This is iT! The third pass page proofs arrived two days after my return from Europe, just as I was on my way to the all day anniversary seminar of the NYU Experimental Cuisine Collaborative. With difficulty, I left the proofs at home, to attend the morning session where I learned the exciting news that a new publication called The Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science is on the horizon. I was sad to miss Harold McGee's afternoon talk and hope it will be available on tape. I asked him what he planned to discuss and he said, in essence, that his focus will be on the importance of taking a lot of what is purported to be 'food science' in the press and elsewhere with a grain of salt (my translation). Hal is a terrific speaker and engaging gentle person and I never miss the chance to attend his lectures if at all possible. I would love to have seen if he mentioned how scientific theories are just that--theories-- until they so often change to other theories, and the importance of being open to observation and questioning everything. But the page proofs were calling to me, as this was the very last chance to ensure that all the corrections had been implemented.Incidentally, one of the morning speakers did a lecture on egg yolks which gave me the chance to pose a question I've long wondered about: Does the age of whole eggs have an affect on a cake's texture? I've asked the Egg Board and not only did they say "No one has ever asked this before," (which struck me as tantamount to saying so why bother to investigate) they never got back to me with an answer either (which proves my supposition).
We all know that the age of egg white has an effect on its elasticity and therefore the way in which it beats but years ago a woman who had chickens told me that the eggs didn't work well in baking when they were just laid. The seminar speaker suggested that I read Michael Ruhlman's new book on ratio but that was not my question. I know that where eggs play a more significant role in structure, such as for génoise, any differences would be more apparent than in, say, a basic yellow butter cake, which derives its structure primarily from flour. (I know this not from theory but from having witnessed it hundreds of times.) Guess I'll have to test the age of eggs in cakes myself this summer in Hope with just laid eggs compared to ones that are a week old. (Unless someone else has experience with this--please come forth!) I wrote to Kate Coldrick (of kate flour fame) who is more of an investigative scientist than most who hold the actual degree or title and she came back immediately with some research indicating that as eggs age the PH increases which is said to impact gluten formation. This rings through to my experience. By both theory and practice, acidity in cake batter results in a finer crumb so the implication of this is that an older egg would produce a coarser texture unless, perhaps, an acidic element such as sour cream was involved. As I write this I suddenly remembered reading that Michèl Roux recommends adding baking soda to the water when simmering eggs that are very fresh to make them possible to peel! This of course would decrease acidity. This is SO interesting--it all connects. But I digress. Back to the final page proofs. It took about 6 hours to check each change from page proofs 2 and then to compare page proofs 3 to the final 'clean copy'. I was stunned by how meticulously production editor Ava Wilder had gone through every change including new ones she had noticed between second and third pass. But as Ava herself once told me, new eyes always always find something and what these eyes found were 5 small things that remained plus a 6th discovered by blogger Matthew Boyer about a loaf pan size when he was making one of the cakes. The one desperately important change involved ganache for a wedding cake, which read: "Make in two batches" when it was supposed to be "Make two batches." Amazing what one innocent little word like in can do and how easy it is to miss! It horrified me to think of people in the middle of frosting a wedding cake only to discover that they had run out of frosting which takes hours to make and firm for use. It also distressed me to think of someone wandering from store to store with his or her tape measure looking for a silicone pan that is 5 inches wide when I've never seen one wider than 4 inches! (This was my mistake by the way--the standard metal 9 inch long loaf pan is 5 inches wide and either one will work for the recipe in question.) So Tuesday I will see the pdf's of the 6 pages with the corrections made and on Thursday the whole thing ships to the printer (I'm not mentioning where as I'd like to avoid being attacked again for something that is the publisher's prerogative!) Any author can tell you the mixed feelings involved when a book is 'put to bed': The relief that finally it is finished, the lingering doubt that hidden errors may still remain, and the sadness of letting go. But over-riding it all is the joy that it will be going out in the world to be enjoyed by all of you. And starting in June, Marie Wolf of http://breadbasketcase.blogspot.com fame will be hosting her new site http://www.heavenlycakeplace.blogspot.com giving us her usual witty, delightful, and instructive running commentary, along with terrific photos by her husband Jim, of all the cakes in the book (with the probable exception of the wedding cakes)!