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Everything posted by jrshaul

  1. After the ruin of too many potato latkes, I'm giving in and buying an induction cooktop. My current stove has effectively maybe three temperature settings, and deep-frying or the preparation of dry caramels is a nightmare. I'd like something with easy temperature adjustment - perhaps a knob? - and a price of not more than $100. If anyone would care to offer me one secondhand, that would be fantastic. (Is this appropriate for this forum?)
  2. As one of the younger participants in the eGullet forum, I experience restaurants somewhat differently than the majority of individuals present. My choice of venue is limited by my wallet, and I often order towards the more frugal end of the menu. However, above all else, I'm not served in quite the same fashion. I can understand, to an extent, the lack of service. I don't order appetizers, I dine alone, and by demographic I'm not likely to tip well. The waiter - not unreasonably - chooses to fawn over tables with the potential for more robust compensation. However, I've recently encountered a steadily growing list of reasons why I've not left a tip at all. These include: 1. Inattentiveness. Requiring a few minutes' wait is fine; however, it should not be necessary to flag you down with orange cones airport-style to place an order. My metric for acceptability is the wait at an over-capacity bar during World Cup finals. If you can't equal their quality of service, then you're just not trying. 2. Short-changing. A few dollars is fine. Accidentally tripling my bill, not so much. Either you're dishonest, inattentive, or flat-out stupid; regardless, no tip for you. 3. Serving the wrong food. This is of particular significance as a good friend of mine is vegetarian and several others have mild food allergies. Accidentally serving me a medium-well steak instead of a medium-rare is excusable; giving a devout Buddhist a plate of carpaccio, not so much. 4. Unwillingness to move my table due to inclement conditions. This has yet to actually happen, though I suspect it will soon enough. While a crying infant or boisterous drinkers aren't a big deal, if I'm paying $17 for a steak I expect to enjoy it without water dripping on my head. (This, sadly, has happened. In the last week.) 5. Not serving me at all. A few days ago, I was informed that may waiter forgot to dispatch my requests to the kitchen in the forty minutes between when I made them and when it closed, leading to significant embarrassment in front of some rather nice people I had hoped to impress. This falls into the category of "I want telepathically strangle you in the manner of Darth Vader" level unacceptability. (Thankfully, I occasionally am privileged to write a newspaper review for a student paper, so I suspect the loss of reputation will be soon repaid in turn.) I don't think I'm an unreasonable customer. I've had excellent service on the few occasions I can afford the more elegant restaurants in town, and left a gratuity accordingly. But if I'm dropping (what is for me, anyway) a significant amount of my income so that I might have a nice evening, I'm not rewarding anyone for making a hash of it.
  3. After reading some comments by eGullet members, I've found superb prices on bulk coverture. Albert Uster carries several varieties in 5kg sacks for around $45, a great savings over Green & Black's or even Callebaut. What's your preferred chocolate for under $10/kg?
  4. A friend of mine would appreciate a nice cake recipe to make with her kids, and I've been using joepastry.com's recipes for so long that I'm at a loss without low-gluten flourand kitchenaid. If someone could nominate a basic "birthday cake" recipe that can be made with a wooden spoon and a whisk, I'd appreciate it - the basic 1-2-3-4 isn't really sweet enough for many peoples' tastes these days. Bonus points if it's amenable to the addition of flavorings like ginger or instant coffee.
  5. jrshaul

    Frying Twizzlers

    If you don't mind, I'm going to steal the idea for deep-fried battered Red Vines, get myself a trailer, and set up shop at the State Fair. I think I'll have my vintage Maserati in white, please.
  6. What's the most cost-effective way to obtain one of these at present? And do you think it would survive occasionally being hauled out to an extended-stay hotel?
  7. Could this be fudged with a lab-grade immersion circulator?
  8. You'd be correct in your assertation that it burns terrifyingly, frighteningly easily - a stove that runs 25F over is gonna get pretty brown. However, the cake is a known kid-pleaser, no syrup or glaze required. It's also one of the few cakes I know that can be made without cake flour or anything particularly futzy.
  9. I ended up horribly bastardizing a recipe I knew from my mother. (Sorry, guys - they wanted a traditional white cake, and your recipes had a lot less sugar.) It worked okay - but maybe you could help me make it work better? 1.5 cups butter 3 cups sugar 3 cups AP flour. 5 eggs. 1/2C buttermilk 1/2C whole milk 2t baking powder 1/4t salt 3t vanilla Cream butter and sugar using electric eggbeater. Beat in eggs, one by one. Beat in dry ingredients, alternating with milk; add flavoring. Divide between 3 cake pans and bake at 350F until fork comes out clean. The recipe worked pretty well - it's a cake recipe I'd used ages back with reasonable success. However, I did have a few bugaboos. The bottoms were nearly burnt before it set (possibly due to the oven,) and they weren't especially fluffy. Would this be a reasonable candidate for possibly reducing the temperature a bit and whipping the whole eggs? It's not like we're not using the eggbeater already... When you weigh seventy pounds, this can be a bit problematic...
  10. jrshaul

    Home Made Ice Cream (2013– )

    More importantly, all of them have immense power requirements. I could use a step-up transformer for 220 volts, but the 20+ amps would blow the breaker.
  11. jrshaul

    Home Made Ice Cream (2013– )

    Has anyone here had success with soft serve from a soft serve machine, a lá Momofuku Milk Bar? The stabilizer and emulsifier requirements appear to be very specific, but the great success of commercial products with high acidity, zero dairy content, and other unusual specifications indicate there's a lot of potential for the technology. And does anyone know where I can get one at a sane price for home use? There seems to be some overlap with margarita machines, of all things.
  12. After a major life change (I'm not a computer science undergraduate anymore! Hooray!), I now have a job in marketing for sales for a resurgent local bakery. After the patriarch sold off the old facility to developers for enough cash to retire in Monaco, the 3rd and 4th generations made use of generous city loans to rebuild in a less affluent location. The new facility is shiny, new, and HACCP-friendly, but not quite the retail bonanza they used to own. The family has done some business with one or two local restaurants providing semi-finished desserts, and they'd like to expand further in this respect. Anything from fine dining to coffeeshops are all valid sales opportunities. Can anyone describe what the purchasing patterns, requirements, and markup on various types of dessert would be? The dudes in question can do anything from carrot cake to homemade mascarpone without batting an eyelash, though they're more oriented to volume than precision. A few examples we've discussed include tiramisu, key lime pie, carrot cake, chess pie, flourless chocolate cake, and various types of cheesecake.
  13. Today, I tried making earl grey cream puffs by heating cream to 140F and infusing with tea for an hour. While the infusion was successful, the resulting attempt at whipping was not. How high can I go before the cream no longer whips?
  14. I need to get some more cream and retry this. I threw the cream in an ice bath to get it cold before rewhipping, but it wasn't there very long - perhaps the duration of chilling affects the ability to whip?
  15. I'm an afficionado of the custard pie at the Hubbard Avenue Diner. (If you're in south-central Wisconsin, it's worth a visit.) I am not as fond of paying $5 for a slice of it. I can do cheesecakes and key lime tarts, but the stand-outs are silk pies - stiff mousses of coffee, chocolate, and peanut butter rigid enough to hold a fork erect by the tines. They lack the taste and mouthfeel of of meringue or starch, but have far more rigidity than whipped cream can produce. Attempts to stiffen the pie with butter produce a similar texture, but post-consumption are like digesting a bowling ball. Here's a few thoughts: 1. There is very definitely a sizeable amount of butter in the filling. (A few years ago, I encountered a peanut butter silk pie that was not fully blended.) 2. I'm guessing that there's cream cheese in there, but not much. 3. The pie is likely aerated by folding in whipped cream. The ratio is unknown. 4. The texture is not dependent on adding chocolate or peanut butter for stiffening, as is evidenced by the cappucino silk. This is my best effort so far. (The powdered sugar is due to be replaced by something else, as it makes the end result faintly starchy. Granulated sugar is inadequately fine.) 3/4 cup creamy unsalted peanut butter 4oz (1/2 stick) cream cheese 1/4 cup butter 1.5 cups powdered sugar 0.5 cups whipping cream. Molasses, vanilla, salt, cinnamon to taste. In a bowl, combine 1 cup powdered sugar and cream cheese. Whip until fluffy. Gradually add peanut butter and room temperature butter, scraping sides. Add seasonings. In another bowl, whip cream and remaining powdered sugar to stiff peaks. Fold with first mixture. Chill before serving. Serve with pepto-bismol because it's too @#$! rich.
  16. Gelatin doesn't (to my knowledge) give the sort of structural material texture I'm looking for. I don't want "fluffy;" I want "earthquake building code." Does it include pate a bombe? I've seen several varieties on chocolate mousse, but none with the rigidity you describe. Most recipes for french silk pie The french silk pies my mother made were nothing like those of Hubbard; that said, given my parents' enthusiasm for "healthy recipe modifications," the pies in question were likely nothing like french silk either I was about to give a run with the french silk pie recipe I found here.
  17. jrshaul

    Storing/shelf life of self made pesto?

    My mother freezes loads of it - no trouble. Maybe it could be pasteurized sous vide? A tiny amount of ascorbic acid could also be used to retain color and flavor.
  18. jrshaul

    Hazelnut extract?

    Can anyone recommend a specific brand of hazelnut extract? There's a spectacular variety in pricing and concentration, and I'd rather avoid one made mostly of propylene glycol.
  19. jrshaul

    Rethinking tipping culture

    And it's why I don't shop at places that pay on commission.
  20. "Overnight" is in this case a malapropism for the slow process you suggested. I'm more concerned about retailers willing or able to perform it properly. The shrink-wrap will be left on the individual box until purchase. It's not especially complicated, but the potential for damage is worrisome. As vocal as I am vis a vis tipping, I do respect your superior experience. In lieu of the fridge stage, I will test to see if a styrofoam container delays the defrosting process. A large, heavily insulated carton full of many pounds of chocolates would defrost very gradually - potentially even slower than it might within a fridge. Styrofoam may be necessary to prevent damage in shipping, so using a larger quantity is no hardship. I'm more concerned about the shrink wrapping being suitable to prevent humidity from entering - if anyone could speak to it versus vacuum packing, I'd appreciate it. In theory, it's seamless. In reality? I don't know. If multiple boxes could be combined and vacuum-packed, it would reduce the cost. There may be disposable tupperware analogues that are within the price range. I have a data logger I can borrow from the shop to test my theories. I'll put a bare thermocouple right in a truffle before the 48-hour procedure, and should have a very accurate measure of the rate of defrosting. If the rate of warming in the styrofoam is less than that of the fridge, I will consider it an acceptable substitute.
  21. A friend of mine is starting a bakery, and I'm helping hi with ganaches and pralines. Neither of us is very keen on the use of sorbitol, glycerin, and other purely hygroscopic ingredients, but I can't see another way to keep the aW at a sub-7 level. Is there a chart somewhere documenting the self life reduction for higher aW? And how large is the advantage of blending under vacuum?
  22. This is very good news. My distribution plan is as follows: 1. All chocolate is to be frozen during production. During the summer, refrigeration is required in transport. May as well make 'em frozen. 2. Vacuum-packing is ideal, but for only a few weeks, I'm hoping that shrink-wrapping is adequate to prevent humidity from entering upon defrosting. 3. The individually vacuum-packed boxes may be shrink-wrapped into bundles. 4. The retailer takes the frozen bundles from the freezer and defrosts them overnight before opening the shrink-wrap on the bundle. 5. The boxes of chocolates are sold at room temperature. The only real thing I've got going for me is cost - I'm hoping to have 1/3 lb boxes for $8 each, which puts me in the price range of traditional grocery stores. I feel quite the doofus discussing this with seasoned professionals, but I have also been very fairly careful in my cost analysis and run all this past an experienced bakery owner.
  23. jrshaul

    Rethinking tipping culture

    The problem with the usps argument is that they're both better snd cheaper than the other options. They also must serve areas so remote no once could turn a profit. Around here, the his party selects for maulmen whi work like dogs. As for comission sales, the quality of service is often crap. I avoid them by default, as any post-sale service is unpaid labor and therefore non-existent.
  24. I am hoping to turn the problem from a culinary problem to a distribution problem by the methods you suggest. Shipping the product shrinkwrapped and frozen so it may be defrosted immediately before purchase may also help. Back to the original problem: does adding alcohol reduce Aw or is it considered seperately? I do like brandy in my ganache.
  25. The question is not one of convenience or profit, but simple safety. The cost of retail venues mean that most locally produced chocolate is sold through independent retailers; however, the required certification is difficult to obtain. I'm not a professional, so I prefer to err heavily on the side of not making anyone sick; I recently had a bad shock when some truffles went fungal, and prefer to plan for the worst case scenario. Outside of a freezer, I wouldn't dream of selling to anyone outside of seven days. They just don't taste right. But there's always going to be some doofus who expects fresh food to still be safe after eight weeks of 80F heat.