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  1. Click here for the newest in the series, on Sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts).
  2. CLASS 6: LOLLIPOPS (HARD CANDY) Hard candies are high-boiled sweets that can be clear, pulled or grained, making for a variety of textures. They differ from other boiled sugar candy primarily in their low moisture content. Examples of hard candy are lollipops, lozenges, stick candy, rock candy and mints. Lollipops can be one of the simplest of the boiled sugar treats. Sugar syrup, cooked to the hard crack stage -- 290 to 300 F (143 to 149C) -- is cooled slightly, flavour and colour are added, then the candy is poured out onto an oiled marble slab or other nonstick surface. Overworking the batch while incorporating the flavour and colour may cause crystallization. A bit of glucose added to the syrup will inhibit crystallization, keeping the candy clear. Hard candy is best made on a dry day where the humidity is low. Syrups taken to witcrack temperatures contain very little water, so they have a tendency to absorb moisture from the air and become sticky on a humid day. The candy should be wrapped in cello or packed airtight containers as soon as it cools. Hard candies are more likely to be sticky if too much 'doctor' (corn syrup, invert sugar or cream of tartar) is used. The higher the temperature to which the candy is taken, the more the sugar inverts, and thus the less doctor that is required. Hence a soft-boiled sweet such as caramel uses more corn syrup than hard candy. Lollipops 2 cups sugar 1 tbsp glucose (white corn syrup) 2/3 cup water 2 to 3 drops essential oil or flavouring (I used 2 drops of lavender oil) Several drops water based food colouring Place the sugar, glucose and water in a heavy 4-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover the pot with a lid for a minute or so to dissolve any sugar crystals as required. Boil to 300 F (149 C). Place in pan of cool water to stop boiling. Stir in flavour and colour. Spoon out into small rounds on oiled marble, press a lollipop stick on each lollipop and add a bit more syrup on top of the stick. Variation: Instead of water, you can use the juice from raspberries for the liquid. Start with 2 cups of raspberries. Heat the berries in a pan to the point where they release their juice, then place in sieve and let the juice drain (do not squeeze fruit). Use 2/3 cup juice and 2 cups of sugar (no corn syrup is required due to acidity of fruit). Boil to only 290 F (143 C). No flavour or colour required. Ingredients: it is not necessary to use bottled water; tap water is fine. As I didn't have any lollipop sticks I used bamboo chopsticks. Marble slab prepared for hot sugar syrup with a thin coat of neutral oil. Sugar, glucose and water measured into 4-quart pot. Bring the sugar syrup to a boil and cook to between 290 and 300 F (143 and 149 C). Have a pan of cool water ready to cool the syrup quickly. 6 When the syrup reaches temperature, place in cool water just to stop boiling. Add a couple of drops of flavouring. Here I am using some lavender essential oil. Add a couple of drops of colour. Keep the stirring to a minimum to prevent crystallization. Quickly pour out small rounds of syrup onto the oiled marble. Add the lollipop stick, pushing it in to the hot syrup. Add a dab more syrup behind the stick. Once cool, cover in cello to exclude moisture. Post your questions here in the confectionary Q&A.
  3. The member-supported eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters is pleased to present this bonus class in the eGCI course Confectionery 101. To help make this course and others possible, please take a moment, if you have not already, to upgrade to a Society Donor membership. If you are not yet a member, please first join the eGullet Society. CLASS 5: TOFFEE AND SPONGE TOFFEE Sugar and other ingredients taken to the soft or hard crack stage can be used to produce brittles and toffees. In this demo we will produce two products. Both take the sugar to 300F (149C), but the result is two very different candies: toffee or butter crunch, and sponge toffee. Almond Butter Crunch is known by a variety of names, including Almond Roca and English Toffee. Sugar, butter, glucose (white corn syrup) and water are taken to the hard crack, a small amount of baking soda is added and the candy is poured out in a thin sheet. Baking soda aerates the toffee a bit and causes slight darkening in colour. The candy is cooked over medium heat. It will be taken to 300F (149C) but is only stirred up to about 212F (100C), unless the butter separates. (If that happens, just stir vigorously and turn up the heat a bit. After it reaches final temperature, the baking soda is added and it is stirred for a few seconds before being poured out on to parchment, an oiled baking sheet or oiled marble slab. If it is taken beyond 300F, too much sugar inverts and the texture become flinty and it won't develop the nice soft grain you associate with this candy. It is best aged for a few days before consumption, as the grain improves with time. Sponge Toffee (aka honeycomb, splinter toffee) is just sugar, water and glucose taken to the hard crack after which a relatively large amount of baking soda is added. The sugar syrup is not brown when it reaches 300F; instead, when you add the baking soda you quickly see a change in colour to the golden hues that we associate with sponge toffee. After the baking soda is added it is stirred just a couple of strokes in order to distribute the baking soda then poured out quickly on to an oiled or parchment covered surface. If it is stirred too vigorously or spread out on the surface you won't get that nice puffy sponge. RECIPES Almond Butter Crunch 1 1/4 cup sugar (265 g) 1/3 cup glucose (100 g) 1/3 cup water (75 g) 1 cup butter (225 g) 1/4 tsp baking soda 1 1/2 cup almonds (toasted, cooled and chopped finely) 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate (285 g) cocoa for sprinkling Ingredients ready to go. Tap water is fine. The sugar, water and glucose measured out into a heavy 4 quart saucepan. The syrup is brought to a boil for a couple of minutes. The butter is added and the boiling continues over medium heat. Stir until it reaches 212F (100C). Stop stirring after 212F, unless butter separated, then turn up heat and stir for a few seconds. Remove from heat at 300F (149C). Stir in the baking soda quickly, do not overmix. Note slight darkening after soda is incorporated. Pour out quickly on to prepared surface -- I prefer parchment. Spread out quickly before it solidifies. Note sheen of fat on the surface of the toffee. While toffee is cooling, chop nuts. A serrated knife works better than a chefs knife for this job (fewer flying nuts). Dust the surface of the toffee with some cocoa to soak up any oil, and to help prevent the chocolate from separating from the toffee. Spread the tempered chocolate* on the toffee. Before chocolate has a chance to harden, sprinkle the chopped nuts over the surface. With a little persuasion the nuts can be encouraged to stick to the chocolate. Once the chocolate is hardened, crack the toffee into managable pieces. If you can, let it sit for a day or two to let the toffee texture improve. Sponge Toffee 300 grams sugar 75 grams glucose 60 grams water 1 tbsp baking soda Ingredients for sponge toffee. Tap water is fine; bottled water is not required. Weigh out sugar, water and glucose into a 4 quart saucepan. Measure out baking soda. Have ready a sheet of parchment (or oiled baking sheet or marble slab) and some sort of whisk or heat resistant spatula to mix in soda. Boil until it reaches 300F (149C). Note the lack of colour in the syrup. Add the baking soda. Give just a couple of quick stirs; you don't want to thoroughly mix or you will lose the bubbles. Note how the golden colour is developing with the addition of baking soda. Pour out quickly on to parchment, oiled baking pan or oiled marble slab. Do not flatten out the mixture. Note that there are still lumps of baking soda, indicating that the mixture was not overmixed. Once cool, break into chunks. This can be further dipped in tempered chocolate*, or broken into small chunks and added to a butter and chocolate ganache, or made into a great bark. Note the variation in bubble size and the golden colour produced around chunks of baking soda. * Instructions for tempering chocolate can be found here. Since this is dark chocolate, melt to reach 40 to 45C, cool to 27C, reheat to 29 or 30C. For an easily printed version of the recipe, click here for the RecipeGullet entry for Almond Butter Crunch or here the the Sponge Toffee recipe. Please post your questions here in the Confectionary 101 Q&A.
  4. CLASS 4: PULLED CANDY Pulled candy is a familiar sight. Multicoloured ribbon candy, butter mints, humbugs, salt water taffy -- the list is endless. Pulling on cooling sugar syrup incorporates tiny air bubbles, which gives a lighter texture and opaqueness to the candy. It also allows the manufacture of many apparently different candies using the same technique. Pulled candy is also known as "satin work." Pulled candy is a "high boiled sweet." Sugar syrup is boiled to the hard ball stage for a soft sticky candy or to the soft crack stage for a brittle candy. (Compare this to a lollipop, which is taken to the hard crack stage.) Pulled candy can be given a crumbly, chalky texture by minimizing the amount of glucose and adding cream of tartar. To make candy with a hard, glossy finish more glucose is added. Glycerine may be added to make the candy chewy. The hot syrup is poured out onto an oiled surface and allowed to cool just enough to allow it to be worked. When the candy is worked by hand, it is pulled into a long rope then folded back on itself and pulled again. It may take as long as 20 minutes to become opaque and creamy. A twisting motion may also be used when working the candy, but this drives air bubbles out of the candy. Caution is required when pulling the candy, as it is very hot. If the candy crystallizes or hardens before becoming opaque, it can be reboiled with some water and glucose to the appropriate temperature and reworked. Once the candy reaches the desired appearance, it is pulled into a thin rope and cut with oiled scissors, then wrapped in cello or waxed paper. Brown Sugar Pulled Candy 500 grams dark brown sugar 1 cup cold water 2 tsp vinegar 2 tbsp butter 1 drop peppermint oil (optional) Place sugar, water, vinegar and butter into a 4-quart (or larger) heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook for approximately 15 minutes, until it reaches 290 degrees F (143 C). Pour out in a pool on an oiled marble slab. If you choose to use peppermint oil, put a drop on the pool of syrup. Let the syrup cool until it forms a skin -- a minute or so. Use an oiled spatula or scraper to turn the edges into the centre. Continue turning until it is cool enough to handle. Begin stretching with gloved or oiled hands, pulling and twisting the syrup until the candy becomes opaque and creamy. Pull and twist to a long thin rope of even thickness, then cut with oiled scissors into small pieces. Our ingredients. You don't need to use bottled water; tap water is fine. The small bottle is the optional peppermint oil. Using a neutral flavoured oil, wipe a thin layer on your marble, scrapers and scissors. Place sugar, water, vinegar and butter in a 4-quart pot. Wash any crystals from the sides of the pan, and place the thermometer in the syrup. After about 15 minutes the syrup will reach 290F (143C). Remove from heat and pour on slab. Let sit for a minute or so, until you see a slight skin form on the top of the syrup. At this point put a drop or two of peppermint oil on the syrup if using. Using your oiled tools, turn the edges in towards the center. Continue to turn until the syrup cools sufficiently to handle. You can handle with oiled hands or, as I do, with a pair of cotton gloves under vinyl gloves. I imagine that dishwashing gloves would also work nicely and protect your hands. Collect the hot syrup. Pull your hands apart to form the syrup into a rope. Fold the rope back on itself. Continue to pull, fold, twist and pull until the mass lightens in colour and begins to stiffen. Now pull and twist into a long thin rope in preparation for cutting. Quickly cut with oiled scissors. Alternately, you could wait until it hardens completely and snap off at intervals. For an easily printed version of this recipe click here for the RecipeGullet entry. Please post your questions here in the Confectionery 101 Q&A.
  5. CLASS 3: FUDGE Fudge is a soft, creamy confection whose invention is credited variously to the “Seven Sister” American colleges. Thus you can find recipes for Vassar fudge which contains sugar and cream, Wellesley fudge containing marshmallows, and Smith fudge with brown sugar, molasses and cream. Sugar crystals in their natural state are large and uneven in shape. Once they are dissolved, we want to recrystallize them into fine, small crystals that are detected as smooth by the tongue. Techniques for fudge, fondant and other cream candies make use of this recrystallization to produce their characteristic texture. Fudge is fundamentally a mixture of caramel and fondant. The graining may be produced by one of two methods. In the first we agitate the mixture after it cools to a certain temperature. The agitation can be done either in the pot or after pouring out on a marble slab or into a shallow container. The second method involves adding premade fondant to the mixture to act as a seed to encourage the 'correct' crystal formation. The production of fudge involves dissolving sugar in some sort of liquid, usually milk or cream, but you can use buttermilk, creme fraiche or sour cream to get a more interesting flavour. A bit of glucose (white corn syrup) may be added to prolong the shelf life. The resulting syrup is cooked to the soft ball stage, 234 to 238 degrees F or 112 to 114 degrees C, taking care to dissolve all sugar crystals. Any large crystals left in the mixture at this point will serve as a nidus for crystallization of like crystals early in the cooling process. The mixture is now cooled to 110 degrees F (43 degrees C), undisturbed so as not to start crystallization early, then beaten or agitated to encourage the production of the small, fine sugar crystals we are after. If glucose has been added to the mixture, the beating time will be prolonged. The texture of fudges and fondants improves upon sitting, the slight graininess being replaced with the very smooth texture we associate with a quality product. While still warm, the mixture can be kneaded into a pliable consistency in order to produce shapes that can then be dipped in chocolate. Kneading will also allow you to save a batch if it hardens in the pan before you have a chance to turn it out. Kneading produces a creamy texture in a shorter period of time than simply allowing it to sit. Pecan Fudge 2 cups brown sugar 1 cup white sugar 1 1/2 cups cream (while I used whipping cream, you can substitute evaporated milk or half and half with excellent results) 2 tbsp glucose (white corn syrup) 1/2 cup salted butter 2 tsp quality vanilla extract 2 cups pecans Prepare a loaf pan by lining with plastic wrap, or line an 8 x 8-inch pan with plastic. Roast the pecans, either for a couple of minutes in the microwave or in the oven, until warm and fragrant. Chop coarsely. Place sugars with cream, butter and glucose in a 4- to 6-quart pan. Bring to a boil, stir down any crystals on the side of the pan. You may need to put the lid on for a minute or two to dissolve any crystals. Cook to 234 F (112 C). Remove from heat, leaving thermometer in place and let sit undisturbed until it reaches 110 F (43 C). Add vanilla and begin beating. When mixture starts to thicken stir in pecans and continue to beat until mixture loses its gloss. Pour out into prepared pan. Let sit overnight before cutting (if you can wait that long). Ingredients ready to go. Loaf pan lined with plastic wrap. Nuts roasted and chopped coarsely. Sugars, cream, glucose and butter in 4 to 6 quart pan. Bring to a boil, dissolve all sugar crystals, stir frequently, until reaching 234 F (112 C). Take off the heat, let sit undisturbed until cools to 110 F (43 C). Once cool, add vanilla. Start beating. Alternately you could pour the syrup out on a marble slab and agitate with a scraper. Watch for the syrup starting to thicken. When it starts to thicken, add the pecans. Once pecans added, continue to beat. Watch for the fudge starting to lose its gloss. You can take a small amount of syrup out to test occasionally. On right, notice how the syrup is holding its shape, indicating crystallization. Fudge ready to be poured out into prepared pan. Let sit in pan until firms up, preferably overnight to fully crystallize and become smoother. Cut into slices for serving. For a printable version of this recipe for fudge, click here for the RecipeGullet entry. Please post your questions here in the Confectionery 101 Q&A.
  6. CLASS 2: NOUGAT Nougat is the base for a large variety of familiar confections. Mixed with nuts or dried fruits it forms traditional European treats such as the French nougat Montelimar, Italian Torrone and Spanish Turron. Many North American chocolate bars contain a form of nougat as the base, bars such as Snickers, Milky Way, Three Musketeers and Mars. Cherry-laced nougat is the biggest component of that ubiquitous American treat, the Stuckey's Pecan Log. Nougat is essentially a combination of marshmallow and high-temperature boiled syrup. Egg white serves as the frappe and the syrup is made from sugar, glucose and often an invert sugar in a form such as honey. A sufficient amount of 'hard vegetable butter' such as cocoa butter is added to facilitate cutting the batch. To make marshmallow, egg white frappe is mixed with syrup cooked to about 260 F, whereas for nougat the syrup is cooked to about 290 F, then the mass is weighted to compact it. Additional heat may be required to help solidify the mass. The chewiness of the nougat is controlled by the percentage of non-crystallizing sugars, doctors such as glucose, invert sugar or honey. A syrup made without any doctor would give a very crumbly nougat. The more slowly the syrup is cooked, the more inversion that takes place and the chewier the product. Nougat eventually grains, after an overnight sit. When making a syrup with honey, the honey is heated separately and added after a certain temperature is reached in order to minimize the flavour change brought about by overheating. Honey is added to initiate granulation and for flavour. Glucose extends the shelf life. The fat added to the nougat must not be too warm, nor mixed in too thoroughly, or it will cause loss of volume. (When making French nougat, for instance, if you add the cocoa butter to the toasted nuts while still warm as shown in this picture, you will not cause the collapse of the mixture. That was a hint picked up in an older post by fellow eGullet member Drewman.) Certain nougat, such as nougat Montelimar, is traditionally pressed between two sheets of 'rice paper,' an edible product made from gelatin which prevents the nougat from sticking and facilitates cutting. In this class we are going to make nougat with peanut butter as a centre for homemade Snickers Bars. Nougat for Homemade Snickers Bars 400 grams sugar 150 grams glucose (white corn syrup) 125 grams water pinch salt 60 grams egg whites 125 grams peanut butter Prepare your caramel rulers by oiling them lightly and placing over rice paper on a piece of parchment or Silpat. You may also use an oiled frame, or an 8x8-inch pan. The rice paper makes this recipe easier to work with; however, it is not absolutely necessary if things are oiled well enough as this is not as sticky a nougat as some. Place sugar, glucose and water in 4-quart pot and bring to a boil. Place thermometer in syrup. Start egg whites beating with a pinch of salt in the bowl. Egg whites need to be stiff by the time the syrup reaches 270 F (132 C). Pour syrup slowly down the side of the bowl while beating on the fastest mixer speed. Beat until mixtures cools slightly and becomes doughy. Mix in peanut butter by hand and place in prepared surface. Ingredients ready to go. One option for preparing pan, rice paper lining a cake pan. A second option, caramel rulers on rice paper. Oiled parchment is an option for this recipe. Mix sugar, water and glucose. Bring to a boil and cook to 270 F (132C). Whip egg whites with pinch of salt so they are forming stiff peaks when syrup reaches temperature. Carefully pour hot syrup along the side of the bowl into the whites. Continue to beat mixture. Beat until the mixture cools slightly and becomes a bit doughy. Just barely mix in peanut butter by hand. If you mix too much this mixture will get too crumbly. Press mixture into rulers, frame or pan. Make a half batch of caramel, add some peanuts, pour over top of nougat, and let sit overnight. Run knife around pan and turn out onto cutting board. Peel off parchment; rice paper may be left on. Cut the nougat and caramel layers into strips, and then small bars. Nougat and caramel mixture, cut into bars, dipped in milk chocolate. Faux Snickers! For an easily printed version of the recipe for this peanut butter nougat, please click here for the RecipeGullet entry. Finally, for another nougat recipe, have a look here for pictures of almond pistachio nougat and here for the recipe in RecipeGullet. Please post your questions here in the Confectionery 101 Q&A.
  7. The member-supported eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters is pleased to present the first class in the eGCI course Confectionery 101. To help make this course and others possible, please take a moment, if you have not already, to upgrade to a Society Donor membership. If you are not yet a member, please first join the eGullet Society. CLASS 1: CARAMEL Caramel is a soft, chewy confection made by boiling together milk, sugar, glucose and fat. The sugar in chewy caramel is not in a crystallized form. The texture of caramel is determined by the amount of milk solids and the type of fat. The quality is determined by the use of superior ingredients such as pure butter and cream. The flavour is determined by the type of sugar used and additional ingredients. The mellow flavour and colour of caramel result from the Maillard reaction between milk protein and the reducing sugar lactose. Lactose caramelizes at a lower temperature than other sugars, so at the firm ball stage to which we bring caramel, lactose will be the primary sugar caramelized. A long slow cooking will give a softer, mellower toffee. The principal cause of toughness and lack of flavour in caramel are high temperatures and inferior materials. A high percentage of glucose is used in caramel to keep the crystallization of sucrose in check. Honey, which contains a large percentage of invert sugar, also interferes with crystallization and contributes its own unique flavour. Fat also interferes with sugar crystallization. White sugar produces a firmer caramel than brown sugar. Toughness in caramel is different from firmness and depends on the amount and type of glucose used. Fat is also necessary in chewy caramel to prevent it from sticking to the teeth, known as 'stickjaw' in the industry. The choice of fat contributes to flavour, with salted butter producing a quality product. Chewy caramel is cooked to the firm ball stage, 244 to 250 F (118 to 121 C). Stirring is essential in caramel making, to prevent overcaramelization of the milk components and to emulsify the fats. When it reaches the correct temperature, the caramel can be poured out onto oiled marble or Silpat between caramel bars or a metal frame, or into an oiled metal pan. The caramel should not be scraped from the bottom of the pan when pouring it out. The pan scrapings contain bits of candy that are cooked to a higher temperature and these will be detected as hard bits in the batch. The batch should sit 12 to 24 hours before cutting. If the cut caramel is not to be dipped in chocolate, it must be wrapped in waxed paper or cello squares to prevent it's spreading. Chewy caramel can be used in a variety of treats, such as turtles, pecan rolls and the centres of chocolate bars. Chewy Caramel This is a lovely rich chewy caramel. The recipe is adapted from Chocolats et Confiserie L'ecole Lenotre Volume 2. 375 grams sugar 300 grams glucose (white corn syrup) 75 grams water 50 grams salted butter 50 grams honey 500 grams heavy cream 2 tsp. quality vanilla extract Start by weighing out the sugar, glucose and water into a large heavy pot. You will need a pot of at least 6 quarts in order to avoid boilovers. I use an 8-quart All-Clad stockpot. Weigh out the butter and honey, and have it ready to add when required. The heavy cream will require heating before it is added to the other ingredients, so place it in a small saucepan or 4-cup glass measure to heat in the microwave. Start the sugar, glucose and water heating over medium heat until all sugar is dissolved. You may find it helpful to put a lid on the pot for a minute or so to make sure that the steam that forms dissolves any sugar crystals that remain on the sides of the pot. Now clip on a candy thermometer or place your digital thermometer in the syrup. You are going to heat this syrup to 145 degree C (293 F). While the syrup is cooking, heat the cream until you see small bubbles forming on the surface. Keep warm while syrup reaches temperature. When the syrup reaches temperature, add the honey and butter. Now add the warm cream in 3 or 4 aliquots. Be careful while doing this: it will bubble up and has the potential to cause very nasty burns. You will realize at this point why you need such a large pot. The temperature will drop significantly at this point. We now need to cook the caramel to 121 degrees C (250 F). Stir frequently. You will notice the colour start to develop as the lactose caramelization occurs. Once it has reached the final temperature, take it off the heat, wait until any boiling stops, and then add the vanilla. Pour the caramel out either into a steel frame or caramel rulers placed on oiled marble or a silicone sheet or into an oiled metal pan. Don't scrape the pot. For this sized batch I would make the rulers approximately 8 by 8 inches, or pour into an 8-inch metal pan. The metal frame that I have measures 14 by 4 1/2 inches, and this batch fits nicely into it. Let sit overnight before cutting. Ingredients ready to go Honey and butter weighed out and waiting to be added when sugar reaches 145 C. Cream warmed and ready to be added carefully to hot sugar syrup. Caramel rulers placed on silpat, in anticipation of finished caramel. You could use a frame or oiled metal pan. Place the sugar, glucose and water in large heavy pan and place on heat. Bring to a boil, make sure no sugar crystals remain on sides of pan. Bring to 145 C. Add butter and honey. Add hot cream in 3 or 4 aliquots, being careful as it will bubble up. The cream will bring the temperature of the mixture down to about 107 C. Remember to stir every minute or so. At about 110 degrees C, this has taken about 7 minutes. After about 12 minutes, now at 115 degrees C, notice the colour change and how much bigger the bubbles have become. After about 15 or more minutes, the caramel reaches 121 degrees C. After the bubbles die down, add the vanilla extract. Caramel poured into the rulers. After an overnight sit, the caramel is removed from the rulers. Caramel being cut on a flexible cutting board. Make sure the caramel doesn't stick to your board. Pieces cut for wrapping in cello. Caramel placed on a piece of cello. Ends of cello require twisting or a touch with a hot glue gun. Pieces suitable for dipping in chocolate (or just for eating right away). Future turtles, and in the right lower corner a social tea biscuit covered with caramel - Twix like perfection. For an easily printed version of the recipe for this caramel, please click here for the RecipeGullet entry. Please post your questions in the Confectionery 101 Q&A.
  8. Please note that a food scale will be necessary for the recipes in these classes. We apologize for the omission from the list of equipment in the course introduction.
  9. CONFECTIONERY 101 by Kerry Beal This course will begin next week on Sept. 5. Please read through the introduction for information on equipment and ingredients. The Instructor Kerry Beal, The Chocolate Doctor, started making candy in childhood, learning how to make fudge from her mother and pull taffy from her grandmother. (Because she had the patience of a gnat, she had trouble waiting for her fudge, so it tended to be grainy. She's gotten better.) Her interest in candy revived as an adult, and she started working with chocolate about ten years ago after purchasing a small tempering machine while on holiday in San Francisco. That started her journey into all things chocolate. Kerry is the author of the Chocolate Doctor series of educational DVDs, which cover the basic techniques for working with chocolate. She plans to make at least two other DVDs in the series to cover airbrushing with chocolate and pan coating with chocolate. She teaches courses in chocolate techniques, caramel making and confectionery. Although she has no plans to open a chocolate or candy shop, Kerry loves to develop new recipes and enjoys reverse engineering what she tastes. Friends bring her treats from around the world with instructions to 'copy it for me. She supports her passion for all things in the kitchen with her day job as a family physician, so she truly is the Chocolate Doctor. The Series: Confectionery 101 The subjects we will cover in this course are: 1. Caramel 2. Nougat 3. Fudge/Fondant 4. Pull Taffy The art of confectionery is all about the control of crystallization: the crystallization of sugar in sweets and the crystallization of cocoa butter in chocolate. Caramel, toffee and butterscotch are all candies with a non-crystalline structure, the differences in texture being determined by the temperature to which the batch is taken. For caramel and related candy, sugar is dissolved and large amounts of glucose are added to retard crystallization. Very little stirring takes place, again to discourage crystallization. Producing nougat and divinity also involves the retardation of sugar crystallization. A combination of boiled sugar and glucose with a frappe of egg albumin gives them their characteristic texture. The density and chewiness is determined by the proportions of sugar to glucose and the temperature to which the sugar solution is cooked. Fudge or fondant is made by boiling sugar with a liquid to first completely dissolve the sugar, then cooling to the ideal temperature before beating to encourage the formation of crystals of the desired size. It is the very fine crystals that we produce under these conditions that give fudge or fondant its creamy texture on the tongue. Pull taffy is sugar syrup cooked to a soft crack stage then allowed to cool just until it can be handled. It is then pulled until it lightens in colour and the crystals form a series of parallel ridges, providing its characteristic texture. Required supplies Note: Much of the equipment and ingredients will be used in all four classes. Class 1: Caramel Equipment Heavy pot 6 quarts or larger Candy or digital thermometer Silicone spatula or wooden or bamboo spoon Caramel rulers or pastry frame or metal baking pan Parchment paper or Silpat or oiled marble slab Chef’s knife or pizza cutter or guitar cutter (if you are so blessed) Ingredients Sugar Glucose (white corn syrup) Butter Honey Heavy cream Vanilla Class 2: Nougat Equipment Small heavy pot Candy or digital thermometer Stand mixer Caramel rulers or pastry frame or 8 x 8 inch metal pan Chefs knife or pizza cutter Ingredients Sugar Glucose (white corn syrup) Egg whites Peanut butter Class 3: Fudge Equipment Heavy 4-quart pot Candy or digital thermometer Wooden or bamboo spoon or silicone spatula Marble or granite slab (optional) Scraper if using slab to agitate Ingredients Sugar, white and brown Glucose (white corn syrup) Butter Milk or cream Vanilla Pecans Class 4: Pull Candy Equipment Heavy 4 quart or larger pot Candy or digital thermometer Marble or granite slab or large platter or flat pan Two strong arms or taffy hook Scissors Ingredients Sugar Glucose (white corn syrup) Vinegar Peppermint oil (optional) I hope these classes will encourage you to follow along and try some new techniques. I don't pretend to know everything about confectionery although I learn a lot every time I teach. I look forward to everyone's input, tips and techniques and trouble-shooting ideas. Together we will be able to answer questions, make suggestions and encourage successful confectionery. So get out your heaviest pots, your silicone spatulas, and your candy thermometers, and let's make some candy. Note from the eGCI team: A food scale is also necessary for these classes. Please post your questions and comment on the class here, in the Q&A.
  10. Please post your questions and comments about the Confectionery 101 Course here.
  11. HOW TO DINE: GETTING THE MOST FROM RESTAURANTS The instructor Steven A. Shaw is the executive director and co-founder of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a James Beard Award-winning food critic, and a contributor to Elle, Saveur, and many other magazines and journals. His book, Turning the Tables: The Insider’s Guide to Eating Out, is the definitive guide for novices and pros alike to getting the best a restaurant has to offer, starting with those all-important, impossible-to-get reservations. (The paperback version was released August 1.) Named by Food & Wine magazine as one of the thirty-five most fearsome young talents in food, he is insightful, irreverent, and often controversial. HOW TO DINE Introduction When people ask me what I do, and if I’m inclined to say anything beyond "I'm unemployed," I tell them I’m a food writer. The first thing they say (after "Really? I've never heard of you.") is usually something along the lines of, "Oh, you’re a restaurant reviewer." Most food writers are not restaurant reviewers, just as most lawyers never set foot in a courtroom -- we’re talking like 90+ percent. But restaurant reviewing occupies the public consciousness about food writing, just as courtrooms occupy the public consciousness about the practice of law. Never mind that there are a thousand cookbooks on the bookstore shelves for every one book of restaurant reviews, that the major food magazines today publish virtually no restaurant reviews and that a newspaper food section with ten contributing writers might have one restaurant reviewer. Restaurant reviews are in the limelight. I used to be a restaurant reviewer. It's a great job: you eat a tremendous amount of food at the best restaurants, and once in awhile you write something about it. It doesn’t pay very well, but you eat like a billionaire. I wrote several hundred restaurant reviews over a period of years. But over time I grew weary of the monotony of the form. There's plenty you can try to do to keep your reviews interesting for yourself and for your readers, but in the end you're always writing the same thing: a summary of food, decor, service, maybe something about the chef, and the occasional witty observation. Restaurant reviews have a more fundamental deficiency, though: restaurant reviews tell you where to eat, but they don’t tell you how to dine. Moreover, most restaurant reviewers are obsessed with the experience of the average customer – they use assumed names, vigorously guard their identities and even wear disguises – but all of that misses the point: you don’t have to be the average customer. In any given restaurant on any given day, some people are having better meal experiences than others. The valuable information isn’t "What restaurant gives a good experience to the average customer?" but is, rather, "How do I get the best experience at every restaurant?" After all, the average meal at the best restaurant in town probably isn't going to be as good as the best meal at a good but not top-ranked restaurant. Most of us know at least one person who has great restaurant karma. You know, the person who always picks the right place, always orders the right thing and has a great rapport with waitstaff. Restaurant karma, however, is not some mystical force that some are predestined to control while others are out of luck. It's certainly the case that some folks are great intuitive diners, but most of us have to learn. It was with that in mind that, a few years back, I started writing a series of articles targeted at young professionals (they were published in New York Lawyer magazine) with the theme "Guerilla Dining Tactics." The response was tremendous -- a lot of people were really grateful for the advice -- so eventually I set out to write a book that, at the time, had a working title of How to Dine. Through several proposals and draft manuscripts the concept developed into the book Turning the Tables: The Insider’s Guide to Eating Out, which was published last year by HarperCollins and has now just been released in paperback. If you’d like to read some excerpts from the book, there were five published in the Daily Gullet last year (additional excerpts are included as part of this presentation). Ever since Turning the Tables came out, I’ve been speaking to audiences -- both in-person (at the 92nd Street Y, the Smithsonian, various culinary schools and bookstores) and via different forms of broadcast media (television, radio call-in shows, live online chat) -- and have learned a bit more about people's expectations when they dine out. A year later, the good people at the eGCI suggested it might be fun to do a "How to Dine" presentation and discussion, drawing on some of that post-publication experience. Before I go on to some basic advice for getting the most out of restaurant dining, let me try to clear up a few common misconceptions that I’ve encountered on the road: First, knowing how to get the most out of the dining experience is not some rarified skill that's useful only in super-expensive, fine-dining restaurants. You can take control of your dining experience at all restaurants above the level of McDonald's. Restaurants are all fundamentally members of the same species. The differences between the corner diner and the four-star temple of haute cuisine mostly have to do with scale, style, training; in other words, they aren't different species -- the difference is the equivalent of a gene here and there. You also don’t have to live in New York or San Francisco. Restaurants may be better or worse according to geography, but they're still restaurants. During the years I spent doing the research for Turning the Tables, I spent time in restaurants from New York to Vancouver, and at every level from highly regarded fancy places to pizzerias, hot dog stands and barbecue joints. The similarities by far outweigh the differences. Indeed, some of the most rewarding special dining experiences I've had have been not at fine-dining restaurants but at smaller, family-run, casual places. Second, you have to be willing to expend some effort. People often bristle when confronted with the reality that they have to work in order to get a good meal. They want to be served. But it doesn't work that way. Just as with any kind of human relationship from a marriage to a business partnership, you get more out of dining when you put more into it. It's like when you decide to buy a new TV. You have two choices: walk in to the store and buy whatever the salesperson convinces you to buy (or, in the case of a low-service store like Costco, pick something at random), or take control of the situation by doing some research: go to Consumer Reports online, read product reviews on CNet, check message boards and Amazon feedback, compare prices. You'd put an hour into it, wouldn't you? Well, guess what? Dinner for two at the top restaurants in the Western industrialized nations now costs as much as a new TV. And the value of participation remains high once you get to the restaurant. If you want to get the best possible meal out of a restaurant, you've only got two choices: resent being an active participant in your dining experience, or learn to enjoy it. Either way, don't blame me. I didn't create the system; I'm just trying to help folks get the most out of it. Third, don't expect any earth-shattering revelations here. Good restaurant karma lies at the confluence of many small, unremarkable actions. A good example is when I advise restaurant consumers to say "please" and "thank you" -- in other words, to be polite to waitstaff. Plenty of people have responded, "I had to buy your stupid book/come to your stupid talk/read your stupid eGCI presentation for such trivial advice?" Yet, being kind to waitstaff is one of the most powerful tools in the successful customer's toolkit. After all, the tip doesn't come until after the meal. Kindness is immediate. If it's genuine, that's even better. Finally, accept that sometimes you're going to have bad restaurant experiences. Even though I'm arguably the world's leading (only?) authority on getting the most out of restaurant dining, I just had a really crummy restaurant misadventure the other day. We were in (on?) Cape Cod and went to one of those places that does three months of seasonal business a year, utilizing mostly untrained college students for waitstaff, and doesn't take reservations. We did everything wrong. We were herding several kids and the time got away from us, so we finally showed up with seven people at 6:30pm. We believed them when they said it would be a 20-minute wait, and when we'd waited 40 minutes we believed them when they said it would only be 20 minutes more. We tried to complain and were verbally abused by a snotty college kid. The kids were freaking out. Once seated, service was slow. They put olives in a vodka gimlet. You get the idea. It happens. But with a little effort, you can make that sort of experience a once-a-year war story rather than a chronic condition of dining out. The way I'd like to run this eGCI class is as a dialog. I'll start by making a short presentation, based largely on material from Turning the Tables. But then I’d like to hear from all of you: please feel free to share not only your questions but also your advice and experiences in terms of how to get more out of dining out. The dialog we'll be having here is not, however, the same as the open multi-directional conversations we have on regular eG Forums topics. So, please don't address other members' remarks and questions; if you disagree with something I say feel free to mention it, but just once; and if you feel the need to have a discussion that doesn't fit with the structure of this class, please feel free to start an eG Forums topic at the conclusion of the class discussion period (Friday). Reservations Let's start with reservations. People are continuously asking me "How do I get in to popular restaurants?" Really, it's not that hard. You just need to understand a few things about how restaurants handle their bookings. Every night at a popular restaurant is like an overbooked airline flight. And restaurants, like airlines, operate on razor-thin profit margins; a couple of empty seats can mean the difference between profit and loss for the evening. Most restaurants that accept reservations therefore overbook their dining rooms, because they know that a certain percentage of the reservations will either cancel late in the game or be no-shows at the moment of truth. And in the end, after all the cancellations and no-shows have been tallied, there is almost always an empty table. Your mission, should you choose to accept it? Get that empty table. Whether you really want or need that table is, however, an open question. Too many people, I think, place too much emphasis on visiting restaurants that are new, hot, staffed by a celebrity chef, featured on Food TV, or otherwise in demand, rather than restaurants that are simply good. Although my work as a food writer often requires that I visit hard-to-book restaurants -- and thus I’ve become extremely facile when it comes to getting in -- when spending my own money I prefer to go to restaurants that are tried and true. Should you wish to get into an in-demand restaurant, however, the first step is to acquire a basic understanding of restaurant demographics, which includes a good working knowledge of local news, weather, and even sports. The most painless way to get a reservation is to take a cue from the judo masters: never fight strength with strength. Instead, be a contrarian. If the restaurant does mostly dinner business, go for lunch (the food will be the same, and often cheaper). If it serves a mostly pre-theater crowd, go at 8 P.M. If it’s a business-oriented place, go on the weekend. Even the most popular restaurants tend to be empty during blizzards, the Superbowl, and Monica Lewinsky’s Barbara Walters interview. But sometimes you don't want to eat at 5:30 P.M. on a Tuesday, or in a snowstorm. What then? The lesson I've learned from observing and interacting with scores of reservationists (yes, it's a word) over the years is that, when attempting to secure a reservation for the busiest times, the key is polite but confident persistence. Remember the pathetic guy in high school who asked every girl out on a date and never gave up in the face of repeated rejection? Remember your astonishment at his lack of self-respect? Remember how, one day, he scored? When it comes to reservations, you want to be like that guy. It's that careful balance between genuine enthusiasm, flattery, and exhaustion that makes extra seats magically open up. Most people, when told a restaurant is "fully committed," will give up. But if you're fully committed to getting a reservation, the first phone call is only the beginning. Everybody wants to be wanted, so you need to communicate your desire to the reservationist, sometimes repeatedly. Let that person know you care enough about dining at the restaurant that you're not going to give up until you get a table -- maybe not at that time or even on that day, but you're going to get one. If your first attempt is rejected, start asking questions. Is there a waiting list? When does the restaurant require confirmations? When does the restaurant get most of its cancellations? (Usually right around the time confirmations are required, and also during the afternoon the day of.) What are the reservationist's hopes, dreams, and favorite kind of dog? There are few restaurants in the world where you won't be able to get in by using the aforementioned techniques. Still, every good strategy must have several contingency plans, and in some extreme cases -- such as at the most popular places in large cities on weekend nights -- you may very well fail at getting an advance reservation. But hope is not lost. Given how many people cancel their reservations at the last minute or fail to confirm them, an ironic situation arises: it's often easier to get a reservation the day of than it is to get one a month in advance. So find out from the reservationist when the restaurant requires confirmations, and call one minute after the deadline. Ask when the bulk of day-of cancellations typically come in -- depending on the restaurant this could be anywhere from noon to right before the dinner service -- and call around that time. And make sure the reservationist remembers that you're the nice couple from Arizona, or the woman who just loves the chef's sweetbreads, or in my case the guy with the English bulldog named Momo. Even if you can't get a last-minute reservation, if you simply must dine at a particular restaurant I recommend you just show up. Once you're on the inside, don't give up until the last cook goes home for the night. It is almost inconceivable that a neatly dressed, polite potential customer, sitting at a restaurant's bar and exhibiting a willingness to wait and a desire to experience and pay for a restaurant's cuisine, will not eventually be given a table. So far I have never failed with this strategy, though I’ve endured some long evenings. (Those long evenings are great times to collect gossip from bartenders, though.) In the door Getting into a restaurant is nice, and for many consumers it's victory enough, but it's only the beginning. It's what happens to you in the restaurant that really counts. Most every restaurant is really two: the one the public eats at, and the one where the regulars dine. Being a regular affects every aspect of the dining experience, from getting that tough-to-book table on a busy Saturday night, to getting the waitstaff's best service, to getting special off-menu dishes and off-list wines. The best restaurant isn't the one with the highest Zagat rating, the most stars from the local paper, or that cute celebrity chef. It's the one where you’re a regular. This news can be discouraging to some, but it needn't be to you: by being a proactive and knowledgeable customer, you can start getting treated like a regular on your very first visit. A special relationship with a restaurant is one of life's great pleasures, and such a relationship can be far easier and quicker to establish than many people think. You don't need to be wealthy, a celebrity, or great-looking to be a regular. I’m none of the three, and I do pretty well in restaurants. And while you can't exactly become a regular in a single visit, you can make a lot of progress in that direction. The benefits of being a regular will, of course, increase with each visit to a restaurant. Although each individual meal at a top restaurant should be excellent, most seasoned veteran diners take the long view. To them, eating a first meal at a restaurant is like a first date: it's a preview that helps you decide if you're going to want a second date. Most every restaurant, like every dating partner, keeps a little something in reserve for subsequent encounters. The first meal won't expose you to the full range of an establishment's capabilities, but it will give you a taste. On the later visits, things can get even more interesting. But you can't make those repeat visits if you're constantly eating at the latest trendy place. Becoming a regular requires focus, whereas the relentless pursuit of the new and the different cuts directly against depth of enjoyment at just a few well-chosen places. There are more than six thousand restaurants in Chicago, and New York has something in the neighborhood of twenty-thousand; given how many close and open each week, any large city has too many to visit in a lifetime. Since you'll never visit them all, don't try. Instead, zero in on a handful of restaurants to satisfy your various dining needs -- the special-occasion place, the business-lunch place, the neighborhood place where you go for a quick bite -- and cultivate the heck out of your relationship with the staff at each one. You'll soon find you don't often get the urge to eat anywhere else, and that new restaurants have to fight to get onto your schedule instead of vice versa. Before and during your first visit, do a little research. Every level of restaurant in every city has both an official and an unofficial dress code. The official dress code tells you the minimum ("no jeans, no sneakers" or "jackets required for gentlemen"), but what you want to know is the unofficial code: what are people really going to be wearing? The way to find out is to call ahead and ask. Other questions -- there are no stupid ones -- should be asked on the spot, while dining. Those in the service profession usually love to share their knowledge with newcomers to their restaurant or to fine dining in general. Whether you want to know what a funny-shaped utensil is for or what the best dish on the menu is, just look your server in the eye and ask, "Can you tell me about this?" The first time my wife (then-girlfriend) and I dined at Bouley in New York City, we didn’t know what a sauce spoon was. When we asked, the waiter took us under his wing -- and that's exactly where you want to be. Most good restaurants' waitstaffs will recognize you after two or three visits (and certainly the restaurant's reservations computer will, assuming you use the same name and phone number each time). In that sense, anybody who visits a restaurant often enough eventually becomes a regular by default. But there are levels of regulars, and if you're going to visit the restaurant anyway, you may as well attain the highest, super-VIP level by being proactive. Learn the name of your waiter and the maitre d' or manager, and, more importantly, make certain they learn yours. The easiest way to accomplish this: "I really enjoyed my meal today. My name is Steven Shaw." If you aren’t answered with, "Thank you, Mr. Shaw, my name is François, please let me know if there’s anything I can do for you in the future," then there’s something wrong with you, or with the restaurant. (Of course you should use your name, not mine. There are still a few places out there that are annoyed with me for giving them bad reviews.) A restaurant is a business, but a relationship with a restaurant is not just about money. Especially when dealing with waitstaff, the human element can often eclipse financial concerns. Sure, money is important to people in the restaurant business, just as it's important to lawyers. But like the law, the restaurant business is a service business, and all lawyers know that there are good clients and bad clients, and that you can have bad billionaire clients and great penniless clients. When cultivating a relationship with a restaurant's service staff, being nice often counts at least as much as callously throwing money around. The use of "please" and "thank you," and general acknowledgment of your waiter as a fellow human being, will immeasurably improve your stock. And there's something that counts as much as or more than being nice: being interested. Any chef or waiter can tell you how disheartening it is to work so hard to create the best possible food and service experience, and then to dish it out to a mostly uncaring clientele that chose the restaurant for the scene, not the food. If you can distinguish yourself as someone who really cares about the restaurant's work, you will be everybody's favorite customer. The quickest approach? Again, ask questions, which indicates interest. Interest is one of the highest compliments you can pay. Of course, if you do choose to distribute a little extra cash, a twenty-dollar bill and a discreet "thank you" never hurts. Do not, however, make the egregious mistake of faking it. Don't try to be someone you're not in order to impress a restaurant's staff. Aside from being undignified, this is doomed to failure. Every experienced waiter is a part-time amateur psychoanalyst and can spot a poseur clear across a crowded dining room. It's not necessary to try to appear learned about wine and food, or to appear absurdly enthusiastic. You'll get a lot further by deferring to the staff's expertise than you will by showing off your own. You may learn something, too. The meal Choosing and ordering food and, especially, wine is another area of dining out that many find troublesome. Today there are places where you're presented with so much paperwork you'd be forgiven for thinking you're at a real estate closing. There may be a regular dinner menu, a preset chef's multi-course tasting menu or two, a specials list either spoken or written, a wine list, a dessert menu, and perhaps even a dessert wine and liqueur list. How is one to make sense of all these documents? There's no way to become a food or wine expert overnight, or even in a year. But you don't need expertise. All you need is enough confidence to ask questions. The rest is up to the restaurant. In hiring staff, training them, and holding staff meetings every day, a top restaurant has taken on the burden of providing expertise. If you provide an opening by asking a question, any good restaurant's staff should be more than happy to share that expertise with you. One of the most basic lines of inquiry, which can lead to a highly productive dialogue, is asking servers what their favorite dishes are, and what dishes the chef considers specialties of the house. While your tastes may vary from the norm, and while you shouldn't order bass if you hate bass, the recommendations of waitstaff at good restaurants are valuable indicators of what the chef, staff, and customers tend to enjoy. And you'll get even more out of asking questions if you can be as specific as possible. "I love bitter chocolate; which dessert would you recommend?" is better than just "Which dessert would you recommend?" One of the most daunting parts of ordering, especially for those who are new to fine dining but even for many seasoned veterans, is the selection of wine. A significant restaurant with an ambitious wine program might have more than a thousand wine choices on its list. Even a casual brasserie or bistro is likely to have more choices than you could possibly read through without freezing out everybody else at your table and winning yourself a "wine geek" label or worse. In better restaurants, then, it always pays to seek assistance from the sommelier, or wine steward. The sommelier's role is to know the restaurant's wine and food offerings better than any customer possibly could. Even other professional sommeliers seek the advice of the sommelier when dining out. A sommelier will most likely make a sensible wine recommendation, provided you participate in the decision. Your part of the bargain, then, is to make your needs and preferences known. If you haven't yet ordered, you’ll benefit from telling the sommelier what you plan to eat. Any preferences you can articulate, from the most basic "I like my wines on the sweeter side" to more technical statements of regional and stylistic preference, will help the sommelier narrow the field. Most importantly, there is the matter of price. Once you've decided how much your budget is for a bottle of wine, the best way to communicate this to the sommelier is to point to any bottle on the list at your comfortable price and say, "Something in this range, please." The wine service ritual is romantic and entertaining, but it's mostly pragmatic. The main goal is to determine whether or not the wine is "corked." It’s a reality of the wine world that as many as one in ten bottles will be corked, meaning they will be tainted by a foul-smelling and -tasting mold that grows in corks. (It has nothing to do, as some mistakenly think, with bits of cork in the bottle, which would be harmless.) To me and many others, it smells like feet. If your nose detects such an off aroma when you smell or taste the wine the sommelier or server has poured, send the bottle back. If you're not sure, ask the sommelier for confirmation -- restaurants usually get credit from their distributors for corked bottles, so they tend not to mind taking them back, and even if they did mind, it wouldn't be your problem. The wine service ritual is not, however, intended for you to see if you like the wine. If the wine is damaged, send it back. If it's simply not the exact wine you wished you'd ordered, mention this to the sommelier, but be prepared to drink it and chalk it up to experience unless the sommelier offers a replacement (it may happen). It's not always necessary to order bottles of wine, however. Sometimes, if you’re a couple and don’t drink very much, or you're ordering very different dishes, you may want to inquire about wines by the glass, or at some restaurant, by the quartino (a 250 ml mini-carafe that's enough for two small glasses) or half-bottle (375 ml). Plenty of restaurants, unfortunately, don’t have a sommelier or even any server or manager who knows much about wine. This is your cue that you shouldn't be spending much money on wine at the restaurant. Instead, order something inexpensive and safe, if anything at all. Know the names of a few of the major producers of reliable red and white wines -- information you can get by reading a couple of issues of Wine Spectator (which includes a pullout reference card with every issue) or surfing the web -- for such contingencies. Or do without, and use the money for a better bottle of wine later on, at a better restaurant. Under no circumstances, however, should you ever feel compelled to order wine in any restaurant. Aside from whatever fixed price menu or per-customer minimum a restaurant reveals in writing on the menu, everything else is optional. You are entirely within your rights and the scope of appropriate conduct as a customer to drink tap water, order food only, and skip coffee. A server should always ask if you want these things (at most restaurants it's a requirement of the job and servers will get in trouble if they don’t do it), but should never aggressively try to upsell you on anything. If that happens, just smile knowingly and say, "No, thank you." Dealing with Problems Finally, let's spend a few moments on the subject of what to do if something goes wrong in a restaurant. Servers, managers, and chefs are human. They make mistakes, they get distracted, they have personal problems and are besieged by all the other little difficulties of the human condition. Most of the time, though, when their mistakes are pointed out to them, they want to make things right. And if they don't, there's always a manager or an owner above them who will. What a restaurant's staff can't do is read your mind. That's why, if something goes wrong in a restaurant, it's important to speak up. I know many people are uncomfortable speaking up in restaurants, either because they're intimidated by the staff or because they don't want to put on a big scene in front of the other people at the table. Some of us have families that raised us not to complain, but the restaurant context isn't the place to live that way. In restaurants, it's best for everybody if you make your complaint known as soon as you become aware of a problem. If you prefer to complain privately, excuse yourself from the table as though you’re going to the bathroom and pull a manager aside on your way: "I just wanted to let you know that every time I need water refilled I have to search and wave for several minutes to get it. I'm trying to have a celebratory dinner here and this is putting a damper on my evening. Do you think you can help?" At any good restaurant, it is virtually guaranteed that the manager will not only address the issue right away with the service staff, but also will pay extra special attention to your table for the rest of the evening. If not, don't return to the restaurant. Speaking up is fundamental to getting what you want. If you're being shown to a table that you don't like, for example one next to a noisy group or a bathroom entrance, request a different table before you sit down. Even if there are no other available tables, say you'll be willing to wait. A few minutes of awkwardness at the outset is better than a few hours at a table you won't enjoy. If a dish is overcooked or otherwise deficient, send it back and say why. If you feel the pace of your meal is rushed, ask to have it slowed down. If your server or a manager asks "Is everything okay?" and it isn't, don't say it is. Review your bill carefully, because if you notice an error the next day it will be infinitely more difficult to correct. So long as you are civil when voicing reasonable complaints, you are in the right. Writing a follow-up letter of complaint is another way to convey your dissatisfaction, but by then it's too late for the restaurant to fix the problem. I prefer to make complaints immediately, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me, so as to fix the meal before it becomes a bad memory. I reserve follow-up letters for the complaints that weren't fixed, even after being voiced. Conclusion As I said, it's not earthshaking stuff. Mostly, it's a willingness to take charge of your dining experience, instead of letting it happen to you. It's a lot of little things that add up. Join me in the Q&A to discuss more ideas for getting the most out of your restaurant experience. Post your questions and comments for this course here.
  12. Please post your questions and comments about the How to Dine course here.
  13. The member-supported eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters is pleased to present the last class in the eGCI course Homebrewing for the Absolute Beginner. To help make this course and others possible, please take a moment, if you have not already, to upgrade to a Society Donor membership. If you are not yet a member, please first join the eGullet Society. CLASS 5 -- MASHING Preparation and shopping With two brews under your belt, you've learned the essential techniques of extract brewing and using steeped grains to add layers of complexity to your beers. Now that your attention is directed at grains, you’ll see that there are a number of them out there that don’t have the tell-tale "cara" or "crystal" in their names, and some that aren't even barley at all. In light grains (exceptions are dark things like Chocolate malt, Black Patent Malt, Roasted Barley, etc.), that is a sign that tells you that the grain won't give up all the goods if you just steep it in warm water. We could have, for example, gotten more flavor and fermentables out of the Melanoidin malt we used in the Red Ale. Now how do we coax these grains into their most useful form? The answer to that question is the art called mashing. In brewer-speak, "mash" means carefully controlling the temperature and hydration of grain so that enzymes in it convert the starches stored in the grain into sugars, and then washing those sugars away from the grains and into a wort solution. Enzymes are quite particular about the temperatures that they will work at, so to do it right, you need to be able to maintain a degree of thermal stability for the hour or so that the enzymes will need to do their job. The enzymes that convert starches into sugars really start working at about 140F, and stop at about 165F. "Mashing low," which means keeping your grains towards the low end of that temperature range, will result in the most fermentable wort, and a dry beer. "Mashing high" will promote the formation of non-fermentable sugars called dextrins, which add body and mouthfeel, but result in a sweeter beer. You can adjust your mash temperature to suit your personal preferences and your recipe. Now what kind of beer are we going to brew that requires this extra work? Since summer is upon us, let's brew something that will be fairly light, but with a complexity to it that the earlier beers just didn't have. We're going to emphasize the spice flavors that you can generate in a beer. Stylistically, this beer will have a Belgian soul, but in keeping with the Belgian penchant for breaking rules, it won't quite fit anywhere in the classic style definitions, and will be located midway between the witbier style and the saison style. I’m going to call it a Four Grain Saison, since saison is the style that inspired the recipe, though a beer judge would probably tell you that it technically isn't one. However, we're not competing with anything other than our taste buds, so what a judge would say really doesn’t matter. The shopping list For a beer with IBUs in the low 20s, and an original gravity around 1.060 at 2 gallons: 1.5 lbs Belgian Pale Malt, crushed .5 lb flaked wheat .5 lb flaked rye .5 lb Belgian Munich malt, crushed .25 lb flaked oats 1 lb light dry malt extract or wheat dry malt extract .5 lb table sugar 1 oz Styrian Goldings hops 1 oz Hallertauer hops hop socks Zest from 1 orange or 1/2 tsp orange oil Coriander seeds or star anise Crystallized ginger Wyeast #3944 liquid yeast or Wyeast #3724, 3725 or 3726 or White Labs yeast #550 or 565 Priming sugar What you’re buying, and considerations on the options presented to you Pale malt is malted barley that is full of enzymes that convert starch into sugar. It has an overabundance of those enzymes, so it can convert all of its own starch, plus some extra. Flaked wheat is wheat that has been processed such that you can mash it in the presence of the sort of enzymes that the pale malt contains. Wheat adds proteins that make for a thick head on the beer. It also brings a characteristic sharp, almost tart flavor. Flaked rye is rye processed like flaked wheat. It brings a characteristic spicy flavor to the beer. Munich malt brings maltiness and bit of color to the beer; it has enzymes of its own, but less than pale malt. Flaked oats, like instant oatmeal, have been processed to be mashed. Oats contribute a velvety texture to the mouthfeel of your beer, but will make it less clear. A little cloudiness is fine in a saison style. Malt extract. If you like wheat beers, choose to add wheat malt extract to this beer. The recipe would go well wheaty, but would be sort of outside the saison tradition. But who cares (if it tastes good)? The extract (plus the sugar) guarantees a certain amount of fermentables are going into the beer, so your efficiency at achieving starch conversion and capture with the grains is not critical. Table sugar adds fermentables in a traditional Belgian way. Using sugar in brewing is characteristic of the Belgian style, and allows a beer to have higher alcohol content, but a relatively lighter body than if it were all malt. There are old wives tales circulating amongst homebrewers that "adding white sugar will make your beer taste cider-y.". These rumors have been pretty systematically debunked, but they still crop up now and again. Hops. Styrian Goldings and Hallertauer are both moderately low Alpha acid hops that are traditional in Belgian brewing. They come from continental Europe, and are quite restrained in comparison to American style hops in terms of bittering potential, flavoring, and aroma. Orange. Using orange peel has been traditional in some Belgian beers, saisons and wits being a couple of them. Boyajian’s orange oil (often sold at cookware shops) is a fine substitute. If you’re zesting oranges yourself, make sure to avoid the white pith and just get the oily outer part of the rind. I’m partial to Seville orange rind, but they’re out of season now. Next late-winter to early-spring, look for Sevilles and zest 'em. They make for great witbier brewing. Coriander is another spice traditional in saisons and other Belgian beers. It produces citrus-y aroma and flavor, but if overused can seem a little metallic. It should be crushed, (see lesson 2). Star anise is a little out in left field, but not unheard of in Belgian brewing. Provides a hint of an exotic, complex, licorice-y flavor. Only use one star, don’t crush it. Yeast provides the defining essence of a saison. All of the choices will produce a spicy phenolic beer, but how the spice manifests itself will differ with each one. You should be able to find at least one of the listed varieties. Some of these yeasts are somewhat slower at finishing their work than many of the common yeasts. You probably want to cover your fermentor with a lid with an airlock if you’re going to use any but the 3944… the 3944, in my experience, ferments really quickly, but really violently, so make sure to use an overflow pan. Keep your yeast in the fridge when you get it home. Do the Mash First, on the morning of the day you intend to brew, get your yeast out of the fridge. If you're using Wyeast's products, you've got a "smack pack." That is a plastic pouch with another smaller plastic pouch inside it. By holding the outer pack in the palm of one hand and sharply hitting it in the right spot, you should be able to pop the smaller pouch inside the bigger pouch. Doing so will release some yeast nutrients and cause the yeast to make some CO2 which will swell the bigger pouch over time. Remind yourself about sanitation, and mix up some sanitizing solution so that you can wipe down and rinse everything that is going to touch the beer after it is done boiling. Get a plastic picnic cooler with a spigot at the bottom designed to let you drain ice-melt out if it. That will certainly maintain the degree of thermal stability you’ll need to achieve a successful mash. On your shopping list back in the beginning was a big grain bag. Get that out too, and put it inside your cooler. You’ve just created your "mash tun," which is medieval brewing speak for the container in which you'll convert grain's starches into sugars. Put all of the grain into the grain bag inside the cooler. Note that you have 3.25 pounds of grain in there. You want to mash at a temperature of about 150F or a little less, which allows the enzymes that make fermentable sugars to operate at optimal efficiency to make a fairly fermentable wort. We also want to get the water to grain ratio to be about 1.25 quarts per pound. Rather than plowing through a bunch of math, just find an online mash calculator like this one at tastybrew.com, which will happily calculate how hot your gallon of water has to be to get it to your desired temperature. In our case, it says that heating the water to 162F should be enough to bring the whole lot to 150F, if the grain starts out at 75F. So, do what the calculator tells you, and heat up some water. Once your water reaches temperature, pour it into the grain bag in the cooler and then give the grain in there a stir around. Take its temperature to make sure the calculator was right, and then close the cooler and wait for 45 minutes while the starch converts to sugars. If it is too cool, throw in some boiling water until it gets up to 150. If it too warm toss in a few ice cubes and stir them around. While you’re waiting, warm 6 quarts of water up to about 180F. Also, measure .33oz of the Styrian Goldings into a hop sock, and make two hop socks with .25 oz of Hallertauer in them. In one of the Hallertauer socks, add about .25 oz of crushed coriander, a few cubes of crystallized ginger, and the zest of one orange, or whatever spicing combination appeals to you. Once 45 minutes have elapsed, put a heat-proof clear cup under the cooler's spigot, and fill it. Observe this runoff, and if it has grainy bits in it gently pour it back into the cooler. Repeat that step until the runoff is mostly clear of grain pieces. Then put your brew kettle under the spigot and empty everything into it. Let all the liquid run out into your kettle. You may have to move the grain bag some to get all of the liquid out. Don’t squeeze it too much. Close the spigot again, pour in your 6 quarts of 180F water, and give the grain a stir. This step is about rinsing the sugars off the grains that didn’t come along with the first runoff, so let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes so that as much as possible dissolves. Repeat the clarifying step, and once it appears clear, drain everything into your brew kettle. Now you’ve made wort from scratch. Taste it to see how sweet it is. Now add the dry malt extract and sugar, and stir it to incorporate. Top your kettle up to 2.5 gallons (longer boil means more evaporation). Then put your kettle on the stove and heat it up to boiling. Once you hit the boil, add the Styrian Goldings and set your timer for 60 minutes. Then add the Hallertauer sock with just the hops in and set it for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, turn off the heat, fish out the hop socks that are in there, and add the sock of Hallertuer and spices. This longer boil is to help coagulate the proteins that came from the mashing so they will form big clumps and fall out of suspension along with the yeast. Cool your wort down to 75F, transfer it to your fermentation vessel, and add your yeast. By this point, you should probably have invested the ten bucks in a sealable airlocked bucket to ferment in. Let it go for at least 2 weeks. Saison yeasts like to ferment warm, so if you’ve got a garage or other spot that isn’t climate controlled, you want to expose this beer to the full onslaught of summer heat. Purchase a hydrometer from your homebrew shop and take readings after you get to the two-week point, and when the readings are identical for three days in a row, then you're ready to bottle (or eyeball it based on the airlock's activity and the passage of a reasonable amount of time). With this beer, aim for about 1.75 oz of priming sugar for two gallons, and make sure to stir it in evenly. You could, if you wanted to, stretch this beer out past the two gallons it is planned for. If you were to add another pound of extract, quarter pound of sugar, and .25 oz of bittering hops for every extra gallon of water you add to it, it will maintain its character pretty well out to about 5 gallons. Please post your questions about the homebrewing course here.
  14. Click here for the second in the series, on Chicken Soup, and here for the third, Meat Kreplach.
  15. CLASS 4 -- BREW DAY II First, our recipe with the detailed instructions: Rich Red Ale 5 oz Weyermann Melanoidin malt (German) ~30L 5 oz Caravienne (Belgian) L21 5 oz British Crystal Malt 2 lbs Light dry malt extract .5 oz Cascade hops (60 minutes) .25 oz Kent Goldings hops + .25 oz Cascade (10 Minutes) .5 oz Kent Goldings (aroma hops) (optional) .25 oz Kent Goldings hops and/or .25 oz Cascade as dry hops 1 package Danstar Windsor dry yeast Brewing You've gone shopping for the ingredients called for in the last lesson, so now we'll do our prep work to get started. Take out your crushed grain and measure out 5 ounces of each kind. Put it all together into the nylon grain bag. Measure out the bittering hops, .5 oz of Cascade and put them in a hop bag and tie it shut. Now measure out the flavor and aroma hops and do likewise. Keep track of which bag is which since they’ll all weigh the same. We've done this before for the first batch, so it should feel pretty familiar. The only real changes we're going to make are that we'll steep some grain in the water for a while to extract its colors and flavors, then we'll carry on just like before with the extract and the hop bag additions. So, if you've got municipal water with lots of chlorine in it, get 2.25 gallons of it up to a boil for 10 minutes or so. Now we'll depart from the way we did things last time to make room for the grain and its needs. If your water has been pre-boiled, you'll need to cool it down to no more than 170F. Only once the water is below 170 should you throw in your grain bag. Otherwise, astringent tannic compounds from the grain husks will get into your beer. You don't want that to happen. Allow the grain bag to steep in the water for half an hour, then remove it. The water temperature should be between 150 and 170 to maximize the efficiency of the steep. If you didn't pre-boil your water, then simply add the 2.25 gallons of water to your pot, throw in the grain bag, and get it heating up. Use your thermometer to tell you when it has reached 160. When the temperature gets there, keep it there for 20 minutes, then remove the grain bag and continue heating the water up to the boil. Once you reach the boiling point take your pot off the heat, add the 2 pounds of light malt extract, stir to incorporate, and return it to the heat. Wait for it to start to boil, then add the bittering hops bag and set your timer for 50 minutes. When it goes off, add the flavor hops and reset it for 10 minutes. At the end of the 10 minutes, remove the hop bags that are in the boil, add the aroma hops and put the lid on the pot. Cool the pot down to 70-80F. If you're going to ferment in another vessel, sanitize it and then pour the wort in. Beat in some air into the wort with your sanitized whisk, and add your yeast, then cover it with a clean towel, rubber band it in place, and stow the fermentation vessel for two weeks in a dark corner with a stable temperature. Don't forget your overflow pan if your vessel is close to full. After about a week, most of the active fermentation should have occurred, so if you want to try the dry hopping option, this is the time to do it. Just toss the hops in, and they’ll release lots of hop aroma into the beer. Put the covering back in place and let it sit for a week. After it has sat for two weeks, bottle it as we did before. That's it! You're on the way to your second batch. Please post your questions about the homebrewing course here.
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