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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.
  16. Please note that the recipe for red ale in Class 3 has been changed. We inadvertently included an earlier version in the class yesterday; it's now corrected. We apologize for any inconvenience.
  17. CLASS 3 Part I: Bottling your first batch Now that two weeks have gone by since you turned the yeast loose on the extract batch we brewed first, it's time to get that batch bottled. Again, this is a time when sanitation is extremely important. Anything that will come into contact with your beer should be sanitized and rinsed off. This means the siphon hose, the racking cane, the bottle filler, the container you’re going to siphon the beer into, the bottles, their caps, your spoon, and anything else that might come anywhere near your beer needs to meet your bleach solution, and get rinsed off right before you introduce it to your beer. Get a container big enough to hold everything that is in your fermenting vessel sanitized and ready for action. Gently move your fermentor from where you hid it onto a tabletop. Put your other vessel onto a chair beside the table. Attach the racking cane to your siphon and put it into the fermentor. Siphon all of the contents of the fermentor that the racking cane will let you get access to into the other vessel. At the bottom of your fermenting vessel you’ll notice a layer of sludge. Those are yeast cells that have done their job and fallen out of suspension. That little packet of yeast you threw in there sure multiplied, eh? If you have a new batch of beer ready and down at room temperature right now, you could pour it onto the yeast cake at the bottom of the fermentor and it would start fermenting very happily. Since you probably don't have another batch of wort ready to go now, just clean up your fermentor after you're done bottling. There will still be a few yeast cells suspended in the beer in the new vessel, and they'll be the ones that supply the carbonation for the beer. On your shopping list was "priming sugar." Find it and measure out two ounces onto something reasonably sure not to be harboring lots of wild yeast and other nasties. Two ounces should carbonate your beer up to about the fizziness of an American lager beer. You probably don’t want it fizzier than that, but some people enjoy beers a little less carbonated. If you’d like to try a little less than the full two ounces, go right ahead. Whatever amount you choose, stir the priming sugar into the beer, making sure it gets evenly distributed. Remove the racking cane from your siphon and attach the bottle filler. Put the other end of the siphon hose into the beer, and use the bottle filler to fill your sanitized bottles. Cap them (with sanitized caps), and put them into a dark closet for two weeks. Two weeks is how long it will take the yeast to eat the priming sugar and in turn carbonate your beer. After two weeks, you can move the beer to your fridge. That's it. Be patient for a little while longer, and you'll soon be drinking your first beer! Part II: Getting ready for the second batch Now that you've accomplished the brewing process once, you're ready to add a bit of complexity to the process and to the final result. There really wasn't much to the pure extract brewing, was there? Boil some water, add some extract, put in the hops on schedule, get everything clean, chill it down, and let your yeast go to work. The next step up in technique that we'll add is working with some grain. Malt revisited When maltsters process barley into malt, they have a huge number of options about how exactly they do it. Some of their choices result in a grain where much of the starch in each kernel was converted into sugar, and then heated so that some of that sugar darkens as it begins to caramelize. These malts contribute both flavor and mouthfeel to a beer, as they contain sugar compounds that have been chemically changed by the hot processing they’ve endured. These caramel or crystal malts have readily soluble sugars in them that will contribute additional complexity to your beer if they are just steeped in hot water without any concern for coddling enzymes into converting starch into sugar. These malts are classified according to a standard scale called Lovibond ratings. The lower the number, the lighter the grain roast. Pilsner malts have a number around 1L. The roasted barley in a stout has a number of about 500L, and only makes up a tiny fraction of the grain that goes into the stout. In brew shops, you'll see bags of grain labeled with three pieces of information: name, Lovibond rating and origin. Origin is sometimes a country, and sometimes a specific maltster. For example, if you see something labeled "Fawcett Crystal 60" you should be able to tell that it is a crystal malt (hence steepable!), it is fairly dark roasted, and came from someplace called Fawcett (an English maltster). If there is a "Dingemans CaraMunich 54L" beside it, you should be able to tell from the "Cara-" that there is some caramelization going on in there, so it is steepable, that it is a little lighter roasted than the Crystal 60, and is from somebody called Dingemans (a Belgian Maltster). Sometimes you'll see recipes calling for grains you just can't find locally, so you have to be able to figure out substitutions that are close. The best sub would be from another maltster in the same country as is called for, and as close an L number as you can get. Substituting the example Crystal 60 for the CaraMunich would produce a different beer, but it would be in the same general ballpark as what you're looking for. The amount of flavor contribution that caramelized grains offer does depend on the degree of caramelization it has undergone. Light caramelized malts will offer a little color, a hint of sweetness, but mostly their effect will be on mouthfeel and head retention. Darker caramelized malts will contribute more distinctive flavors, like toffee, fruitiness, a little sharpness or even bitterness. So, our goal is to bring some complexity to our next beer. We'll darken it up a bit, and give it a bit more body by steeping some grain in our water as it is coming up to temperature. This is where the grain bag comes in handy. Our grains are going to need to be cracked, which you can have your homebrew shop do for you, or you can do yourself with the Ziploc bag and rolling pin trick we used on the coriander seeds last time. [Editor's note: The eGCI Team initially included the wrong version of the following recipe. The recipe as printed now is the correct one. Our apologies to Chris and to our readers.] Recipe #2 – a red ale 2 lbs Light dry malt extract 5 oz Weyermann Melanoidin malt (German) ~30L 5 oz Caravienne (Belgian) L21 for maltiness 5 oz any British Crystal Malt in the 30-60L range (shops carry different brands, so get what is available to you.) 1 oz Cascade hops (citrusy American hop) 1 oz Kent Goldings hops (floral British hop) Priming sugar 3 hop bags 1 grain bag, preferably big, in the 24”x24” size range 1 Packet Danstar Windsor yeast or Safale S-04 for British flavor, or US-56 for neutral flavor. This beer will be less strong than the first brew, but will have more body and malt character. This is because rather than being fully fermentable like malt extract, one third of this recipe will come from caramelized malts that contain unfermentable sugars. These sugars add to the taste and mouthfeel of the beer, even though they do not get transformed into alcohol by the yeast. This beer will showcase the tasty byproducts of applying heat to food: caramelization (in the crystal malt), and the Maillard reaction (in the Melanoidin). We'll be taking a little longer break at this point before picking up with the next lesson. In the meantime, as usual, post any questions here.
  18. The member-supported eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters is pleased to present the second 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 2 -- BREW DAY Now that you've stocked up on ingredients and supplies, you're ready to brew. The first order of business should be to make sure that your pot is clean and in good condition. For those with enameled canning pots, make sure there are no cracks in the enamel. If the beer touches the metal under the enamel, it can pick up metallic off flavors. You don’t want that to happen to your beer. The second task is getting a little more than 2 gallons of water into your pot and heating it up to boiling. The excess is to make up for evaporation while it boils and the little bit of water the hops are going to soak up as they rehydrate. The evaporation from an hour should be in the 10 to 15 percent range, so adding 9 quarts to the pot should cover your losses. Your kitchen stove should be able to boil that without straining its capacity. (If you try to boil bigger volumes of water, say for a 5-gallon batch, on the kitchen stove, you may run into the problem that your stove isn’t putting out enough power to get the water to a good bubbling boil. Some homebrewers who do bigger batches use outdoor propane burners from turkey frying kits to do their boiling. You don’t need to do that.) If you're stuck with chlorinated tap water, you want to get the water up to boiling and let it stay there for a bit to boil off the chlorine. While you’re waiting for the water to come to a boil, you can divide the hops into three equal portions and put them into the muslin hop bags. If you're using the coriander, crack it a little by putting it into a sealable plastic bag and working it over with a rolling pin, then put it in with the hops in one bag, and remember to use that bag last. Tie the bags closed at the top, but leave plenty of space in the bags for the hops to expand into. Hops absorb water and increase in size while they’re boiling. Brewing is not a photogenic process, so I'm not going to show you any pictures as we go along. Get into your mind the picture of your pot, filled with liquid, bubbling away. That's all you're really going to see. Since there are proteins in malt products, you may see some white flaky looking things swirling around in there. That's natural, and nothing to worry about. Sanitation Also, now would be a good time to mix up a batch of sanitizing solution, because it will be necessary as soon as the wort stops boiling. You need to sanitize everything that will come into contact with your beer shortly before you bring in into contact with your beer. To do this, make up two quarts of water with a teaspoon and half of chlorine bleach in it. It is easiest if you make this in a tall thin container like a pitcher, since you've got long rigid things that need to be sanitized. Make sure to run your sanitizing solution over and through everything that might come into contact with beer. After sanitizing a piece of equipment rinse the chlorine water off. Remember, we're boiling your tap water to keep chlorine away from the beer, so don't reintroduce it by not rinsing thoroughly. If you’re going to use a fermentation vessel other than the pot you boiled the wort in, wipe it down with sanitizing solution, and then rinse it out. Brewing Now that your water is boiling, take it off of the heat. Sprinkle your 3 pounds of light malt extract onto the water and stir it with your spoon until it dissolves. The malt extract is a very fine powder that loves to clump up when it is exposed to water, so this may take longer than you expect. Once the malt extract is dissolved, put the pot back on the heat and bring it back to boiling. Watch for boilovers now, as the protein in the malt will come to the surface as foam. If it looks like it wants to boil over, stir it some and break up the blanket of foam. Once the boil resumes, add one of the hop bags and set a timer for 50 minutes. When the timer goes off, add another hop bag and set the timer for 10 minutes. When that timer goes off, remove the first two hop bags with your spoon and then take the pot off the heat and add the last hop bag (the one with the coriander seeds in it, if you’re using them). Cover the pot with its lid and keep it covered. When your wort leaves the boil is when sanitation becomes crucial. Your wort is prime feeding ground for microbes of all varieties, and now that it is no longer boiling it won’t kill everything that gets into it. Of utmost importance now is getting the yeast you want in there to take over and dominate the wort ecosystem. That means we must isolate the wort from contact with anything that hasn’t been sanitized so that nothing else gets in there. Next in importance is getting the wort down to a temperature that is comfortable for our chosen yeast. That means about 70 – 80 degrees F. Cooling the wort Now it is time for some fun with thermodynamics. You want to get a bunch of energy out of your pot full of hot wort as quickly as possible. Since energy flows from things hot to things cold, and the denser things are the more heat they can absorb, it follows that getting as much cold dense stuff into contact with your pot as possible is key. Setting it down into a snowbank or into a frozen-over pond are fine methods of getting lots of cold water in contact with the hot pot to carry away all of the excess energy. If those options are not available to you, then a kitchen sink or bathtub full of cold water and ice cubes will do in a pinch. Give it about half an hour and then give it a stir with your sanitized spoon (now would be a fine time to remove that final hop bag too), and then take a temperature reading with your sanitized thermometer. Let it keep cooling down until the temperature is in the 70s. Putting yeast into too warm an environment will kill it. When the wort is in the 70s, then you’re ready to sprinkle the packet of yeast over the wort. After you sprinkle the yeast onto the wort whip some air into the wort with your sanitized balloon whisk. This will give the yeast a healthy amount of oxygen to burn while it gets to work. Now you're ready to put it away to ferment for two weeks. It will produce lots of carbon dioxide while the yeast are doing their thing, so you need a cover that lets the gasses out, but doesn't let wild yeasts or other nasties in. Take a clean dish towel and stretch it over the top of your fermentation vessel, and use your rubber band to keep it in place. If you are suspicious about how free from dust and wild yeast your towel is, you could soak it in sanitizing solution and then wring it out well before rubber banding it in place. Now comes the hardest part . . . wait two weeks. No peeking. Put it out of sight, in a corner where the temperature will be stable, and it won't be in bright light, or drafts. Light reacts with the chemicals that come from hops and results in a skunky smell. Make sure nothing gets into your fermentor, and hopefully nothing will escape from there while the yeast are doing their business. What's going to happen is that the yeast will begin to reproduce, and their population will grow into a huge number of cells. The yeast will begin turning sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide, and that will ramp up as the number of cells increases. There will be a foam on top of the beer that's called the krausen. Depending on the type of yeast, this foam can be a thin layer or it can get inches thick. Particularly enthusiastic yeast may rise all the way up to the covering towel. Don't worry if this happens, though if your fermentation vessel is almost full to the top before you put in the yeast (not recommended, but if a smaller vessel is all you've got, make do), you should put a pan under it to catch the inevitable overflow. If your fermentor is going to sit anywhere that cleaning up a bit of overflow will be tough (e.g. on a rug, or an old wooden floor), it would be best to use an overflow pan. Those of you whose overflow pans see any overflow will get to observe first hand what infections with wild yeasts and microbes do, as your overflow won't be protected from them. It will probably get to be sour and funky smelling, but maybe not. Beer brewing started with wild yeasts, and some parts of Belgium are famous for the beers that their local airborne yeast populations naturally produce. Either way, if your overflow pan does accumulate any beer in it, empty it out quickly after it gets there. You don’t want to encourage wild yeasts to congregate around your beer. The chance of them getting in there and doing harm to your beer increases with the number of them around. And that's it for this class. See you in a couple weeks, when we're ready to bottle. Please post your questions about the homebrewing course here.
  19. HOMEBREWING FOR THE ABSOLUTE BEGINNER by Chris Holst, aka cdh The Course Welcome to the eGCI course on homebrewing. This course will be divided into five classes spaced two weeks apart to allow you to gather equipment and ingredients, and to let the yeast alone to work their magic. Class 1, which follows, is a basic introduction to the concepts and necessary equipment. It ends with a shopping list for Class 2. Class 2 will step you through the most simple kind of beermaking you can do, extract brewing. You’ll make a strong golden ale. Class 3 will teach you what you need to know about bottling your Strong Golden Ale, and brewing another beer that combines malt extract and specialty grains for added complexity and body. In Class 4 you’ll make a Red Ale using what we discussed in Class 3. Class 5 will walk you through the next step up in complexity and control in brewing, where you’ll derive some of your sugar from malted grain, and some of your sugar from malt extract. This is called partial mash brewing, and incorporates all of the steps involved in all grain brewing. We’ll brew a Belgian Abbey style ale. We’ll not do any all grain brewing, since it is more equipment-intensive than this course envisions, but if you complete Class 5, you’ll know the procedures if you get the urge to try it. The Instructor Chris Holst spent some time living in England in the early 1990s, where his attention was caught by the homebrew kits that the Boots pharmacies stocked. The idea of making beer stuck in the back of his mind. After returning from England, the space and time to brew were available, so the hunt began for a homebrew shop. Luckily one was nearby, and staffed with helpful folks who got things off on the right foot. He's never looked back. Since then, he's brewed at least 3 or 4 batches a year, experimenting mostly with Belgian ales and English bitters. CLASS 1 Prelude Brewing is an ancient human activity. Making drinks out of grains has been a part of human civilization for a long, long time -- archaeologists have found evidence of Egyptian and Babylonian brewing. Over the ages we’ve refined the process, but in essence brewing remains simple in its process but complex in its ingredients. The process involves three steps: 1) Turn grain into fermentable sugars in the concentration you want, with the flavorings you want. 2) Let yeast loose on the fermentable sugars and leave them alone. 3) Carbonate it. Getting at the fermentable sugars in raw grains is the art of malting. Although brewers used to malt their own grains, it is now a separate industry, which takes that element out of the job of the brewer and replaces it with a wide variety of prepared products you can buy at a homebrew shop. The primary factors that differentiate fermentable grain products are how far the natural starch-to-sugar conversion processes are allowed to proceed, and how much caramelization of the resulting sugars occurred. We’ll address grain options and the techniques associated with them in later lessons in this course. Most beers today are flavored with hops, so we’ll look at the information they carry with them to give you the knowledge you’ll need to make an informed purchase and have an idea about what your hops will do. Yeast gives beer a distinct character depending on what type of yeast you use. We’ll look at the commercial options available to you, and the tricks to use to get the best performance out of your yeast. Leaving the yeast alone means effectively removing competing organisms from the environment it will work in so it won’t be bothered by the wild yeasts and other beasts that might sneak in, and having the patience to let the yeast sit in your beer for a week or more to eat through all of the sugars. Carbonation is more yeast work, which requires sanitation, and sealable bottles to keep the carbon dioxide in there once the yeast make it. EQUIPMENT AND INGREDIENT BASICS So, you’re curious about brewing and want to give it a try? Brewing in small batches is quite easy and within the reach of just about anybody interested in making a simple beer all on their own. This lesson will introduce you to a minimalist’s essential brewing equipment. As a bit of advance warning: homebrewing is a gadgeteer’s paradise, having been adopted wholeheartedly by folks with an inventive spirit and mechanical aptitude, so there is a vast array of toys and goodies designed to streamline some aspect of the brewing process. Here we’ll eschew all of them and strip the hobby down to the absolute basics. Equipment The first thing we’ll do is list the equipment you’ll need to get a batch of beer brewing. Since this is a tutorial, I’m going to scale down the recipes from the homebrewer’s standard 5-gallon batch size to a more manageable 2 gallons, which will yield just short of a case of beer, and won’t require you to purchase a whole new kit of equipment. To get from here to beer you’ll need to get the following equipment together before the next lesson (you'll probably have some of these already; others are specialty items you'll need to purchase): A pot that holds at least 12 quarts, and a tight fitting lid. You’ll use this to boil the malt extract and hops together for an hour. You want this to be a non-reactive metal, so cast iron is out. Enameled canning pots are good, so long as the enamel is intact and not chipped. Stainless steel is the gold standard. A container that holds at least 12 quarts. This is where you’ll be fermenting the beer. Fermentation takes between a week and two weeks. You could use the pot you boiled in, or you could use a food grade plastic container. The standard in the homebrewing world is a food grade plastic bucket with an airtight lid and an airlock device that allows the gasses the fermentation produces to leave, but allows no new air in. It is great if you have one, but we’ll assume you don’t yet at this early stage in your brewing adventures. A scale. Recipes call for certain weights of ingredients. Eyeballing can get you into the right ballpark, but a scale is really necessary if you want to be able to properly follow recipes or build your own reproducible recipes. A thermometer. When you’re dealing with grains rather than just extracts, you’ll need a thermometer. Grain husks contain astringent compounds that are extracted at temperatures above about 170F, so you need a reliable method of ensuring that the water your grain is sitting in is not above 170F. There are other critical temperatures that activate and deactivate enzymes in grain that we’ll address later. A large metal spoon. You’ll stir boiling liquid with this, so a long handle that doesn’t conduct heat would be the best. A sanitizing agent. Homebrewing is as much about keeping unwanted additions out of the beer as putting the right ingredients in. As we all learned from those swab and swipe experiments in our high school biology classes, the world around us is crawling with microscopic life. Our job is to make sure that the microbeasts we like (namely our chosen yeast) get to eat all of the sugary nutrients in our beer, and to keep wild yeasty and bacterial party crashers from busting in, chowing down and leaving the beer a mess. That means we have to be vigilant about sanitizing everything that comes into contact with our beer. A great sanitizer that is likely already in your cupboard is chlorine bleach. If you’re using bleach, then one tablespoon to a gallon of water will make a fine sanitizing solution. I’ve been using either an activated oxygen cleaner (a lot like Oxyclean, but no blue crystals in it) or a bleach solution for my dozen years of brewing, and haven’t had an infected batch. There’s a lot of infection paranoia out there, but if you’re careful, you should not have problems. A balloon whisk. You’ll use this to stir and aerate your wort after you have boiled it and cooled it down to room temperature. Muslin hop bags. Hops should be isolated and easily removable from the pot. Homebrew shops sell little knit muslin bags really cheap; you’ll need to buy ingredients from a homebrew shop anyway, so pick up a few of these too. hop bag, center A nylon grain bag. Grains are something we’ll deal with in later lessons, but if you’re going to use them, you need something able to contain them. There are little nylon bags and there are big bags that can be fit inside big pots. I’d recommend the latter because they’re tougher, and more versatile. A little bit of grain in a great big bag is less of a problem than a lot of grain in a little bag. Some people advocate using nylon stockings for this purpose; make sure they don’t have runners in that will let your grain out. A clean white dishtowel and a rubber band. Since we’re operating on the assumption that you don’t have an airtight fermentation vessel, it is important to keep airborne stuff from settling on your beer while it is fermenting. A clean dishtowel that has been soaked in sanitizing solution and wrung out can be stretched over the top of your fermentation vessel and kept in place with a rubber band. This will mean that you’re conducting an “open fermentation,” which is more traditional in some beer styles than others, but will work for everything. A 4-foot length of flexible ½" (or so) tubing. Transferring beer from vessel to vessel should be done by siphon, and you need a tube to get a siphon going. A racking cane and a bottle filler. These are rigid plastic tubes that attach to the flexible tubing. The racking cane has a device on the bottom end so that your siphon will not draw up sediment from the bottom of the vessel. The bottle filler has a pressure activated valve at the end, so that you can fill bottles without overflowing. Buy these and your tubing at the same time from the same place to insure that everything fits together. Bottles. You need something that can handle the pressure of carbonation and can be sealed tight. If you are a beer drinker, you can save thick returnable bottles and cap them with a device you can buy from a homebrew shop, but the more common twist-off bottles are not recappable, nor are they sturdy enough to safely carbonate beer in the bottle. Since most people don’t have a case of empty recappable beer bottles sitting in the pantry, I’ll suggest an easier and cheaper alternative: PET seltzer bottles. You can get one- and two-liter bottles of club soda for less than the cost of shipping a case of empty bottles to you. You’ll need to take care about light exposure while your beer is aging, but that is as simple as keeping them in a dark closet. Don’t use soda bottles, as the flavorings in soda can persist in the bottles, and you’d probably not want to get stuck with two gallons of lemony-limey-brau. Ingredients Malt, hops, yeast and water -- Beer advertisements over time have extolled those four ingredients, which are the bare minimum needed to make a beer. Marketers love the ancient German beer purity law called the Reinheitsgebot for its mysterious name and simple message: pure beer is good beer. Under that law (since overridden by the EU) only malt, hops, yeast and water could go into beer, and Germany still managed to produce a wide range of beer styles. Other countries without such a legal restriction on what goes into a beer have created a wildly varied array of beers by adding herbs, spices, non-yeast microbes and alternative sources of fermentables. Since this is designed for new brewers, we’ll keep it simple early on, and only talk about what we will use to brew the first batch in our next lesson. Malt When a kernel of grain begins to sprout, a complex alchemy of chemical reactions begins, converting the starch we grind into flour into sweet sugary compounds to feed the growing plant. Malting grain is the process of capturing the kernels in the midst of their transformation from starch to sugar, and then heating and drying them to kill the sprouting plant and take its energy stores for our use. These dried malted grains have a set of activated enzymes within them that will transform most of the starches into sugars when exposed to the right environmental conditions. When brewing directly from grain, part of the brewer’s art is setting the environmental conditions such that the transformative enzymes turn the starches into the right mix of fermentable and unfermentable sugars that will give the beer both its strength and its body. As a bit of trivia, the brewer’s word for the sugary solution is “wort,” though we’ll try to keep the specialist vocabulary to a minimum early on in these lessons. (Brewing does have its own well developed jargon that can confuse folks who don’t speak the language.) In this introductory course, we are going to use a common shortcut and employ malt extract. Malt extract is the concentrated sugars derived from malt that has gone through its enzymatic transformation. There are two broad types of malt extract, liquid and dried. For our purposes, we’ll be using dried malt extract because it is easier to deal with in small portions, and is frequently available in pound increments at homebrew shops, whereas liquid extracts are often only sold in big cans that would leave you with sticky leftovers to deal with and sticky measuring cups and kitchen counters and clothes. In your homebrew shop, you’ll find a variety of dried malt extracts -- most often you’ll see light, amber, dark, and wheat extracts. Light extract is the best base extract to use, as further on in this course we’ll learn about using specialty grains to add color, flavor and body to our beers. We’ll learn about specialty grains in the second brew we make in this course of lessons. Homebrew shops may have dry malt extracts from various sources. Keep in mind that Dutch type extracts tend to contain more unfermentable sugars, which give a beer a heavier body and thicker sweeter flavor and mouthfeel. Extracts from other sources tend to be more fully fermentable, and produce drier beers. By mixing Dutch and ordinary extracts you can affect the body and mouthfeel of your beer. Hops Hops are the flowers of a vine that sprouts from underground rhizomes. They contain an array of aromatic and bittering compounds that both preserve beer and give it the characteristic flavor we associate with beers. Hops can contribute many aromas and flavors, ranging from grassy to floral, from piney to citrusy, and all of them contribute a bitter counterpoint to the sweetness of the malt. Using hops is an exercise in the art of balancing, and where brewers demonstrate their skills. Since bitterness is such a personal matter of taste for people, a beer that appears well hopped to one person can seem overwhelmingly bitter to another. You’ll have to learn what you like and don’t like, and remember it the next time you brew. The effects of adding hops to a brew changes depending on how long you allow them to boil. The longer the hops boil, the more bittering effect. In homebrewing there are conventions to hop usage, commonly called bittering, flavoring, aroma and dry. Bittering hops are supposed to be boiled in your wort for an hour. Flavoring hops are boiled for about 10 minutes, boiling off most of the volatile aroma compounds, adding a bit of bitterness and leaving the flavor compounds from the hops in the beer. Aroma hops are added right at the end of the boil and liberate their aromatic compounds, which don’t boil off because the boiling stops. Dry hopping is a technique where the brewer adds hops to the cold beer after it has already fermented, this adds even more hop aroma to the beer. Since brewers love experimenting with the rules, there are beers out there that don’t boil any hops for 60 minutes, but instead boil more hops for less time to achieve the same level of bitterness, but with more hop flavor retained in the beer as well. Other all-grain brewers have revived an old practice called first wort hopping, where hops are added to the vessel collecting the wort as it runs off of the grain. This long steep before the boil changes the way the hops express themselves in the brew, increasing the hop flavor. For our introductory purposes, we’ll break our hop addition into thirds to acclimate you to the different hop additions. Hops are usually labeled with a name and a number. The name is the varietal of the plant that produced the flowers. Hops are like tomatoes or wine grapes, insofar as they are all one species but exhibit a wide array of flavors. The number is a measure of the percentage of Alpha acids present in the hops, and is most often abbreviated %AA. Alpha acids are the bittering compounds that turn into the bitter flavor in beer once they have been boiled together with the malt sugars for a period of time. High alpha acid hops require less hop volume to contribute bitterness than low alpha acid hops. The longer the hops are boiled, the more of their aromatic compounds vaporize and waft away with the steam from your brew pot, and at the same time more of the alpha acids are converted to bittering agents. Hops are sold in three forms. For our purposes they’re equivalent since we’ll be using hop bags to contain them. The options you might be presented with are “whole leaf” hops, which are just the dried flowers of the hop vines, “plugs,” which are those flowers crushed down into a compact little puck, and “pellets,” which are the flowers pulverized and then extruded into little pellets. The pellets will leave much finer particles in your beer if you tossed them without any hop bag or other hop separation technology. While doing so with pellets would be problematic, it is theoretically possible to just throw whole and plug hops into the boil and strain them out later, but we’re not going to do it that way because the spare change that each hop bag costs is worth it. Yeast Yeast are the microbes that eat sugar and turn it into alcohol and carbon dioxide. They produce other byproducts as well, often depending on the temperatures at which they are working and the magic of the organic chemistry going on in the fermentation process. There are many varieties of yeast, each with its own characteristics. Many types of beer, particularly Belgian beers, are distinguished by the contributions of the yeast used in brewing it. The crisp dry aspect of lagers that we are accustomed to is a byproduct of the species of yeast used to brew it and its preference for fermenting over long times at low temperatures. Since most homebrewers don’t have a fridge dedicated to brewing, lager beers are an advanced brewing project that requires significant investment. Ale yeasts, another species, are happy to do their work at room temperature or thereabouts, but they do contribute a number of flavors if they ferment too warm. Often flavors like banana, clove, bubblegum and butter are produced by yeasts fermenting outside of their favored temperature range, but you can also get spicy and complex flavors out of yeasts as well. Most ale yeasts prefer to ferment between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, which should not put too much inconvenience on the average brewer who lives in a climate-controlled space. Brewing yeast is sold both in liquid preparations and dried. Dried yeast keeps better and requires less effort than liquid yeasts to use, but is more limited in the varieties available. Early in the evolution of homebrewing the consensus was that dried yeasts were inferior to liquid yeasts. That is no longer the case, since dried yeast manufacturers have increased the quality of dried yeast available to consumers. Liquid yeasts are more expensive than dried yeasts, and when used in standard 5 gallon batches, they benefit from having their cell counts ramped up by making a starter culture before throwing the yeast into the hopped wort. Surf over to some online homebrew shops and look at the range of yeast available to get an idea of how distinctive and different yeast’s effects can be. That’s why it is a very bad idea to use yeasts bred for baking in beer. Don’t be tempted to try it, because you’ll probably not like the results. Water By volume, your beer is mostly water, so you want to make sure your water is as tasty as it can be. If you have treated municipal water, you might want to boil it all by itself for a bit to boil off the chlorine so that it can’t latch onto compounds in your brewing ingredients. In more advanced homebrewing, some people advocate using distilled water and water treatment products to replicate the local water of the origin of the style of beer you’re brewing. That is well beyond what we’re doing here, but it does point out that your water chemistry will make your beer unique to your locality, so that if you went to visit friends in another state and brewed your beer at their house with their water it might not come out exactly as you expect. This is also why some parts of the world gain fame as centers of brewing or baking. Burton-on-Trent in England became famous for its beers because its water chemistry affected the grain and hops in ways that most other British water did not. New York bagels and Philadelphia cheesesteaks and hoagies are distinctive because of effects of the local water supply on the breadmaking process. THE RECIPE For a first small brew we’ll aim for a strong pale ale type beer, with a medium hoppiness. This beer will be about as strong as a Belgian trippel. We’ll use light dry malt extract to provide the fermentable sugars. For our hopping, we’ll use the archetypal citrus-y American hop, Cascade, which should be readily available in homebrew shops. We’re shooting for a beer with the following characteristics: Original Gravity 1.068 IBUs 23 Light yellow color Original gravity is a measure of the density of the solution you drop your yeast into. Water has a specific gravity of 1.000. Ethanol’s gravity is less than that. The sugars in the solution push the number up to 1.068, though it will drop again once the yeast convert most of the sugars to ethanol. Your final gravity should be somewhere between 1.005 and 1.014. If you take density measurements at the beginning and end of your fermentation, you will be able to calculate its alcohol content exactly. As a rule of thumb, the digits after the decimal point in the original gravity reading will let you estimate how strong your beer will be by dropping the 1 entirely and moving the decimal 2 places to the right. That tells us that our beer will be somewhere around 6.8% alcohol, or about 1.5 times as strong as average American beers. The tool used to measure the density of a solution is called a hydrometer. For the moment, I’m going to advise strongly that beginners not get a hydrometer because it will provide the temptation to take lots of readings while the yeast is working and is better not disturbed. As you progress in your brewing you might want to get a hydrometer, but I managed to break mine a couple of years ago (they’re fragile glass things) and haven’t missed it and haven’t replaced it. IBUs (International Bitterness Units) are a measure of how much hop bitterness is in your beer, calculated from the amount of alpha acids in your hops, and how long they’ve been boiled. The 20s represent moderate hoppiness. Some extreme beers have IBU measures above 100, and others have measures in the single digits. The following recipe will yield something like what we want. 2 Gallons water 3 lbs. Light Dry Malt Extract 1oz. Cascade hops, divided in three parts for different stages of the brewing process .25 oz crushed coriander seed (optional addition with the aroma hops, for its bright citrus-y notes) Danstar Nottingham dry yeast Now you have a shopping list for ingredients and supplies. Find your nearest local homebrew shop and stock up. If you can't find a shop nearby, there are homebrew shops on the web that do a fine mail order business. I've had good experiences with morebeer.com and Hops & Dreams, and have read that many people are happy customers of Northern Brewer and Homebrew Adventures. (Three of these have very active discussion forums that attract vocal homebrewers who write about brewing and are worth reading, although you should realize that there are plenty of contradictory opinions out there.) Shopping list for the brewing supply store or website: 3 lbs light dry malt extract 1 oz Cascade hops 1 packet yeast 3 Muslin hop bags Siphon hose Racking cane Bottle filler A packet of priming sugar (we'll use this later as we bottle -- and carbonate -- the beer) See you in a couple of weeks. Please post your questions about the homebrewing course here.
  20. Post your questions and comments on the homebrewing course here.
  21. Welcome to the new term of the eGullet Culinary Insitute (eGCI), our continuing series of unique interactive culinary courses. If you've taken our classes before, we're glad to see you back; if this is your first time, jump right in. We're trying a few new things this term, including some longer, multi-part courses and more of our new eGCI Demos. We also have a newly organized index, which we hope will make it easier for members to find our older courses. If there are any topics you'd like to see presented (or anything you're interested in teaching), please let us know. We want to make the eGCI as informative and useful as we can. For information on how to attend a class, click here. For the index of past courses, click here. Hope to see you in class!
  22. To attend a course while it is active: First, read the introduction of the course you wish to attend. The introduction will give a brief overview of the course and some information on the instructor. It will list any ingredients or special equipment you will need to participate in the course and will provide a timetable, when appropriate. In some cases, the introduction will be quite brief; in others more involved. We try to time the posting of the introduction to give everyone ample time to prepare for the course. When the course is posted, read the material. Sometimes the entire course will be presented in one segment, but generally the courses comprise two or three parts. These are generally presented as different posts in the same topic, although occasionally they may be presented as separate topics. Although it's usually not necessary to do the work (i.e., follow the recipes or do the assignments) to participate in the Q&A session that follows, we recommend it. We think you'll get more out of the course, and the more active participants in each course, the more valuable the Q&A session will be. A Q&A session will run concurrently with the course and will be active for a short time afterward. This is the place to post questions about ingredients or procedures, to discuss your results or to comment on any other aspects of the course. A link to the Q&A will be provided at the end of each segment of the course. To attend older courses: Although each course and Q&A is officially active for a short period of time, members are free to read and follow older courses whenever they wish. In many cases, the Q&A remains active long after the class has ended, and many of our instructors will be able to continue to answer questions. In those cases where the instructors are no longer available, we will do our best to answer any questions you may have about any of our older courses. Still have questions? Please send a Personal Message to the eGCI Team. See you in class!
  23. The following index of eGCI courses is arranged by category. New courses will be added as they run. If you want to read any of the courses, please keep in mind that in some cases the original instructor may not be available to answer questions. However, we will do our best to find answers to any questions you post. Introductory Survey Courses Chinese Cooking: Southern Home-Style Dishes Course and Q&A "Drive-in" Cooking Course and Q&A Beginners Guide to Regional Indian Cooking Course and Q&A Japanese Cuisine Course and Q&A Introduction to Lebanese Cuisine Course and Q&A Thai Cooking Course and Q&A Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone Course and Q&A Cooking Methods and Techniques The Truth About Braising Introduction, Assignment #1, Discussion #1, Assignment #2, Discussion #2, Assignment #3, Discussion #3, Assignment #4, Discussion #4, Q&A, and What To Do with All That Leftover Braised Meat. Brining Course and Q&A Basic Knife Skills Course and Q&A Cooking Equipment The Kitchen Scale Manifesto and Q&A Understanding Stovetop Cookware Course and Q&A Knife Maintenance and Sharpening Course and Q&A Stocks, Soups and Sauces Stocks and Sauces Course Introduction, Intro Q&A, Simmering Unit, Simmering Q&A, Straining, Defatting and Reducing Unit, Reduction Q&A, Stock-Based Sauces Unit, and Sauces Q&A Non-Stock-Based Sauces Course and Q&A Cream Sauces Course and Q&A Basic Condiments Course and Q&A Mexican Table Salsas Course and Q&A Consommé Course and Q&A Soups, Part One: Thick Soups Course and Q&A Single Ingredients and Dishes Chiles Course and Q&A All About Eggs Introduction, FAQ, Hard-Cooked Eggs Course and Q&A, Poaching Eggs Course and Q&A, Omelettes and More Course and Q&A, Souffles Course and Q&A, Cooking Eggs With With the Pros Course and Q&A Pasta Around the Mediterranean Course and Q&A Stuffed Pastas Introduction, Course on Pansotti, Tortelloni and and Raviolo, Course on Tortelli, Ravioli & Cappelletti, and Q&A The Potato Primer Course and Q&A Risotto Course and Q&A Leaf Salads Course and Q&A Soy Course and Q&A Meat Science in the Kitchen: Cooking Meat Course and Q&A Smoking Meat at Home Course and Q&A Pit Roasting a Pig Course and Q&A Baking, Desserts and Confectionery Baking with Dan Lepard Course and Q&A Sourdough Bread Course and Q&A A Sampling of North Indian Breads Course and Q&A A Sampling of South Indian Breads Course and Q&A Confectionery 101 Course and Q&A Preserving Preservation Basics Course and Q&A Autumn and Festive Preserves Course and Q&A Beverages Homebrewing for the Absolute Beginner Course and Q&A Evaluating Wine Introduction, Course, and Q&A Classic Cocktails Course and Q&A Evolving Cocktails Course Part 1, Part 2, and Q&A Holiday/Traditional Cooking The Festival of Lights Diwali Course and Q&A Cooking through the Jewish Year Course and Q&A Meal Planning and Presentation Plating and Presentation Introduction and Course, and Q&A Menu Planning Course and Q&A Specialty Topics Taste and Texture Part I: Taste, Part II: Texture, Taste Q&A, and Texture Q&A. Cooking with Disabilities Course Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Q&A Cooking for One Course and Q&A Cooking with Kids Course and Q&A How To Be a Better Food Writer Course and Q&A Amateur Cooking Competitions Course and Q&A How to Dine: Getting the Most from Restaurants Course and Q&A eGCI Demonstrations Jewish Foods (introduction and index) Note: We've done our best to make sure that all the links work, but if you encounter any problems, please let us know by sending a PM to eGCI Team.
  24. The Kitchen Scale Manifesto Justice with Balance by Darren Vengroff What's the Big Deal? In modern home kitchens in Europe, a kitchen scale is standard equipment. In the US, one rarely sees them except in the kitchens of compulsive dieters and very serious amateur pastry chefs. Because most people in Europe have scales, recipes generally specify quantities of bulk dry ingredients as weights. For example, a cake recipe might require 250 grams of flour. In the US, the same recipe would most likely use cups, which measure volume, not weight. So why the difference, and does it really matter? Is weighing ingredients just a complicated, confusing, and unnecessary consequence of going metric? The answer is that it does really matter, and once you get the hang of it it's actually easier than using cup measures. It matters because the amount of an ingredient that fits in a cup varies a lot depending on how coarse the grain is and how tightly it is packed into the cup measure. Weights, on the other hand, tell you exactly how much of the ingredient you have, independent of how much air space exists between the particles. The amount of flour in a cup can vary as much as 25% depending on how it is packed. Sifting before or after measuring can make the difference even greater. Needless to say, this kind of disparity makes a tremendous difference in how a recipe comes out. One morning pancakes are light and fluffy, the next they are thin and rubbery. Another advantage to weighing ingredients is that when you share your recipe with others, they can more easily reproduce results similar to your own. The number one complaint of home cooks is that they followed a recipe, but it didn't turn out. The number one reason this happens is that although they used the same number of cups of each ingredient as the recipe author, they actually used a very different amount. For ingredients that require cutting or chopping, there is even more ambiguity. Despite claims to the contrary, "one cup chopped onions" isn't really a whole lot more informative than "one medium onion, chopped." How finely are they chopped, and how tightly are they packed into the cup? It makes a big difference. "Two hundred grams of chopped onion" is a much more reliable description. Weights also help you shop for a recipe, especially if you are not familiar with some of the ingredients. For example, if you don't regularly cook with parsnips and a recipe calls for "three medium or two large parsnips," what are you to do? You go to the market, and you see parsnips for sale, all about the same size, but you have no idea if they are small, medium, or large. If the recipe called for 20oz of parsnips, you could weigh them at the store, and buy just a little extra to account for loss due to trimming. Aside from being more accurate, weighing is usually easier and less messy than scooping and leveling ingredients. Breaking the Cycle So if weighing ingredients is such a good idea, why don't we all do it? The problem is a classic case of the chicken and egg. American cookbooks, magazines, and web sites don't publish recipes by weight because most of their audience don't have scales. Americans don't buy scales because few recipes call for ingredients by weight. Well, we here at the eGCI have never been ones to let convention get in the way of the quest for a good meal. So, with this manifesto, we are drawing a line in the flour. We highly recommend that every member who doesn't already own a kitchen scale make one their next kitchen equipment purchase. We request that everyone who contributes recipes to RecipeGullet specify weights of dry ingredients rather than volumetric measurements. This manifesto will introduce you to the various types of scales that are available, and guide you through the process of shopping for and using a kitchen scale. It will also show you how simple it is to update existing recipes to use weights instead of volumes. No math is required, except for the "difference method," and then it is only substitution. Types of Scales There are three basic types of kitchen scales on the market: spring scales, balance scales, and digital scales. Spring scales are the least expensive but also the least accurate. Balance scales were, for centuries, the most accurate available. Although they are extremely accurate, they can be difficult to use. Digital scales are the best of both worlds. They are extremely accurate, and simple to use. In recent years, they have even become affordable. Most kitchen scales have a maximum capacity between two and twenty pounds. The smaller the maximum capacity of the scale, the more accurate it is likely to be in the range it covers. For most home kitchens, something in the five to ten pound range is just fine. If you cook very large quantities or certain items, or are dying to know exactly how much that Thanksgiving turkey weighs, then you may want a larger scale. But in that case, you probably want two, one for every day use, and the big one for special occasions. Spring Scales Spring scales, as the name implies, use springs to measure weights. The more weight that is placed on the scale, the more the spring stretches. A needle attached to the spring moves as the spring deforms, causing it to point to a number indicating how much the item on the scale weighs. Some spring scales allow the position of the indicator to be adjusted. This is useful for resetting the scale to zero after placing an empty bowl on it. This is called taring the scale. It allows you to weigh only the product you put in the bowl, not the bowl itself. It also means that you can measure one ingredient into the bowl, then tare the scale back to zero and add a second ingredient without dumping the first out. This is convenient because you can measure and mix in the same bowl. There are two types of spring scales you are likely to see. The first is a stand-up type with a either a needle that moves up and down or a large round dial on the front to indicate the weight. The second is a low profile model where the dial is built into the base of the scale. The low profile type is normally much easier to tare. To do so, you just rotate the base. The stand-up type generally has a small knob on the side or back of the scale for taring. This is much less convenient than the low-profile type. Effectively, it means that you always have to weigh in the same bowl, and dump each ingredient out into a mixing bowl before weighing the next one. Balance Scales Balance scales determine the weight of an ingredient by comparing it to known standard weights. There are two basic varieties of this type of scale, and a third variety that combines the first two. The first type is the straight balance. This is what you see blind justice holding up. The item to be weighed goes on one side, and one or more standard weights go on the other. If the two sides are in balance, then the item being weighed weighs exactly the same as the sum of the weights on the other side. A straight balance is very accurate. Some laboratory models are good to a small fraction of a gram. But it's not very practical for the kitchen. The second type of balance scale is the sliding scale balance. With this type, there is a single known weight, but you can slide it from left to right along a scale until it balances. You have probably seen one of these in your doctor's office. These aren't as absolutely accurate as the straight balance, but they are easier to use and there are no little weights to lose. The third type of balance is the hybrid. It allows you to use individual weights like a straight balance, but also provides a sliding scale. Another drawback of balance scales is that that have the most delicate mechanical parts of any of the three types of scales. The main pivot on which the balance rests is particularly crucial. It must be as close to absolutely frictionless as possible. Over time it can wear down or become gummed up, causing the scale to lose accuracy. Balance scales can still be found, but unless you really like how they look, you are probably better off with one of the other types. Spring scales are less expensive and digital scales are as accurate, if not more, and much easier to use. Digital Scales Digital scales are the newest form of kitchen scale. As with all things digital, their prices continue to fall. Digital scales work by passing a small electrical current through a material that is pressure sensitive. A sensor determines the weight on the scale by the amount of current that flows. This is converted to digital form and displayed on a small screen. Digital scales are extremely accurate. They are also very easy to use. Taring is generally just a matter of touching a button. Most digital scales are quite small, like low-profile spring scales. Some of the newer models also have additional features, like timers, built in. Others, aimed at dieters, contain databases of common food items and can tell you not only the weight, but also the fat and calorie content of food. Historically, digital scales were quite expensive, ranging up to $250. However, that is no longer the case. As of this writing, entry-level models are selling for as low as $30. There are a number of very good full-featured options in the $60-70 range. More expensive models generally add more stainless steel, chrome and glass, but they don't weigh foods any more accurately. Shopping for a Scale Now that you know the three types of scales, it's time to start shopping for the specific model that will work best for you. For most home kitchens, a digital scale is going to be the best bet. Ten years ago, this might not have been the case due to the high cost, but that is now much less of an issue. If you really want to save money, you can get a mostly plastic low-profile spring scale for as low as $10, but chances are it is not going to be incredibly accurate or built to last. Three primary factors differentiate one digital scale from another, and determine the price for which any given scale sells. These are durability, appearance, and extra features. All digital scales are more than accurate enough for kitchen use. Some are more precise, in the sense that they measure in 1 or 2g increments instead of 5g increments, but this only matters when measuring very small quantities of ingredients. It is wrong to think that spending an extra $50 is going to get you a substantially more accurate model. The durability of a digital scale depends primarily on what materials it is constructed from and what kind of buttons it has. The most durable scale surfaces are made from stainless steel. They wipe clean and wont react if you spill acidic materials on them. Some scales have glass surfaces. These are also very easy to wipe clean, and they are stain resistant. The only drawback is that if you use your scale often you are likely to end up chipping the glass against a backsplash, mixer, or other counter-top appliance. A few digital scales are made of plastic, but this is generally reserved for low-profile spring scales. Another thing that affects the longevity of a digital scale is the type of buttons it has. Every digital scale has at least one button, for taring; some have many more for all kinds of advanced features. Ideally, these buttons should be flat sealed buttons, like those found on most microwaves. This way, food particles can't easily get into the interior of the scale and interfere with the operation of the electronics. Some models have individual buttons with gaps between them and the shell of the scale. These are less desirable. The appearance of a scale is largely a matter of personal taste. Some people like the simple industrial look of a basic metal model with a stainless steel tray. Others prefer the high-design Euro-style models made of glass and brushed aluminum, chrome, or stainless steel. At the extreme end, some of these scales look more like sculpture than kitchen appliances. When it comes to appearance, everyone's tastes are different. The best thing you can do is choose a model that you will be happy to keep out on your counter-top, instead of buried in the back of a cabinet. The more accessible your scale is, the more you will use it. Beyond just weighing things, some newer digital scales offer a number of additional features. Some, for example, include clocks and/or timers. This can be a convenience, or an unnecessary gadget. Most of us already have clocks and timers on our ovens and/or microwaves. You may also be the type who has no need for yet another appliance to constantly blink 12:00 along with your VCR. Another feature some scales offer is a calorie computer. You select the type of food you are weighing from a menu, and then the scale determines not only the weight of the food, but also the number of calories. If you really think this is a must-have feature, try to get one that lets you select by the name of the food being weighed, as opposed to entering a code number in a guidebook. Finally, there is at least one scale now for sale that includes a thermometer. A temperature probe plugs into the scale and displays temperatures on the scale's screen. This is possibly convenient for making chocolate or candy. The down side is that you may not necessarily use your thermometer directly adjacent to where you weigh raw ingredients. As you can probably tell, we aren't huge fans of lots of extras on digital scales. A scale is already a wonderfully multi-tasking device. What else other than a bowl can you use to help you make almost any dish you would ever want to make? Pushing it further than weighing things just puts all your eggs in one basket. If one part malfunctions, you have to replace the whole thing. Using Your Scale So you've got that new scale home, and it's time to start cooking. Of course you've popped over to RecipeGullet and found several tempting treats that you are eager to re-create in your own kitchen. Luckily, using a good kitchen scale is easy. In fact, it's substantially easier, not to mention a lot less messy, than old-fashioned cup measures. Taring The most important thing to remember when using a kitchen scale is to always tare it properly. Taring means eliminating the weight of the bowl of other container from the weight of the food item it contains. Normally, the best way to do this is to put the empty bowl on the scale by itself. If you are using a spring scale, there will be a knob or dial somewhere on the scale that you can turn until the scale indicates zero, even though it has a bowl on it. On most digital scales, there will be a tare button you can press which will reset the scale to zero. On a balance scale, you will either have to add some weights to the side of the balance opposite the bowl or move a sliding weight along the beam of the balance to counter the weight of the bowl. Once you have properly tared your scale, you can slowly add the ingredient you wish to measure to the bowl, carefully watching the needle or digital display until it reaches the desired weight. If you add too much, you can obviously scoop it back from the weighing bowl into the storage container it came from. With a little practice, however, you will find that you can dump in most of what you want, then carefully sprinkle in the last ounce or two so that you never overshoot your target. For ingredients where a tablespoon or less is involved, it's generally wise to stick with teaspoons and tablespoons. The reason is that many kitchen scales are just not accurate enough. For example, if you have a digital scale that works in 5g increments, and a recipe asks for 7g, what do you do? Your scale either says 5g or 10g. It can't display a 7. Newer scales are more commonly accurate to 2g, or sometimes even 1g, which makes this problem less severe. The big exceptions to the volume for small amounts rule are salt and yeast. Salt is an exception because kosher salt takes up twice the volume of regular salt, and so people will either put in double, or half the amount they need if they mistakenly use the wrong kind. Luckily, though, salt in many recipes is a matter of taste, rather than an exact amount. Yeast is an exception because getting it significantly wrong in either direction can make a mess of your bread. Getting it wrong a little can affect the rising time, which can be annoying, but is not the end of the world. If you are using fresh yeast, many recipes call for enough to weigh reasonably, around 15g or so. The Single Bowl Approach Weighing a bunch of ingredients for a recipe can take some time, although rarely as much as carefully scooping and leveling with measuring cups. Once you get pretty good at judging quantities by weight, you may wish to adopt a single-bowl approach to weighing several ingredients. The idea here is that instead of pouring each ingredient out of the weighing bowl into a mixing bowl after weighing, you simply re-tare the scale and load the next ingredient right in on top of it. There are some risks to this approach; in particular, if you put in too much of the second ingredient, you may have a hard time scooping it out without removing some of the first ingredient. Whether you use this technique or not depends largely on how careful you generally are in adding ingredients, and how much you really care about not having to wash that second bowl. If you are dealing with metric units, the single bowl approach can be extended to include water as well. The reason is that 1ml of water has a mass of exactly 1g. So if a recipe calls for 400g of flour and 300ml of water, you can weigh out the 400g of flour, tare the scale, and then weigh another 300g of water into the same bowl. Note that this does not necessarily apply to other liquids, which may have different densities than water. Also, this does not work with US standard weight and volume measures. In the US, one fluid ounce of water weighs 1.0425 ounces. Updating Existing Recipes If you have a large collection of recipes calling for cup measures, and you would like to convert them to more reliable and repeatable weight-based recipes, it is not hard to do. There are three ways you can do this. The supposedly simplest, but actually not so simple, and unreliable to boot is the estimation method. The second is by converting recipes on the fly. The third is the difference method. The latter two methods are the best to use whenever possible. The Estimation Method The estimation method for converting recipes relies on the idea that there is a standard amount of any given type of ingredient in a cup. Unfortunately, that is the same fallacy that makes cup measurement of dry ingredients problematic in the first place. However, if we are willing to assume that there is a standard for how much flour, sugar, etc., fills a cup, then we can easily construct a table of conversion factors from volume to weight. For example, an entry in the table might indicate that one cup of flour is equivalent to 125g. So, we could convert the 1-1/2c of flour to weight by multiplying 1.5 x 125 to get 187.5g, which we would probably round to 190g. Conversion tables like this can be found at various sites on the internet, but if you examine them, you will see that they don't come close to agreeing with one another. Despite the problems with this method, it is better than nothing. However, you are much better off using one of the more accurate recipe conversion methods described below. Converting Recipes on the Fly The obvious approach is to fill your cup measure with the same two cups of flour you always use, packed exactly as you always pack it, and then dump it into a pre-tared weighing bowl on your scale. Make a note of the weight on the original recipe. Repeat for each dry ingredient, and then you are done. If you are unlucky with your cup measures, and your favorite recipe doesn't come out quite right when you are gathering your weight information, all is not lost. You still know exactly how much of each ingredient you used in the botched attempt. It's much easier to use a little more or less of a particular ingredient the next time when you know precisely how much you used before. With the variation inherent in cup measures, this would be almost impossible. The Difference Method Weighing each ingredient as you go is not the only way to determine the weight of each ingredient in a recipe. If you are the kind of cook who goes more by appearance and texture than by weight, adding a few extra tablespoons of this ingredient or that, you can still accurately record how much of each ingredient you used. The method for doing this is called the difference method. The first step in the difference method is to gather each of the ingredients you intend to use, leaving them in their storage containers. Before you start cooking, weigh each container. Don't worry about taring the scale with an empty container first; simply weigh the whole container and its contents. You can record the weights either on a sheet of paper or on a post-it affixed to each container. The next step in the difference method is to actually cook your dish. But you already know how to do that. So let's move on. Once you have finished cooking, go back and weigh each of the ingredient storage containers again. The weights should be less, since you used some up. Now, subtract the after-cooking weight of each container from the before-cooking weight to determine how much of the ingredient you used. For example, suppose that before you started your flour storage container weighed 5lbs 2oz (=82oz) and after it weighed 3lbs 14oz (=62oz). This means that you used 20oz, or 1lb 4oz of flour. The difference method is also great for reconstructing secret or unknown recipes, like your grandma's famous biscuits. If she has been making them the same way for 65 years, she may not use a recipe at all. If she does, it may be a cryptic one that only makes sense to her, or in her kitchen. It may call for 2 regular scoops of flour, but only she knows which scoop that means and how to pack it. If you weigh her flour before and after the biscuit making, you'll know she uses exactly 7oz. What to do with Your Leftover Cup Measures Once you start weighing ingredients, you'll never want to go back. So what should you do with all those cup measures you have lying around. One good thing you can do with them is put one into each of your dry ingredient storage containers. You can still use them for scooping the ingredient out onto the scale, just not for measuring. Liquid volume measures are also fine to keep around. Liquids may change slightly in volume with changes in temperature, but the variation is miniscule compared to the variation in weight of a particular volume of most dry ingredients. Click here for the course Q&A.
  25. Welcome to the eGCI Demo series on Jewish Foods. The demonstrations will be posted in the Cooking forum, with an index here. The Instructor Pamela Reiss (aka Pam R) grew up in her parents' company, learning all she could about kosher catering. After attending the University of Minnesota (Crookston) and earning a bachelor's degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management, Pam returned home to work in the family business, Desserts Plus. She quickly combined her interest in devising recipes with her love of writing to create Soup - A Kosher Collection -- her first kosher cookbook. Pam continues to work in Desserts Plus, though it's changed over the years: in addition to catering, it now includes a specialty kosher food store that supplies kosher ingredients to customers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Pam writes a bi-weekly recipe column in the Jewish Post and News (Winnipeg) and a monthly column in Around The Corner Magazine (New Jersey). Her recipes have been published in the Jerusalem Post, Los Angeles Jewish Journal, and Canadian Living Magazine. She plans to put together an entire series of kosher cookbooks -- from soups to desserts. The Series: Jewish Foods by Pamela Reiss As somebody once famously said (and has often been quoted), if you ask two Jews one question, you'll receive three answers. Nowhere is this truer than in the kosher/Jewish kitchen. If you do a search on any Jewish food, you'll find that recipes are plentiful -- and many of them are very different. There are many foods that I consider to be "Jewish" foods, but most are really just Jewish variations of foods from other lands. As a people, the Jews have lived across the globe, so much of our food history is influenced by the various communities we lived in (though it also worked in the reverse). The differences in the Jewish versions stemmed primarily from the limited variety in kosher meats and seafood and the prohibition of mixing milk and meat in one meal. Families that hail from North Africa, Southwest Asia and Southern Europe have generally used more spices and the vegetables native to their regions. Families (like mine) from Russia and Eastern Europe have diets heavy in traditional foods of the region -- perogies, cabbage rolls, etc. To you it may be a perogy, but in my kosher kitchen it's a vereneke (potato perogy) or a kreple (cheese or meat perogy). Potato pancake? No -- that’s a latke. Then there are some items that I think of as ours alone. Sure, they may be similar to a food of another culture -- but it was the Jewish people that brought these items to the world. Bagels, kugels, matzo balls and knishes are some of these famously "Jewish" foods. One might think that a bagel is a bagel, a knish is a knish. Ah ha! One would be wrong. There are so many varieties and geographical differences in these foods that there could be (and probably are or will be) books dedicated to each single item. In these demonstrations, I'll present some of the preparations of these "Jewish foods." I'd love input and I'd also love it if people would post their versions of recipes for these dishes. For some, I'll give more than one preparation; for others it'll just be the one I like the best. If you have questions, please ask. I don't claim to know all the answers -- but there are so many knowledgeable members of the eGullet Society that I'm sure an answer will be found. To quote my grandmother: "Ess, ess!" (Eat, eat) Index of demos: Knishes (topic started Jan. 26, 2006) Chicken Soup (topic started June 26, 2006) Meat Kreplach (topic started June 26, 2006) Sufganiyot (topic started Nov. 29)
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