Homemade magic strips
Posted: 25 March 2012 11:53 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Hello kind people—
A whole year since last I posted.  During that time I made a couple cakes and then got into making candy.  Then I got a series of GOUT attacks !!  I wonder why.  Now I’m making Sicilian Pistachio Cake, but I’m making three layers and I’m going to add a half tsp or so of freshly ground cardamom for each layer and frost it with Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Frosting with a hint of this really good rose water I found.  Sound good?  Terrible?  We shall see. 

Anyway, I’ve driven myself crazy in the past trying to make magic strips with aluminum foil and wet paper towels.  Question:  How do you keep the strip on?  I couldn’t make paper clips work so I just folded the ends over each other and of course the strips just fell off.  I suppose I’m going to have to break down and buy some, but is there some magic to making home made magic strips stay on the pan that someone can tell me about?
Thanks very much,
Bernard in San Francisco

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Posted: 26 March 2012 01:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Me, again, posting a reply to my own post.  I guess I can figure it out.  I’ll just get hold a long piece of cotton fabric and experiment.  I wrote earlier because ... you know, after fussing around all day with the usual stuff and the hidden time-eater of this recipe, blanching and skinning the pistachios, I wanted company.  I think a good addition to the recipe might be to be sure to dry out the nuts thoroughly in slow oven so they’ll get pulverized with the sugar properly in the processor.

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Posted: 26 March 2012 10:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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It has been a while since I made these, but I think heavy duty foil works a little better for keeping the strip in place. You can also try binder clips instead of paper clips.

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Posted: 26 March 2012 11:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I’ve used both heavy duty and regular foil (regular doubled over several times). Heavy duty is obviously better—especially if you want to reuse the strips.  What I do is take a long thing of foil—long enough to go around the pan plus about 6 inches.  Fold it in half (long ways—so it’s stil the same length.  Then I fold it into (usually) thirds, and I put the paper towells down the middle third.  Sometimes you have to adjust whether it’s thirds or wahtever, but so it’s the same height as your pan.  Only put paper towels in the center part for the length required to go around your pan—center them so there’s “extra” foil (without paper towels) at each end.  Then, when you wrap it around your pan, you have two 3” paper-towelless “wings.”  Keeping it crimped (with your hand) tightly agains teh pan, fold the “wings” together in half, so you now have one 1.5” wing. Fold it in half—now you have a tabbie.  If you have kept it crimped well, it should be fairly snug around the pan, but you still have to hold it to the pan to move it around—don’t trust it!!!!!  (In other words, if you put it on something a smaller diameter than your pan—like your scale—it will probably side off—this is OK.  You can put on a cardboard round if that makes you nervous.) 

I hope all that makes sense!!!!

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Posted: 26 March 2012 11:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Oh, also, re the Sicilian Pistachio Cake, which is awesome, I found that soaking the pistachios totally deflavorized them.  If you want bright green pistachios for the exterior, you sort of have to do it, but most pistachios have a selection of “good” ones.  You can separate those for the outside and use the others for the inside.  Roasting also loosens the skins a good bit.  Another option is, instead of putting the pistachios on the outside, grind them (chop, now powder) and mix them into the frosting, so their color variation won’t be so noticeable.  What I did was make mine into pistachio butter and put that into the frostong, for a totally smooth pistachio frosting.  It was very delicious.

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Posted: 26 March 2012 12:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I use wing clips or “buffalo” clips as they are called here to attach them.  It’s a type of paper clip with 2 levers on them that fold.  They work well to hold on the strips.

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Posted: 04 April 2012 09:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Thanks so much to Sherrie, Anne in NC, and Matthew for answering my post re magic strips.  I used the folding and clipping technique as suggested.  Worked just fine, although I wonder how the exact dampness of the paper towels and the configuration of the holes in the foil, made with a paper punch an inch apart, affected texture and baking time. 

I always go for excess over moderation, so I decided to make my Sicilian Pistachio Cake with three layers.  Also, I varied the flavor with cardamom.  To get it just right, I wound up making a total of five layers.  First I mixed the batter for layers one and two and then I made the third separately—my first cakes baked in my new stove. (It?s cheap but supposedly ecologically sound; mandated by the State of CA.). Layer one came out perfectly, although a little pale around the perimeter.  Layer two, baked with layer one, was kind of sloped.  Layer three, baked by itself, came out perfectly. 

As I only had one layer I was confident in, I made the recipe twice more. I’d used up my pistachios on the first three layers, so I used what I had on hand for layers four and five, except I omitted the cardamom. 

In layer four I put blanched toasted almonds, lemon zest, and vanilla.  In layer five I put toasted cashews, toasted sesame, and vanilla.  So the three layers I’ll use will be pistachio/cardamom/vanilla, almond/lemon/vanilla, and cashew/sesame/vanilla. 

I’ll frost it with Creamy Dreamy White Chocolate frosting (because the recipe Rose recommends is too much work at the moment!).  The frosting between the layers will have a tiny bit of rose water and a drop of red food coloring as a surprise.  The frosting on the sides and on top will be flavored per the recipe.

Next day:  The cake tastes great!  Next time, however, I?ll use a heaping tsp of fresh ground cardamom per layer, instead of half a tsp.  Also, I?m bored with three layers.  Next time I?ll make two and cut them each in half.  I?ll be much better at applying the frosting, too.

Thanks again for all your help.  Thanks especially to Rose for the TCB and RHC.  My inability to ?cream butter and sugar together until fluffy? used to result in cakes that were tough and nasty.  Now my cakes are actually good, though of course I?m still a greenhorn.

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Posted: 04 April 2012 10:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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This time my pics will fit

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1 Siciliano Pistachio Cake.jpg2 Sicilian PIstachio Cake.jpg
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Posted: 04 April 2012 10:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Wow, Bernard!  Those layers look perfect!!!  Really tall and fluffy.  Congrats!!!

I recently made a frosting with cardamon, and I could have used more, too.  I wasn’t sure if it would strengthen or mellow with a little time, but I found it mellowed.

What’s with the holes in the cake strips?  I’ve never done that.  Should I?  I have found that if I over-wet the paper towels, the cake takes forever to cook.

Looking forward to your next cake!

—ak

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