Posted in thickening

Riesling candy

Rose molds
The candy setting in rose-shaped molds.

I have finally played around with pectin enough that I can whip up a batch of gelled candy without worrying about recipes.  They make it seem so hard!  Here’s what works for me.

I visited some good friends in Minneapolis for the Minnesota State Fair, and since they had given me some molds for candy just because they saw them and thought of me, I’d been planning ever since we thought up the trip to bring them candy made in the molds.  One of them loves wine, and I think she’s actually a red wine person, but my red wine candies from Valentine’s Day didn’t taste quite candy-like enough.  I thought a Riesling, a white wine known for being sweet, would make a great candy.  The only ingredients are:

  • a bottle of Riesling
  • a little sugar – I didn’t measure, just poured a little in, but I’d say 3-4 Tbsp is a good guess.  It’ll depend on your wine, anyway.
  • a box of SureJell pectin, the kind that doesn’t require sugar to gel
  1. Put a small plate in your freezer.
  2. If your pectin is powdered like mine was, mix a little of the wine with the pectin in order to make a slurry so the pectin won’t clump as much when you stir it in later.*
  3. Heat the wine and sugar until it comes to a rolling boil.  (To be honest, I didn’t add the sugar until I had started testing it and tasting the test bits and realized it could be a little sweeter.)
  4. Whisk in the pectin.
  5. After a few minutes, start testing small spoonfuls of the mixture by putting them on the freezer plate, putting the plate back in the freezer for a couple of minutes, and then pressing on the cooled gel.  At first, your finger will make an indentation in the gel.  But after a while, the gel will split under the pressure, because it’s more solid.  That’s when it’s ready.
  6. Remove from the heat and pour into your molds.  Alternatively, and more traditionally, pour into a rectangular or square pan and cut into squares when cooled.
  7. It’s also traditional to toss the finished candies in sanding sugar, but I think they’re prettier as they are and find the sugar distracting taste-wise.  Plus I hate to have to worry about whether or not the sugar will draw out the moisture and get itself dissolved.
florida molds
My friend lived in Florida for a while, my home state. Hence these beachy shapes.

*I’m not sure if making the slurry was necessary, because I noticed there were some clumps in the pectin-wine mixture anyway, and yet when the candy was done and I poured it into the molds, I saw no clumps.  So maybe it all works itself out in the intense boiling that goes on.

I also molded some, as with my red wine batch, in a mini madeleine pan.  Works beautifully, and the shell shape makes them easy to slip out of the molds.  I greased all of my molds with a little coconut oil to be on the safe side, but I’m not sure it matters.

I ended up with enough to fill both of the molds my friends gave me (they have 11 spots each, with each spot holding maybe 2 tsp) and my mini madeleine pan, and have a little left on the bottom of my saucepan to try.

madeleine candy
I have actually never used this pan to make madeleines. Only to mold candy.
Posted in baking, foam, freezing

Daring Baker Challenge: Baked Alaska

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and
. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and
Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa
chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice
Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s
“The Perfect Scoop”.

The pdf with all the recipes is here.

Brown Butter Pound Cake

I had never browned butter before and was a little nervous about burning it, but it went fine.  I just put it all in the pan – didn’t even worry about cutting it up – and heated and stirred and heated and stirred until the milk solids turned brown.  Then got it out of that hot pan quick, because they get browner and browner really fast.

The annoying part is cooling the butter just enough to where it’s solid but soft for creaming with the sugar.  From there, it’s just a regular creaming method pound cake.  A breeze in my stand mixer :).

Cake and ice cream layers

Zabaglione Ice Cream

I thought a French vanilla would go well with the brown butter cake, and I looked through The Perfect Scoop for something like that but a little more exciting.  Enter zabaglione ice cream.  Zabaglione is a poured custard made with egg yolks, marsala wine, and sugar.  I adore it.  We used it in the DB tiramisu challenge.  But Lebovitz’s recipe says to use 1/2 cup of dry marsala for a 1 quart recipe (he just substitutes it in for 1/2 cup of the dairy), and that seemed like a lot.  Alcohol makes ice cream softer, and I wanted mine to stay frozen during the baking and flambeing, plus I wasn’t sure if my guests would love the flavor as much as I do; some people don’t go for it as much.  So I used 1/4 of a cup.  This is even less when you consider that I increased the recipe to make 1.5 quarts.  I still tasted it, though; I think it might have been a little overpowering if I had used as much as he said, but a little more would have been fine.

Besides that, I followed his recipe, egg yolks and all.  I found that when I use light cream, as I am wont to do instead of all heavy cream or Lebovitz’s mix of whole milk and heavy cream, the yolks don’t make it too fatty.  I had some freezing issues due to not having frozen my ice cream maker’s core early enough, so I couldn’t judge this ice cream very accurately, but I think it turned out pretty well.

Unbaked meringue on the first one
Baked meringue on the second one













I could make meringue in my sleep, which was good to know because I decided to wait until my guests had arrived to make it.  That was a Good Idea; I piped, baked, flambeed, and served one baked Alaska before doing the same to the next one, and in the meantime, the quality of the meringue had noticeably declined.  It was less satiny, starting to separate I guess.  But not too much – purely an aesthetic issue at that point.  Having the stand mixer do the beating for me made doing this mid-party less of a hassle.

I tried to do some pretty piping but I wanted to make sure to cover every little cranny since the meringue is an insulator for the ice cream, and that necessitated going over some spots multiple times.  But all in all, not too bad.

Don’t know how to make meringue?  Commit this to memory:

Beat room temperature egg whites with a few sprinkles of cream of tartar and cornstarch.  When they start to turn opaque, add sugar (1/4 cup or 60 g per white is customary for meringue shells; in this case, about half that much*) and keep beating.  Stop when they stick out pretty straight from the beater when you stop it and pull it out of the foam.

There, now you can make meringue in your sleep, too.

*1/4 cup or 60g per white is twice as much sugar per egg white by either volume or weight.  This recipe used slightly less than an equal weight of egg whites and sugar.  It was a nice amount.


Heat up the broiler and put the Alaska under it for five minutes.  My ice cream was definitely starting to melt at this point, which didn’t matter since my Alaskas were so horizontal, but one of those tower-type ones might have had trouble.



I was kind of afraid to flambe them, because I had never done it before, but it’s so easy.  Just pour a little alcohol – at least 40% abv, I think; I used cognac – into a pan, heat it until it just starts to bubble, pour it on the dessert, and light it with a long match.  I had better luck lighting the pan of alcohol, actually, and then poured the flaming alcohol onto the dessert.  It sounds dangerous, but it went fine.  It looks really cool if you turn out the lights.

This part is unnecessary and actually not traditional for baked Alaska; mine were technically bombe Alaska because I did this.  But it makes a great show! And the leftover booze that soaked in tasted good.

Posted in candy, thickening, Uncategorized

A different way to enjoy wine

Milk chocolate truffles
Careful with the quality of your chocolate - I thought I was getting good stuff but the ganache had a sticky quality that makes me suspect they added a thickener to it..

I’ve been groaning to myself about the state of the food blogosphere circa Valentine’s Day, but then I realized, I’m doing the same thing.  I made truffles, as I have every Valentine’s Day since my freshman year in college.  I can’t help the fact that they’re the perfect potluck base: I make the centers – a simple ganache (cream + chocolate, melted together, some add butter), this year I took Cooking For Engineers’ advice and used a 2:1 chocolate:cream ratio by weight – and everyone brings a topping.

But I also made something else that is not what you usually see on Valentine’s Day (or ever), although I must admit it is clearly V-Day themed.

Madeleine-shaped gelled wine candies
You have to be careful when you pour them in the molds or you'll get those funny little edges.

I have a thing about pâtes de fruit, which will become clear when I finally get around to posting about my cranberry ones.  This time, I made them with red wine.  I used Juanita’s Allrecipes recipe for wine jelly as a starting point, but it’s a pretty loose interpretation.  Here’s what I did:

          • 1 bottle red wine
          • 1 packet low-sugar pectin (ie, pectin that can be used with low- or no-sugar recipes; not because I’m anti-sugar, but because this pectin can tolerate a wider variety of sugar concentrations, making it harder to screw up)
          • about 3 Tbsp. sugar
          • 1/2 an ice cube of lemon juice – about 1 Tbsp
            1. Make a pectin slurry: I mixed the pectin with some of the wine so the pectin wouldn’t clump when I added it later.  If you’re using liquid pectin, don’t worry about that.
            2. Boil the heck out of everything: I boiled the wine, sugar, and lemon juice, and then added the pectin and kept boiling until 1) a little put on a plate in the freezer solidified to my liking – when I pushed on it, it broke into two pieces on either side of my finger instead of letting me make a finger-shaped hole; 2) the bubbles were small and close together; 3) it was just shy of 220°F – it seemed like it would never get quite there!  The longer you boil, the firmer they will set, unless you go way too long and the pectin breaks down, in which case they won’t set at all (although your syrup will be pretty thick by then anyway).  I would love to tell you the temperature at which this happens but I have been unable to find it myself. If anyone knows, please comment!
            3. Pan and chill: I took it off the heat and poured it into a greased mini-madeleine mold and a greased mini-muffin pan, then refrigerated.  They came out of the molds just fine.  So don’t think your baking pans are unitaskers!
            Wine candies in the mold
            The good thing about my bad molding technique is you can get a better sense of the rich color!

            The verdict: They were quite good, but a little too tart.  I would either increase the sugar, at least for this particular wine (did somebody say Riesling candy? I’ll get right on that), or drop the lemon juice.  I have a sneaking suspicion that since all the pectin I buy has citric acid in the ingredients, we may not really need to add acidic ingredients anymore.  Perhaps lemon juice and such are just still in all the recipes from before someone got the bright idea to add it to the pectin.  Does anyone know for sure?  I’ll have to test it sometime.  Anyway, wine is already acidic so maybe it’s sufficient on its own.  My recommendation is to make this with a fruity wine and no lemon juice – I still like to err on the side of too little sugar because, even as someone with a huge sweet tooth, too much sugar can take some of the complexity out of the flavor.  And these are supposed to be sophisticated candies, after all!

            Posted in dry heat, wet heat

            Carrot and bell pepper pasta

            After a real Italian mom taught me how to make tomato sauce, I realized I can make a million variations on it by putting in whatever vegetables (especially those fruits that we consider vegetables) I have on hand.  This time I had carrots and a purple bell pepper from my farmshare.  The purple pepper (since the farmshare does measure some things in pecks and I do pick some of the stuff there myself, I really wish I could say I picked a peck of them) turned dark green when it cooked, just like the purple beans (I’d call them green beans, but…they’re not) that we get there do.  If anyone knows what pigments are involved and what they’re sensitive to, I’d love to know!  Anyway, I sauteed my veggies with a little shallot and olive oil, added my canned diced tomatoes and some wine, simmered that while I cooked my pasta, and voila, or rather, ecco.  I grated some parmesan cheese on top, of course.  The moral of the story is: don’t be afraid of homemade sauce!  You can use canned tomatoes (in fact, I prefer them, because they don’t get mushy), and you don’t have to simmer it all day long.  I start heating the pasta water at the same time as I start the sauce, and I finish the sauce at about the same time the pasta is finished.  Just remember that it’s better for your sauce to have to wait for your pasta than for your pasta to have to wait for your sauce, since sauceless pasta will start to dry out.

            Start a sauce by sauteing aromatics in olive oil.
            I always start a sauce by sauteing aromatics in olive oil.
            I decided to use penne for a change.  Normally I'm a spaghetti gal.
            I decided to use penne for a change. Normally I'm a spaghetti gal.
            Posted in porridge

            Carrot and fennel risotto

            I had some chicken broth to use up after my last batch of risotto, and a bunch of vegetables from this week’s installment of my farm share.  Most of the vegetables are leafy, but I did find fennel and carrots.  These are aromatics, and I am currently lacking the aromatics (shallots or onions) that I would normally start a risotto with.  I must admit, though, that I have never cooked fennel before, so I wasn’t exactly sure how strong it was or how to cook it.  I should have paid better attention to Iron Chef America: Battle Fennel last night.  I used some of the green stem and some of the white root, and sprinkled some leaves on the top at the end.  I learned from Iron Chef that you can eat practically every part of fennel; I love foods like that.

            Risotto generally tastes better than it looks.
            Risotto generally tastes better than it looks.

            The flavor wasn’t too strong; the risotto came out pretty well, with just a general soft, fresh sweetness to it.  Nice.  The only problem was that, even though I started cooking the fennel before starting the rice, and then cooked them together the whole time, the fennel was kind of tough.  At the very least, I’ll mince it in the future.  The internet says that fennel has that problem, and peeling it and cutting it thinly seems to be the general consensus on how to avoid it.  Here’s a post on good things to do with fennel, which I am mostly linking to because I love the tagline of the blog: “I wrote you a restaurant review, but I eated it.”

            For anyone who doesn’t know how one makes a carrot fennel risotto, the procedure is as follows:

            1. Sweat aromatics in olive oil.  Meanwhile, start heating some broth in another pot.
            2. Add arborio rice and cook for a couple minutes.
            3. Add a splash of wine and let it cook off.
            4. Add broth, a ladleful or two at a time, to the rice.  Stir.
            5. Add more broth when the last installment is gone. Do this about 3-4 times, until the rice is the texture you want; if you normally like your starches very soft, you may want to cook it slightly less than you think you should, based on a past “adventure” I had with mushy risotto.
            6. Add any other stuff you want to be in your risotto.  Parmesan cheese is recommended.
            7. Serve immediately.  Yes, for real.

            I used about 100g of rice this time, and I think it was just about right.  I’m really bad at eyeballing it because it grows so much when it cooks, so I’ve taken to measuring it on my baking scale.