Tuesday Tip: Stay Cool

It has certainly been a hectic few days full of planning and travel and this blog has been sorely neglected!

But it is that time of the week again, and in light of today’s event (my first job interview in my new location!!!), today’s Tuesday Tip is simple:

“Stay Cool”

I have been telling myself this all morning in preparation for my interview, but on the way home, I couldn’t help thinking how this phrase could be applied to so many things. Yes, we had to “Stay cool” so the summer heat didn’t kill us, but now that the heat and humidity has broken, we must also stay cool so our nerves don’t get in the way of our goals.

This same them can apply in the kitchen, we can’t be afraid of trying new techniques or recipes… and more literally, how many recipes have you read that said “let cool completely” but you just couldn’t be patient enough. The moral of this little post is: stay calm, cool, collected and patient and as always, bake on!

On a more food related note, I will share briefly my home made fresh raspberry chocolate chunk sorbet I made last week. It was certainly the best way to keep cool with the tart flavor being off set by a light simple syrup and dark chocolate kick. Try making your own with this guide here!

It may not be as pretty as the guide, but I'm sure it was just as Yummy!

It may not be as pretty as the guide, but I’m sure it was just as Yummy!

Tuesday Tips: Types of Meringue

I firmly believe that the best way to make an amazing product is knowing as much about it as you can. Recently I came upon this amazing description from Domino Sugar about the fine differences in types of Meringues.

Italian and Swiss meringues are cooked. French meringue is baked.

Italian meringue is made by slowly beating hot sugar syrup into stiffly beaten egg whites and is used in frostings and atop pies and cakes.

Swiss meringue is made by dissolving sugar and egg whites together over simmering water and then beating in an electric mixer. It is often used as a base for buttercream frostings.

French meringue is made by gradually adding ultrafine sugar to whipped uncooked egg whites until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. The meringue is then piped into shapes and baked. It has a light, crisp texture and is often used as a “nest” to hold fruit or sorbets.

Sweet Fact: You need at least 1-1/2 tablespoons of sugar per egg white to get a stable meringue.

Sweet Fact: French (hard) meringue = 4 tablespoons of sugar per egg white.

Sweet Fact: Italian (soft) meringue = 2 tablespoons of sugar per egg white.”

-Domino Sugar

What type of Meringue are YOU making??

Tuesday Tip: Humidity

Having just returned home from a road trip to the wild south west, I thought a fitting tip for today would be about humidity. Okay, so the South Western United States is not the most humid of places, but boy, mid-late August is it HOT! So here is the low down on humidity and how it will effect you meringues.

Have you ever had a meringue that was slightly chewy, or stuck to your teeth as you bit into it? If you have, you have experienced a meringue made on a humid day. Meringues should be crispy, melt in your mouth adventures, not prompt a trip to the dentist for pulling out a filling.

When the weather is too humid, meaning, there is a lot of moisture in the air, that moisture will be attracted to the sugar you have added to your egg whites. This is what causes the chewy texture. Remember when we talked about any residue or particles being in your bowl and effecting the outcome of the meringue, well, the concept is the same. Just like you need a clean bowl, you need dry air to make the perfect meringue.

If it is a humid day, there are a couple of ways to get around it and still achieve a decent meringue.

  • Do whatever you can to decrease the humidity in the vicinity of your cooking space. A dehumidifier works fantastically, but I have found from experience, turning on an air conditioner or a fan will work just fine as long as you work quickly and follow the remaining tips.
  • Work quickly to get your meringues into the oven. When you put them into the oven you are doing less cooking and more drying out. (This is why most meringue recipes call for such low temperatures for such a long time)
  • You may want to add a few minutes to cooking time, just to ensure the moisture has been completely removed from the whites.
  • Once the proscribed cooking time is over, leave your meringues in the oven to cool. Once cooled place immediately into an air-tight container.
    • Try to use Ziploc Tupperware containers. I have found these to be the best airtight option. You can find them so cheaply at any major store such as Wal-Mart and with a little ribbon and some colored paper they also make great gift containers.
  • If, after baking, you weren’t able to put them straight into an airtight container and your meringue becomes sticky: sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda over the bottom of a large cake pan, put a piece of parchment paper over the baking soda and then add your meringue to the pan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and leave over night.
    • *This works best for small meringue cookies or meringue nests*

Humidity can be your worst enemy when making any meringue dessert, but by following these tips, you can certainly mitigate disaster!

Tuesday Tip: Alton knows Best

I love Alton Brown.  He is clever and funny and best of all he can explain why things taste good. There is a science behind food that has always drawn me to cooking. Needless to say, when I found out that not only were full episodes on youtube, (the Great Alton Brown is too good to us!) but that there was an “egg files” episode featuring the humble meringue, I just had to indulge.

So, considering I am off on vacation to the wild wild west, I thought I would let Mr. Brown share some of his tips with you this week.

Enjoy!

Tuesday Tip: It’s all in the Bowl

There is nothing more annoying than opening up the dishwasher and finding those filmy white spots on your dishes. Generally you can just rinse and get on with your life. But when your life involves whipping up some egg whites to make a fluffy Pavlova or delicate cookies, marks on your work bowl can mean death to your meringue before it even hits the oven.

An egg white is a delicate combination of protein and water molecules, next week we will explain a little more of the science behind it, but suffice to say, that delicate combination whips up, creating little air bubbles that make the meringue. If there is dust, oil, soap, grease, anything, even a drop of water in your bowl, those small particles will combine with the egg whites and prevent them from whipping up properly.

Follow these tips to avoid the disastrous!

  • Try to use a metal or glass bowl, plastic has a greater tendency to hold onto particles creating a film in the bowl that will prevent your egg whites from whipping.
  • Always dust, or better yet, re-wash your bowl by hand before use – let thoroughly air dry or dry well with a paper towel.
  • Give the same attention to your whisk or mixer and other equipment that will come in contact with egg whites.

Tuesday Tip: Mise en place

Mise en place
noun
[usually in singular]
(in a professional kitchen) the preparation of dishes and ingredients before the beginning of service.
Origin:
French, literally ‘putting in place’

Oxford Dictionaries

My first introduction to “formal” cooking (i.e. using a recipe) was in high school, my sophomore year when I had the opportunity to take Home Economics with a boisterously fun and comforting mother figure of a teacher, Mrs. E. In the very first lesson on the very first day, Mrs. E wrote on the chalk board in bold block letters, “MISE EN PLACE”. The whole lesson was devoted to its importance: the importance of pre-measuring all your ingredients and having all of your equipment and ingredients prepared and readily accesible. It was such a crucial concept (especially in a group of 25 high school children), that Mrs. E would call out in her sing song voice at the start of every class :

“Everything has a place, Everything in its place. Mise en place! Mise en place!”

While I may not have grasped the importance of this concept at first. Of course I would follow it in the classroom, but at home in my own kitchen I flew around the kitchen like a whirling dervish! Slowly I came to realize that it was easier to get the perfect consistency of whipped cream if I had the sugar pre-measured; it was easier to keep track of your place in a recipe if all your extracts and spices were already divided.

So I say to you today, knowing full well you have probably heard this a million times before from your Nana, your mother, and your next door neighbor Nancy who always gives you fruitcake for the holidays: The difference between a good recipe and a great one is the preparation.

Ramekin

I tend to prefer these little Ramekins. They are the perfect size for holding a few egg yolks, but are also small enough that a 1/4 teaspoon of Cream of Tartar won’t get lost. I believe I picked them up at Target in a set of 4 for about $8.00. A small cereal bowl makes a great container for measured sugar. I always make sure my containers are microwave, dishwasher and freezer safe; the ramekins have the added bonus of being oven safe as well, but you don’t need fancy dishes to keep an organized kitchen. Coffee mugs, even saucers or small plates will work in a pinch.

Whatever you use and whatever your system, find one that works for you and stick with it. Soon you will be the Meringue Master, the Custard King or the Cake Queen!

Tuesday Tip: Eggs

When I first started making Meringue cookies, there was quite the learning curve. I was trying to meld together a few different recipes and methods, there were plenty of things I had to guess at. I hope starting a Tuesday Tip section may help clear up some Meringue-y questions!

Today’s tip is all about the Egg, the main component of any meringue dessert. Most meringue deserts call for the upwards of 4 egg whites (including my favorite Meringue Cookie Recipe!), that leaves 4 egg yolks sitting in a dish and begs the question:

“What am I going to do with all these egg yolks?”

To which I would reply, “Good question!”

The first answer that springs to mind is: Bake something else!But I realize this is not always the most realistic option. Especially if someone asks you to make 500 Meringue Cookies for a party (done it!) then you will have at least a dozen egg yolks and a baking hangover from all the cookies. While the yolks keep for up to two days in the fridge if sealed in an air tight container, sometimes the cooking burn takes a little while longer to cool off! So what about long term storage of egg yolks? (You never know when you might want to make a Daffodil Cake after all!)

Here is the scoop:

“Raw egg yolks require special treatment because the yolk’s gelation property causes it to thicken or gel when frozen. If frozen as is, the yolk with eventually become so gelatinous it will be almost impossible to use. To help retard gelation, beat in either 1/8 teaspoon salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar or corn syrup for each 1/4 cup egg yolks (4 Large yolks). Label the container with the number of yolks, the date and whether you’ve added salt (for main dishes) or sweetener (for baking or desserts) and freeze. Substitute 1 tablespoon thawed egg yolk for 1 Large fresh yolk.”

-Incredible Edible Egg

That’s all there is to it! Waste not, Want not! right?!