and the acid, from maybe 1:6 if I was dressing fennel with lemon, to maybe 1:3 if I was dressing endive sherry vinegar.
  7. Anne Willan in French Regional Cooking gives a recipe. I haven't tried it. But it seems to be a pretty "standard" sort of pork sausage: 750g lean pork meat (shoulder, eg), 250g back fat, 12g salt, seasoned generously with white pepper and parsimoniously with nutmeg, and enriched with a couple of tablespoons of cognac or port, and 30g peeled pistachios. Optional extra is 30g truffles. The meat is ground fine, and she specifies a "large" sausage casing, but without being more specific. My recollection was that lyonnais sausage tends to be a bit garlicky too, but there's none in her recipe. I also have a recollection that I've seen them (when cooked in brioche) still pink, which suggests that one might need to replace a bit of the salt with pink salt if one cared about the colour and knew what one was doing; it's not surprising that should be missing from a recipe firmly aimed at the home cook.
  8. I recall the clementine cake being a serious disappointment. YMMV, of course. Sorbet sounds a much better option!
  9. Eek, yes. I have a dreadful microplane grater which produces big shreds. It manages to combine the propensity of a blunt knife to slip with the propensity of a sharp knife to cut. It is an effective shredder of skin and flesh. It leaves a deep, uneven and shaggy wound. It is a hateful pig of a device, and I have given up on it entirely. (Not a fault with the microplane, by the way -- just the inherent danger of the tool.)
  10. I have white plates, because I happen to like them and think that they are generally a reasonable match for most food. If I had space for lots of different sets of china I would get some patterned ones, but white plates seem neutral and will go with everything. To my way of thinking a white plate will do for almost anything, whereas a patterned plate with, say, flowers and fruits on it that looks fabulous for pasta doesn't look so fabulous for steak and kidney pie. Serving dishes are a different matter. I have all sorts of those, including coloured and patterned. That works for me because I can have enough to choose what seems the right size, shape and design for the particular dish. (Almost) everything gets served family style because I like feeling that I am sharing food, not just serving it. But even that's not set-in-stone, and there are a few things I prefer to do individually. Steaks obviously. Souffles and mousses.There's not much logic or consistency to it. EDITED TO ADD: There are two things that I really care about being white, though: napkins and tablecloths. Not sure why, but I like the crispness of it. Coloured napkins and tablecloths make me feel like my mother.
  11. I never refrigerate eggs. They aren't (as others have pointed out) refrigerated in stores in the UK; I buy small quantities (half a dozen at a time usually) often, so they are fresher, and for most purposes they work better when at room temp anyway -- not just boiling, but in cakes or mayonnaise for instance. Quite a lot of other things I don't refrigerate. The fridge kills some vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, onions e.g.). To me, fridge cold berries lack flavour (though they may unlike tomatoes recover when warmed) and decent cheese also suffers, sometimes irreparably.
  12. I've been wondering about this myself... as the nostalgia for hand-me-down recipes has worn off since I now have access to a wide variety of recipes online and on tv. I tend to be skeptical about any recipe that wasn't published by a noted chef or America's Test Kitchens. I don't know if this is a good thing or not and irritates my wife to no end when I start critiquing a family recipe. The trouble is not with information that can be written down -- it's the information that can't be. The sense of how things should look, feel, smell, sound. That sort of thing is hard to communicate in writing, and for which many of the time-honoured expressions (dough "doubled in size", fat rubbed in so pastry resembles "crumbs", things baked until "golden brown") are rather imprecise, and can even be misleading. Another example. Try writing instructions for boning or carving anything of any complexity. Far easier to watch and learn. New technologies (things like youtube videos) may help with some of those things ... but only to some extent.
  13. That's a fantastic idea. I think chestnut pasta with a gamey filling or sauce would be absolutely lovely. I'm definitely going to try it.
  14. I'm sorry to see Jerusalem artichokes getting bad press. Although it is true that they are without doubt highly wind-inducing ... they are good. The problem I think is that their flavour is delicate. Put in something like a daube they will be overwhelmed. But as a soup, or a puree, or in a gratin, they have a quite delicious taste. Nothing like artichokes! Peeling can be a pain. I generally just cut off any annoying lumps. I don't know why they are so expensive -- they are reputedly very easy to grow. My most recent experiment was with pearl barley. I thought of it as an ingredient of lacklustre chicken soups. But there was some hanging around (from a chicken soup my partner's mother made). This weekend I made a salad (I found the recipe in a NYT article online I think, googling for recipes). Pearl barley with peas, mushrooms, red onion and radicchio, in a walnut vinaigrette (made with sherry vinegar and shallots). It was outstandingly good -- just the right balance of chewy and yielding, sweet and bitter and earthy. I'll definitely make it again, and as a "salad grain" the barley was outstanding, because it keeps some texture and taste. Another ingredient I want to try playing around with is chestnut flour -- before winter ends. It somehow feels like a winter ingredient. But I'm not sure what to use it for. It somehow just sounds interesting and unusual. Finally, to finish my grainy plans, I want to learn how to make good polenta. Whenever I've tried to make it in the past, it's been a terrible disappointment. I suspect I don't cook it long enough, salt it well enough, or butter it assiduously enough. So that's a third project. First thing I need to do is score some decent polenta -- not instant!
  15. I'm not a professional, but I agree with you it's a puzzle. However, there are (I think, based on my own enthusiastic amateur experience) a few reasons for this being said. 1. It's not just that baking must be precise, it's partly that non-baking cannot be. Things like meat and vegetables all vary in size, quality and so forth so much that in many cases if you were to cook them "by the book" the results would be pretty poor. You have to use common sense to decide when a roast is done, or how to chop an irregularly shaped piece of chuck for braising. Whereas a sugar syrup heated to a particular temperature (for instance) will more reliably behave as it should. So precision is possible. That being said, I think experienced bakers would say there are also many areas of baking where precision is impossible. One common example is deciding when something is cooked: timings and temperatures cannot be exact. Another is rising times for bread, at least in a domestic kitchen. Another is the exact quantity of liquid to be added to bread doughs and pastries. But I still think that at least relatively speaking the (largely industrial and highly processed) ingredients that bakers rely on are more "uniform" than the semi-agricultural ones that are used in much other cooking. 2. In pastry work it's often difficult, especially without deep experience, to make corrections "as you go along", because baked goods often undergo a "transformation" during which they cannot be altered. If you are cooking a sauce or a stew you can taste and (within reason) correct as you go along. But a cake batter or pastry before it goes into the oven is quite a different thing from what it will be when it comes out, and you can't make those sort of adjustments as it cooks. This means that for the inexperienced corrections are not easy. Of course, the experienced, who know what a batter or dough should "feel like" can and do make corrections, because they can predict the results. (In some cases, such as choux pastry and bread, such adjustments are actually rather important to the quality of the finished product, which is one reason why these apparently simply mixtures have a reputation for being hard.) So, at least for the inexperienced, the best advice is often to "follow the recipe" rather than make what may turn out to be ill-advised adjustments. 3. Coupled with this is the fact that some of the changes the home cook might feel tempted to make to a recipe are hard to predict. Reducing, say, the sugar in a mixture will not just make it less sweet, but will alter its characteristics in other ways too (drier, for instance). Rather small quantities of ingredient added to a dough or batter can have quite significant effects on the final product, which the ordinary cook may find it difficult to predict. So too can alterations in technique. The difference between an egg white whipped to a soft peak and an egg white whipped to a stiff peak might seem footling, but can dramatically affect the overall success of a dish. 4. Maybe there is also an element of "attitude" here. Precision in the sense of neatness, even size and colour, tidy lines and absence of mess is maybe something we look for more in baked goods than in many other foods, and emphasizing the need to be neat and precise might just be a way of trying to inculcate this attitude. I don't think that variation in ratios between different pastry chefs tells us much. They may well have different preferences about the finished product. Tastes differ, between individuals and nationally. This is not inconsistent with trying to be precise about each recipe. In the end, I suspect, the alleged distinction is -- as you hint -- slightly mythical, in that I suspect the best cooks are neat and precise (where that counts) whatever they are cooking, and equally ready to make sensible adjustments to the particular qualities of their ingredients, equipment, environment and so forth (where that counts) regardless of what they are cooking. But maybe when you are writing for the domestic cook, it's important to emphasize (in meat and vegetable cookery) the need to make constant small adjustments and equally valuable to emphasize (for pastry work) the need to be rather careful about making changes, since it takes a professional knowledge and experience to do so successfully.
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