Rose on Video presents: Buttercream Made Simple

Rose’s PBS television series Baking Magic Tips 13. No need to have a thermometer in hand when you make Rose’s Neoclassic Egg Yolk Buttercream using corn syrup or refiners golden syrup. Just bring the sugar mixture to a rolling boil and add it to your beaten egg yolks.

You can see a listing of all of Rose's over 150 transcribed videos on YouTube by doing a search for "Rose Levy Beranbaum You Tube" which will show a home page for Rose's videos. You can click  "Video " on the menu bar, then scroll to find the video you want to watch. Baking Magic aired in 2006. Along with the weekly recipe episodes, Rose had a tips segment. These tips are timeless.

Rose on Video presents: Caramel Sauce

Rose’s PBS television series Baking Magic Tips 15. Tips for making caramel sauce for drizzling on cakes and ice cream, and blending into ganaches and buttercreams. We like to it drizzle on slices of our marble cake with chocolate curls. An instant-read thermometer is a worth while baking tool for successful results. We use it to check the temperature of: baked cakes, pies, breads; butter, mousseline Italian meringue and whipped butter; frying oils; sauces; and grilled foods.

You can see a listing of all of Rose's over 150 transcribed videos on YouTube by doing a search for "Rose Levy Beranbaum You Tube" which will show a home page for Rose's videos. You can click  "Video " on the menu bar, then scroll to find the video you want to watch. Baking Magic aired in 2006. Along with the weekly recipe episodes, Rose had a tips segment. These tips are timeless.

Glazes for Breads: Did You Know?

CHALLAH with EGG WASH & POPPYSEEDS

CHALLAH with EGG WASH & POPPYSEEDS

The quality of bread crust is not determined only by the type of bread being baked. There are glazes and toppings that can help to achieve a range of textures from soft and velvety to crisp and crunchy. Here is the full range of possibilities:

Type of Glazes and Toppings

A crisp crust: Water (brushed or spritzed)

A powdery, rustic chewy crust: Flour (dusted)

A soft velvety crust: Melted butter, preferably clarified (1/2 tablespoon per average loaf)

A crisp light brown crust: 1 egg white (2 tablespoons) and 1/2 teaspoon water, lightly beaten and strained (the ideal sticky glaze for attaching seeds)

A medium shiny golden crust: 2 tablespoons egg (lightly beaten to measure) and 1 teaspoon water, lightly beaten

A shiny deep golden brown crust: 1 egg yolk (1 tablespoon) and 1 teaspoon heavy cream, lightly beaten

A shiny medium golden brown crust: 1 egg yolk (1 tablespoon) and 1 teaspoon milk, lightly beaten

A very shiny hard crust: 1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch and 6 tablespoons water:
Whisk the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of the water. Bring the remaining 1/4 cup water to a boil and whisk the cornstarch mixture into it; simmer for about 30 seconds, or until thickened and translucent. Cool to room temperature, then brush on the bread before baking and again as soon as it comes out of the oven.

Note: When using an egg glaze, it goes on most smoothly if strained. I like to add a pinch of salt to make it more liquid and easier to pass through the strainer. An egg glaze will lose its shine if using steam during the baking process.

This Weekly Baking Tip is a reposting from November 3, 2012  in Tips & Techniques category on Our Blog page. We have 16 other Tips & Techniques postings for you to explore.  

Rose on Video presents: Do's and Don'ts of Whipping Egg Whites

Rose’s PBS television series Baking Magic Tips 14. The right amount of cream of tartar will virtually let you beat your egg whites meringue “until the cows come home”. And mound it sky high for meringue topped pies.

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UPDATE with writing Rose’s Baking Basics
* For meringues with no or a small amount of sugar, we now whisk the cream of tartar with the egg whites after measuring the egg whites into the bowl. We then beat on medium-low speed until foamy. Sugar is then added gradually while increasing the speed to medium-high.
* For meringues with a large amount of sugar, like a angel food cake or pavolova, we measure the egg whites, cream of tartar, and sugar into the mixer bowl and whisk them together until blended. The bowl is then covered for 30 minutes at room temperature. The mixture is then beaten starting at low speed and increased to medium-high speed per the recipe’s instructions.
* If you are using frozen egg whites, it is necessary to lightly whisk them in a bowl to make them uniform in consistency before measuring them.

You can see a listing of all of Rose's over 150 transcribed videos on YouTube by doing a search for "Rose Levy Beranbaum You Tube" which will show a home page for Rose's videos. You can click  "Video " on the menu bar, then scroll to find the video you want to watch. Baking Magic aired in 2006. Along with the weekly recipe episodes, Rose had a tips segment. These tips are timeless.

Curl Off the Old Chocolate Block

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There are times when a busy pastry chef or chef de cuisine does not want to turn on the tempering machine and make space on the counter to spread tempered chocolate for making a large quantity of chocolate curls. When just a few curls are all that’s needed to garnish a plated dessert, having the ideal size chocolate block at the ready is a very useful solution.

A silicone financier mold produces perfect 3 by 1 by 1-1/4 inches high shiny blocks of chocolate that unmold with ease and can be stored airtight away from humidity and in a cool spot for months. And a quick temper of the chocolate is all that’s needed to produce fat shiny curls.

Chop bittersweet chocolate and partially melt it in a small microwavable bowl, in the microwave, stirring with a silicone spatula every 15 seconds (or in the top of a double boiler set over hot, not simmering, water, stirring often—do not let the bottom of the container touch the water). Remove the chocolate from the heat source before it is completely melted and stir until fully melted. This is essential to temper the chocolate that will maintain its shine and flexibility.

A financier pan with bar-shaped molds 3 by 1 by 1-1/4 inch high (1/4 cup/59 ml) cavities, each of will hold 2 ounces/60 grams of melted chocolate. Allow the chocolate to set for several hours until completely firm before unmolding.

The chocolate needs to be moderately soft in order to curl without breaking or flattening. The small block of chocolate can be softened by placing it under a lamp or in a microwave using 3 second bursts. It usually takes a few tries to get the chocolate soft enough without over-softening it, but once this point is reached, it will hold for at least 10 minutes, giving you enough time to make lots of beautiful curls.

 I find the best utensil with which to make the curls is a sharp vegetable peeler. Hold it against the upper edge of the chocolate block and dig in the upper edge of the cutter, pulling it toward you. Increase pressure to form thicker, more open curls. Decrease pressure to make tighter curls. Until the chocolate is sufficiently warmed, it will splinter. When it becomes too warm, it will come off the block in strips that will not curl. But if the strips are not too soft, you can use your fingers to shape the curls. Keep your fingers cool by periodically dipping them into ice water and drying them well.

Special Note: It has been reported to me that many pastry chefs value ValRhona Manjari for making curls as the orange oil in the chocolate makes it curl more easily.

 

This Weekly Baking Tip is a reposting from June 7, 2014 in Tips & Techniques category on Our Blog page. We have 16 other Tips & Techniques postings for you to explore.  

Freezing Egg Yolks and Whites

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We are continuously saving egg whites that we are separating when making egg yolk based ice creams and from skimming them off as the excess weight when weighing out whole eggs. They can be conveniently be frozen for at least a year. However, the egg whites usually become a Chocolate Tweed Angel Food Cake a treat for my Monday bridge club group.

Egg yolks can also be frozen, but you need to add sugar to keep them from getting too sticky and unusable.

For 1 egg yolk/1 tablespoon+1/2 teaspoon/18.7 grams, stir in ½ teaspoon/2 grams of sugar.
Don’t forget to remove the amount of sugar from the recipe after defrosting the yolks.

 

This Weekly Baking Tip is a reposting from April 4, 2009 in Tips & Techniques category on Our Blog page. We have 16 other Tips & Techniques postings for you to explore.  

Rose on Video presents: Prepping Your Layer Cake Pan

Rose’s PBS television series Baking Magic Tips 5. When cake pans are prepared correctly before pouring in the batter the cakes will come out in one piece with no crumbs sticking to the pan.

You can see a listing of all of Rose's over 150 transcribed videos on YouTube by doing a search for "Rose Levy Beranbaum You Tube" which will show a home page for Rose's videos. You can click  "Video " on the menu bar, then scroll to find the video you want to watch. Baking Magic aired in 2006. Along with the weekly recipe episodes, Rose had a tips segment. These tips are timeless.

The Finest Sugar of Them All

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A dramatic visualization showing how 1/8 teaspoon of sugar spreads depending on degree of granulation.

Superfine sugar, aka “baker’s sugar,” is the finest granulation before becoming powdered sugar. It is called for in recipes such as meringue, because it will dissolve more easily into the egg white, in cookies when a smooth dough and exterior is desired, and in butter cakes for the finest texture.

 You can make superfine sugar by processing fine granulated sugar for several minutes, but if processing large quantities it will scratch the food processor bowl and make it a bit cloudy. Also, some bakers feel that the granules will be less consistently even but personally I have found there to be no noticeable difference in the finished product.

 Different brands of superfine sugar will vary in degree of fineness. I used Domino brand for years and then found that C & H was slightly finer. But the finest of them all is the India Tree brand.

 Note: All sugar will lump on storage, and the finer the sugar, the more prone it is to lumping. Powdered sugar, for example, contains a small amount of cornstarch to help reduce its tendency to clump. With refined sugar, all you need to do is press it through a strainer to restore its free-flowing consistency.

Here is the link to India Tree for their sugar:

If you would like to read more on sugar, Rose wrote a Sugar Bible article for Food Arts. Here is the link:


Blind Baking Tips for an Open-Faced Pie

Blind baking is an important technique both for pie fillings which don’t require further baking and also to ensure a super crisp crust for those that do. When rolling the dough, be sure to lift the dough frequently to allow it to shrink in so that it doesn’t shrink as much during baking and when lining the pie plate, ease the dough in and avoid stretching it. The ‘weights’ are needed to keep the pie crust from puffing. Choosing the right pie crust also is a great help to prevent shrinking.

A large coffee urn filter or piece of parchment, crumpled to help it conform to the shape of the pie plate, works perfectly as a container for the dried peas, beans, or rice. You can spray the under side of the parchment to ensure that it releases easily from the dough but I don’t find it necessary with coffee urn filters! If they are too high for your oven, trim them down a bit with scissors as we did here.

After lifting out the weights, set a foil ring on top to keep the border from over-browning, and return the pie shell to the oven for about 3 minutes. Watch carefully and press it down gently with the back of a spoon or spatula if it puffs up in places. Bake only until it begins to become golden brown in a few places. If you are making a pie that will require more baking, best not to pierce holes in the crust as it may cause the pie to stick to the pie plate.

Our blind baked pie shell became the perfect vessel for the open-faced apple pie from The Pie and Pastry Bible.

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Rose on Video presents: Why Weigh Your Flour

Rose’s PBS television series Baking Magic Tips 2 . See why weighing flour is so much faster, easier, and more accurate than measuring it!

You can see a listing of all of Rose's over 150 transcribed videos on YouTube by doing a search for "Rose Levy Beranbaum You Tube" which will show a home page for Rose's videos. You can click  "Video " on the menu bar, then scroll to find the video you want to watch. Baking Magic aired in 2006. Along with the weekly recipe episodes, Rose had a tips segment. These tips are timeless.

Dirty Cookbook Pages No More

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Yes~~My Cake Bible is chocolate stained, has fingerprints of strawberry and raspberry puree, and some blotches of egg. All from my many baking adventures through the years and anxiously referring back to the book, again and again, in fear of missing a detail or step, or turning to the next page. Of course, other books have different stains. Tomato sauce swipes on Italian ones, butter stained pie crust pages in The Pie & Pastry Bible, white sauce tainted chicken pot pie pages in Betty Crocker’s. (Rose’s are pristine, by the way.)

 

Plastic sheet protectors to the rescue, and a technique from my dad.

Dad liked to file many of his documents in sheet protectors, which he would cut the sides of the protectors so that he could easily slip out a document from the side versus pulling it out from the open top of the protector. Very handy when the documents are in 3-ring binders.

 

So I now make his sliced open side protectors to slip over the pages of a recipe that we are making. A two-step only technique.

1. Use a scissors to cut the side of your sheet protector

2. Slip the protector over the page you want to protect.

The plastic sheet protectors can be easily washed off. So drip, fingerprint, smudge, spill onto your shielded pages to your anxious heart’s content.

Roll Up Your Pie Crust Butter Cubes

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 For making a butter pie crust in your food processor, the butter needs to be frozen as small cubes to best incorporate with the other ingredients before you knead the dough to shape your pie crust discs for rolling. When I first made butter crust recipes from The Pie & Pastry Bible, I mistakenly wrapped each cube individually in plastic wrap. That took a long time, and a longer time getting them unwrapped.

 Our instructions from Rose’s Baking Basics state:
“Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes. Wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 30 minutes, until frozen solid.” 

Here is how we wrap multiple butter cubes, whether for pie crusts or other recipes.
1) Weigh (or measure) and cut the cold butter into cubes to the specified stated size

2) Place a sheet of plastic wrap long enough to allow for around 1-1/2 inch space rows of 1/2 inch spaced apart butter cubes

3) Arrange the cubes in rows

4) Place another longer sheet of plastic wrap over the butter cubes extended slightly past each end of the bottom plastic wrap

5) Press the plastic wrap down to lightly encase each row of butter cubes

6) Roll up the plastic wrap and butter cube rows to make a loosely wrapped roll

7) Fold the ends of the roll to encase the butter cubes. If not planning to use within a few days, place the roll in a zipseal bag.

8) Place the roll in the freezer until ready to use

9 ) When ready to use, unravel the roll on the countertop and remove the top layer of plastic wrap

10) Use the bottom layer of plastic wrap to empty the butter cubes into the food processor

Now We Are Separating and Weighing Out Egg Yolks and Whites

Now days, those young chickens used for most of the industry’s egg production just don’t lay eggs with large yolks on average like the good old days. You all know that Rose is very precise in measuring ingredients as the benefits are consistent results. However, ingredients can change, in this case whole eggs. When Rose wrote The Bread Bible in 2003, an average large egg’s yolk weighed 18.6 grams and its whites weighed 31.4 grams. (We round off egg whites to 30 grams per egg as some may stick to the shell. Also, eggs on average can vary in weight.)
We are now seeing yolks ranging from as low as 12 grams (and rarely as high as 19 grams), and thus usually an increase in whites per whole egg. In The Baking Bible and Rose’s Baking Basics, we now give a range for egg yolks that may be required for an egg yolk based recipe.

SECOND DOMINGO with measured yolks and whites FIRST DOMINGO with measured whole eggs

SECOND DOMINGO with measured yolks and whites FIRST DOMINGO with measured whole eggs

When we made the Chocolate Domingo for this month’s recipe of the month, the Domingo had a pasty, fudgy 1/4 inch strip just above the bottom crust (the pictured cake slice on the right). I had taken the precaution to weigh the whole eggs and remove 12 grams in egg whites to hit the ingredient chart’s 100 grams for 2 large eggs, but the fudgy band still resulted.
So I made a second Domingo, this time separating the egg yolks and whites, which meant breaking a third egg to add 6 grams (16% percent) of the needed 37.2 grams for 2 egg yolks. This meant skimming off egg whites for reaching the 60 grams for 2 egg whites. The second cake came out beautifully, just like The Cake Bible’s .
1. The cake was a quarter inch higher
2. NO CHOCOLATE BAND at the bottom
3. Lighter in texture

We had previously experienced the effects of smaller yolks, resulting in a coarser texture for génoise cakes which use whipped whole eggs for their leavening and structure. You can read our article on our finding the solutions for whole egg génoise cakes.

Rose wrote an article for Food 52 for their 7/5/16 posting on her researching whole eggs. Here is the llink.

Facial Mandolin Your Garlic

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Our friend Caitlin Freeman Williams turned us on to using a facial mandolin for slicing savory and baking ingredients when we were in San Francisco several years ago. Although we ran to a Korean market to buy two, they are now available in many stores like Target.

 The model we have has a blade mounted slightly slanted to the mandolin’s working surface. This provides the ability for you to slice ingredients at different thicknesses.


Rose on Video presents: Making Chocolate Ganache

Rose’s PBS television series Baking Magic Tips 3. Is there anything more delicious than this simple mixture of chocolate and heavy cream. Rose revolutionized making ganache by using a food processor.

You can see a listing of all of Rose's over 150 transcribed videos on YouTube by doing a search for "Rose Levy Beranbaum You Tube" which will show a home page for Rose's videos. You can click  "Video " on the menu bar, then scroll to find the video you want to watch. Baking Magic aired in 2006. Along with the weekly recipe episodes, Rose had a tips segment. These tips are timeless.

Baking Powder on the Rise

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Our preferences for baking powders are ones that are made with an all-phosphate product containing calcium acid phosphate and non-GMO cornstarch. Baking powders containing sodium aluminum sulfate (SAS), to aid in releasing more carbon dioxide during the baking stage, generally have a bitter after taste, especially noticeable when added to pie dough. Recently, Rumford released a new baking powder, Rumford Reduced Sodium Baking Powder, which contains 52% less sodium than leading brands and no aluminum. Rumford informed us that this new product activates mostly during the heating/baking phase. We were curious to test this new baking powder since timing of activation has a great impact on baked goods, especially muffins and cupcakes. Letting the cupcakes rest before baking gives the cupcakes more rounded tops because if more of the baking powder activates in the early stage from the liquid in the batter there is less to disrupt the cell structure, during baking, needed to collapse the crumb to form a flatter top. My White Velvet Butter Cake recipe served as our test recipe, since it is an egg white based butter cake and has a somewhat neutral flavor, which enables us to perceive differences during tasting more easily. Since there can be a relatively long time frame to fill over a dozen cupcake liners, during which the baking powder will have begun to activate, we wanted to see if the new baking powder, which reacts more in the baking stage, would give us a wider window of time to fill the cupcakes and result in more uniformly shaped cupcakes. We made two batches of cupcakes with each baking powder serving as the leavening for each batch. Once we filled the cupcake liners, we also let some of the cupcakes rest 20 minutes, and others 30 minutes before baking them. We baked all of the cupcakes for the same amount of time.

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ORIGINAL RUMFORD ON THE LEFT, LOW SODIUM RUMFORD ON THE RIGHT

The test card shows the height in inches, then the width in inches. The cupcake on the left, made with the original Rumford baking powder, had the batter stand for 20 minutes after filling the muffin cups and before baking as did the one on the far right, made with the new Low Sodium Rumford baking powder. (It is both flatter and wider.) The middle cupcake, which is very similar to the original Rumford, but made with the low sodium baking powder, stood for 30 minutes before baking. The results indicate that the new Rumford baking powder is more effective in preventing doming for up to 20 minutes of standing time but not longer. However, when we gave them a taste test we found major differences.

The original Rumford cupcakes had a more pronounced flavor and texture. The sodium reduced Rumford ones were milder in flavor and fluffier. We preferred the original Rumford for flavor and texture. People are always asking either how to get more rounded cupcakes or flatter ones to hold more frosting. One of the major problems is that if making 12 or more cupcakes, by the time the last few cupcake liners are ready to be filled, the batter has been sitting in the bowl for at least 10 if not more minutes, resulting in more doming in the baked cupcakes. The longer the batter stands in the bowl before dispensing, the more the loss of leavening action during filling the liners. Once the batter is dispensed into the muffin liners this action slows down but is still taking place. So when the muffins are set in the oven, there is less leavening available to burst through the air bubbles in the batter to flatten the crumb during this heating phase.

Did you know that different brands of baking powder have different compositions, reactions, and results in the finished product? If you'd like to know why, continue reading!

Baking powder is a chemical leavener that is used primarily in cake baking to enlarge the air bubbles in the batter, which gives volume and tenderness to the cake crumb. In Europe, most cakes are leavened with beaten egg white or whole eggs whereas in North America, most cakes use baking powder, baking soda, or a combination of the two. Baking powders are mixtures of dry acid or acid salt and baking soda, with starch or flour added to stabilize and standardize the mixtures.

Most baking powders are "double acting," meaning that they will react or liberate carbon dioxide when they come in contact with moisture during mixing of the batter and again when exposed to heat during baking. (A "Single acting" leavener, such as baking soda alone, reacts fully when it comes in contact with moisture.)



We also, tested the two baking powders by activating 1/2 teaspoon of each in custard cups with hot water. Within less than a minute the original Rumford had activated, fizzing furiously to completely dissipate. The reduced sodium Rumford only activated partially with dry, non-activated powder nestled on top of the foamy activated powder (even after 10 minutes). Doing this hot water test is good method for verifying that your baking powder is still activated.

We recommend that you always mark the date upon opening a can of baking powder and store it airtight to avoid humidity. Baking powder can lose a substantial amount of its strength after about a year.

We have also tested Argo's baking powder, which also activates more during the heating phase. We tested it against our baking powder of choice, Rumford's original Aluminum-Free Baking Powder. We found it especially effective in cakes baked in fluted tube pans as we could use the same amount of baking powder, but the Argo resulted in a less domed top which, when inverted, sat flatter on the plate. (To get similar results with the Rumford would require such a minute amount of extra baking powder it would be hard to measure accurately.) When using the Argo in a layer cake, however, it needed to be decreased to keep the cake from dipping.

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Here are the ingredients listed for each baking powder: Rumford Original Aluminum-Free (red background can) Monocalcium Phosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Non-GMO Cornstarch Rumford

Reduced Sodium Aluminum-Free (silver background can) Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium acid Phosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Non-GMO Cornstarch, Potassium Bicarbonate

Argo Aluminum-Free Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Corn Starch And Monocalcium Phosphate. The White Velvet Butter Cake recipe is in The Cake Bible and Rose's Heavenly Cakes.

Rice Cooker Your Oatmeal

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What can be more soothing and comforting, in cold whether or when having a head cold, than a bowl of hot oatmeal. And the combination of crunchy, nubbly, creamy oatmeal is my favorite kind. That means using steel cut oats and a long slow cooking of 40 to 50 minutes. A double boiler works, stirring occasionally, but a rice cooker with porridge setting is ideal because the oatmeal doesn’t need stirring until the very end, it keeps it warm if you’re not ready, and doesn’t stick to the pot.

If you have an electric rice cooker with a porridge setting, all you have to do is combine the water, oats, salt, and I like to add a little brown sugar, turn it on (mine plays Mary Had a Little Lamb to let me know the cooking has started and stopped!) and wait til you hear the finished signal. These cold days, I also like to add a little milk to a bowl and set it in my oven with the pilot light—if you have an electric oven and a very low setting that works too. That way milk cold from the frig doesn’t cool off the hot cereal. Alternatively you can heat the milk before adding it.

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For an extra treat I sometimes add a small mellow dollop of crème fraîche but that really is a perfect example of Rose gilding the lily! Here’s my recipe for oatmeal for one:

To the rice cooker’s bowl, stir together the following: 2/3 cup/158 ml cold water, 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt, 1/4 cup stone cut oatmeal such as McCann’s Irish Oatmeal, Optional: light brown Muscovado sugar.

Press the cooking or start button and await for your rice cooker to tell you its time for hot oatmeal.

Photo Copy Your Bread Slice

CRANBERRY WALNUT BREAD from The BAKING BIBLE

CRANBERRY WALNUT BREAD from The BAKING BIBLE

One of the best ways to evaluate and compare the texture of bread is to use your copier machine! This was a great technique given to me by dear friend and food scientist Jenny Yee Collinson who lives in New Zealand.
This can be invaluable when you are trying different bread pans, or adjusting a recipe’s ingredients or technique because it gives exacting true to life dimensions.

Testing usa vs all clad loaf pans for 10 grain (multigrain) bread

Testing usa vs all clad loaf pans for 10 grain (multigrain) bread

It works best that you photo copy in black and white for comparing the texture of different slices, including writing your notes on the printed copy for future reference. I cut a 1/2 inch slice of the bread(s) and center them on the copier’s glass plate opposite to the hinged side. After gently closing the copier’s cover, I drape a light weight, dark colored towel over the copier’s cover and hanging down enough to keep any outside light from reflecting onto the copier’s glass plate.

Adding Old Starter to Bread Dough

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If you have leftover starter from feeding the starter,  store it in the freezer. It is a great addition to bread dough, adding more flavor, more strength, and better keeping quality.

To add old starter to a bread dough, use about 16% of the flour contained in the recipe for example, for one loaf use 75 grams starter and also add 1 gram/about 1/8 teaspoon of salt to the total amount of salt.

 Defrost the starter and when ready to use, cut it into pieces and let it sit in the water for the recipe (covered) for about 30 minutes to soften the starter so that it integrates evenly into the dough.

Notes: If your starter is a liquid starter, stir in enough flour to form a soft dough and allow it to sit overnight.

 If you don’t have a sourdough starter, you can make a Biga:

In a small bowl, whisk together 49 grams of bread flour and 1/16 teaspoon of yeast. With a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, stir in 30 grams/2 tablespoons of water. Continue stirring for 3 to 5 minutes, or until very smooth. The biga should be tacky enough to cling slightly to your fingers.

Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap that has been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray (or place it in a 1 cup food storage container that has been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray and cover it with a lid). Set it aside until almost doubled in volume (to 3/4 cup) and filled with bubbles. At warm room temperature or in the proofer (80°F/27°C), this will take about 4 to 6 hours. Stir it down. Refrigerate it for 3 days before making the dough.

 

All About Lemons, Especially Lemon Zest

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Confession: lemon is my favorite flavor in the dessert realm so I have given it much attention and consideration in order to make the most of it.

The aromatic oils reside in the colored portion of the citrus fruit. Use liquid dish detergent and a scrubby to remove any coating, which will be bitter. Rinse well and dry before zesting. When zesting, avoid removing the bitter white pith. A microplane is the ideal tool to produce finely grated zest.

One Lemon
Juice: 3 to 4 tablespoons
Zest: 1-1/4 teaspoons to 2 teaspoons

But what happens when you need a few tablespoons of zest but not the juice?

Perfect Solution: Perfect Purée of Napa Valley: 35 ounces/992 grams 

The lemon zest (only the colored portion and not the pith) is finely minced and mixed with sugar so it will keep frozen for more than a year. Not only is it quick and easy to use, it is always at the ready.

Since it contains 50% sugar, you will need double the weight of the zest called for in the recipe and I like to remove the extra sugar from the recipe itself. Example: for a recipe requiring 12 grams of zest, use 24 grams of Perfect Purée of Napa Valley zest and remove 12 grams of sugar from the recipe.

The sugar makes the mixture soft and a bit syrupy which is easy to scoop out even when frozen. If mixing it into dough, such as for scones, or cake batter, it works well to add some of the flour or dry ingredients and whirl it in a food processor for a few seconds to mix it in evenly. 

If you live in New York City, Kalustyan’s carries this and other Perfect Purée of Napa Valley products. Alternatively, you can order directly from the producer: