Rose's Sugar Bible and Vanilla Bible Pages Now on Our Website

Rose wrote many articles for Food Arts magazine over years. Her Sugar Bible article in 2000, spanned 30 pages. The article went on to win the World Gourmand Best Food or Wine Article in the World. We have decided to give these two informative articles their own dedicated pages here on our website, which also include updates and additional information.          (Shown above are each bible page's banner.)

You can access them any time on the Rose's Books page. Scroll down to their page links under Romantic Cakes on the left side of the page (pictured below). Then click on their page buttons. 

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                              Here are direct links to the Sugar Bible and Vanilla Bible. 

We Now Have a Listing for All of Our Gluten Free Recipes

We are frequently asked what baking recipes we have which are gluten free. On our Recipe page, we have a portal to a listing of over 70 gluten free recipes in Rose's books, from flourless cakes to toffee to chocolate cream pie to ice creams. We also recognize that many need to live a gluten free diet, for which we are grateful to the many authors who specialize in this area and live a gluten free life style.  We hope our offerings will add to your repertoire of recipes.

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To access our gluten free list of recipes, click on our Recipes page on the navitaion bar, scroll down, and click on the button for Our Gluten Free Recipe Index. 

Pane Nero in the Food Processor

  Beautiful crumb but loaf has an irregular shape due to my not letting it rest 20 minutes before shaping because i was so eager to bake the bread and see the results!

Beautiful crumb but loaf has an irregular shape due to my not letting it rest 20 minutes before shaping because i was so eager to bake the bread and see the results!

My friend, Charlie Van Over, introduced me to food processor breads many years ago. He has been so successful with this technique he even designed a huge commercial processor to make baguettes.

The food processor isn’t necessarily ideal for all breads, for example a multi grain would powder the grains but they could be added by hand after processing the dough. A very sticky dough such as brioche could work but it is so sticky it’s a nuisance to remove it from the bowl and blades.

I’ve been trying other breads I’ve perfected using the food processor with excellent results, in fact, the texture of the Pane Nero, which was posted a few weeks ago, is more dense and the loaf 3/4 inch lower than the one made in the processor. Also, I increased the honey by 1-1/2 times—the first time by mistake and liked the 1/4 inch extra rise and slightly moister texture so added it to this recipe.

Even if you don’t make this exact recipe, it will give you the technique of trying out the food processor for other ones.

Oven Temperature: 450˚F/230˚C, then 400°F/200˚C

Baking Time: 40 minutes

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Note: Pane Nero flour is organic and, as with all organic wheat that has not been sprayed with any sort of insecticide, it is advisable to freeze it for 48 hours when it first arrives to ensure that it remains bug free. It will remain fresh for well over a year in the freezer, and for up to 3 months refrigerated. It is available from Gustiamo.

Equipment: A 9 inch by 5 inch (7 cup), or 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan if not adding the starter, coated lightly with cooking spray or oil. A baking stone or baking sheet.

1) In a food processor bowl add the bread flour, pane nero flour, non-fat milk powder, and yeast. Process 30 seconds to mix. Pulse in the salt.

2) Cut the starter into a few pieces and add it to the bowl. Process for about 15 seconds until combined

3) Add the honey and oil and, with the motor on, add the water. After it comes together process for 45 seconds. The dough should be sticky enough to cling to your fingers. If it is not at all sticky spray it with a little water and pulse it in. If the dough doesn’t clean the bowl add a little more flour and pulse it in.

4) Scrape the dough into a 3 quart/liter bowl or rising container which has been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray. It will weigh a little over 1 pound/ 992 grams.)  In a rising container with markings it will be 1 quart/liter. Press down the dough and lightly spray or oil the top. Cover the container tightly with a lid or plastic wrap. With a piece of tape, mark where double the height would be.

5) Let the dough rise: Allow the dough to rise (ideally at 80˚F/26˚C) until doubled in size (to 2 liters), a little over an hour.

Using an oiled spatula or dough scraper, remove the dough to a lightly floured counter. Press down on it gently to form a rectangle. Stretch the dough and give it a package fold (pull out the bottom and fold it to the center, then the same with the left side, right side, and top), round the edges and return it to the bowl, smooth side up. Again, oil the surface, cover, mark where double the height will now be (about 3 quarts) and allow it to rise until it reaches this point, about 1 hour. (Or dimple and shape it into a loaf after it has rested 20 minutes; set it in an oiled zipseal bag; refrigerate it overnight and bring it to room temperature for about 1 hour or until risen full as indicated in step 4 before baking.

4) Shape the dough and let it rise: Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter, smooth side down, and press it gently to flatten it. It will still be a little sticky but use only as much flour as absolutely necessary to keep it from sticking. Allow the dough to rest covered for 20 minutes. Dimple it all over with your finger tips to eliminate air bubbles, shape it into a loaf, and place it in the prepared loaf pan. It will fill the pan no more than 1/2 inch from the top. Cover it lightly with oiled plastic wrap and allow it to rise until the highest point is 1 to 1 1/2 inches above the sides of the pan and when pressed gently with a finger the depression very slowly fills in--about 45 minutes.

5) Preheat the oven: 1 hour before baking set a cast iron pan lined with foil onto the floor of the oven and preheat the oven to 450˚F/230˚C.

6) Bake the bread: Spritz the top of the dough with water. Quickly but gently set the bread pan onto the hot stone or hot baking sheet and toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the pan beneath. Immediately shut the door lower the temperature to 400˚F/230˚C, and bake 30 to 40 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. (An instant read thermometer inserted into the center will register about 205˚F/96˚C. After the first 20 minutes of baking tent loosely with foil and rotate the pan half way around for even baking.

7) Cool the bread Remove the bread from the oven, unmold it from the pan, and transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely, top-side up.

Buona Italia to Open in Chelsea Market

Nocciola.jpgNocciola (hazelnut praline ice cream) on the back porch for lunch. Yes I know it's Fall but it's 89°/32°C and this fabulous ice cream called to me from the freezer. I made it yesterday for dear friends who were visiting from Philadelphia. I promised that if the Agrimontana praline paste arrived from Europe in time I would make the ice cream. This praline paste is made with hazelnuts from the famed Piedmont region of Italy--60% pure hazelnuts and 40% caramelized sugar. It has no equal. Mariella.jpg My dear long-time friend Mariella Esposito, of Fante's, and me enjoying the ice cream and sunset last night. Nocciola is her husband Lee's favorite, which is why I made it. This Thursday, September 28, Buon Italia will be opening in Chelsea Market in New York City but they also have an online site. And they carry, among other things, the Agrimontana praline paste and their 100% pure pistachio paste. Those of you who love these flavors of ice cream will be nothing short of astounded at the difference these quality ingredients make! And for those of you concerned about my summer-long defection to ice creaming, i'll be back to baking, mixing the dough for a pane nero this very afternoon (posting to come about this special Sicilian flour imported by Gustiamo).

Berry Dangerous Beauties

berries.jpgBlack raspberries have the hardest seeds of any berry I know. I've always enjoyed picking the wild berries that grow down the road and eating them--some on the spot and others with yogurt or ice cream. But this Sunday something really bad happened and I want to warn you. One of the berry seeds cracked one of my perfectly healthy teeth. Channeling my mother, who was dentist, I immediately contact her beloved replacement, Dr. Kellen Mori, who arranged to have me come in the very next day. This was so fortunate because she was able to save the tooth even though it had cracked very deeply. One day later would have been too late. I now have a temporary crown and we are hoping no root canal will be needed. I will never again chomp on a black raspberry, however, there is a silver lining to the story: I have frozen the rest of our berry harvest to make into ice cream. It will be in the upcoming ice cream book. And I no longer have to look at the berries as enemies.

A New Chocolate Love

feves_noires.jpgI have fallen in love with a new Valrhona chocolate called Illanka. I first tasted it when it was introduced at the recent Valrhona cocktail party in New York City and was nothing short of amazed. I've been a long time fan of the Valrhona Le Noir Gastronomie, aka extra bitter 61% but I found the Illanka much more exciting. Not only is it extraordinarily creamy and well-balanced, it is intensely chocolaty with an enticingly fruity finish that makes me want to reach for more. Illanka chocolate comes from Peru and is made from Gran Blanco beans--very rare white cocoa beans found in the Piura region. Valrhona has given it the name Illanka which comes from Illa, the light and Anka, Condor in Quechua, the speaking language in Peru. Illanka is delicious eaten just as it is, without further enhancement, but also makes a fabulous ganache simply with the addition of heavy cream. For a 61% chocolate such as Le Noir Gastronomie I use 9 ounces/255 grams cream (about 1 cup plus 1-1/2 tablespoons/259 ml) to 8 ounces/227 grams chocolate. For the Illanka 63% I use 10 ounces/283 grams cream (about 1-1/4 cups/296 ml) to 8 oz/227 grams chocolate. Illanka can be bought on line. Valrhona will donate $1.00 USD to the Clear Water charity project for every 500 gram/17.5 ounce bag of Illanka chocolate purchased. Illanka has an interesting history. If you would like to learn more about it and the impact Valrhona's creation of The Clean Water Project is making on the surrounding cocoa producing communities follow this link.

More on Beating Egg Whites

A while back, I did an in depth posting on beating egg whites, but I have something important to add if not using cream of tartar to ensure stability.If the proper amount of cream of tartar is used it offers 100% insurance against over beating and drying out the egg whites, which would decrease the volume of the baked goods significantly. When using the cream of tartar, the egg whites can be beaten to stiff peaks. Egg_White1.jpg But when cream of tartar is not used, the egg whites should be beaten only until what the French refer to as bec d'oiseau which translates to bird's beak. Egg_White2.jpg By not beating quite as stiffly, when folded into another mixture the whites do not deflate as much but will not offer quite as much volume. An example, in my orange chiffon cake, is when the whites are beaten to completely stiff peaks only 9 egg whites are needed instead of 10 when beaten to bec d'oiseau (curved peaks) to achieve the same volume when baked.

Heat-Treated Flour as an Alternative to Bleached Flour

Flour.jpgSiemer Milling is a Midwestern milling company that mills specialty flours for its clients all over the world. We became acquainted with the company through one of our bloggers who works for them. When she informed us that one of Siemer's specialty flours is a heat-treated flour as an alternative to bleached flour, we asked for a sample to test against chlorinated bleached cake flour. I had done similar tests both on my own and with the inventor of Kate's Flour, Kate Coldrick, when I was at her Devon, England home several years ago. I was so impressed with her flour that we included her technique for making it in one's own microwave in Rose's Heavenly Cakes and on our blog. Although we found Kate's flour to produce similar texture and height results, it does add a slight 'nutty' taste to cake batters. At times, we receive questions regarding alternatives to chlorinated flours, especially from England and other former British Commonwealth countries. So we were eager to try this flour that is a commercially produced alternative. We tested the Siemer's heat-treated cake flour head to head with Soft as Silk bleached cake flour for making a single layer, whole egg, butter cake. This is the same cake batter recipe that we had used for our "The Power of Flour" tests and blog posting that we conducted several years ago. With our control cake test notes for referencing, we made two cakes--one with Siemer's heat-treated flour and the other with Soft-as Silk bleached cake flour. Our testing resulted in the following observations for the Siemer's flour: The flour has a darker off-white color than Soft as Silk. The texture of the cake was slightly denser and coarser, but had almost the same softness as Soft as Silk. The flavor did not have the 'nutty' taste that we experienced with home-made microwaved flour. The flavor had a slightly 'rustic' taste compared to the Soft as Silk cake. Our conclusion for this flour is: The Siemer's heat-treated flour is a viable alternative to chlorinated bleached cake flour, with the understanding that the texture will be somewhat coarser and denser.

When Tragedy Strikes Your Mousseline Buttercream

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This is truly the queen of buttercreams: silky, buttery, light and airy, and a bit temperamental. Combining the Italian meringue with the butter is the tricky part. It is essential that the two mixtures have near the same temperature. And sooner or later it happens to everyone: Instead of becoming a beautifully emulsified satiny texture, it starts to curdle and separate. Your heart drops and panic sets in--all that expensive butter and time....But all is not lost. Here are some tips and also a solution should all else fail: Use an instant read thermometer to ensure that the temperature of the mixture is between 65° to 70°F/19° to 21°C and adjust as needed. If not using a thermometer, try adjusting with just a small amount of the buttercream. If all else fails, with your hands, squeeze out the liquid that has separated and pour it into a large measuring cup with a spout. On high speed, beat the remaining butter until it becomes smooth. Then gradually beat in the liquid. The resulting buttercream will be less airy but perfectly emulsified and silky smooth. Note: You will have a higher degree of success if using high fat butter. Also, it works best to add all the meringue to all the whipped butter rather than the reverse. This technique is detailed in Rose's Heavenly Cakes and The Baking Bible.

Winter Spinach Heralds the Growing Season

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My friends the Meneguses gifted me with a huge batch of spinach from their farm. Here it is trimmed, washed, and ready to blanch. It filled my largest "everything bowl to the very top." Blanched 2 minutes before freezing to keep the color. Reduced in volume to 1/10th! 100 grams, together with cheddar cheese, made a delicious filling for an omelet. Packaged for freezing for many an omelet to come.

Baking Powder on the Rise

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Our preferences for baking powders are ones that are made with an all-phosphate product containing calcium acid phosphate and non-GMO cornstarch. Baking powders containing sodium aluminum sulfate (SAS), to aid in releasing more carbon dioxide during the baking stage, generally have a bitter after taste, especially noticeable when added to pie dough. Recently, Rumford released a new baking powder, Rumford Reduced Sodium Baking Powder, which contains 52% less sodium than leading brands and no aluminum. Rumford informed us that this new product activates mostly during the heating/baking phase. We were curious to test this new baking powder since timing of activation has a great impact on baked goods, especially muffins and cupcakes. Letting the cupcakes rest before baking gives the cupcakes more rounded tops because if more of the baking powder activates in the early stage from the liquid in the batter there is less to disrupt the cell structure, during baking, needed to collapse the crumb to form a flatter top. My White Velvet Butter Cake recipe served as our test recipe, since it is an egg white based butter cake and has a somewhat neutral flavor, which enables us to perceive differences during tasting more easily. Since there can be a relatively long time frame to fill over a dozen cupcake liners, during which the baking powder will have begun to activate, we wanted to see if the new baking powder, which reacts more in the baking stage, would give us a wider window of time to fill the cupcakes and result in more uniformly shaped cupcakes. We made two batches of cupcakes with each baking powder serving as the leavening for each batch. Once we filled the cupcake liners, we also let some of the cupcakes rest 20 minutes, and others 30 minutes before baking them. We baked all of the cupcakes for the same amount of time.

ORIGINAL RUMFORD ON THE LEFT, LOW SODIUM RUMFORD ON THE RIGHT

The test card shows the height in inches, then the width in inches. The cupcake on the left, made with the original Rumford baking powder, had the batter stand for 20 minutes after filling the muffin cups and before baking as did the one on the far right, made with the new Low Sodium Rumford baking powder. (It is both flatter and wider.) The middle cupcake, which is very similar to the original Rumford, but made with the low sodium baking powder, stood for 30 minutes before baking. The results indicate that the new Rumford baking powder is more effective in preventing doming for up to 20 minutes of standing time but not longer. However, when we gave them a taste test we found major differences.

The original Rumford cupcakes had a more pronounced flavor and texture. The sodium reduced Rumford ones were milder in flavor and fluffier. We preferred the original Rumford for flavor and texture. People are always asking either how to get more rounded cupcakes or flatter ones to hold more frosting. One of the major problems is that if making 12 or more cupcakes, by the time the last few cupcake liners are ready to be filled, the batter has been sitting in the bowl for at least 10 if not more minutes, resulting in more doming in the baked cupcakes. The longer the batter stands in the bowl before dispensing, the more the loss of leavening action during filling the liners. Once the batter is dispensed into the muffin liners this action slows down but is still taking place. So when the muffins are set in the oven, there is less leavening available to burst through the air bubbles in the batter to flatten the crumb during this heating phase.

Did you know that different brands of baking powder have different compositions, reactions, and results in the finished product? If you'd like to know why, continue reading!

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Baking powder is a chemical leavener that is used primarily in cake baking to enlarge the air bubbles in the batter, which gives volume and tenderness to the cake crumb. In Europe, most cakes are leavened with beaten egg white or whole eggs whereas in North America, most cakes use baking powder, baking soda, or a combination of the two. Baking powders are mixtures of dry acid or acid salt and baking soda, with starch or flour added to stabilize and standardize the mixtures.

Most baking powders are "double acting," meaning that they will react or liberate carbon dioxide when they come in contact with moisture during mixing of the batter and again when exposed to heat during baking. (A "Single acting" leavener, such as baking soda alone, reacts fully when it comes in contact with moisture.)

We also, tested the two baking powders by activating 1/2 teaspoon of each in custard cups with hot water. Within less than a minute the original Rumford had activated, fizzing furiously to completely dissipate. The reduced sodium Rumford only activated partially with dry, non-activated powder nestled on top of the foamy activated powder (even after 10 minutes). Doing this hot water test is good method for verifying that your baking powder is still activated.

We recommend that you always mark the date upon opening a can of baking powder and store it airtight to avoid humidity. Baking powder can lose a substantial amount of its strength after about a year.

We have also tested Argo's baking powder, which also activates more during the heating phase. We tested it against our baking powder of choice, Rumford's original Aluminum-Free Baking Powder. We found it especially effective in cakes baked in fluted tube pans as we could use the same amount of baking powder, but the Argo resulted in a less domed top which, when inverted, sat flatter on the plate. (To get similar results with the Rumford would require such a minute amount of extra baking powder it would be hard to measure accurately.) When using the Argo in a layer cake, however, it needed to be decreased to keep the cake from dipping.

Here are the ingredients listed for each baking powder: Rumford Original Aluminum-Free (red background can) Monocalcium Phosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Non-GMO Cornstarch Rumford Reduced Sodium Aluminum-Free (silver background can) Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium acid Phosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Non-GMO Cornstarch, Potassium Bicarbonate Argo Aluminum-Free Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Corn Starch And Monocalcium Phosphate. The White Velvet Butter Cake recipe is in The Cake Bible and Rose's Heavenly Cakes.

Nouvelle Génoise (Repair)

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When Things Go Wrong and Sister Bakers Collaborate Over the years, occasionally people have written to me telling me that their génoise comes out with a coarse texture and twice this has happened to me as well. It happened most recently when Woody and I were testing a 12 inch layer for an upcoming wedding cake. The recipe had already been perfected 26 years ago in The Cake Bible, but I was curious to see if it would work with Wondra flour which I subsequently found to be easier to integrate into the batter and to result in a more tender génoise in a 9 inch layer. I also wanted to see what the flavor would be like with rose water syrup instead of a liqueur. The batter filled the pan even more than usual and seemed to have more body but, to my dismay (actually horror), after about 10 minutes in the oven it started to collapse. On cooling and syruping, the resulting crumb was more toward cornbread than the usual fine texture.

My first thought was: "what would I say to a blogger who posted a question along the lines of: it always worked before so what went wrong? I would say: What did you do differently? And the answer was two things: I used a mixer with a different high speed from the Kitchen Aid on I usually use, and I replaced the cake flour/cornstarch mixture with the Wondra flour. The change of mixer explained the difference in volume and why the cake collapsed. So Woody and I went on to make a second cake using the usual highest speed on the Kitchen Aid mixer. The cake did not collapse, but the texture was still coarse and the cake tasted unpleasantly eggy. More often than not, when the texture is off the flavor is also affected but eggy? The first matter to deal with was the texture. We made a third 12 inch cake using the usual cake flour/cornstarch combination at the correct mixing speed and the cake again did not collapse, but the texture was still coarse and the flavor eggy.

I decided to reach out to my dearest friend and colleague, Lisa Yockelson. And sure enough, Lisa has been working on a recipe based on her own continuing research, which is why she understood my textural concerns immediately. Lisa asked if the cornstarch was genetically-modified, as we were going over the ingredient list, only to isolate every detail. The answer was yes, so we considered the possibility that it might be part of the problem. We had a long probing discussion at the end of which was a major part of the solution: Based on several years worth of research, Lisa has been adding an extra yolk to her 4 egg génois and using cake flour entirely. All cake flour made the biggest improvement, for it tenderizes the texture, adds delicacy to the finished "crumb," and refines the mouth-feel of the baked cake. In the end, in addition to a few other tweaks-in-the-works, Lisa has been using an extra egg yolk in a 4-egg génoise and 1 cup cake flour (sifted before measuring).

Coincidentally, I had mentioned to Woody at the start of making the first test génoise that since the proportion of egg yolks to whites is smaller than it had been in the past I wondered if this was going to have an effect on this cake. (Egg yolks have gotten smaller because the laying hens are now younger.) We have found, when making cakes where the yolks and whites are separated, or where all yolks are used, to get the equivalent of what used to be 4 yolks, you may need to use as many as 6.

Egg yolk provides natural lecithin which is a great emulsifier.. So I made yet another 12 inch génoise, but this time separating the 7 eggs and weighing the yolks and whites before combining them. I had to use a total of 9 yolks. I also replaced the cornstarch with equal weight cake flour Eureka: perfect texture. But once again I syruped the cake with the rose water syrup and it still tasted eggy. Back to the drawing board for the flavor solution. I made a 4 egg, 9 inch by 2 inch génoise, and syruped it with the usual syrup containing 2 tablespoons of liqueur. The liqueur was barely discernable but neither was the eggy taste of the cake. In future I may add more liqueur to the syrup (and reduce the water proportionately). I reported this to Lisa who loved the idea! I also decided not to point a finger at cornstarch unless I was certain it was part of the problem. So I made what I thought to be the final test (#6) with a 9 inch cake, using the correct amount of yolk but also the cake flour/cornstarch mixture. The results: acceptable but not as fine as using all cake flour. The right amount of yolk was the answer but not the whole answer. Just to seal the deal, Woody decided that one more test was necessary: test #7 was for a 9 inch cake, using the correct amount of yolk with the cake flour/cornstarch mixture using non-GMO Rumford cornstarch. And that was the winner. Compared to the 100% cake flour génoise, it was 3/16 inch higher but what was more important is that the crumb was finer, more even, and softer. Moral of the story: Either weigh or measure the yolks and whites separately, or add one 1 yolk for every 4 eggs. Use non-GMO cornstarch or replace the cornstarch with equal weight cake flour (for 3/4 ounces/100 grams, 1 cup sifted into the cup and leveled off). Add a minimum of 2 tablespoons of liqueur for a total of 3/4 cup/177ml syrup for the best flavor. 1/4 cup of liqueur will not be overpowering because a sponge-type cake does not hold the volatile liquid as effectively as a denser cake. Note: I have found that eggs graded jumbo now have yolks that are the same size as eggs graded large used to be so I often choose them and freeze the extra egg white for another use.

Testing a New Baking Ingredient

Cake_Enhancer.jpgWhen I read on the internet that there was a new product called a cake enhancer, that was purported to produce cakes that would be softer, moister, more fluffy and stay fresh longer, I couldn't resist trying it, especially when it consisted of familiar ingredients such as rice starch and fatty acids derived from vegetable fats, which act as emulsifiers, allowing fats and liquids to combine more easily and also serve as stabilizers and texture enhancers. I made two identical cakes, with all ingredients weighed, and at the same temperature, mixed for the same amount of time at the same speeds, and baked in the same size pans. I added the recommended 1 tablespoon of cake enhancer per cup of cake flour to one of the cakes. This batter was promisingly smoother and spread more easily but the baked cake was disappointing. It rose significantly more than the control cake but cracked a lot on the surface. It was sweeter, less flavorful, fluffier, and more dissolving, but rather than being moister, had a slightly dry aftertaste, though becoming pasty on chewing.

A Flour by Any Other Name...!

Just under the wire--12 days before The Baking Bible was ready to ship to the printer--Woody bought a new bag of "Gold Medal Better for Bread Flour" and to our shock, the name of the flour on the bag had changed to "Gold Medal Bread Flour."I raced over to the computer to see how many instances the flour was mentioned in the book with the old name and there were 17. Then I put in a call to my editor, Stephanie, telling her what had happened and asking if it were possible to make this one last change. She called Jamie, the production editor who said it was possible. Whew! When I first started working as a spokesperson for Gold Medal, several years ago, the name of the flour had been changed to "Harvest King Flour." Apparently many people were confused, thinking it was no longer the same bread flour. Some years later, after I was no longer the spokesperson, the name of the flour went back to "Better for Bread Flour." I'm so glad I can now make the change to refer it to in print as its latest name: Gold Medal Bread Flour, as it won't matter what the name may be changed to in the future, it will always be just that. I use this flour for most of my breads as it has a slightly lower protein content than other bread flours and has the ideal extensibility, giving it the best rise and texture. I recommend that if using other brands of bread flour, most of which have a higher protein content, to use half bread flour and half unbleached all-purpose flour. For a soft white bread I prefer unbleached all-purpose flour which has a lower protein content. And to achieve a high gluten flour, using Gold Medal bread flour, I add 3.7% vital wheat gluten or about 2 tablespoons per cup of flour.

The Secret Shelf Life of Arrowroot

Arrowroot.jpgArrowroot is used as a thickener for sauces and glazes. It is made from a tropical rhizome (underground stem). I like using it for glazes to top fruit on a tart, pie, or cake because it has a slight sparkle and also because it starts to thicken long before the boiling point so does not cause the fruit to soften. Although cornstarch, also an effective thickener (when allowed to come to a full boil), has an indefinite shelf life if stored in an air-tight moisture-proof container, I have found arrow root to have a limited shelf life. As a result of my move from New York, I discovered I had three bottles of arrowroot each of a different vintage. I seized the opportunity to do a comparative testing of their thickening powers. The oldest one (now don't be horrified as I was!) was 24 years old! The next to oldest was 19 years old. And the third one was 14 years old. The results were: The oldest arrowroot thickened but not effectively as it still had flow. The next to oldest thickened but not as fully as the last one which also was less tinged with yellow. This was was kept in an airtight container in an air conditioned room which accounts for its unusual viability. I recommend that if you want to be sure of the full effectiveness of arrowroot, use it up to two years from the purchase date and then replace it.

Winter Pies Are The Best!

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I just love making pie dough when the temperature drops and i can keep the room at around 60˚F/15˚C. This is the ideal temperature for rolling dough as it is supple enough to roll without cracking and can be rolled really thin without softening and needing extra flour to keep it from sticking. I almost always have frozen sour cherries in the freezer but I've also found an excellent quality cherry pie filling produced by Little Barn. It comes in a 24 ounce/680 gram jar.

Two weeks ago, when the temperature plummeted to the single digits, i cheerfully got out my frozen pie dough scraps and jar of pie filling I've been saving for just such an occasion. I like my pie fillings to be firm enough to cut and just fluid enough to flow every so slightly when cooled, so I stirred 1 tablespoon/15 ml of cornstarch into the filling and brought it to a boil, stirring constantly but gently for about 20 seconds. Then I allowed it to cool completely before adding it to the pie shells.

I made four mini pies, using my favorite flaky creamy cheese pie dough link. You will need a little less than 1-1/2 times the recipe (about 510 grams/18 ounces). I like to roll the dough as thin as possible which is about 1/16 inch.

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I cut the dough round for the bottom to extend about 1/4 inch past the sides of the pan. For the upper crust, first I cut another dough round just large enough to cover the top of the pie and extend 1/2 inch past the edge so that it can be tucked under the bottom crust border after lightly brushing the edges with water to help seal it.

I use a small decorative cutter to make a steam vent in the top before setting the disc on the filling. A fork works well to seal the edges and make a decorative border. I cover the pielets with plastic wrap and refrigerate them for a minimum of 45 minutes up to overnight before baking in a preheated 400˚F/200˚C oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and the filling is bubbling through the steam vent.

I like to bake them on a preheated oven stone or baking sheet to ensure that the bottom crust is nicely browned and crisp. I also set a foil ring on top of each pielet before putting it in the oven. I allow them to cool on wire racks for at least 2 hours so that the filling is set.

Unmold each pielet by sliding it onto a serving plate. You can see that the sides of the pastry look like puff pastry. This is because I used pie dough scraps that I layered and then rerolled. This can make most pie crusts tough but not the cream cheese one linked to above!

Note: My favorite mini pie plates are black non-stick by Norpro.

Oh Sugar!

Sugar.jpgSeveral years ago, when I was writing The Sugar BIble for Food Arts Magazine, I obtained many different varieties of sugar. One of them, beet sugar, I intended to try out in sugar syrups and cakes as I had heard claims that it did not perform as well as cane sugar. I had heard that beet sugar would cause syrups to crystallize but on experimentation did not experience this. I never got around to trying it in a cake. Recently, however, I came across a beautiful sparkling sugar: Zulka Morena sugar. Morena is a description of granulated sugar that has not been processed with conventional sugar refining methods such as filtering through bone char. It is an all vegan, organic sugar and non-GMO. As it contains a small amount of its residual molasses it has an attractive light tan color and lovely flavor. It's moisture content from the molasses is 0.6% compared to ordinary refined granulated sugar which is 0.4%. Although I loved the flavor of the Morena sugar when tasting it plain, I was curious if it would change the taste or texture of a cake. So I ran a test of three sugars: fine granulated sugar, Morena, and beet. The cake with the Morena sugar took 3 more minutes to bake than the other two. The texture of the Morena and fine granulated sugar was the same but the beet sugar cake had a coarser crumb and a slight crunch. The flavor of the fine granulated and beet sugar cakes was identical but the Morena sugar cake was my preference although the difference was so subtle I'm not sure anyone would notice if they weren't looking for it. The Zulka Morena sugar is so attractive I will use it when sprinkling on top of pie crust, pastry, and cookies. Zulka Mexican Cane Sugar 4 Lb