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?

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.

Virtual recipe box & how-to

I made a recipe index and a how-to guide index today.

The links are on the menu at the top of the blog, and also on the right.

The recipe index contains a link to each recipe I have posted, which is a condensed version of each blog post. They are sorted by dessert type; cakes, custards, et cet. Each recipe contains the ingredients and instructions, but the extra commentary and pictures have been removed so they are printer-friendly.

If you are like me and prefer step-by-step instructions, no worries! Each recipe has a link to the original blog post so you can still find that information, it’s just easier to locate now.

 

The how-to guides contain instructions for common baking dilemnas, how to make your own kitchen torches, create a water bath, or slice a cheesecake.

Over the weekend I plan to finish the rest of the guides, and if I’m feeling inspired, make something new.

(Edit: Sun Jun 19 – finished 2 more guides)

Playlist: MacGyver theme

Pride goeth before the cake

The dessert I made last night kind of imploded.  You’ll see what I mean by the end of this post. This morning as I stood in the kitchen, surveying the aftermath, and wondering “What the hell is that?”, three irritating platitudes sprang to mind:

  • you learn more from your mistakes than your successes
  • cooks can eat their mistakes
  • too many cooks spoil the broth

The über-annoying thing about platitudes (aside from how often one hears them) is when they turn out to be true. Measure twice, cut once. Ugh, spare me.

Last night I made three separate disasters.  It would probably have been a good idea to stop after the first failure, but I went for the hat trick anyway. Because I am committed. Since the post I was planning for today isn’t coming,  you’ll have to make do with my latest failures.

#1: Let them eat cake!

the incredible collapsing birthday cake ™

This beauty was Boyfriend’s birthday cake.  He loves oatmeal cake, and I had never made one before. He gave me the recipe used by his family and it seemed easy enough. Where did it all go wrong?

Probably my selection of a bundt pan for a cake with a heavy batter. Never doing that again. Ripped apart by its own weight when I removed it from the pan.  This resulted in a panicked call to Older Sister # 3, who suggested “Turn it upside down and frost like a motherfucker, he’ll never notice!” — it’s true, he didn’t.

#2: Oh fudge!

stirring…stirring…. WTF?

Hmm that certainly isn’t normal.  Never seen that before.

Tyler Durden called: “Where’d the fat go??”

I was melting chocolate on low heat to make fudge, and suddenly, this strange oily substance rose to the surface.  “Okay,” I remember thinking, “what’s up with that?  Did it seize?”

Treating it like seized chocolate failed miserably. I think the result speaks for itself. I turned off the stove and came back to observe later.  All of the fat had risen to the surface and congealed. This was a nightmare to clean.

#3: Rage on the marble slab

“Burnt cream” indeed!

This was particularly upsetting, my beautiful crème brûlée, ruined!!

Normally this lovely custard is topped with a thin layer of sugar, like a pane of rich brown glass. But this is what happens when using cane sugar that hasn’t been thoroughly dried, and too much of it.  The glass-like quality turns into a lump of burnt rock.

#4: The invisible mint sauce

mint….sauce??

On a whim I decided one night we just had to eat lamb with freshly made mint sauce, despite the fact that neither of us had ever cooked lamb before, or made mint sauce.  But that was okay, we had a bag of fresh mint picked from a friend’s garden.

I’m still not sure where I went wrong, but all the liquid evaporated, leaving soggy mint leaves (and no sauce) behind.  This was served on undercooked lamb and raw potatoes, attempts to broil Parmesan potatoes… did not work out.

#5: Pillars of the cake

coming soon to a restaurant near you, Torn Bottom Cake! ™

This was a double layer chocolate cake for my friend M. Both layers were mysteriously missing large chunks of their batter, which was stuck to the pan. That seam along the bottom right is where half of the cake ripped entirely off and got smashed back on.

Now, before baking this cake, I made sure the pans were well greased and dusted with cocoa.  I used my ninja frosting skills and filled all of the holes with buttercream frosting. Birthday Boy didn’t notice. BUT I KNEW. >.<

#6: A square of two gingerbreads

1st attempt: gingerbread top loaf!

As you can see, I did not actually use a square pan, oops. And half the loaf remained in the pan. After a few days I tried again, confident that if I used the correct pan things would go my way.

Certainly not “just like Mom’s.”

2nd attempt: it’s all over but the crumbs now

My first two gingerbreads were disasters.  Dare I try a third?

#7:  The cookies are (not) rising

peanut butter flat breads ™

molasses spice flats ™

What we have here is a failure to rise. The cookies are expanding out but not up. Despite making dough that included two leavening agents, my cookies never rose.

Boyfriend would disagree that these are disasters because they tasted good.  I believe that if it doesn’t look proper, into the disaster pile it goes.

#8: Bread on a wire

Save time on slicing, make “cracked loaf” ™

For the busy household, cracked bread saves precious minutes of the day, who has time to slice a loaf of bread anymore??

#9: So easy a child could make it

1st attempt: never do this on the stove

Confession: I’ve never made Rice Kripsy squares. Awhile ago (okay a long while ago), I picked up some marshmallows, planning to make them. And completely forgot about them until the other day.

I looked up the official Rice Kripsy square recipe, which says to use a stove top. It seemed so easy. Unaware that stale marshmallows do not react like fresh ones, I got to work.  I called up Mom to chat and tell her what I’m making.  She suggests using the microwave instead.

Too late now!!

I glance at the clock, and the sauce pan, wondering why over 25 minutes have passed but the marshmallows have not melted. At all.

Boyfriend walked in the door. “What is the amazing smell?”

I am feeling proud of myself, still unsure if the weird brown mass in the pan is normal.

He walked over to the stove.  “What the hell is that?”

I calmly explain it’s my first batch of Rice Kripsy squares, obviously!

He looked at me, puzzled.  “Why aren’t you using the microwave?”

I explain that the Kellogg’s website said to use the stove.

So he calls up his mother.  We have now consulted two mothers plus the official recipe. It’s a group effort now. There is no way this can fail.

He helps me pry the strange buttery marshmallow mass from the pan, and get started on a new batch, using a glass bowl in the microwave.  Boyfriend was kind enough to microwave and stir, microwave and stir.

I wait, wondering when the marshmallows will finally melt. Then I turn around, and see him pouring the cereal into the unmelted marshmallows.

“What are you doing!?!”

“They’re not melting, they’re just shrinking!”

“And you thought it was a good idea to add the cereal anyway?!”

2nd attempt: “There is only one Lord of the Squares, and he does not share power!”

Now I am confused, sad, and downtrodden, complaining that everything I bake turns to hell.

Boyfriend hugs me and says, “No, no, you can make stuff I can’t even pronounce and it’s delicious, we’ll get fresh marshmallows and try again.”

I am reminded why I care for Boyfriend so much after this pep talk.  Every cook needs a cheering squad.

#10: If a cake implodes in the oven, does it make a sound?

the cheesecake that wasn’t

And finally, here is the result of last night’s poll. After two failed batches of Rice Krispy squares, I was determined to make something, anything, and plus I had just asked my readers to vote in a poll and felt commited at this point.

Because I had a vision. I wanted to make an apple cheesecake, on a bed of honey graham crackers, with a layer of homemade caramel sauce and minced apple, and a cream cheese filling mixed with apple sauce and honey.

Oh, how beautiful it seemed in my head! And you know, it does taste pretty good. But from the moment I took it out of the fridge and began slicing it, two great cracks appeared, and it slid apart. In fact, it seemed liquid.

I consulted Older Sister # 2, who determined it was probably a combination of too much liquid, not enough cream cheese, and not enough cooking time. This makes sense.

This morning I showed the fallen cake to Boyfriend who (if you can believe it) laughed in my face.  He says he didn’t laugh and he doesn’t remember laughing – possibly because he hadn’t drank any coffee yet? Whatever!

I’m going to try again, and it’s going to work, and maybe, if you are really nice to me when you get home, you can have some.

Keeping those silly platitudes in mind, I have realized three important truths:

1. Eating your mistakes when they are raw is foolish.

2. When attempting to make something new that everybody in the world knows how to make but you, do it before anybody else gets home.

3. If you don’t remember when you bought the marshmallows, maybe get fresh ones.

An apple and what?

I’m making something new tonight, in about two and a half hours. I want your opinion on something.

The dessert will have two major components; apples, and either honey, vanilla, or lemons.  I can’t decide! Vote for the option you think would taste best. XD

I’ll check poll results at 10pm EST and you will see the finished product tomorrow morning.

Excuse me, I have to go harass my family into voting now…

UPDATE: 10:02pm – voting over, honey won. Tune in tomorrow!

“Down with the sickness”

Well, I am sick. Boyfriend came home from work with a nasty bug, and within two days I caught it, and this is officially a House of Misery ™.

Not much baking going on here. Currently the fanciest thing I’m making is soup from a can. Actually I’m not even doing that, just lying on the couch and sadly mumbling about tea and soup, until Boyfriend catches my subtle hints and makes it for me.

Easter dinner was a far cry from what I’m used to; grilled cheese sandwiches and canned soup. That would be horribly depressing, but luckily on Good Friday, Boyfriend and I were invited to dinner with friends at their home, and it was lovely – if I focus on Friday instead of Sunday it’s okay.

I haven’t done much this weekend, aside from playing the new Mortal Kombat game on PS3. If you enjoyed the first three MK games, do yourself a favor and buy it. Right now. It is so good, it’ll make you forget about all the mediocre games released between 1997 and 2010. Total old school goodness. This is the first MK I’ve loved in 15 years.

In fact, this MK is so good, it almost makes me forget about the pain in my throat and the ringing in my ears – almost.