Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Warning, there may or may not be a recipe in this post. Begin rant:

People don't bake in America. I mean, there are plenty of people that bake at home like me and people that might read this blog okay. But as far as real baking in bakeries go? These institutions are few and far between.

I would absolutely adore working in a real bakery. Maybe it's this area, maybe it's because I haven't searched hard enough but these aren't easy to find. By real bakery I mean bakeries that make their own pie crust for their own pies, make their own filling for those pies. Icings and buttercreams do not come shipped in buckets and cakes do not come in frozen. And for me, maybe it's not just that these things taste better when made from scratch, but the whole point of baking is creating these things in the first place. Taking the time to measure out the ingredients, using the method to put everything together to get a final result. Yes baking is about eating and enjoying, but for me baking is also about this process.

I understand if people at home buy cake mixes and frosting in a can, that's fine. We're all busy, stress is high, and if you want a cake, you want a cake. But from a bakery I would expect more. Perhaps I was spoiled as a child. My mother never bought anything from a bakery. When you buy something from a bakery, don't you expect more? You can't create something on your own so you trust them to do it for you, better even, right? Well if a bakery is using pie filling made with half corn syrup and half stabilizers and a few frozen strawberries, how can this be the case?

Anyway, I suppose this all stems from me being frustrated working in this industry. At least in restaurants we made every sauce, mashed our own potatoes, chopped fresh parsley. Some convenience ingredients are used still, but they are expensive and restaurants know this. Why buy sliced mushrooms when you can have the prep-cook slice them for you? That's the way things should work in a bakery. In my. Opinion.


Sunday, August 3, 2008

They say you just have to keep whipping...

Sweaty eggs.

So I guess I haven't mentioned it before but I'm making my brother's wedding cake. The wedding is this Saturday August 9th. So since the beginning of July I've been stocking up on making batches of frosting and freezing it, baking off cakes and freezing them, practicing on them. (Which is why nothing has been posted here.) But today as I was making batch No. 1,000 of frosting I realized I should be documenting this. If not for me to remember then for the good of the internet people out there also making a wedding cake or something like it.

So part one is buttercream. I have actually made this type of frosting before but not in such quantity so it was a bit nerve wracking. (What isn't for me though?) Anyway the first frosting I made back in May for testing was from Tish Boyle's cake book, but I decided to go with this recipe from Anna Olson (Inn On The Twenty cookbook - great stuff) instead because the quantities were easier to multiply and it was being used on a wedding cake anyway, therefore I knew it would hold up well. This recipe is very looooosely based on hers. I wanted mine sweeter so I upped the sugar a bit and added vanilla, a pinch of salt. Anyway this frosting is amazing and highly recommended. It gets way too butter-like when refrigerated but it's fantastic at room temperature. Or right out of the mixing bowl.

So for step one:
In a small saucepan measure out 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar. Stir a bit to dissolve the sugar in the water and start to cook it on high. You want this to eventually become very syrupy and to reach 240 degrees F.

Sugar syrup.

Step two:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, place 8 egg whites, a pinch of salt and 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar. Whip until soft peaks form, then add 1 cup of sugar until stiff peaks form.


Step three:
Once the syrup has reached 240 degrees F, drizzle it slowly into the egg whites while the mixer is going at medium speed. Add 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract and whip for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the mixture has cooled down.

Meringue after the syrup is added.

Step four:
This part is pretty insane - start adding 6 sticks of room temperature butter, I like to go one stick at a time until it's incorporated. Then comes the scariest part of all... it will look as if you've ruined the frosting most likely. It will be liquidy and not like frosting at all. But you HAVE to keep whipping it. It will come together eventually. The butter will solidify once again and it will be fluffy like a buttercream.

Six sticks of butter.

Voila. I think this might be awesome used on cupcakes also. Spreading it is pretty easy and it doesn't have a tendency to get too many air bubbles involved.