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Dairy free and Gluten Free Cakes that taste good


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I've been asked to bake a wedding cake for a bride that has gluten and dairy allergies. Only one layer of the cake will be made for her; with the rest of the cake made with regular ingredients and recipes.

Any recipes I've made have not been good - with my most recent attempt the texture was crumbly and the cake fell apart when turned out of the pan.

Can anyone provide me with some guidance?

Beaches Pastry

May your celebrations be sweet!

Beaches Pastry Blog

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IF ... she can eat almonds and eggs ... then you might want to look at some variety of Hungarian/Viennese sponge where the yolks and whites are whipped separately, with sugar and flavorings in the case of the yolks. They are then folded together and a small amount of starch crumbs are folded in ... can be flour or cake crumbs, but it can also be almond 'flour' by itself. The resulting sponge is delightfully tasty, and can even be very, very lightly syruped.

I prefer this type of layer actually ... but in any event, it is a "real" cake that has been developed and used for a couple hundred years ... it is not a stab at 'backwards-logicking' a cake that is, in part, dependent on wheat gluten for its rise and texture.

Regards,

Theabroma

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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Have you tried any mochi cakes? These are a type of japanese cake made with sweet rice flour (mochiko).

I've included a few links below, the brownie mochi cake is definitely very good and the texture is somewhat like a genoise.

--Michelle

http://eats.pinjing.net/2010/04/05/mochi-brownie-two-bites/

http://foodlibrarian.blogspot.com/2010/03/matcha-mochi-cupcakes-happy-st-patricks.html

http://www.tinyurbankitchen.com/2010/02/red-bean-mochi-loaf.html

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I'm on a gluten-free diet, and dairy free goes along right with it. I belong to a yahoo chat group called sillyyaks. you might want to join the group and search and browse their archives and/or ask questions of the group. I find gluten-free baking to be very hard and most of the cakes I have made taste like pound cakes. There are some gluten free flour mixes out there that are supposed to be very good. I can't get any in my area so have no recommendations. I have also tried some gluten-free cake mixes like Pamela's which was good for gluten-free. Betty Crocker has gluten-free cake mix that you can find in your regular grocery store. If you choose to go the gluten-free cake mix route, be careful, because some of them like BC only make a single layer.

there are also several gluten-free baking blogs out there. I think one of the best is gluten-free girl and the chef.

The sillyyaks also recommend a number of gluten-free baking books, but I don't know the names of any of the authors because I haven't invested in any of them. Your best bet may be to get a premade gluten-free flour mix like BetterBatter and use it in your cake recipe just as you would use regular flour. And then perhaps substitute almond or rice milk for the diary portion. If using such a flour mix, you may have to add xanthum gum as well.

Again, this is all out of my league as I have no been courageous enough to do any heavy duty gluten free baking.

Please also be very careful of cross-contamination when baking your gluten-free cake. I would bake the cake first thing in the morning in a clean kitchen before you start using any of your other flours. Some of us can be extremely sensitive to cross-contamination.

Good luck!

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hey, i am part of a gluten free dairy free group that i bake for all the time. For my dairy i use an herbalife product called protein drink mix. When mixed with water its like a vanilla milk but its a soy isolate. Its also 15g of protein per serving although the heat of baking denatures that so its a lude point. If you want a recipe or if you want to buy a bottle let me know. I have a couple recipes i can share. 6162937299

Omar

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I recently looked at the cookbook from NYC bakery Babycakes. It was mostly gluten-free & vegan recipes, without too many odd ingredients. You might want to check it out: http://www.amazon.com/BabyCakes-Gluten-Free-Sugar-Free-Recipes-Talked-About/dp/0307408833

I didn't bake from it, so I can't vouch for the taste, but the photos looked great & the bakery apparently has quite a following.

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Most of my family are gluten intolerant, and one of them is lactose intolerant too.

I'm curious that you have used the word 'allergy' rather than the more common term 'intolerant' - is this intentional? The majority of the world's population is lactose intolerant, so depending on geography it's very common, but a dairy allergy is quite different and potentially more serious. Are you sure it's a full allergy?

The first part- gluten. Gluten is pretty easy to work around, because gluten basically means wheat. So avoid wheat flours and you're avoiding gluten- I suggest using almond meal instead, which is very common in European cakes. Personally I prefer baking with almond meal to wheat flour anyway- I love the texture, flavour, richness and moistness that almond meal brings to a cake, although you can't do a simple 1:1 replacement with wheat flour because almond meal is much heavier. You can also use Hazelnut meal (more expensive but can give your cake a subtle nutella flavour), or even chestnut meal. Any recipe that says it's "flourless" will be gluten free, and the majority will use a nut-meal to replace the flour. A long time ago when I was working in a bakery I was accosted by an angry customer who was under the impression that gluten was a synthetic chemical that was added to bread to artificially improve it. He wanted to know why we couldn't just leave it out. I had to explain that gluten is a natural part of wheat flour and in order to leave out the gluten we would have to leave out the flour, and that there wouldn't be much left to bake...

If the bride is truly allergic to dairy then you can try simple nut-meal cakes such as this one. I made it the other day and it was delicious - although I used 8 eggs instead of 6, and added a splash of orange juice before folding in the egg whites as the mix was very dry.

As I said earlier, lactose intolerance is very common and not as serious as a full dairy allergy, it means that the body lacks the enzyme lactase (not a typo- lactase digests lactose. No lactase = lactose intolerance). You can buy liquid lactase to add to dairy products which allows lactose intolerant people to enjoy dairy foods normally. Not all dairy foods contain lactose - butter is low, hard cheese is very low and natural yoghurt is low- REAL yoghurt also contains natural lactase which means people who are lactose intolerant can usually enjoy yoghurt without any problems. So a lactose intolerant person can enjoy a cake made with butter.

Unfortunately this issue has been complicated by modern manufacturing processes. Yoghurt, butter and sour cream- made traditionally- are low in lactose. But some modern industrial techniques can make sour cream and yoghurt that are high in lactose- they don't actually use a culture, they just add a synthetic tart taste and thickeners. So look for yoghurts and sour creams that are labelled "natural" and check the ingredients for a culture.

So if the bride is not fully allergic but is lactose intolerant, then the simplest solution is to buy liquid lactase from a pharmacy and add it to any milk that you might be using. Butter should be fine but you could even look for a European style cultured butter just to be doubly sure. Or else use natural yoghurt (many devil's food cakes use yoghurt) or even try cultured buttermilk instead of normal dairy milk.

But even if the bride is fully allergic to dairy products then there are many nut-meal cake recipes around - such as the one above - that only use eggs, sugar and nut meal. Searching on Google for an almond cake or a hazelnut cake will get you started.

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Thank you all for your replys. I'm still testing recipes, as I haven't been happy with the cakes I've made so far. I'm using different non-wheat products, such as tapioca and potato starch, garbanzo flour and sorghum flour. Liquids are either soy milk or coconut milk, and fat is either oil or palm oil shortening. The idea about using kosher recipes is great - as I've made a couple of good tasting kosher cakes for customers years ago.

As for whether the bride is allergic vs intolerant - I haven't asked that specific question. I do appreciate your views, as the difference in terminology could change how I bake for her.

Beaches Pastry

May your celebrations be sweet!

Beaches Pastry Blog

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Hi there.

I bake gluten free sometimes and vegan sometimes. In fact my most recent blog entry is for a gluten-free muffin. http://eatthelove.blogspot.com/2010/05/kiwi-lime-marmalade-filled-muffins.html

Here are my recommendations: If you are looking for a cake that is suitable for a wedding, and don't want to go with anything exotic (mochi) or super european (almond meal - which IS a great alternative but might not be a traditional wedding cake that your client is looking for) use a mix of:

2 cups of superfine brown rice flour

2/3 cups potato starch (NOT potato flour - that's something different),

1/3 tapioca flour.

It super important you use a superfine brown rice flour or the cake will be gritty. I found that Bob's Red Mill brown flour is too coarse. Authentic Foods is probably ground the finest. This combination is probably the best recipe to simulate white wheat flour.

For every 1 cup of this wheat free flour that you use, add 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum for making a cake. This is SUPER important. It's why your cakes were crumbly in the beginning. You need something to bind the ingredients together (which is what the gluten is suppose to do).

I would actually stay away from both the gluten free pre-mix flours, as they often times have garbanzo bean or fava bean flour in them, both which can impart a bitter taste to the baked good. It's not so noticeable in cookies and muffins, but for a cake, they will be more pronounced.

As for substituting dairy, soy, almond, rice or hemp milk all work. Butter usually isn't a problem if they are lactose intolerant but if they are lactose allergic (as someone ChrisZ explained earlier) you'll want to avoid it. Try non-hydrogenated refined coconut oil. It has a similar mouth feel to butter. Be sure to get refined coconut oil. The unrefined oil tastes like coconut (which isn't a bad thing if you like coconut, but if you don't want that flavor - go with refined).

I highly recommend checking out the Babycakes Cookbook that Hungry C recommends, though a lot of their recipes call for spelt flour which wheat allergic people can tolerate, but gluten allergic people can not. Better yet, check out Cybele Pascal's book The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook. It's probably an invaluable cookbook for baking for people with allergens of all sort. Once you create a wedding cake for someone who is gluten/dairy allergic, word will spread in the "gluten free, allergen free"community and you'll probably end up with people asking you for more. Cybele Pascal's book is an excellent resource and a good starter book for baking for people with food sensititivities.

Finally, be sure when you are making the cake that you are aware of cross contaminations. Depending on how sensitive your client is, any speck of wheat or gluten that can migrate into the batter could potentially be an issue. Basically just make sure you clean all your equipment thoroughly. Also check the label of all ingredients. For instance Trader Joe's almond meal doesn't have any gluten ingredients in it (in fact, it's labelled as such) but is processed on equipment that is shared with wheat and dairy. That could be a problem.

This could also be a problem when stacking the layers of the cake. If they are truly dairy allergic, you may want to make the entire frosting out of a dairy alternative fat, so there isn't any cake frosting cross contamination. Also be aware that gluten free cakes tend to be not rise as much (I always use more 1 1/2x the leavening agent in the original recipe to compensate) and potentially might be more delicate and fragile. In other words, you might not want to make it your bottom layer!

Gluten free Blogs and resources to check out:

http://glutenfreegirl.blogspot.com/

http://www.cybelepascal.com/

http://www.elanaspantry.com/

http://thedaringkitchen.com/forums/daring-kitchen/alternative-baking

Good luck! I hope this helps.

My blog: http://www.eatthelove.com

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Thank you so much for such a clear, thorough post. This has been a learning experience for me, as I work with new ingredients. I was surprised to see that my baking powder had gluten in it - but it made me realize that I have to read every label carefully.

It's funny how you mentioned word getting around in the gluten-free / dairy free community. I've worked with customers who had other (sometimes major) food sensitivities and was able to experience firsthand that "word getting around" effect. If I come up with a couple of good recipes with these restrictions, I expect some new customers, and have had caterers tell me they're also interested in these products.

I've seen recipes with sweet rice flour and brown rice flour. Can you explain the difference?

Again - thanks for your information. I will check out the books you recommended, as well.

Beaches Pastry

May your celebrations be sweet!

Beaches Pastry Blog

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Can I take a vanilla butter cake recipe and modify it to make it dairy and gluten free?

Specifically:

replace the cake and AP flour with an equal amount of your non-gluten mixture

2 cups of superfine brown rice flour

2/3 cups potato starch (NOT potato flour - that's something different),

1/3 tapioca flour.

use 1 1/2 times the amount of baking powder

add 1/2 tsp xanthan gum per cup of "flour"

replace the butter with vegetable shortening in equal amounts - organic palm oil or refined coconut oil. Would this be a better substitute than margarine? (I was told margarine is OK for this bride)

Sugar,salt and vanilla would remain the same.

Egg whites would remain the same, as the bride can tolerate eggs.

Milk would be replaced with coconut milk or soy milk in equal amounts.

For the buttercream, margarine would replace butter in an Italian meringue buttercream.

If these substitutions won't produce the desired result, please let me know why!

Thanks

Beaches Pastry

May your celebrations be sweet!

Beaches Pastry Blog

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Hi there.

Sweet Rice flour, brown rice flour and white rice flour are all different. Brown rice flour and white rice flour are fairly interchangeable, but I've found that you don't necessarily need to have as fine a ground flour with the white rice flour. I used Bob's Red Mill white flour because it's very easy to find at the local grocery store, while I try to avoid using Bob's Red Mill brown rice flour as it's too coarse and tastes a bit gritty (other's might disagree, but I can tell the difference).

Both brown and white rice flour are basically uncooked rice, ground to a powder. Just as there is a difference in brown rice and white rice, you'll find a difference in the flours as well (though I don't think it's as pronounced as the whole grain rices, the brown rice flour does have a faint hint of nuttiness from the brown rice. It's very subtle though).

Sweet rice flour is made from a different rice grain, called glutinous rice. It's very starchy. If you have ever been to a Chinese dim sum brunch, the sticky rice that comes wrapped in a banana/bamboo leaf is glutinous rice. Glutinous rice flour is what you use to make mochi. I have a post on my blog where I make mochi, and talk a little bit about sweet rice flour. My linkhttp://eatthelove.blogspot.com/2010/03/mochi-mochi.htmll You can find it in Asian grocery stores for really cheap (I think my 2 lb bag was 95¢ or something like that, and that was at my expensive asian store, not the ghetto cheap one I sometimes frequent). You can use sweet rice flour (it's gluten-free) for baked goods, but only if the recipe is designed specifically for it. I wouldn't use it as substitute for the gluten free flour mixture I cite above.

As for the recipe and substitution, in theory you should be able to substitute the gluten free flour mixture that I gave you for AP flour, but I would experiment with it first. If you don't want to waste too many ingredients in making cake layers, I would cut the recipe in 1/2 or 1/4 (whatever is convenient for your recipe measurements) and make cupcakes. That way you can test the recipe without as much waste.

Keep in mind, because of the grind of the flours, one cup of the gluten free flour isn't necessarily going to equate to one cup of the AP flour. To be exact, I would substitute by weight instead of volume. That way you know you are getting an exact substitution.

Finally, I am not a personal fan of margarine, because I find the "buttery" taste too artificial (at least for the cheap supermarket margarines). That said, I think it's very much a personal thing. I have had success baking with Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks, but other than that, I tend to stay away from most margarines (If you go the margarine/shortening route, pick a higher end one that is trans-free and non hydrogenated like Earth Balance or Spectrum Organic). Otherwise, I've had good experiences with the refined coconut oil. I can't comment on plain palm oil, as I've never used it as is (only as part of a blend in other shortenings or margarine sticks).

And yes, make sure to read ALL the ingredients list. Wheat and gluten pop up EVERYWHERE. Once you start paying attention you realize it's quite pervasive. I baked kosher for passover recently and my jewish friend also didn't eat kitniyot which mean I couldn't use any leaveners NOR could I use any soy, rice or corn. It was a fun challenge. I ended using coconut oil and coconut milk.

In the end, have fun with the different flours. I recently have been experimenting with sorghum flour and find it's a great substitute as well for baked goods (I've only made brownies and blondies with it so far). The GF flour recipe I gave you is a really good standard mix, that a lot of people use, mostly because it's fairly neutral in flavor, and the ingredients are easy to come by. But once you start exploring different flours, you'll find your palette of flavors expand exponentially.

If you really want to start exploring alternative flours, I highly recommend a recently released book called Good to the Grain, Baking with Whole Grain Flours, by Kim Boyce. She's a former pastry baker at Spago (working under Sherry Yard, who I LOVE) and Campanile and each chapter of the book is broken down into chapters that deal with different flours (from millet to sorghum to amaranth to teff). It doesn't specifically have any recipes for gluten free baking, but it's a great resource for learning about gluten free (and alternative) flours.

And, yes, word gets around! I started baking vegan and gluten free for a few friends, and now it's pretty much expected that whenever I have an event, I will have desserts that EVERYONE can enjoy. I don't mind, but it's rather amusing how tight knit the community can be. And it's a fun challenge!

Good luck!

My linkhttp://www.eatthelove.com

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  • 2 weeks later...

I haven't forgotten about this - just have been sidetracked with weddings the past few weeks. I'll be back to experimenting this week.

I realized that I have a neighbor who is a great cook whose daughter has Celiac - and borrowed a gluten free cookbook from him. I'm going to take the information you gave me about flour substitutes and play with some recipes in his cookbook to see what I can make.

Sorghum flour has an odd, more pronounced flavor in vanilla cakes. I liked the taste of the rice flour, tapioca starch and potato starch better.

Will post more once I've made more test cakes.

Again - thanks for your help!

Beaches Pastry

May your celebrations be sweet!

Beaches Pastry Blog

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My mother inlaw has been sensitive to gluten for years and she has been having great success with bread and dessert recipes from the CIA cooks gluten free cook book. She has a few books but has been having the best luck with the CIA book.

I have tried modifying a few of my recipes with oat flour with some success. If the recipe called for 1 cup AP I substitute 3/4 cup oat flour. The oat flour gives my brownies a texture that emulates extra fine coconut as well as a coconut flavour and my brownies seem to be that much better with it!

You have to be careful with oat flour as they are often milled on equipment that wheat flour is milled on and if the client is allergic it might be a concern. Luckily my mother inlaw has not been diagnosed as being allergic so she says she is fine with the oat flour. (Thank goodness :smile: )

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I'm following this post closely as my kids are allergic to eggs, wheat and soy, and one of them is also allergic to nuts and dairy... interested to know what you've been able to tinker.

I don't know if you've tried any of the mixes available but if it is only one layer and you run out of time to experiment (or to sort of know what to aim for), the ones made by Cherrybrook Kitchen work well and the only thing artificial in them is xanthan gum.

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  • 1 month later...

In the past few weeks I have made a couple of test cakes using different recipes and ingredients to see if I could find a vanilla cake that had a good taste and decent texture. These are some of the better results. The cakes I baked that were specifically written as gluten-free recipes were disappointing, so I decided to use my own recipes - modified. I used the following non-gluten mixture in place of the flour in a couple of my own recipes (gluten free flour recipe compliments of JackHonky)

MIX 1

2 cups of superfine brown rice flour

2/3 cups potato starch (NOT potato flour - that's something different),

1/3 tapioca flour.

use 1 1/2 times the amount of baking powder

add 1/2 tsp xanthan gum per cup of "flour"

MIX 2

and used this recipe as a replacement for flour in the second cake recipes (the recipe was originally credited to David Lebovitz)

33% Superfine brown rice flour

33% Tapioca Flour

33% Sweet Rice Flour

use 1 tsp. xanthan gum per cup

I baked two of my own recipes - a butter cake and a chiffon cake. Each flour substitute was used as a replacement in both recipes and compared.

For the butter cake - using MIX 1, Rice Milk for the milk and Coconut Oil in place of the butter (bride can't have dairy)

The cake tasted OK - not a lot of taste and was greasy on the bottom, with a crust on top.

For the butter cake - using MIX 1 - changing white rice flour for brown rice flour, Rice Milk for milk and Margarine for the butter.

The cake was dense and had a gummy texture, but wasn't greasy. Was the Coconut oil causing the greasy bottom?

For the chiffon cake - using MIX 2 - this cake had the densest texture, more like a bread than cake. The taste was good - less sweet than the

butter cake recipes above.

For the chiffon cake - using MIX 1 - this cake was best overall with both taste and texture.

When cake samples were given to people to taste and offer feedback, they fell into one of two groups. They either liked the butter cakes best because they were moister and sweeter or they liked the chiffon cakes better because they were lighter and not so sweet. Few people complained that the cakes tasted "weird" or "gluten free".

BUT - THERE'S A NEW TWIST IN THE SAGA - the bride cannot have potato. No potato starch, no potato flour.

So - What would be a good substitute for potato starch in the first non-gluten flour recipe? Could I use some white rice flour?

Beaches Pastry

May your celebrations be sweet!

Beaches Pastry Blog

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BUT - THERE'S A NEW TWIST IN THE SAGA - the bride cannot have potato. No potato starch, no potato flour.

So - What would be a good substitute for potato starch in the first non-gluten flour recipe? Could I use some white rice flour?

Ack!

You could try using cornstarch to replace the potato starch...

Karen Dar Woon

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The writer of Cannelle et Vanille blog was diagnosed with gluten-intolerance relatively recently, so she has a number of gluten-free recipes on her website. Including this one http://cannelle-vanille.blogspot.com/2010/05/soaked-lemon-poppy-seed-and-olive-oil.html . It's more like a pound cake in terms of texture (at least it seems so from the picture), but it meets all your requirements--gluten-free, dairy-free, and potato-free. She made them into cupcakes, so I don't know how it would work as a square or round cake.

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      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.......
    • By Nn, M.D.
      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!
       
    • By ResearchBunny
      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!
    • By TexasMBA02
      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,
       
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