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Fyre

Cheesecake Factory- a few facts

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Have you ever had a meal in a fine-dining establishment with a two-year-old?  It's not pretty.  They have a time limit of about 45-60 mnutes in a restaurant.  If I'm with the kids and have to eat a meal out I would much rather have an ordinary meal in a place with high chairs, crayons, etc. (no kids menu though) than have a fabulous meal that I'm not able to enjoy and have to get most of it packed to take home.

not to mention the added hassle of having to shop for and prepare dinner when you're dealing with a kid or two. and cleaning up.

but hey, we'll never convince the nay-sayers.

That being said, we are still much more likely to frequent the local "ethnic" places near us. Our kids love Thai, Chinese and Indian food, and I'm not sure if it's a cultural difference, but the staff at these places seem much more tolerant of children.

We have also found that if our daughter is treated in a grown-up manner, that she is more likely to behave herself, so maybe the chain's pandering to kids is for naught.


Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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We have also found that if our daughter is treated in a grown-up manner, that she is more likely to behave herself, so maybe the chain's pandering to kids is for naught.

Pandering is always embarrassing at best, or should be, no matter what end of it you are on.

A friend of ours used to tell children that there's an indoors tone of voice and an outdoors one, when they children in her vicinity needed to shout. It's not really a question of being a permissive parent or a disciplinarian. It's a matter of appropriate behavior. Children should be expected to behave like children and adults as adults, but the appropriate behavior inside a restaurant is not that different for both species. One caters to their children by seeing that they get to spend as much time as possible in places that are supportive to their needs and one helps them grow up by teaching them how to behave in other environments. One panders to them by allowing them to behave the same all over.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I agree Eat. You said the same thing I did on page 2. Its all about the mentality that the food "being served is corporate" and "it's a chain" and "they have research kitchens", etc.

French Laundry is headed in that direction already. Kellers empire is growing like truffles in Perigord.

As noted, the truffles in Perigord grow slowly and are quite rare. They also continue to be first rate and inimitable. Keller would be doing well if he can keep getting compared to truffles in the Perigord.

One of the chefs most respected here on eGullet, spent much of his time in the research kitchens of Howard Johnson. His name is Jacques Pepin. You'd be correct to point out that most of his French chef collegues didn't get it, but you should also know that after Johnson, Sr. passed on, his son moved the company in a more "corporate" direction run by accountants, rather than the quality research kitchen. Since then, chain research kitchens have not done much research into quality as far as others tell me. Don't be misled into thinking someone puts down the result because the don't like the mentality that created it. They don't respect the mentality because of what it's created. So far in this thread, I've read that people don't eat in places that serve mediocre food because they don't like that the food "being served is corporate" and that "it's a chain." Nonesense, the cause and effect is clearly stated by those who have disdain for the chains.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I don't think I am as snobbi...uh, serious about food as some people here. But I love Cheesecake Factory. CF is definitely in the upper echelon of chain restaurant. The food is above average. I expect consistency when I go out to eat and CF manages that well. I always avoid dining out in the busiest hours so I never have to wait long. I can imagine the service at any restaurant can be bad when it is as busy as CF. I like pasta and I think CF has good ones.

Imagine if you take away the CF name, make the restaurant a lot smaller, make the portions smaller, replace its clientele to an older opera crowd, how would you feel about this new restaurant with the same quality of food? How would you feel if French Laundry opens a few branches with the same name? I think the French Laundry name would be dumbed down and frankly, some people may not want to go there anymore because it has lost its prestige and mystique.

I think you're going to find that in any field, the people who are most serious are the ones whose arguments will carry the day. I would think that's almost a natural law. "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like," is perfectly valid for the individual, but don't expect that "knowledge" to affect the thinking and opinions of those who have made the study of art a career or even a serious hobby.

"Above average" is not usually good enough for connoisseurs of baseball, opera, computer programs, etc. For better or worse, this site attracts many people who are obsessed with food. Many of them are here because in real life, they have no friends or neighbors who share their degree of interest in food.

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Emerson is often misquoted or miscontrued. He didn't equate all consitency with small minds, lest anyone assume the search for consistency is the product of a little mind. It is however the product of an uncurious mind. I don't even eat out regularly at my favorite restaurant even though their consistency is mostly about quality and they constantly change the menu. Even though their style most closely matches my tastes, I need variety and I need risk. I'm not talking about the risk of getting sick as you'd see by by reading (in the UK forum) lxt's Fat Duck review or (in the France forum) Stephen Jackson's Marc Veyrat post. There's an excitement about food that drives some of us to eat out.

What I do find almost offensive about your post, is that you seem to imply that the difference between the food at the French Laundry and Cheesecake Factory is nothing but the name, the clientele, and the fact that it's a chain. If in fact, you really don't see the difference in the food, it's understandable that you'll find those who do, to be snobs. And if you really believe that each time Keller opens another place, the food must be dumbed down at the French Laundry, I suspect it is you who are prejudiced against chains. Prestige and mystique play a large role in our society and I've defended my interest in new and creative food, but we have to be able to separate the food from the experience here and we should also be able to understand the part that service plays in enjoying fine food.

If chain restaurants can be defended, and I think they can although they are my choice of last resort, it's not going to be by knocking the quality of fine food.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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As noted, the truffles in Perigord grow slowly and are quite rare. They also continue to be first rate and inimitable. Keller would be doing well if he can keep getting compared to truffles in the Perigord.
Oh please, lighten up!
So far in this thread, I've read that people don't eat in places that serve mediocre food  because they don't like that the food "being served is corporate" and that "it's a chain." Nonesense, the cause and effect is clearly stated by those who have disdain for the chains.
I happen to think that the food is mediocre as well, but you missed my point. I think many people here would view CF differently if it was a single restaurant rather than a chain. I'm not saying it would be comparable to top dining establishments, but their product is respectable, compared to many restaurants of similar size and price. If a small neighborhood joint was serving the same food, would people be so quick to judge?
"Above average" is not usually good enough for connoisseurs of baseball, opera, computer programs, etc. For better or worse, this site attracts many people who are obsessed with food. Many of them are here because in real life, they have no friends or neighbors who share their degree of interest in food.
I understand this to read that if someone finds CF's food "above average", then they don't belong on eGullet. I see just as much on eGullet about chains, Hooters, and cheeseburgers as I do fine dining. Try and be a little tolerant when others on this site don't live up to your elitist standards.

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Try and be a little tolerant when others on this site don't live up to your elitist standards.

comments like that, i think, are just completely inappropriate.

i agree with bux's assessment.

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Try and be a little tolerant when others on this site don't live up to your elitist standards.

comments like that, i think, are just completely inappropriate.

i agree with bux's assessment.

I agree with most of the words that Bux used too; his sentiments are very close to my own.

I also agree with rdailey that the folks on eGullet can come off as elitist. It would be hard to participate in a forum such as this and not come off as elitist from time to time.

There's nothing wrong with being elitist. In certain areas, I'm certainly elitist. I relish my elitism. And mustard it too.

Pointing out the elitism, however, isn't a good debate tactic. It takes the discussion to a personal level and serves only to put people on the defensive. That's not good for any of us.

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So basically, if you are not the "most serious" "connoisseur" about food, then you should shut up? I don't expect people to change their minds because of what I post. Most people have already made up their minds.

What I do find almost offensive about your post, is that you seem to imply that the difference between the food at the French Laundry and Cheesecake Factory is nothing but the name, the clientele, and the fact that it's a chain.

You got it wrong. Of course there is a difference between the food at those two places. But I believe some "connoisseurs" with curious minds might be more receptive to Cheesecake Factory if it had a fancy schmancy name with smaller everything and were not a chain. Imagine it as a nice little trattoria.

It is possible for a destination restaurant to be dumbed down if the chef spreads his interests to too many places. His/her personal touch may fade a little. Quality control can deteriorate as well.

I am very excited to eat above average food and try new places. I am aware above average is subjective and is not good enough for everyone.

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There's nothing wrong with being elitist. In certain areas, I'm certainly elitist. I relish my elitism. And mustard it too.

Yes, exactly! People who proclaim a preference for higher levels of quality and a disdain for lower levels of quality are constantly being labeled "elitist" -- as if that were a bad thing in this context!

So... some people feel that the food at Cheesecake Factory or Bennigan's or Olive Garden is below the level of quality which they prefer. So what? This means that they have a strong preference for higher quality, more inventive, more interesting, better executed cooking. How can this be bad?

Where I think the problem comes in is when people who enjoy Cheesecake Factory or Bennigan's or Olive Garden feel as though they are judged by the people who do not and somehow deemed "lower." That gets the defenses up and the next thing you know the foodie is being accused of "elitism" or "only liking that stuff because they think it impresses people" or "looking down at the people who like Bennigan's." And, really, it's not about that.

While on the subject, I would like to add that I don't think people here have an automatic dislike of chain restaurants or "middle brow" and "low brow" cooking. I think it is more a matter of execution. Fundamentaly, if Olive Garden made a really well-executed dish of pasta -- perfectly al dente; not oversauced; fresh, vibrant and distinct ingredients -- I think most people would not turn away from it. But, the fact of the matter is that places like Cheesecake Factory and Bennigan's and Olive Garden and TGI Friday's and Chili's and Applebee's and Romano's Macaroni Grill and Outback Steakhouse, et al. make their money selling to people who do not have very refined or adventurous palates and aren't really interested in a pasta dish such as I have described. Hence, their pasta tends to be mushy and oversauced with cheap ingredients and muddled flavors. This approach is further reinforced by the economics of chain restaurants. Now, I have never been to a Cheesecake Factory, and they may very well be a cut above Applebee's and their ilk. But I have a hard time believing that they can deliver the same quality of food at the same price as a good one-off family-owned little restaurant. At the same time, I understand that plenty of people in this country don't have easy access to a good one-off family-owned little restaurant, and that the TGI Bennigan's Outback Olive Grill may be the best game in town. So, why shouldn't they like it? But, if someone like me who lives in NYC and never needs to set foot in a chain restaurant decides he doesn't care for that food, does that make him a culinary snob? I don't see why. And the fact of the matter is that some people are going to dislike things that other people like. It's the way of the world.

Now, as for you McDowell, I hope you are not so gauche as to take your elitism with store-bought yellow mustard. Homemade only, please. :wink:


--

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I happen to think that the food is mediocre as well, but you missed my point. I think many people here would view CF differently if it was a single restaurant rather than a chain.

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You got it wrong. Of course there is a difference between the food at [French Laundry and Cheesecake Factory]. But I believe some "connoisseurs" with curious minds might be more receptive to Cheesecake Factory if it had a fancy schmancy name with smaller everything and were not a chain.

Well... there are two things at play here.

First is the experience of people who have been to many such restaurants in the past. Having been to many chain restaurants myself over the years, my experience has helped me to form an impression of what to expect. And that impression informs my preference, which is to not eat at chain restaurants unless necessary, because my experience in eating at these places is that I don't think the cooking is very good and it does not conform to the preferences I have formed through eating food at other (to me, better) establishments. So, in that sense you are correct that a prejudice against chain restaurants -- albeit one based on experience -- might reasonably keep people from trying Cheesecake Factory whereas they might try the same restaurant if it were an independently owned single restaurant.

Ths second thing would be someone who might try the food at Cheesecake Factory and declare it not to his liking -- whereas he would actually like it perfectly well if the exact same dish at the exact same price were served at an independently owned single restaurant. This is snobbery. Personally, my impression of most people on eGullet is that there is nothing that would delight an eGulleter more than reporting back something to the effect of: "The XYZ at Cheesecake Factory actually really kicks ass! Believe it or not, it is every bit as good as the XYZ at [independently owned single restaurant known for its excellent XYZ]!"


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I have no problem with discrimination towards food. I continue to state that CF is very mediocre. Everyone can make up there own mind about what they like. What I have a problem with, are condecending posts that basically tell people that if your tastes or knowledge are not up to a certain level than you have no business commenting on this board.

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What I have a problem with, are condecending posts that basically tell people that if your tastes or knowledge are not up to a certain level than you have no business commenting on this board.

Please be so kind as to point one out.

Before you go digging, I would say that it does not seem entirely appropriate for someone without a strong interest in quality food and cooking to comment on a board which is dedicated to those same subjects.


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So, for instance, because I don't feel it necessary to whip up exotic things for dinner every night (see the Dinner! thread), I don't deserve to input on topics I have an opinion on?

I have a "strong interest" in quality food, but quality food is such a grey area to me.

Perhaps this site is too over my head.

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Perhaps this site is too over my head.

the site is what it is. some feel comfortable, some don't. some take things personally, others don't. certainly the site is very dynamic, and even though one may not feel comfortable talking about how much they love Kendall Jackson chardonnay on the wine board, they might certainly feel comfortable posting on something like the Dinner thread, regardless of what they prepared for dinner.

dynamic indeed.

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I'm not sure whether it is required that one dine at, or even approve of, places like Cheesecake Factory to take a lively interest in them. They do seem to be very successful and spreading fast and may well impinge upon one's life either directly or by spawning a host of clones. To the extent that restaurants more to the taste and liking of many on eGullet may be driven out of business by creeping corporatization, it seems prudent, at least, to maintain discussions like this as a Distant Early Warning System.


Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"

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The point is, who are you or anyone else to judge the level or quality of another's interest in food and appropriateness of commenting on this board? I have seen someone on this board summarily dismiss someone else's recipe for pigs-in-blankets because the recipe called for covering the pigs-in-blankets in nuts and sugar! What justifies the sense of superiority some people exhibit about their taste in food as compared to others'?

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The point is, who are you or anyone else to judge the level or quality of another's interest in food and appropriateness of commenting on this board?

i'm still looking for examples of where someone suggested anything like this.

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Maybe I should start considering myself superior because I can enjoy chain restaurants as well as high end restaurants :wink: I'm a very versatile date...too bad I'm not dating around at this point.

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What I have a problem with, are condecending posts that basically tell people that if your tastes or knowledge are not up to a certain level than you have no business commenting on this board.

Please be so kind as to point one out.

Before you go digging, I would say that it does not seem entirely appropriate for someone without a strong interest in quality food and cooking to comment on a board which is dedicated to those same subjects.

It seems like it's suggested here, unless I'm misinterpreting it.

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The point is, who are you or anyone else to judge the level or quality of another's interest in food and appropriateness of commenting on this board?

i'm still looking for examples of where someone suggested anything like this.

Why do you need to see examples?

Isn't it obvious?

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It seems like it's suggested here, unless I'm misinterpreting it.

rdaily and eat eat eat made this claim long before that post. and, it would seem that slkinsey is suggesting that it wouldn't be unheard of. but i don't think he was suggesting that people should or shouldn't post.

i wouldn't go to board on Opera and post about how much i like Pearl Jam. seems like a reasonable analogy.

matthew, it's not obvious to me and at least one other poster, or else i wouldn't have asked. i have better things to do believe it or not. is it too much to have people support their claims with facts or examples?


Edited by tommy (log)

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is it too much to have people support their claims with facts or examples?

Gee, you're demanding.

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i wouldn't go to board on Opera and post about how much i like Pearl Jam.  seems like a reasonable analogy.

Ok...but nowhere do I see anything about this being a fine food and dining site; we have posts about white trash food, soda, chips, fast food, as well as posts about the French Laundry, Tru, wine, fine liquors, etc.

This is a food site so I see it appropriate for people who are lovers of food to post. I love food, and I don't think that should be compared to the next guy who only likes fine food, or the other guy who will only eat at chain restaurants.

I try not to post where I don't know what I'm talking about. I wouldn't dream of posting anything in the wine and liquors section, unless I had a question. But sometimes I go off on a rant about something I might not be an expert on, and you should take those posts with a grain of salt. If I only spoke on things I am an expert in, I wouldn't speak at all.

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The opera-and-Pearl-Jam analogy is very telling about the persepctive of the person who drew the analogy. The analogy is inapt. I wouldn't post about Pearl Jam on a board about opera, but I certainly would do so on a board about music. This is a board about food, all kinds of food.

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      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,
       
    • By pastrygirl
      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 ...
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