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Cahoot

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  1. Does anyone have experience using adjustable cake rings? I can get them on Amazon for around $20 (one example), which is incredibly cheap compared to fixed cake rings from my local restaurant supply store (starting at $17 for 6 inch diameter). As I would like to have eventually a few sizes from 6-8 inches for flexibility, I could save so much buying an adjustable ring, but I've concerns reading reviews about the ring not holding well, or rings not being completely level, causing liquids mixtures to flow out underneath. However, I also wouldn't even plan on tackling making entremets until much later, so it wouldn't be very economical for me to spend so much money on a fairly niche equipment.
  2. Cahoot

    Apple Pie

    So I did some further research into fast-food apple pies, and something interesting I found was that a "secret ingredient" McDonald's used to use in their hand pies was apple powder, essentially ground up freeze-dried apples. Stella Parks apparently actually used this idea in her BraveTart book for recreating the McDonald's pies. The powder is supposed to fulfill the function of a thickener, absorbing the liquids released, while also adding more apple flavour. This would be a super fun idea to play around with, but unfortunately the cost of getting freeze-dried apples in the quantities I need would be prohibitively high :(. Looking at other chains' ingredients lists for their apple pies, they seem to use a variety of starch- and gum-based thickeners, and HFCS is also common - obvious main purpose is sweetness, but maybe it also contributes to the jammy texture? I think using apple compote or jam is also a neat idea to get the texture I'm going for. All these ideas may be too much experimentation than feasible for me to do in my spare time right now, but it's fun to think about at least!
  3. Cahoot

    Apple Pie

    Thanks for letting me know, I completely missed it! It was a nice read with some interesting ideas, but I also wanted to have a more in-depth discussion on techniques for making the pie itself. I'd never heard of it before, but torta di mele looks very similar to Dutch apple pie (which I've also never had but is on my list of things to make), down to the shape, shortcrust pastry, raisins, and light use of spices. I also didn't know that the raisins absorb most of the liquid - speaks to my inexperience haha, but definitely an idea to consider using. I understand what you mean by it's a rustic pastry, since here in North America it's also one of those basic pies that people pass down recipes for generations, and over-complicating it or making it too fussy is probably against the spirit of "as American as apple pie". However, I thought it'd be a fun experiment to ways to solve common problems I see people having with it, and plus I haven't seen any recipe for the gooey-type of pie I'm going for outside of Kenji's. I'm not sure if they're common in Europe, but it's similar to the thick filling in pies here sold in supermarkets or even fast food places, such as the McDonald's hand pie: I'm sure people look down on that preference, but it's my guilty pleasure lol. About the pre-cooking of apples, couldn't you just cut the apples thicker to prevent them from overcooking? Additionally I guess it would depend on your personal preference on how you like the consistency of the apples, but maybe there's something I'm missing here too. The lemon juice was also something I was unsure about since some recipes include it while others don't, but my intuition is that a small amount can only help out.
  4. Cahoot

    Apple Pie

    Being one of my favourite desserts, but also having little experience making it myself, I'd like to start a discussion regarding the classic apple pie. In the past couple days, I've looked at way more apple pie recipes and discussions than any sane person should, and now I'd like to hear what you guys may have to say with your experiences. Specifically, I'd like to focus on three main topics or issues prevalent when making it: a soggy bottom, a gap between the filling and the top crust, and the type of thickener used. Preventing a soggy bottom There are of course tips like preheating the baking sheet in the oven before placing your pie pan on it, baking at a lower rack, and even blind baking the bottom crust for a short bit before placing the filling and top crust on. However, I feel like these are all bandaid fixes rather than addressing the core problem, which is a runny filling. A common method I've seen is to first macerate the apples, then either discard or cook down the accumulated juices, or cook the apples on the stovetop first for a bit until they've lot off some juices, then remove the apples and continue cooking the juices down. From what I understand, when macerating the apples, most of the "juice" that accumulates is just the sugar since it's hygroscopic, right? Then throwing them away would be a huge waste, and hence reducing the juice seems to be the best approach here. I've tried Stella Parks' apple pie recipe, which calls for macerating the apples and then filling the pie with the apples and the macerated juices without cooking them down, but the final outcome was much too soupy for me. Overall, reducing the juices seems to be the best method, but my question is, does it also address the next issue, which is: Preventing a gap from forming between the filling and the top crust This is caused by the apples further shrinking during baking, and a sub-symptom of this problem is mushy apples when the apples are overcooked. This is really my main inspiration for making this thread, after reading J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's article on how to solve this issue through stabilizing the pectin in the apples by keeping them at 160°F for 10 minutes: https://sweets.seriouseats.com/2011/10/the-food-labs-apple-pie-part-2-how-to-make-perfect-apple-pie-filling.html He gives four methods to do so: on the stovetop, in the microwave, in a sous-vide water bath, or by pouring boiling water over top. Does anyone have experience with any of these methods, and how much of a difference is there in the results compared to just cooking down the apples/juices on the stovetop to reduce juices, but not doing the full keeping-at-160°F-for-10-minutes thing? Kenji's recommended simplest method is the boiling water method, but my concern (and from reading reviews) is that it gives the apples a watered-down taste, even after ensuring that they're dried out. From reading the reviews of his recipe, it seems that the most people have great results regarding the structure of the pie, but some find the taste lacking. Some may consider this blasphemous, but my ideal apple pie is gooey, sweet, and strongly spiced, kind of like the McDonald's hand-pies, so I was wondering if there was a way to combine the solutions used for the first two problems. Of course, Kenji actually has a recipe for this exact kind of pie: https://www.seriouseats.com/2015/11/the-food-lab-extra-gooey-apple-pie.html, which does combine the methods previously discussed. He gives options to hold the apples at 160°F for 10 minutes using either the stovetop or sous-vide, then further cooks the apples on the stovetop to reduce the juices. However, I don't have a Dutch oven or a pot large enough to fit all the apples required to do it on the stovetop, nor a sous-vide machine, so this is where I have to find an alternative, and I'll need peoples' insights into whether my ideas may work or if I'm just talking nonsense. I see two other ways to accomplish what I want: a) provided I've a microwave-safe bowl large enough, combine the apples, sugar, and spices in the bowl, and use the microwave to accomplish the pectin-stabilization, then finish reducing the juices on the stovetop (potentially in batches if needed), or b) do the boiling water pour-over method first, then add the sugar and spices and reduce juices on the stovetop. However, the microwave method seems really tedious and difficult to maintain at 160°F for an entire 10 minutes, hence option (b) seems the simplest. Again, there are multiple ways I can approach this here. I could just take all the apples after they've been in the hot water, and cook them all on the stovetop for a bit like in the recipe, or an even simpler but more time-consuming way could be to macerate them further, then just take the juices and reduce them instead of cooking the apples themselves. For the more experienced cooks here, would this still accomplish the same thing, or do I need to actually cook the apple slices themselves on the stovetop? Type of thickener Finally, a common point of discussion from where there seems to be no consensus is the best type of thickener for pies. Everyone has cornstarch and flour in their pantry, but tapioca starch is also commonly available. I've seen some people say good things about ClearJel here and there, but overall it appears to be very uncommonly used. However for a gooey pie like what I'm going for, are the clearer results from tapioca starch or ClearJel even needed, or would cornstarch or flour do fine? Another factor is that since the filling would need to be quite thick, would using cornstarch/flour leave too much of a starchy taste or leave the filling too goopy? If you've made it this far I gotta commend you for enduring all my inane rambling, but I'm looking forward to hear additional insights into my thoughts and see if I can reproduce an apple pie that I'm happy with
  5. Thank you for the detailed comments on each title! I guess I'll finish Professional Baking, then look towards The Professional Pastry Chef and/or French Patisserie. I also actually have RLB's Baking Basics, but of course I'll need to put Baking Bible on my radar for more involved recipes. And the Kaffeehaus suggestion looks wonderful - I'll admit most of my (very limited) knowledge of pastries so far is mainly just French patisserie, but I want to ensure I'm not ignoring the rest of Europe and that looks like exactly what I want. Your suggestions are much appreciated!
  6. Wow, I've checked out some reviews for the book and it seems exactly what I'm looking for! I especially like the concept of having 3 levels for each recipe, with a "classic" base, a more advanced version, and a modern professional version - best of both worlds when people earlier in this thread were talking about recipes in books leaning more classic vs. updated/personal. Have you ever read any of the common other textbooks I've mentioned, and if so how would you compare this to them?
  7. This is an older thread, but I'd like to revive it to ask if anyone has newer or updated suggestions since the last comment here almost 10 years ago. Similarly to the OP, I'm looking for books that cover classic European baking and pastry techniques, moreso textbook than recipe book (but having good recipes is obviously still important!). My interests are primarily in European patisserie, tarts, tortes, and the like (not so much on bread, frozen desserts, confectionary, plated desserts, etc. right now, but those obviously can't be ignored either), but of course I need to establish a good understanding of the base techniques and theory before moving on to more complex pastries. So far, I've read How Baking Works by Paula Figoni and BakeWise by Shirley Corriher. I thought How Baking Works had really good info, but as just a beginner home cook, I haven't found much opportunity to apply many of its concepts to practice yet, and I don't have the resources to do the Exercises & Experiments at the end of each chapter since they're meant for a classroom setting. BakeWise also had some neat tricks (to a beginner like me) such as adding a cornstarch paste to meringue on a pie so it'll cut through easier, but overall it's more of a collection of recipes than actually teaching technique, and it focuses on American desserts rather than classic French and European pastries. I'm currently reading Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen which I've seen recommended in many places since it's a common textbook in culinary schools, but I've also seen some posters warn against it here such as the discussion on the first page of this thread: Does anyone know what Steve may mean by this? I've seen other people mention how some recipes in the book are iffy, but so far (I'm halfway through the book, albeit haven't had the opportunity to actually make any of the recipes) it seems to provide a good overview of techniques. Some other books that I see commonly recommended are: - The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg - Baking and Pastry by the CIA - On Baking by Sarah Labensky - How To Bake by Nick Malgieri I've taken a look at them and it's honestly hard to tell which one would be the best to start with. The book Basic Cooking Techniques: Bakery and Pastry by Lesley Chesterman, mentioned on the first page of this thread, also appealed to me in how Lesley described it not as a dessert book, but a pastry technique book, but unfortunately it appears to be less well known and I can't find much other information about it. So essentially, does anyone have any experience with the books that I've listed or any others, and is able to recommend a direction for me? In a perfect world I'd just read them all haha, but unfortunately I don't have infinite time. To recap, I'm looking for a book that 1) isn't just meant to be for a full student in pastry school but can also be suitable for a beginner home cook; 2) focuses on classic European techniques; and 3) has good recipes so I can be confident in adding them to my repertoire for my own uses.
  8. For those who've tried the Pierre Herme recipe, how would it compare in a lemon meringue pie compared to the traditional cornstarch-thickened filling? My intuition is that it may not set up as well (can always sub whole eggs for yolks and/or add a little bit of gelatin), and it may be a bit too rich (don't know how you could fix that), but the idea of using it instead of the usual cornstarch filling is very appealing to me. On a tangential note, all recipes that I see online for lemon meringue pie use a regular French meringue. They then run into problems like weeping from an undercooked bottom of the meringue, and hence they have to use fixes like putting the meringue on the still-hot filling. Why don't they just use Swiss or Italian meringues, which would also make things simpler since they don't have to bake for as long, thereby also preventing beading from an overcooked top? I'm still just a beginner, so someone please correct me if my intuitions are wrong.
  9. Yes it was for the collar, I know it's traditionally buttercream but I saw a neat idea that toasted the meringue instead so I went with that, which is also why I needed Italian. I've attached a picture of the religieuses and the meringue still set up fine; would you say stiff peaks aren't necessary at all for this application?
  10. @pastrygirl It was for a toasted meringue topping for religieuses. Fortunately the consistency was still thick enough to be piped and not run, but I was just hoping for a bit stiffer meringue! I have seen it made with hand mixers too; I wasn't actually even beating on high since I was afraid of deflating it after my first attempt. @teonzo I'll try your and pastrygirl's suggestion of a higher temperature for the syrup next time. I didn't know that whipping whites first in advance could also cause issues, but that might've also contributed to it! The reason for my question with stiff peaks specifically for Italian meringue is that I know what they're supposed to look like in general, as that was also the stage I got my egg whites to initially (tips remain straight up when whip was flipped upside down). However, most images I see for Italian meringue just show it with the tips curved down like in Serious Eats page linked. I also read this thread where my meringue also looked exactly like the OP's: where someone in the comments says that Italian meringue is supposed to look like that.
  11. I'm back with another couple questions on a basic technique! Straight up, they're 1) What do stiff peaks for Italian meringue actually look like? 2) I've seen 2:1 ratio of sugar:egg whites commonly cited, but is there also a standard ratio of the sugar:water for the syrup? Recipes I've looked at seem to be all over the place in regards to that. For context, I attempted to make Italian meringue 3 times last night. The recipe was following had ratios of 1.67:1 sugar to egg whites, and 5:1 sugar to water for the syrup. I wiped down my bowl and whisk each time (though not with lemon juice), and used a hand mixer since I don't have a stand mixer. Method was fairly standard: whip egg whites until foamy, add cream of tartar then whip until around stiff peaks. Heat syrup to 240-244F, then slowly drizzle into egg whites, while continuously beating (on medium speed) at the location where the syrup was landing in the bowl. The first time, the meringue remained a puddle after adding the syrup, and I'm guessing this might've happened because (a) I didn't actually beat egg whites enough before adding syrup, or (b) added syrup too quickly. Next two times however, I made sure to beat to stiff peaks beforehand (and they were stiff enough that they were approaching overbeaten while the syrup was being added), and veryyy slowly added the syrup, but they never seemed to get past soft-firm peaks, even after beating for 20+ minutes. I didn't take a picture, but they looked pretty much like the picture here: https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/06/basic-italian-meringue-recipe.html, with the tip drooping back down instead of standing up straight. So this makes me wonder, did I screw something up, or is that what "stiff peaks" is actually supposed to look like after the syrup is added?
  12. Thanks for the clarification Teo! So essentially I should add less cornstarch to avoid having to blitz it after chilling, OR use an immersion blender/food processor instead of an electric mixer? Might be a dumb followup question, but how come an immersion blender or food processor would work to smooth out the cream, but an electric mixer can't - or would it still work as long as I used the flat beater attachments and not the whisk attachment? And in general, assuming you're not aiming for a "hard" pastry cream, what consistency do people cook it to? Most recipes just specify the amount of time, but that's not very useful when factoring in different levels of heat, different ratios of ingredients, etc. Of course I can/should test more to learn from personal experience, but I'd also like to minimize the amount of failed batches I make haha.
  13. I've some questions about the consistency of pastry cream after chilling. In the past, I used it after just chilling for a couple hours after making it, and it was a perfect consistency for piping as a filling. This time, I chilled it overnight using a slightly different recipe, and thoroughly whipped with an electric mixer it after taking it out of the fridge since it turned had into a single gelatinous mass after it set. Unfortunately, after whipping it, it turned from the solid mass into soup. I'm now trying to pinpoint exactly what caused this issue here and where I went wrong. 1) Should (proper) pastry cream be just one solid mass after an overnight chill? 2) I heated the tempered egg-milk mixture until boiling then whisked for a couple minutes after, so I don't think it was a problem of not deactivating the amylase. However, there's the possibility I cooked it for too long and caused it to un-gel. In either case (undercooked or overcooked), would the pastry cream still have set in the fridge like it did? 3) Am I not supposed to whip it afterwards before using it, or just whisk it less? I was thinking of just doing it by hand, but it was so gelatinous that I just decided to go with the electric mixer. For reference, I used what I thought was a pretty standard ratio of ingredients: 250ml milk (1 cup) 3 egg yolks 50g sugar 14g cornstarch 1 tsp vanilla extract
  14. Hey everyone, I'm a university student from Ontario, Canada. Although I'm still very new to it, I'm mainly interested in pastry & baking. I started out making basic cookies, brownies, pies, etc. but I'm now trying to get into classic pastries. My current goal is getting comfortable with pate a choux and all the recipes you can do with it! In addition to actually baking itself, I love reading about techniques and food science, so I can also understand why things are done in recipes. It's so rewarding to get better at this and making things that months ago you never thought you'd have been able to pull off.
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