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Cheesecake in a convection oven


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I've just started baking with a commercial convection oven and have had mostly good luck with most of my standard recipes, but cheesecake is giving me a horrible time! I think the problem is the temperature--the first time I made the cake, I could see the batter boiling in the oven (this at about 225 degrees), and the second time, altho I didn't see any active boiling, there was a suspicious looking bulge in one side that looked like an incipient bubble.

This would all be an academic question, except I've put cheesecake on my holiday menu, and several people have ordered it, and now I have to figure out a way to get a great product out to them fast (yes, I've learned my lesson this time, I think...). I've never been crazy about bain maries for cheesecakes; I prefer the dried, heavy texture of a NY style cheesecake, as did my tasters when I sampled cheesecakes last fall. What do I do? Suck it up and use my radiant oven, which would limit my production capability, or use the bain marie and tell my customers that it's better this way? Is there an alternative? Help me before I run out of cream cheese or go broke buying eggs!

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Does your oven have the option of turning off the fan but still able to bake? If not you could try placing the cheesecake inside of another taller pan and covering with foil to keep the fan from blowing on it and lower the temperature another 25 degrees. Also is your oven calibrated? Most convection ovens bake from 25 to 50 degrees hotter than a conventional oven,so you need to know if it is baking anywhere near what it is set at. If covering the cake does't work and you decide to use a baine marie make sure you use a lot of water almost to the top of the pan to keep the temperature even throughout the cheesecake. Good luck.

check out my baking and pastry books at the Pastrymama1 shop on www.Half.ebay.com

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Yes- wrap your spring form or pan you are using in foil around the bottom to seal it. Place the cheesecake into a water bath, cover with tented foil again, and bake it low and slow.( under 300) Rotate 1/2 way through and check it's progress. Poach-baking cheesecakes is THE way to go-- no cracks or valleys. If you do a sour cream topping or something like that, pull it out let it cool for 15 min, spread your goo, then return to a 350 oven for 5 miinutes.

Melissa McKinney

Chef/Owner Criollo Bakery

mel@criollobakery.com

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Don't worry it can be done successfully. I bake cheesecakes in the convection all the time-although I'd prefer a non-convection...it's do-able, very do able!

First things first-forget what the temp. on your dial says with confections! If you baked according to the dial you'd ruin most baked goods. Typically you set you dial 50 degrees lower then what you want when using a convection. An example: for 350f oven set your dial on 300f. BUT heres the tricky part-EVERY oven is different and you do have to do some baking to experiement and find the small variables with yours.

The ovens I use at one club run 75 degrees hotter then the dial-regardless of the fact that the ovens have recently been calibrated. I work in a different oven thats stacked ontop of the first example the same brand oven at the same club and it's off 50f only.

Convection ovens are NOTHING like home ovens! I've run into countless professionals that don't know this. I "find" my ovens 350f by baking cakes that I know really well. For example I know when my cake is baking fast just by looking at it (later by taste and smell) and that innate bakers clock my brain has developed over the years.

So find a recipe you know better then the back of your hand. Then bake it multiple times judging how fast/correctly it's baking and adjust your ovens temp. up or down according to your findings. TRUST yourself, trust your recipe and find your ovens temp. THENnnnnnnnnnnnn, everything works up or down from there. Example: you now know that 275 on your dial seems to be 350f in reality. The next time you bake a cheesecake dial down accordingly. So if you want a 200f oven you would set your dial on 75f.

So what you found happened to you was normal and you were right! You were probably baking way too hot for a cheesecake and it was boiling. Surely you must have noticed other problems or inconsitancys in known products? Your cakes were probably over baking on the sides?

So after you get your temp. right you can do other things to aid in baking cheesecakes in convectional ovens. I always put a hotel pan of hot water on the bottom of my oven to increase the humiditty. Waterbaths are absolutely painless if you learn how to bake a cheesecake in a regular cake pan (which you should do anyway).

Hopefully you'll be on your way shortly. Keep at it, again trust your knowledge and work out from there. If you still need help, just come back. There are many experts hanging out here and your welcome to come hang with us anytime.

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I always prior to using any Convection Oven place several Thermometers in the Oven where I can read them easily. Set the oven to the temperature you desire.

Then after watching the temperature readings adjust the temperature until you are satisfied.

Important ! even after your pretty sure of your temperature, there is one more step, that I consider the most important.

Place into the oven the number of Racks or Pans that you'll generally be Baking for each recipe. If possible put weights onto the Pans that are about the approximate temperature of the ingredients that you'll be baking.

In most Ovens you'll need to further adjust your settings, due to the air circulation as well as temperature balance.

Another thing that works well, especially with High Density Cheesecakes baked under Convection Heat is to make Cut Outs from Parchment Paper, Spray one Side very lightly with Butter and cover each Cake pan with the Parchment paper Butter Side down to keep the air flow from interfering with your filling until it sets.

After your filling sets it easy to remove the Parchment Paper and allow the surface of your Cheesecakes to finish properly.

This way works for "Lindys" Cheesecakes every time.

Good Luck !

Irwin :biggrin:

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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In most Ovens you'll need to further adjust your settings, due to the air circulation as well as temperature balance.

This is the point I was making in my previous post.

You should see that your ovens are correctly calibrated. BUT the simple fact is it doesn't ultimate make that big of a difference because no matter what, if it's a convection oven you will need to learn how to adjust to it.

A perfectly calibrated convection oven bakes much differently then a conventional oven due to the increased air flow. The air flow isn't a factor you can punch into a calulator and find a magic answer that will apply to every convection and every item you bake.

How much your air cirulates, hot spots in the oven, outside edges, whether the oven is stacked or not, what it's next to in the kitchen, it's humitity, all play into how your baked good turns out. It could also be calibrated perfectly and the oven fan may not be working properly (maybe too frequently, maybe less) and that would effect your baking too. The settings you choose on the exterior will be a factor. Do you use a high fan or low, do you use the cool down button at all?

If you could go about calucating as suggested you'd have to conduct endless experiements because you also have to factor in the temp.s of the other items (were they frozen and letting off cool air) in the oven, how many times you'll open your doors, how dense the other products are in the oven taking up air space, how big every items is blocking air flow, etc...

But I don't understand how the weight makes a difference, unless your refering to density and how an item blocks the air flow?

It can't be done perfectly.

Ultimately it comes down to being a good baker. Knowing your ovens you begin to gain a 6th sense, you just "know" when items are done compared to the countless other items you've baked in that oven and your basing that judgement considering size, density and all your past experience, etc....

I bake using an oven on a different floor from where I prep and I've yet to burn anything (knock on wood), even with out scent you do gain this extra sense/knowledge........those who don't have it.....usually aren't bakers for long or live off of timers.

I've never thought about the paper trick you mentioned Wesza but I'm darn curious about this and will have to give it a try next time I bake a cheesecake. Thanks for the tip, can I ask where you learned that?

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I always have a cheesecake on the menu (very popular in Hawaii); like Wendy I put a pan of water in with the cheesecakes (I do this with brownies too). Ricotta or marscapone cheesecakes I do in a bain marie. I prefer a conventional oven for them (but the world does not work that way!)- at 200- 250. Turn you fan low (or off if you can) and bake at 175-200- covering them with a sheet tray helps too.

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In most Ovens you'll need to further adjust your settings, due to the air circulation as well as temperature balance.

This is the point I was making in my previous post.

You should see that your ovens are correctly calibrated. BUT the simple fact is it doesn't ultimate make that big of a difference because no matter what, if it's a convection oven you will need to learn how to adjust to it.

A perfectly calibrated convection oven bakes much differently then a conventional oven due to the increased air flow. The air flow isn't a factor you can punch into a calulator and find a magic answer that will apply to every convection and every item you bake.

How much your air cirulates, hot spots in the oven, outside edges, whether the oven is stacked or not, what it's next to in the kitchen, it's humitity, all play into how your baked good turns out. It could also be calibrated perfectly and the oven fan may not be working properly (maybe too frequently, maybe less) and that would effect your baking too. The settings you choose on the exterior will be a factor. Do you use a high fan or low, do you use the cool down button at all?

If you could go about calucating as suggested you'd have to conduct endless experiements because you also have to factor in the temp.s of the other items (were they frozen and letting off cool air) in the oven, how many times you'll open your doors, how dense the other products are in the oven taking up air space, how big every items is blocking air flow, etc...

But I don't understand how the weight makes a difference, unless your refering to density and how an item blocks the air flow?

It can't be done perfectly.

Ultimately it comes down to being a good baker. Knowing your ovens you begin to gain a 6th sense, you just "know" when items are done compared to the countless other items you've baked in that oven and your basing that judgement considering size, density and all your past experience, etc....

I bake using an oven on a different floor from where I prep and I've yet to burn anything (knock on wood), even with out scent you do gain this extra sense/knowledge........those who don't have it.....usually aren't bakers for long or live off of timers.

I've never thought about the paper trick you mentioned Wesza but I'm darn curious about this and will have to give it a try next time I bake a cheesecake. Thanks for the tip, can I ask where you learned that?

Sinclair:

Putting the Parchment Paper over the Cheesecake Pans was something I learned from Bruno Cumin, the Head Pastry Chef at the in house Bakery that serviced the "Four Seasons" and "Brasserie" Restaurants in NYC's Seagram Building.

Baking "Lindy's Cheesecakes" with both Convection and Deck Oven was something I acquired In Hong Kong where we had installed the first convection overs imported into Asia at my "Lindy's Restaurants" since our volume was much greater then anticipated, especially since doing all in house baking from scratch daily, starting with excess of 600 Croissants made with Normandy Butter Daily plus averaging 50/60 Cheesecakes, Bagels, Dinner Rolls, Rye Bread, Chalah, Ruggelah, Deep Dish Latticed Pies, Sacher Tortes, Nesserole and Chiffon Pies we had a space, production problem.

Our original location was in a 2500 square foot space, with rents much higher then NYC or the Ginza in Japan at that time. We did retail and restaurant business averaging 300/500 lunch's daily with our 85 seats and about 300/400 diners with the same Menu served all day, every day.

We did have less problems since being experienced with Convection Ovens I pre-ordered them with 2 Fan Speeds, plus fan shut off and the best thermostat available in the market.

Often these options are available today without considerable expense to customize your Convection Ovens and can be considered.

There is no question that a experienced Baker is capable of managing to produce satisfactory products under adverse conditions. I once had a Baker who produced excellent baked goods with a Chitwood Smoke Oven, no proofer or retarder, but he said no problem and delivered the goods.

Irwin :rolleyes:

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I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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THanks everyone for the suggestions. I'm feeling a little better this morning, since I just took the cake out of the oven (275, totally dry), and it didn't have any cracks in it, the top was pale and set, and best of all--no bubbles! Keep your fingers crossed for me!

I'm looking forward to going back and really reading the suggestions (morning is crunch time, so I'm just skimming here). When you're talking about a pan of water, Sinclair and I think Irwin, Im assuming it's a pan of water below the cake, not the bain marie, right? Also, since my oven has steam, should I be using that periodically? (I have to keep pressing the button if I do).

I love the oven in general, bu your' right, there's a learning curve and my scones and muffins were coming out dry and burned on top and undercooked till I learned to set the thermometer for 50-75 degrees less, and now they're perfect. The only problem I ever had was lemon bars; the tops were rubbery and definitely not edible. My standards for lemon bars are low (I love them!), so you know these were really bad!

I'll post later and let you know how the cake came out. I think we're having it for dessert at lunch in the kitchen.

Marjorie

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Great! I'm happy to read that you've got things figured out.

I've never worked with a steam injecting oven but I don't believe you want to use that feature on your cheesecakes. I'm really only familar with it being used for breads in regards to it's crust. I also recall A. Uster using steam for their frozen danish. When you get ahead of schedule and have some free time- you might want to start a thread and ask about the uses of a steam injecting oven..........I think it would be very interesting and educational. Your lucky to have this feature and I'm sure theres alot of product that could be enhansed using it.

I put a pan of hot water on the bottom of my oven to make it a more humid atmosphere. And or you can bake dirrectly in a waterbath, but use cake pans not springforms (their a hassle).

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You can come over and play with my oven some time (in your spare time, ha ha), since I don't think you're too far from me (I'm in Highland Park)--if you ever decide you want to use steam.

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Highland Park-good for you!!!! Location, location, location.........you picked a great one..........don't see how you could loose there! Thats auesome!

You should have tons of opportunities for wholesale if you wanted that too. I worked in that area catering (years ago). We got some highly creative work from that area, which is fun.

Hat's off to you!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hey if you ever need another hand.........drop me a line.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have good results using the intermittent setting for the convection. The fan works in regular bursts, rather than constant on or constant off. Also, when not using the constant convection, I only need to reduce my temperature by 25 degrees, as opposed to the usual 50 degrees when using it constantly.

Aidan

"Ess! Ess! It's a mitzvah!"

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  • 12 years later...
On 3/27/2004 at 8:04 PM, wesza said:

Putting the Parchment Paper over the Cheesecake Pans was something I learned from Bruno Cumin, the Head Pastry Chef at the in house Bakery that serviced the "Four Seasons" and "Brasserie" Restaurants in NYC's Seagram Building.

Hello Wesza - I tried your suggestion about parchment over my cheesecake last night and baked it in my commercial convection oven with a pan of water on the bottom shelf.  The paper came away easily without sticking - the only problem I have is that under the paper, the texture of the top of my cheesecake was pitted.  Any idea why this would happen?

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Pitted in what way? large air pockets or small bubbles?  Is this a dense cheesecake recipe? (as in, NY Style?)  Had you been having problems with it baking before?  Did this method give you an improvement or no change as far as consistency/cracking/etc? I guess I'm trying to figure out if the pitting is new with this method (with the paper) or if it always happened and the paper made no difference.

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1 hour ago, JeanneCake said:

Pitted in what way? large air pockets or small bubbles?  Is this a dense cheesecake recipe? (as in, NY Style?)  Had you been having problems with it baking before?  Did this method give you an improvement or no change as far as consistency/cracking/etc? I guess I'm trying to figure out if the pitting is new with this method (with the paper) or if it always happened and the paper made no difference.

Thanks for the response JeanneCake!  Sorry for the lack of details in my original post.  This is a New York style cheesecake so yes, it is dense.  This was my first time baking a cheesecake in my professional convection oven.  Before this, I made cheesecakes in my conventional oven in a bain marie and had no problems.  This was the first time I used the method with buttered paper on top and a pan of water on the bottom shelf rather than the bain marie.  The texture and taste of the final product were fine.  There are what I would consider small indentations making it look like the surface of the moon rather than the nicely flat cheesecake that I am accustomed to.  My first guess is that perhaps there was too much air in the batter which escaped during cooking and rather than being able to escape the paper caused the air to create the defect in the surface.  Thinking that I need to let batter sit in the pan for a few minutes to settle or tap the pan.  OR - is it better to cover the pan rather than the surface of the cake as I need to do with my chocolate cake?  I realize trial and error is a part of the game but would like to minimize the error side of the equation.  I would appreciate your input. . .

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I've been baking a creamier style cheesecake in my convection ovens for years, and I typically do individual 3 inch rings and only the larger sizes (8, 9 or 10 inch rounds) during the holidays.  I'm not using a bain marie for the individuals, but I do with the larger sizes.  I don't use the buttered parchment  circles on top.  I've found I need to lower the temp - for the rings I'm baking at 250 (the oven runs a little hot so the oven thermometer reads around 275) for about 30 minutes then letting them sit in the turned-off oven. I tend to get more air bubbles, not any pitting; and I would say that maybe the bubbles could look like craters.  We're making some individuals this week so I will take pictures if I am there when they get made.

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All my baking is in an industrial convection oven. I also do individual cheesecakes (NY style) in rings (7cm diameter and 5cm height). All are placed on a thick baking sheet with the moulds on a Teflon sheet. I bake at 110°C (230°F) for 18 minutes and then turn the oven off and remove the product after a further 18 minutes standing in the oven. I did try buttered disks on the product which resulted in "moonscape" tops but now simply place an upturned sheet pan over the rings. It works for me and I now get perfect tops each time. I did find that when I started baking the individual cheesecakes, I placed the moulds too close to each other which resulted in some problems. I found that leaving a minimum of 25mm (1 inch) gaps between the rings gave me an even bake and perfect result. My oven has a steam function which I do not use and I do not use a tray of water on the bottom shelf either.

 

I do not get too many orders for cheesecakes as they are very expensive to make in my little part of the world. However, I am at present doing some experimenting to produce a lighter (less dense) cheesecake, more on what we call a continental cheesecake, but have come up with a few problems which I will slowly try to solve over the next few months.

Cape Town - At the foot of a flat topped mountain with a tablecloth covering it.

Some time ago we had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Cash, no Hope and no Jobs. Please don't let Kevin Bacon die.

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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,
       
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