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  1. I'm preparing for my annual holiday pie baking (I only make pies twice per year). I'm generally okay with the crust method I've been using - "Pie Crust Sticks" and I add a spoonful of orange juice in place of part of the water. Works really well and I plan to continue unless you folks can convince me that I'll get a truly superior crust if I make it from scratch (I'm open to discussion but please note that I have no mixer or food processor if that makes a difference). Here's the focus of my problem: in an effort to make a pecan pie that stands out from the ordinary and has a truly rich flavor to the filling, I've been experimenting with ingredient variations. For starters, I use 1/2 dark karo syrup and 1/2 light rather than all light syrup. I've also been replacing about 1/3 to 1/2 of the total amount of Karo syrup with real maple syrup for richer flavor. I have also been replacing the refined white sugar with dark brown sugar. People absolutely love the pies - the flavor is richer and more intense than a traditional pecan pie but I have a problem with consistency - the filling tends to stay a bit towards the liquid side. I recognize that the maple syrup won't "set" or thicken in the same way as the Karo syrup. Should I reduce the proportion of maple syrup or can someone suggest a way overcome this obstacle. Also.... is the use of dark brown sugar impacting on this in any way? Would using turbinado raw sugar perhaps be a better way to get a richer sugar taste but possibly with better results? Any and all suggestions appreciated. TIA!
  2. So, strangely, as of late, I sort of seem to have my shit together, and I actually had enough forethought to bring along my digital camera to document the construction of my latest cake project. Since so many of you seem curious as to how one of these things comes together, I thought you all might enjoy the picture filled journey down the path of a sculpted cake. How it started: First a little history. I'm a semi-burned out pastry chef who transplanted herself from the "big city" (Seattle) scene to a tranquil and liberal, artistic, intellectual, granola chewing, Birkenstock wearing, marine and tourist trade Victorian Seaport......also known as Port Townsend, Washington. I love this place. I affectionately call it Tinytown. In Seattle I spent a lot of years doin' the PC thing in various bakeries and specialty shops, but mostly I was employed as a high-end cake artist. I loved the work I did (and do) as a cake artist over there, but the long hours and snotty brides took their toll, and I wanted to walk away from it for a while. After a couple of years living here in Port Townsend and establishing a life with my new husband and love of my life, I decided to get back into doing cakes just a little. I'm only doing the ones I want to do, and only the ones that make it worth my while. But sometimes I'm so inspired to do a cake, I do it for nothing just because I want to do it, and I love to see the look on people's faces when I present it to them. Usually, that's all the payment I need. Such is the case with this cake. A side note: I do have a regular job baking for a cute progressive little deli (Provisions) and a cookie wholesale outfit. I love that job.....it fulfills my need to bake. Not only that, the people I work for are so freaking nice as to let me use the kitchen for my cakes also. I only have to pay them 10% of whatever I'm charging for the cake.....but anything under $100 is free. I also get to order all my ingredients wholesale on their account. Sweet, huh? Here's a picture of Provisions, Port Townsend's source for gourmet European ingredients, and the best take-out on the Peninsula! Since this town is small enough that everyone seems to know everyone else, I heard that one of my boss' wife's friends was getting a baby shower on May 1st. Of course, the boss' wife, who is a chef in her own right and runs the deli, offered to do the food. So I chimed in and said I'd do the cake. The person giving the shower, Lily, showed me the invitation and told me that she was going to do a May Day theme with lots of flowers. When I offered to to the cake, I was just going to do a simple round cake....but when Lily told me the details I had this epiphany. Into my head immediately popped one of those Anne Geddes babies that is coming out of the flowerpot. I immediately started forming this vision of my cake, and this is what I sketched: Now, I knew I would be putting in a lot of work for no monetary gain, but what the hell.....it would be fun. Once I get a bee in my bonnet, there's no stopping me. A week before the day of the shower, I started all my prep work.....which included: making the flowers, out of gumpaste making modeling chocolate and kneading in all the colors I would need making the umbrella out of gumpaste baking the cakes making the buttercream making simple syrup kneading all the fondant colors I'd need buying chocolate cookies and liquor cutting and covering my bottom board dying bamboo skewers green with vinegar and food color I did a little each day. I had to fit that in between my regular job and family-care duties. On Saturday, the day before the shower, and one of the days I'm off from my regular job, I went into the kitchen to build the cake. I'd had a nutritious breakfast of Oreo Mint Creams thanks to my stepson who'd been eating them the night before as he was watching TV. Gulped down a little coffee, and packed up all my equipment in the back of my truck. Only 4 minutes to the kitchen......man, I don't miss commuting!!! The night before, I had filled and stacked the cakes, so they would be ready for me to carve, first thing. The top cake is a lemon cake with raspberry buttercream, and the bottom cake is chocolate cake with mocha-toffee buttercream. All the cake layers are soaked with simple syrup; the lemon was soaked with lemon syrup and the chocolate, soaked with Kahlua syrup. I prefer to use buttercream as a filling in sculpted cakes....it sets up firm and makes carving a cinch. Mousses and jams and curds don't set up enough and are also very slippy-slidy. When you are carving out a cake, you don't want your layers sliding around on you. Here is my top cake.....I baked off two 8 inch rounds and 1 10 inch round. Cut them all in half and filled. Ready to carve! Here is the rough cut: I just used my long serrated knife to get a general pot shape. Now for the fine tuning: Lookin' like a flowerpot! Mmmmmm......look at all those cake scraps on the table. Yep, a few went in my mouth (quality control you know) but the rest went into the garbage......Next it's time to put a layer of buttercream on there, for extra smoothy goodness: I snapped the pic with one hand as I was holding the pastry bag in the other. Not easy. I like to use the giant pastry bag with the giant tip for applying icing....makes for less work later. Ok, here's a pic for folks that wanted to see that "paint masker thingy" in action. Tried to snap a pic myself, but just couldn't muster up the co-ordination. Luckily, Amber, the front deli counter girl, took a pic for me. I hadn't meant for her to include ME in the pic (Gawd!) but I wanted more of a close up of Mr. Smoothing Tool. Oh well, you take what you can get. See that I have my sketch on the reach-in behind me....along with all my other wacky magnets. Hey, I like to decorate my workspace.....Notice I hold the "pint masker thingy" by the bottom when I am smoothing the sides. If I don't, and hold it by the handle, it tends to kind of bend. I hold it by the handle when I go across the top. See how nice and smooth?: Now it's really starting to look like a flowerpot. But wait! It's upside down! Why is that, you ask? Because it's easier to carve and ice that way, and most importantly, much easier to apply the fondant. Into the walk-in it goes, to firm up. Now for the second pot: This is going to be the bottom flowerpot. It's going to be larger, and a slightly different shape than the top flowerpot. I baked off 2 10 inch rounds and 1 8 inch round for this one. I only ended up using half the 8 inch round, as you can see. I have the saran wrap underneath the cake and on top of the board, so it will be easier to flip over later. Here it is all carved out.....mmm....more cake scraps.....into the garbage they go..... Below, here it is, with a layer of buttercream. I didn't use the "paint masker thingy" on this one because of the curvature of the cake. I just piped the icing on and then smoothed it out with my offset spatula as best I could. After I refrigerate it, I will do the final smoothing. So now I'm waiting for my pots to set up. Time to do some other stuff, like: "Cuiz" my chocolate cookies to make the "dirt" for my pots. And...... start dusting my flowers and leaves with luster dust to add a little depth and realism to them. For this project I just made "whimsical flowers" in that they really aren't any particular flower....they're just cartoonish and colorful. Well, the roses are, well, roses.....gotta have a few roses. In the background there, you can see sort of how I did the gumpaste umbrella. I happened to have a dessert cup at home that was well suited for it. I filled out the top with gumpaste and added "ribs" with gumpaste, then put some saran on the top of that and put a gumpaste disk on it. I then cut out the rounded parts between the ribs.....and voila....umbrella! This was the first thing I made because I wanted it to have the maximum amount of drying time. Now if I were really smart, I would have made not one, but two or even three umbrellas because stuff always breaks. Always. No matter how careful you are. Especially in a commercial kitchen.....not only do you have to worry about yourself but everyone else too. I make more flowers than I need because I always manage to break quite a few. But, as it was, I only made one umbrella since I was so cocky and sure of myself. Turns out I was lucky......this time! Ok, time to roll out some terra cotta colored fondant! Dust the table liberally with cornstarch and roll away. I've done this so much I can just eyeball how much fondant I'll need to cover a certain sized cake. When rolling out fondant, waste no time from the time you're done rolling til you get it on the cake, because it starts drying out right away. Drying out means yukky little cracks, and me no likey little cracks! So I race to walk-in, retrieve cake, and cover it quickly. Then I take my trusty little pizza wheel and cut the excess away. This excess will get kneaded back into the remainder of my fondant so that I'll have enough to cover the other pot. So I take the rounded pot out of the walk-in, and, after washing my hands like a surgeon, I use the warmth of my hands to smooth the buttercream out so I have a perfect surface on which to cover with fondant. I tried using latex gloves for doing smoothing, but they are too much of a barrier to my body warmth. I need that warmth to lightly soften the buttercream for the proper smoothing. And here we have a nice smooth surface for the fondant: Into the reach-in it goes to set up while I roll out my fondant.......and here it is covered, with the excess trimmed away. Notice that I trimmed off my plastic wrap quite a bit before I covered it. Otherwise I would have gotten into a wrestling match with it and the fondant. So back into the walk-in they go to stay firm while I take me a little breaky: This is the view out the back door of the kitchen. We look over the Kai-Tai Lagoon and the Olympic Mountains. Unfortunately you can't see the Olympics in this picture because it's cloudy. But man, on a clear day......it's outstanding. Off to the right, beyond the trellis thing, is a large garden full of culinary things....a la Chez Panisse. We've got rosemary, bay, basil, fennel, oregano, chervil,onions, squashes (in the fall), thyme, decorative flowers, arugula, and more. Whenever we need herbs....just go out back. We get most of our produce from local farmers who come to our back door. One of the things I LOVE about Tinytown. It really beats the in-city large mass produce vendors. As I look out the back door, I sip on a latte that I made myself from our aging and undependable espresso machine. Luckily, today, I managed to pull a pretty good shot. Ok, break time over! Back to work! My next step is to turn my pots over. I will turn the larger pot over first. I slip my offset spatula underneath the saran wrap and lift the cake off, and set it aside on the table. An important thing to note: If I'd used a mousse, curd, or jam filling, I wouldn't have been able to do this so easily. With a refrigerated buttercream filling, the cake doesn't flex at all as I lift it. I managed to nick a little of my polyfoil covering with my spat when I went to lift the cake. Nuts. Oh well, I'll cover that with a flower later. I melt some white chocolate and smear some in the center of my board. I need to anchor the bottom pot so it doesn't slip around. I flip the bottom pot over, place it on top of my melted white chocolate, make sure it's centered, and peel the saran wrap off. My next step is to mark where I'm going to place my top pot, then insert straws within that area to support the weight of it. I decided to place the top pot slightly off center, and traced a circle with my paring knife to mark it. For most cake supports I use straws. They're easy to cut to fit, cheap, and they work. The only time I use wooden dowels is when there is an UNGODLY amount of weight or a weird center of gravity involved. I used to use regular heavy duty bar straws, until I discovered.......bubble tea straws! They are super heavy duty and very large.....they have to be for people to suck up that lovely bubble tea. I don't really think that fad is going to catch on here much in the states, but as long as I can get the straws I'm happy. I get them from an asian novelty wholesaler in Seattle. I think it's Viet-Wah, but can't remember for sure. Anyway, I insert the straw, mark it with my thumb where it's flush with the top of the cake, then pull the straw out and cut it. I use that straw as a measure to cut the rest of my straws. In this case I will use 5. One in the center and four around. Now I'm all ready to place the top pot on......oh, wait, except for a swirl of buttercream on top of the straws to anchor it a bit. Next, I use my melted white chocolate to adhere an appropriately sized round cardboard on the bottom of my top pot. Once that's set, I flip over the top pot, and place it on my bottom pot. Voila! Now, I really have to make sure that the top pot won't slide around, so I stick a few bamboo skewers down through the middle and through the cardboard til it hits the bottom board. I use the side of my needlenose pliers to pound the skewer down through. Now starts my very favorite part of this whole thing.....details! I figured that using my silicone lace impression molds will make great detailing on the pots. Here's the one I'm going to use to detail the bottom pot: I dust the inside of the mold with cornstarch........then roll out a quick piece of fondant, and roughly press it in: Then I place the top piece of the silicone impression on top, and roll it like crazy with a rolling pin. With the top part of the impression still in place, I pull off as much of the excess as I can. Then I remove the top piece, and pull all the ragged edges back in...... Then I brush a little water on the back of the piece, and adhere it to the pot. I keep making them until the pattern has gone all the way 'round. I use a different lace mold to make a pattern on the top pot. Now it's time to do the rims. When I did the lace impressions around the pots, I used fondant, because I needed the stretchability of it to conform easily to the shape of the pot. A little stretchiness in this case is good. But when it's time to do the rims, I don't want ANY stretching going on whatsoever.....I want uniformly thick and perfectly straight strips, so for this I'm going to use modeling chocolate, which of course has been colored the same color as the fondant. See the neato embossing on my strip? I found that little embossing wheel at Seattle Pottery Supply, believe it or not, and it was cheap too. The embossers are interchangeable and it came with about 10 different patterns! I rolled out my strip, then embossed the pattern twice (one next to the other) then used my pizza wheel to cut nice straight even edges. I made two top strips and two bottom strips....the bottom strips are just plain. And here are the pots with all their details..... These guys are going into the walk-in for a while while I work on the other details. Gotta make the baby! First I start with a styrofoam core. The reason for this is for stability and less weight. There was a time in my career when I thought I shouldn't use ANYTHING that wasn't edible, but talk about making life hard. I've made things out of solid modeling chocolate, but they were very heavy and hard to support. Then over the years, I realized that people really don't eat the decorations anyway (except for a few overzealous kids), so I decided to reduce my chocolate expenses and weight by using styrofoam to bulk things out more and more. I pat out a disk of flesh colored modeling chocolate, and place my styrofoam ball in the middle. Then I bring the edges up around the ball and squeeze the chocolate together so that no seams show. I stick a couple of skewers in it so that I can hold it in one hand and model it with the other. Then I manipulate it in my surgeon-scrubbed hands to model the face, add a little nose, eyes, mouth, ears, hair and of course, a dimple. The baby head needs to go somewhere while I work on other stuff.....oh, here's a good place.....right in the edge of my equipment box. I've been so good about taking pictures at nearly every step! But here's where I fail you.......when I get "in the zone"......meaning that I'm so intent on my little details....I sort of forget about the camera! Here's what I did in between this picture and the next two: *made the baby's shoulders and neck and arms out of modeling chocolate *sprinkled my cookie dirt inside the pots *dusted the centers of my flowers with luster and color, made the calyx's (sp?) and mounted *them on my green skewers *rolled modeling chocolate onto a skewer to form the umbrella stem *made the bottom banner and wrote on it *made the baby's flower bonnet I modeled the baby's neck and shoulders, then stuck that right on the top pot. Then I cut the skewers that are coming out of his head to the right length and pushed it down through the neck and shoulders. I placed the arms and formed the hands. I stuck my umbrella stem through the arm and down into the cake so there would be adequate support......but darn, I wasn't watching carefully, and the skewer came out of the side of the pot because my angle was a bit off. Oh well, I'll cover that up with a leaf. At least you can see where the umbrella stem is on the skewer. On top of the umbrella stem is a little half dome of modeling chocolate, to support the gumpaste umbrella. I dab a bit of melted white chocolate on that, and stick the umbrella on top. Now all I have to do is place my flowers, mount the banner, and put his little bonnet on. And here we have the finished product. It's sort of hard to read the banner....it says, "May Showers Bring Adorable Flowers". One thing I always seem to to do.....I'll shoot the picture of my finished cake and I'm always tired.....so I'm too lazy to find a good backdrop. Then I curse myself later when there's that yukky kitcheny background. God, in one picture I took, my cake had a dirty mop bucket behind it! All I can say is, thank god for Photoshop......I can always "fix" it later. It took me 8 hours to put this together and that's not counting all the prep I did the whole week prior. I don't think a whole lot of people realize the time that goes into this stuff.....and it's also why you don't see it very often. Anyway, the girl that's getting the baby shower has NO IDEA this is coming. Surprising her is going to be the best part! Fast forward to the next day. My boss's wife and I are bringing the box inside the house, then removing the cake from the box. Kids are dancing around us....."is that a CAKE? Is that a CAKE?" People gather round, and the girl who's getting the shower sees it and starts crying. She gives me a big hug and says "I don't know how to thank you!" I told her she just did. The shower went on, presents were opened, food was eaten, champagne was sipped.......and then.....it was time......the part that the kids almost couldn't wait for.....time to eat cake! Which of course, means, time to cut cake. And guess who gets to do it. Yep. Me. I don't have to cut my own cakes very often, and that's a good thing. Usually I'm nowhere in the vicinity when my cakes are cut and consumed.....I have only the memory of a photograph and my labor. This time I also do the deconstructing.....and I gotta say it was bittersweet. Especially since knowing it took me 8 hours to build it and only 15 minutes to take it apart. May I say.......wah? Yes. Wah. Luckily I'd had a couple glasses of Mumm's so my "pain" was numbed a bit....... Hope you all have enjoyed this bit of cake sculpting. Now back to our regular programming.......
  3. [Host's note: to avoid an excessive load on our servers this topic has been split. The discussion continues from here.] Many batches of Apple Pie Ice Cream later and I'm still in love...think it's the crust factor although I am embarrassed to say so. I've never had cookie dough ice cream, but I imagine it's pretty much in the same category. I'm thinking about making Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream...or pretty much any pie ice cream...well, not Lemon Meringue...fruit pies, nut pies,...???? Thanksgiving (in October here in the Far Frozen North) might be a good time to try the Pumpkin idea.
  4. I'm very excited to share with you all a recipe that I developed for a double crust apple pie. I had been inspired a few weeks ago to come up with a series of 3-ingredient recipes that would focus on technique and flavor but still be simple enough for the unseasoned chef. I decided to make an apple pie as a challenge to myself--never having made one before--and as a way to show those who might find pastry intimidating how easy and adaptable it can be. Basic Shortcrust Pastry Ingredients: - 300g flour - 227g salted butter, cold - 2 lemons, zested with juice reserved 1. Cut butter into small chunks. Beat butter, zest of the 2 lemons, and flour together with an electric mixer OR combine with pastry blender OR rub together with fingers OR blitz in a food processor until it resembles sand. 2. Add just enough water to bring the mix together into a dough (about 20g for me). You'll know your pastry is ready when you can press it together and it stays in one piece. 3. Divide dough in two and wrap tightly with plastic. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. 4. When ready to use, roll out each portion to 13 inches in diameter. (I do this between two sheets of parchment paper. Don't worry too much if the parchment sticks to the pastry. I periodically placed mine in the freezer to help keep everything cold, and the butter will separate from the parchment when frozen.) 5. Take 1 portion of rolled dough and place it in a 9-inch tart tin with a removable bottom. Gently press into the sides to ensure even coverage. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Freeze the other portion of dough in-between the parchment pieces. Apple Filling (and Assembly) - 1 kg apples (I used about 7 apples for this recipe.) - 220g dark brown sugar, divided - 1 egg, separated Making the apple butter: 1. Cut and core 500g of your apples, but do not peel. Add cut apples, juice of the one lemon, about 100g or so of water, and 170g of sugar to a large saucepan. 2. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer and cover. Let the apples cook for 20-30 minutes or until tender. 3. Remove from heat and blend until smooth. 4. Return puree to saucepan and simmer uncovered over low heat, stirring occasionally, for an hour. Color should deepen and the mixture should thicken slightly, but do not allow it to scorch. 5. Remove from heat and refrigerate until cool. Apple filling: 1. Peel, quarter, and core the remaining 500g of apples. Slice on a mandolin to about 1/8th inch thickness. Place sliced apples in a large bowl of cold water while slicing remaining apples. 2. Once apples are sliced, drain water and add the juice from the remaining lemon, as well as the remaining 50g of sugar, over the apples. Stir to coat. Assembly: 1. Remove pie base from the freezer. Dock with a fork and brush on egg white. Place back in the freezer and allow to set for for about 5-10 minutes. 2. Pour the entire recipe of apple butter into the pie base and even out with an offset spatula. 3. Arrange apple slices over the apple butter. 4. Remove remaining pie dough from the freezer and cut designs in while still cold. Transfer to the surface of the pie and seal overhanging edges. Trim excess dough. 5. Brush top pastry with egg yolk (beaten with any remaining egg white) and bake in a 365˚F oven for 60-70 minutes. Crust should be shiny and golden brown. 6. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before removing from tin. Some notes: The reason for using salted butter is I think the flavor incorporates a little better into the mix than if I were to use unsalted butter and added salt. That being said, you could do that instead, though your recipe would then have 7 ingredients The addition of apple butter here takes the place of the normal apple pie filling, which is usually thickened with cornstarch and is typically quite sweet. By using the apple butter, I push the flavor of apple forward beyond what you would find in a typically apple pie. Also, the apple butter acts as a glue of sorts so that my slices are always clean, so no need to resort to adding thickeners or extra sweeteners. I'm always looking for a way around blind baking, and using an egg white seal has worked out very well for me. The egg white creates a water-tight layer between the crust and the filling, so no matter how wet my filling is, the crust will always bake crispy and won't get soggy for as long as the pie is around. Feel free to change this up as you see fit. Obviously you can spices to this (I recommend cinnamon, clove, and cardamom) but the beauty of this pie is that it's really not necessary. Although at first blush it may seem one-noted, the harmony between the flaky, almost savory crust and the bright and refreshing filling is one that doesn't need any help, in my honest opinion. So there you have it! My 6-ingredient apple pie, sure to become a go-to for me, and hopefully for you as well!
  5. A friend is having a dinner for some of our friends. She is most famous for her Middle Eastern/Lebanese dinner parties. I asked her what I could bring and she said some dessert that would go with Middle Eastern food. Any ideas?
  6. Having experienced the "Edible Balloon" dessert at Alinea, I have been on a quest to try this at home. Only recently was I able to find purportedly a recipe: https://www.buzzfeed.com/raypajar1/these-edible-helium-balloons-are-dessert-from-the-future?utm_term=.ut6r3PnMk#.acGNVWmd6 the video of which is found below. I tried this and probably no surprise, it failed. The bubble collapsed / popped with only a little distension. I wasn't sure if the problem was that a "secret" ingredient (e.g. some kind of surfactant to stabilise the bubble or using a different kind of sugar) was missing. Or maybe I didn't allow the mix to come to correct temperature etc. Elsewhere I thought I had read that the original recipe was in effect some kind of taffy. Has anyone else had success, or do any candy makers /modernist chefs, have suggestions they are willing to share?
  7. As someone born and bred in the Potteries, but now very much rooted here in Texas, one of the things I miss most of all are the wonderful, freshly made, oatcakes that I enjoyed back in Staffordshire. I don't mean the commercially made things that have now apparently found their way on to the shelves of Sainsbury's or Tesco in some of the less sophisticated parts of the UK (e.g. London). I mean real warm oatcakes, fresh from the griddle, making a perfect breakfast or fast meal. These wonderful alternatives to toast or bread for breakfast were the staple diet of potters, miners, steel workers and pretty much every working family in Stoke-on-Trent and the surrounding area. It used to be impossible to drive more than a mile or two through the city without seeing an oatcake shop where, especially at weekends, the delightful smell of the griddle would filter outwards into the street. There are still many left and some good ones, too, I believe. Even writing this message is making me hunger for one. Oatcakes, for the uneducated, are rather like crepes or galettes made from a batter that is based on oatmeal and cooked on a large griddle. The ultimate whole grain breakfast, they are either wrapped around bacon and egg, fajita-style, or grilled with cheese. My question is, has anyone successfully made oatcakes at home and if so, are there any tips, recipes, etc. that can be shared with other ex-pats from the Six Towns?
  8. Posted 6 hours ago Dear EGulleters, ResearchBunny here. I've just found you today. I've been lolling in bed with a bad cold, lost voice, wads of tissues, pillows, bedding around me. I spent all of yesterday binge-watching Season 2 of Zumbo's Just Desserts on Netflix from beginning to grand finale. I have been a hardcore devotee of Rose Levy Beranbaum since the beginning of my baking passion -- after learning that she wrote her master's thesis comparing the textural differences in cake crumb when using bleached versus unbleached flour. I sit up and pay attention to that level of serious and precision! While Beranbaum did study for a short while at a French pastry school, she hasn't taken on the challenge of writing recipes for entremets style cakes. That is, multi-layer desserts with cake, mousse, gelatin, nougatine or dacquoise layers all embedded in one form embellished with ice cream, granita, chocolate, coulis. After watching hours of the Zumbo contest, I became curious about the experience of designing these cakes. Some of the offered desserts struck me as far too busy, others were delightful combinations. I was surprised that a few contestants were eliminated when their offerings were considered too simple or, too sophisticated. So I'd like to hear from you about your suggestions for learning more about how to make entremets. And also, what you think about the show. And/or Zumbo. Many thanks. RB ps. The show sparked a fantasy entremet for my cold. Consider a fluffy matzo ball exterior, with interior layers of carrot, celery, a chicken mince, and a gelatin of dilled chicken broth at its heart!
  9. Once again, I tried to recreate my mother's shortbread cookies, using her recipe, and they didn't turn out. They were so crumbly they fell apart when you picked them up. I'm very attached to this particular recipe -- she told me that she got it from the first boy who ever kissed her, whose Scottish mother was renowned for them. That's one way to get a recipe!) She made them at all holidays. Here the recipe: 1 cup of butter 1/2 cup of sugar 2 cups of flour pinch salt I've been creaming the butter and suger and adding the flour, chilling it and rolling it out and baking them at about 300 degrees. They spread more than hers did and they're just way crumbly. The taste is good, though. I wish I could as her for advice, but she's no longer with us -- can anyone help me?
  10. After batting about .500 with my previous approach to macarons, I came across Pierre Herme's base recipe online. After two flawless batches of macarons, I've been re-energized to continue to work at mastering them. Specifically, I want to try more of his recipes. My conundrum is that he has, as far as I can tell, two macaron cookbooks and I don't know which one I should get. I can't tell if one is just an updated version of the other or a reissue or what the differences really are. I was hoping somebody had some insight. I have searched online and haven't seen both books referenced in the same context or contrasted at all. This one appears to be older. And this one appears to be the newer of the two. Any insight would be helpful. Thanks,
  11. Aunt Susan and Aunt Betty used to bake over 50 pounds of fruitcake (my mother was a co-conspirator and I an active helper) for Christmas to be distributed amongst family and friends. Beautifully wrapped parcels would be sent with the driver to homes of relatives and friends as a Christmas and New Year gift. Mind you, Aunt Susan (Christian from Kerala) is married to Uncle Raj a Hindu. Aunt Betty is really Dr. Prabha Manchanda (Sikh by birth, secular by practice). This is a tradition we all follow not for religious reasons, but to continue what was brought to India with the foreign rulers. It makes for great festive mood. And all us kids loved this cake. The fruits were soaked in Gigantic Jars for 21 days in rum. Rum was more affordable than Cognac for certain and also easily available. I use Susan Auntie’s recipe each year. It is a big hit at the annual Holiday Bash that I have become famous for amongst friends and theirs. The cake is 9x12 and is made using 2 bottles of Cognac. I make at least 6 batches for the season. One with Armagnac and this is the one I serve for New Year. The reason I wanted to start this thread is that as I was putting stuff into the refrigerator, I realized that I had a 9/12 inch Fruit Cake from last year. I save each year at least one cake for the next year. This is a custom in the family and I am told it is also practiced in the UK. Is that true? We save the cake in a tin but the cake is wrapped in several layers of fine muslin that has been soaked in rum (Armagnac in my case) and every month you add more rum (Armagnac) into the cake. I drizzle lots of it all over the cake and then wrap the cake again and drizzle more over the already soaking muslin cloth. I then sprinkle confectioners sugar and wrap the muslin in Saran wrap and then place in the box, use another layer of Saran wrap and seal the box securely. The cake is always moist and by the next year, it is sublime. I had a nice piece of it just a few minutes ago. I have a buzz. There is LOTS of alcohol in this. Do others have their own Fruit Cake stories? What recipes do you use? Where do you get them? Do you even like Fruit Cake? Who eats them anymore? What makes a good fruit cake? What fruit do you use?
  12. Anyone have a favorite recipe for chocolate cake using semisweet chocolate? My usual chocolate cake recipe uses cocoa, but I have some samples of chocolate I want to use up for a workplace party. Yes, I could make brownies or ganache frosting, or chocolate mousse or chocolate chunk cookies, just feeling like cake this weekend ...
  13. Mid-Autumn festival is still a month away but mooncakes are starting to rear their ugly heads in SF Chinatown. I know people who actually like them, but I suspect most people view them as China's version of the fruitcake. They're for giving, not for eating, and you sort of know that whomever you give them to will give them to someone else. (At least that's my view.) Do you like mooncakes? If so, what style do you prefer, the Cantonese varieties that have everything but the kitchen sink in them, or the more spartan northern style? Meat-filled Jiangsu-style? Ice Cream mooncakes (I kid you not)? Any mooncake memories?
  14. My supplier decided that cocoa butter is now special order so I had to buy a case. And now I have an excessive amount of cocoa butter, anyone need any? Cacao Barry cocoa butter pistoles with a best by date of April 2021 $66 for the 3 kg tub or $22 per kg plus shipping.
  15. Has anyone used Valrhona Absolut Crystal neutral glaze particularly to thicken a coulis or to glaze a tart? If so, how did you like it and is there another glaze you think worked as well but is less expensive or can be purchased in smaller quantities?
  16. Red Velvet Cake It does use a large amount of oil - 2 cups, but it sure ain't "dry." Red Velvet Cake was very popular back in the late 60's & 70's and there were frequently "Red Velvet Cake cookoffs." This recipe won the blue ribbon at several state fairs. 2-1/2 c sifted cake flour 2 c sugar 1 c buttermilk 1 tsp soda 1 tsp vanilla 1 tsp salt 3 eggs 2 T cocoa 1 T white vinegar 1 oz red food color 2 C vegetable oil - regular "buttery flavor" is good but, if you can't find it, use 1 Cup Orville Redenbacher Buttery Flavor Oil for Popcorn (available in the popcorn section at the store) and 1 cup regular vegetable oil to make a total of 2C oil Cream cheese frosting: 1 stick butter 1 tsp vanilla 8-oz pkg cream cheese 1 16-oz bag powdered sugar dash salt 1 c chopped pecans Cake Combine all ingredients; mix well and pour into 1 large or two small buttered and floured cake pans. Bake 300º for about 40 minutes, or until done Frosting Cream well, then frost well-cooled cake. Keywords: Dessert, Cake ( RG466 )
  17. Would anyone be willing to share how they ice dummy cakes for cake show competitions? I have done some before with royal icing (and I still don't have that down real well. ) I would like to do one with fondant and I'm not quite sure how to go about that. If I use the styrofoam circles with fondant do I need to round the corners so it doesn't tear? What do I put under the fondant to stick to the foam? I appreciate any help. Kelli
  18. Hi everyone, Melbourne (AUS) is having a bit of a warm spell at the moment that's looking to continue - 30+ celcius for about 2 weeks straight. I want to play around with a bit of chocolate making but it seems... foolish! In the mornings, the ambient temperature in my house is maybe 23, and i'm wondering if this would be ok for dipping (perhaps a quick trip to the fridge to help them set up for a few minutes?). With moulded pralines, it seems the brief fridge steps that some people recommend make sense since the whole tray is done at once, but it seems impractical for hand dipping, since i'd have to either wait till a whole tray was done (and perhaps moot the point) or otherwise do tiny batches! I guess a related question is that if i made a ganache to slab, would it even set up properly overnight? I was thinking that the crystals would still form as it cooled, but I don't know. Any tips for working in warmer weather (where climate control isn't possible)? Am I best to just write it off over summer and pick it back up when things cool down a bit? The one positive I can think of is that it'll take longer for my tempered chocolate to cool down, so less reheating! Cheers, Stuart.
  19. What do you all think is the safety level of leaving raw shortbread out at warm room temp (75-80f) for 18 hours? Assume no eggs, just butter, sugar, and flour.... It will be baked, but I still fear that pathogens could grow. Or maybe it’s my years of pastry experience wherein cold dough has always been easier to handle and that’s why it seems so wrong. 😂 (This is not my doing, I have a renter in my kitchen.)
  20. So, what is everyone doing for the pastry & baking side of Easter? I'm working on the following chocolates: fruit & nut eggs, hollow bunnies, Jelly Belly filled bunnies, coconut bunnies, dragons (filled with rice krispies & chocolate), peanut butter hedgehogs, and malted milk hens. Hoping to finish my dark chocolate production today and get started on all my milk chocolate items. My father-in-law will be baking the traditional family Easter bread a day or two before Easter. Its an enriched bread and he makes two versions -- one with raisins and one without (I prefer the one with raisins). And I was lucky enough to spot this couple in the sale moulds stock at last year's eGullet chocolate & confections workshop in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. These love bunnies help so very much with Easter chocolate production! ;-)
  21. I remember making bundt cakes with 'baked-in' filling, and now I wonder: would a basic fruit curd stand up to being baked in the middle of a bundt cake without horrible texture fail? Could something like this basic curd work, chilled enough to allow it to be applied with a pastry bag over the half-filled bundt cake batter, and topped with more batter? Dreaming now of a pistachio cake with pomegranate filling, but thinking about other combinaions as well--what are the key characteristics required in a 'bake-in' filling? 2/3 cup sugar 2 T cornstarch 1 cup pomegranate juice 1/4 cup lemon juice 5 egg yolks, whisked together 1/3 cup butter, cut into chunks Stirred the sugar, cornstarch and juices together until there were no lumps, then brought it to about 160 degrees. Gradually added it to the whisked eggs, returned to heat, brought to near boil so the cornstarch thickened, then strained it into a bowl, whisked in the butter, and poured into serving dishes to chill.
  22. Hello, folks, thanks for reading. My husband thinks, I should start selling my popcorn seasonings (which I make for my family), it’s a good product. But I'm not sure if it’s interesting to other people... So, what do you think, guys? Our story: We’ve bought an air popper machine, but popcorn came out pretty tasteless. Then, we’ve bought different “popcorn seasoning” mixes... But it always ends with all the seasoning at the bottom of the bowl. Then, we've added butter, oil and so on before seasoning... we got soggy, chewy popcorn. Lot’s of disappointments… When we almost gave up… the magic happened! I figured out the way to make seasonings that: Stick to popcorn, but not sticky to fingers (or T-shirt , Easy to apply, May be pre cooked in bulk and stored… And popcorn appears crunchy, tasty, thoroughly covered with seasoning. Sounds good, yep? Now, when I want to treat myself - I only need 2 mins to turn tasteless popped popcorn to a real treat. The only moment - it request 1 extra effort: after you toss it over popcorn, you need to microwave it for 1 min, and stir after. So, I was wondering, if you like popcorn like myself - would this seasoning be interesting for you to purchase? Are you ready for a little extra work (microwave & stir) in the goal to flavor popcorn, or it feels too much effort? As I have no experience in manufacturing and retail, your answers would help me to make a very important decision - to dive in or not... Thanks in advance for your answers, it means the world to me.
  23. I'd like help from anyone on making the best Pistachio Ice cream. This forum is a continuation of a conversation I started in my "introduction" post, which you can see at I recently made Pistachio ice cream using the Jeni's Ice Cream Cookbook. I love Pistachio ice cream, so I've launched an experiment to find the best recipe. I am going to try two basic approaches: The Modernist Cookbook gelato, which uses no cream at all, and ice cream; I'm also experimenting with two brands of pistachio paste and starting with pistachios and no paste. Lisa Shock and other People who commented on the earlier thread said that the key is to start with the best Pistachio Paste.   Any advice is appreciated. Here is where I am now: I purchased a brand of pistachio paste through nuts.com named "Love 'n Bake." When it arrived, it was 1/2 pistachios and 1/2 sugar and olive oil. I purchased a second batch through Amazon from FiddleyFarms; it is 100% pistachios. I bought raw pistachios through nuts.com. The only raw ones were from California. If anyone has advice on using the MC recipe or on best approaches to ice cream with this ingredient I'd appreciate them. I will report progress on my experiment in this forum.
  24. I’m trying to find a recipe to make caramel suitable for varegating or swirling into Ice cream when the ice cream is loaded out of the ice cream maker to the ice cream storage container. When swirled at this stage it crams a nice caramel swirl when dipping. I have made several attempts, first attempt tasted great but got stringy and difficult to cut with a spoon. If you wanted to you could pull it out like a Spiders web. A typical caramel sauce will just disappear into the ice cream and seems to break down into the ice cream. Another attempt it got very sandy when cold and had to be hot to be dispensed into the ice cream, causing the base to melt away. Most useable commercial products seem to be heavy with corn syrup. I have tried that without success. Somehow I think that might be the key since the ingredient list for commercial caramel Variegate has it as the first ingredient and sweetened condensed milk the second item. Appreciate any recipes or formulas for a Variegating caramel creme ripple you might be able to offer or your suggestions. Thanks in advance!
  25. A mistake was made with my Albert Uster order this week and I received it twice. Since it's shipped from CA, doesn't go bad, and I'll use it eventually, I'm not going to mess with trying to return the second delivery. But now I have a huge amount of inventory so I thought I'd see if anyone here was looking for Felchlin by the bag. Each bag is 2kg (4# 7oz) in the following varieties and prices: Maracaibo Creole 49%, $48 Sao Palme 60%, $30 Arriba 72%, $46 As for shipping, I can fit 2 bags in a medium flat rate box for $14 or 3 bags in a large box for $19 to go anywhere in the USA. If you'd like some, PM me with your selection, email, and shipping address. I'll invoice you via Square and you can pay securely online with a credit card. Thanks for reading!
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