Penuche fudge round 5

Pictureless post is pictureless. There are two completed desserts from last week that won’t be featured on my blog because I forgot to take pictures. Oops.

Last week I wrote about my 4th batch of penuche which was successful, and my 5th batch which was setting. I forgot to take pictures of the 5th batch later that day, because I was too busy eating pieces since it turned out!! I was so excited, it was delicious, and more importantly; it set.

Stopping for photos was the last thing on my mind. It had that gorgeous penuche taste, such an intriguing flavour. It was not as firm as I would like, and I need to master the beating and pouring process, but I’m getting closer. ^^

I became fudge-fatigued and ran out of dark brown sugar, so a break was needed.

The other dessert I wanted to post but forgot was the apple crisp that Boyfriend made for Thanksgiving, which was delicious. I am going to push him to make another one soon and if he cooperates I’ll have something to post.

It’s possible I have the energy to bake something today. You’ll have to wait and see.

Advertisements

Patty’s pumpkin crème brûlée

Yes. I’m afraid it’s true. I have dangerous news: it is possible to make crème brûlée even more glorious.

I’ll be frank, I am tired of the trials and tribulations of fudge.  I needed a day of distance. Today is Thanksgiving, and Boyfriend and I are heading to Hobby Victim’s house for dinner. We each made a dessert. Mine was my favourite custard, tweaked with an inspiration from The Globe and Mail. I took my existing recipe, and tinkered with the proportions for the spices, and used real vanilla bean.

Toronto look out: something delicious this way comes!

Good to know before you start:

As I mentioned previously, custard should be made the day before because it needs to chill overnight. Before you serve it, remove from the fridge for 20 minutes, then caramelize the sugar, then chill for another 10 minutes before eating – we want cold custard and glassy sugar, not hot.

To achieve the silky texture that crème brûlée is famous for, it is imperative to use a mesh strainer. Double-straining into ramequins in a pain in the ass but so worth it.

You’re also going to need a fire-proof surface and kitchen torch. Don’t have a torch? Check out my guide about making your own. It’s way better than using the stove broiler. People, this is crème brûlée for Thanksgiving. Go big or go home.

Time required: 2 days (1 hr prep and bake, 1 hour cooling, chill overnight)

Yields: 12

Cost per portion: $3.00

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $36.00

Special kitchen implements I used:

  • mesh strainer
  • 12 ramequins
  • 2 baking pans: 9″ x 13″
  • 2 dish towels you don’t mind getting wet
  • fire-proof surface (ie: marble slab)
  • awesome kitchen torch

Ingredients:

  • 4 C heavy cream, room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 TSP ground nutmeg
  • 1 TSP ground ginger
  • 1 C canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • ⅔ C granulated white sugar
  • ¼ TSP salt
  • 10 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 12 TSP turbinado sugar (save until final stage, 1 TSP per portion)

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 325°F / 162°C, using centre rack. Fill kettle with water and simmer for later. Fold dish towels so they sit nicely in the baking pans, and add ramequins, like so:

2. Pour heavy cream into a sauce pan, then split and scrape vanilla bean, and add to cream (including shell and pods). I do this at the very beginning and let the vanilla infuse into the cream while the cream comes up to room temp.

3. Add nutmeg and ginger to cream, then scald cream on medium heat. A skim will form, that’s normal. Once bubbles form at the edge, remove from heat.

4. Pour cream through strainer into a medium-size bowl.

5. Stir pumpkin into hot cream, let stand 5 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix sugar and salt.

7. Separate the yolks from the egg whites, gently whisk yolks into sugar mixture until just combined. (Save the whites for something else.)

Tip: try to crack the shell halfway between the top and the bottom of the shell. It’s easier to separate the yolks if you have two fairly equal sized shells to work with.

8. Use a ladle to temper the hot cream into the egg mixture; adding one third at a time, stirring it in. Don’t rush this, you don’t want scrambled eggs.

We are almost ready to divvy up the mixture into the ramequins.

9. Place a small strainer over a ramequin. Use ladle to reach the bottom of the bowl where all the vanilla bean pods have sunk, and ladle some mixture through the strainer. Do this for each one to ensure every portion gets a generous amount of vanilla pods.

After that, ladle out the mixture evenly, and strain each time.

Double-straining is very important because you’ll notice that on each pour, the strainer will get clogged with skim on every pour and you don’t want that gunk in your custard.

10. Place both pans in the oven and create a bain marie using the hot water from the kettle.

11. Bake 35 minutes until the edges of the custard are set. Test for doneness by shaking, the centre should wobble like Jell-o. If the whole surface shakes give it 3-5 more minutes. If nothing shakes it’s overdone.

12. Remove from oven and use an egg-flipper type spatula to lift the ramequins out of the dish, and place on wire rack to cool for one hour.

13. Cover each cup with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

14. Set ramequin on counter for 20 mintes to stand. Then remove plastic, and gently blot the surface with paper towel to remove condensation.

15. Sprinkle one teaspoon of turbinado sugar, cover the edges first and work towards the centre, then tilt and tap the ramequin to spread the sugar evenly.

16. Place ramequin on fire-proof surface and use your mad torching skillz.

The key to doing this properly is don’t let the flame get too close, and always keep it in motion. It takes around 3 minutes to melt the sugar properly into a nice glassy surface.

17. Chill for 10 minutes, then devour.

Verdict:

Patty: <setting up camera> “You can have first bite.”

Boyfriend: “Really?” <grabs spoon>

Patty: <taking photos and looking down> “Well?”

Boyfriend: “Oh my God!!”

Patty: “Is it good?”

Boyfriend: “No. It’s awful. You don’t want any.”

Patty: “Give me that spoon… ooohh, nice.”

Boyfriend: “This is amazing. I love the after taste, the nutmeg, it’s totally there. It kind of reminders me of egg nog, just a little. It’s so good.”

Playlist: David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust

What dessert are you celebrating Thanksgiving with?

Adventures in fudge

Yes,  I know. You’re wondering if you have stumbled onto a baking blog, or a film review of the movie that even the clerks in the adult store don’t want to admit they keep in stock. My research into the mechanics of fudge continues, and I discovered that researching how to make fudge on the internet is dangerous; you run the risk of finding something that will require you to bleach your eyes.

ranted mentioned that I’ve been trying and trying to make penuche fudge. Today I’m working on attempt # 5. I am happy to report attempt # 4 had fudge-like qualities, it was partially set, although too soft, and the texture is wrong, but it tastes like penuche and that is enough to overcome any flaw. I am getting closer.

Tah-dah!

Although nearly impossible to cut, when I removed some and set the rest back into the pan, it didn’t flow out to take over the empty space so I consider this a success.

I also discovered that making traditional fudge is about as much fun as tempering chocolate. Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up:

  • I studied the penuche recipes from Betters Homes & GardensOld Tyme Fudge, and All Recipes
  • I read volumes of fudge lore
  • I tried the BHG recipe twice, and the Old Tyme recipe three times
  • I know where I’m going wrong (beating the syrup into fudge)
  • After calibrating my thermometer I found it’s 3 degrees Celsius off
  • My fifth batch is in the pan, hopefully setting right now

The easy part is cooking the ingredients into a sugar slurry without scorching.  I am mindful to only stir before it’s boiling, and to remove from heat at the soft ball stage. I add the vanilla and butter and leave it alone without stirring until it cools.

When I beat the syrup into fudge, everything falls apart. Beating fudge by hand is about as pleasant as walking on broken glass. I found a few forums where people said they beat fudge successfully in a Kitchen Aid:

I have used my KA with the flat beater to beat fudge and it worked quite well. You do have to keep a close eye on it, and it is harder to see it clearly in the mixing bowl unless I stop beating and lower the bowl to check. I was surprised how long it took the first time I used my KA, I thought it would be faster, but it took almost as long as beating by hand.

With that in mind, I assumed it would not take longer than 10 minutes, but I wasn’t sure what speed to use. I thought using the first setting would be wise, the speed closest to doing it by hand. That didn’t work, the paddle grabbed the entire mass and shoved it around the bowl without mixing .I upped the speed to 2, which seemed to go better.

On attempt # 5, I beat it for 6 minutes on speed 2, scraping the sides every 120 seconds. After the six minute mark, I beat it for another 4 minutes on speed 3, scraping the sides every 60 seconds. Somewhere between minute 9 and 10 it went wrong again.

I think this is either just before the point I need, or just past it. It started tearing off the bottom of the bowl and felt dry. I beat in one tablespoon of cream, which helped make it fluid again, but after that it wouldn’t stiffen.

Everything I have read says that you beat the fudge until the gloss is gone, and it resembles buttercream instead of syrup. I can tell when it’s glossy, but it’s hard to judge when it’s not.

I know I’m on the right track.  I am waiting for attempt # 5 to set, will know in 2 hours how I did.

If you have any tips about beating old fashioned fudge, I would love to hear them.

Playlist: NAS – Got Myself a Gun

Sea salt penuche taffy

Apparently 3 is not the magic number, or this would be a picture of penuche fudge instead of penuche taffy.

Until this failed to set, I had high hopes that I had finally achieved penuche fudge, which as I mentioned yesterday, is a childhood dream of mine. Alas I did not achieve fudge, but I did achieve something, and it has the faint taste of penuche, like a dream gone past recall. I am so close!

I wonder if this is how my sister Chocoholic used to feel.  For years when she made fudge it never set, it just slowly slid to one end of the pan. We ate it anyway, and it was delicious, but there is something annoying and humbling about being unable to make fudge.

I followed the traditional penuche recipe from Old Tyme Fudge. I’m going to try it again today.

I read a lot of online candy recipes, and often find comments that say, “This recipe sucks, I followed it exactly and it didn’t work”.  That’s a pretty conceited way to look at it. If it doesn’t work, the problem must be the recipe? It can’t be your ingredients? Or your equipment? Or your lack of technique?

I used to do tech support, I’m okay with admitting the recipe is fine and the problem is the user. If you try 3 different recipes of the same thing and it doesn’t work, the only common denominator is you.

Notice how it’s still pretty glossy? I suspect that is the problem. It’s stretchy, and when you take a bite it retains a perfect imprint of your teeth, so I think the problem is that I didn’t beat it enough after it cooled. (I was conservative during beating because I didn’t want another rock-hard lump of penuche.)

And yet…

… it wasn’t a total loss. Look at that gorgeous colour!  It mostly held its shape. Boyfriend carefully sliced each piece for me. (Okay, I couldn’t slice this, I tried. After jumping up and down leaning on the knife and not getting anywhere, he rescued me.)

I tasted one, and it was good. I added a little sea salt and wow. Even though this isn’t the final result that I wanted, I liked this a lot, but I’m not sure I could make this again even if I tried.

I’ve read that beating fudge by hand takes around 10 minutes and I had no interest in making my arms sore, so I used my KitchenAid and beat it for 1 minute (20 seconds on Low, 40 seconds on Med-High.) It was so thick I stopped. If you are interested in recreating this penuche pseudo-taffy, instead of making actual fudge, follow the recipe above and under-beat. I have no idea if you’ll get the same results so good luck!

Patty vs. Penuche

Oh fudge, indeed. What the hell is this?

Or this?

It’s certainly not penuche fudge, which I tried to make twice in 24 hours, and met with disaster both times.

Have you ever eaten penuche fudge? It is, hands down, the most delicious fudge of them all. It’s a sweet brown sugar fudge and while you are eating it all things seem possible: eternal harmony and world peace are within grasp. It is that good. I adore penuche.

It’s got to be the right type: golden brown colour, no nuts, firm consistency.

I used to have a best friend in elementary school. Her mother was an amazing baker, and she introduced me to penuche fudge and carrot cake. Her baked goods were so good, that to this day when I eat penuche or carrot cake, I take a bite and compare. Inevitably I think to myself, “This is good, but it’s not as good as hers.”

Sadly, I lost my best friend around grade 5 or 6, due to a small misunderstanding involving nun chucks, Mario Kart, and punching her brother in the face. Losing my friend was sad enough for an anti-social kid with just 2 friends, but to realize I would never again enjoy the best penuche on the planet was devastating.

"No more penuche", self-portrait, pencil

I have successfully made a simple chocolate fudge, and cookies ‘n cream fudge, and this my was first try to create the holy grail of fudge: my beloved penuche.

Right now I am following a Better Homes & Gardens recipe. It’s pretty straight forward, it says to add the white sugar, brown sugar, and cream to the sauce pot, and boil on low for about 10 minutes until you reach the soft ball stage. Once you get there, remove from heat, add vanilla and butter but do not stir, and leave it for 40 minutes to cool, then stir for 10 min before transferring to the pan to set.

On my first attempt, the candy thermometer was slowing inching up to 113°C, and then it just shot up an extra 10 degrees. In an instant the hot sugary syrup changed into something else, something bad. I decided to wait and see what would happen after leaving it for 40 min, when I came back it had hardened to this brittle mess.

I reheated it slowly, and once all the sugar had melted again I poured it into the pan. It set, but it looks like a giant brick of brown sugar, in fact it is sugar, not fudge. I scraped some off to add to my cereal this morning since there is nothing else I can do with it, aside from using it as a weapon.

On the second attempt, I thought I had it. I had double checked the temperature range for soft ball, I stirred as directed and watched the thermometer like a hawk, and removed from heat at the correct time. But when I came back after 40 minutes, it had cooled and turned into a weird shellac. You couldn’t stir it at all. I tried reheating a bit to get some fluidity back, then it scorched and mutated into this.

I attempted to scoop it out into the pan to set, but it set on the spoon.

The horror, the horror.

The worst part is, it smells like penuche! My entire apartment has been perfumed with two days of penuche-making, yet I have none to eat and THIS IS TORTURE.

Do you have a favourite recipe that eludes your grasp?

Patty’s chocolates round 1 – peppermint

I have made chocolates before, but I have never used a chocolate mould before. I was curious if having a properly shaped and sized chocolate would really make a difference. Taste is the most important factor, and I know that my chocolates taste good. So how important are aesthetics? Let’s find out.

Once again I am using Callebaut chocolate which I adore.

(Belgian chocolate + peppermint) x joy² ÷ 15 = bliss

Good to know before you start:

Make sure that all your kitchen implements are clean and dry to prevent seizing.

Time required: 3.5 hr (30 min prep plus chilling)

Yields: 15 pieces

Cost per portion: $1.00

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $15.00

Special kitchen implements I used:

  • fine sieve
  • Fat Daddio’s silicone chocolate mould, sloped cylinder shape
  • Wilton silicone spatula, with flat end

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz semi-sweet Belgian chocolate
  • 1 oz semi-sweet mint chocolate Chipits
  • ⅛ C heavy cream
  • 3-4 drops peppermint oil

Instructions:

1. Melt chocolate in the microwave, reserving about one third. Microwave on High for 3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds.

2. Add reserved chocolate to melted chocolate, and stir in 1 drop peppermint oil. Stir until smooth.

3. In a heavy-bottom sauce pan add cream and 2 drops of peppermint oil, heat to scalding.

4. Using a sieve, add cream to chocolate and stir until smooth.

5. Spoon into mould. My chocolate was very thick so “smoosh into mould” might be more accurate.

6. Run a flat-end scraper over the top of the mould. I used my silicone spatula for this, in 3 passes. This action collects the excess chocolate on the end of the scraper, which you can then stuff into any cup that isn’t filled enough.

7. Place mould into covered container, and chill. The product description says chill 20 min but I let them chill for 3 hours before sampling, and the were perfect, and I left the rest in the fridge overnight anyway.

8. To remove from mould, cover your hand with a plastic baggy and use thumb to pop out the chocolates. The plastic prevents the oils on your skin from blemishing the chocolates. Work quickly and touch the pieces as little as possible to avoid melting and smudges.

Verdict: These turned out great, I’m quite pleased. They are smooth, creamy, and make my taste buds sing. Oh, I love peppermint!

Using a chocolate mould was easy. If you want to make a large amount of chocolates, use 4 moulds at a time and quadruple the amounts of chocolate. This mould cost $8.25 and was totally worth it.

I knew my chocolate would have air bubbles because it was so thick, there was no way to ensure it flowed into the moulds evenly. If you are looking for a perfectly smooth finished product, skip the cream.

I don’t regret any of the chocolates I made in muffin tin cups, but from now on I will always use a mould.

Making these has changed me profoundly. I’m completely serious. It feels like I have reached a whole new level in baking. I feel like a rock star. It reminds me of the day I made the dessert that changed my life, but more on that in December.

Have you ever baked something that made you feel differently about your mad skills?

Playlist: Castlevania soundtrack

Visit to Canada’s Baking and Sweets Show

Yesterday I visited Canada’s Baking and Sweets Show, with my friend Hobby Victim. The show brings together a variety of bakers, artists, vendors, and suppliers, and is sponsored by my favourite sugar refinery Red Path Sugar.

I had a great time, and got to see lots of different vendors and products, but a few things about the show really surprised me.

The entrance

A large table of cakes (dummy cakes I think), marked with numbers. I looked but found nothing to explain who had made these cakes. Most were done in a Halloween theme.

I wish I had a clearer picture. it looked like a castle made of bones.

This giant Fabergé vase was topped with birds, the decorations were very intricate.

Next was an Alice in Wonderland cake, and a white cake with blue accents.

I’m pretty sure this is Alice. On a very complex tree and chair.

I admired the beautiful shades of blue and the lace string work here. You can’t really see the details at all, lighting wasn’t the best but this was a lovely cake.

A very eclectic mix of style and talent on display. I was impressed.

The vendors

I got to meet some very nice vendors, and see and try some delicious things. I also saw some vendors acting very strangely.

The shortbread cookies at Sprucewood Handmade Cookie Co. and Mary Macleod’s Shortbread were delicious. We purchased apricot shortbreads and raspberry shortbreads. I brought some home for Boyfriend as a surprise.

I saw extremely beautiful artisan chocolates at Mercury Chocolates. I don’t know how chocolatier Darren Johns makes those beautiful creations, but his chocolates look like perfect jewels, a variety of colours and flavors. I didn’t get to speak with him much because there was a woman who would not stop talking to him, so I moved on and viewed the gorgeous truffles at Old Firehall Confectionary. At Nadia Chocolates there were beautiful chocolate butterflies, very thin and pretty.

I saw some interesting cakes at Dessert Trends and beautiful custom cakes at La Casa Dolce’s booth. There was a tree of sugar ornaments at the Canadian Society of Sugar Artistry.

I saw an interesting presentation on fondant by Virgin Ice. They gave out cards which say: visit our website for vendors at libertygroupsugar.com but that URL does not work for me.

At the Bonnie Gordon College booth I met Susan Trianos! She was making gum paste chrysanthemums, and she was very friendly. She answered lots of questions and we talked about baking TV shows. It was cool to watch her make petals and assemble the flower.

I got to see a real Agbay at the Icing Inspirations booth. They had two Agbays and an airbrush booth.

I spent a lot of time in the Golda’s Kitchen booth. I wanted to buy 80% of their inventory, but limited myself to one item; the Fat Daddio’s sloped chocolate mould. This booth was very crowded. People could not navigate the aisles, and it was jammed with merchandise and customers. I suppose they wanted to show as much product to as many potential customers as possible but it was just too much.

What about the show surprised me?

1. The amount of vendors who did not give out samples. Of the vendors without samples, some were offering a discount if you bought their product at the show, but others didn’t. Wow.

I visited every booth at the show, and I know there were several cupcake bakers, but the only one I remember is Glady Cakes, because they had friendly staff, and they offered me a sample. I was happy to try one, but they insisted I try three flavours: Lemon Heaven, The Nut Bar, and Cafe Dulce de Leche.

As for the other vendors, what were they thinking? They had high prices, and no samples.

I realize that the profit margin on custom baked goods is not great, and the high price is a combination of quality ingredients, overhead, profit, and mostly time/labour. Nobody wants to work at cost or for free. But really? This is a trade show. I thought the point was to demonstrate your wares and get new business.

Adult tickets to this show cost $12 so why would a person spend another $20 to buy your product without tasting it, when the vendor beside you is letting them try a sample for free?

2. There were 5-6 vendors who did not seem very interested in being at the show at all. I walked up to their booths, waited a few moments to be acknowledged, but they were too busy texting. They never looked up from their cell phones. I walked away. If you can’t be bothered to put your phone away and greet people who are at your booth, why did you come?

Three vendors were loudly discussing their displeasure with the amount of teenagers in the crowd. They made a few unpleasant comments.

I am not a “customer is always right” person. I have worked in customer service, and I know that a lot of customers are assholes. Or pretentious morons. Or both. But it seems to me that if you are a vendor at a trade show, standing around insulting the people at the show is in poor taste.

3. Lack of food and drink available for purchase. I skipped lunch to get to the show early, and walking the entire floor made me very thirsty, it would have been nice to find a place that sold cold drinks and sandwiches.

Have you ever been to a baking show? Tell me about it.