How to Temper Chocolate

How To Temper Chocolate

Does your Chocolate have a BAD TEMPER!???

Well, let’s put it back in it’s place! Show it who’s BOSS!

In the video below I will show you How to Temper Chocolate and explain why we do it in the first place.

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Russian Ball Tips and Ruffle Tips Review

Russian Ball Tips & Ruffle Tips

Russian Ball Tips & Ruffle Tips

Here we are once again the Russian Decorating Tip craze is not stopping, it is only getting better!

I have tried my hand at the Russian Ball Tips & Ruffle Tips and I love them!

I made a quick video tutorial for you to share my experiences using these tips for the first time

Now let’s not forget the most important part to having success with your Russian Piping Tips.

BUTTERCREAM! You must be using a stiff consistency Buttercream Recipe which just happens to be my American Style Buttercream.

It is absolutely perfect for these tips and I know you will love the taste too!

I feel it is a cross between the Swiss Buttercream in silky smooth taste and a decorators icing in stability.

(Here is the video for the buttercream and the recipe is below)

In the video for the tips demonstration I used some vanilla cake cupcakes  and strawberry cupcakes too, just to show you how the piping techniques would look and you can pretty much use any cupcake recipe you like for your masterpieces!

The Raffaello Coconut Ruffle Cake is another project you can attempt with your new Ruffle Tips not to mention those cute little mini doll cuppies too!

Flowers and ruffles and mounds of buttercream is what we got going on here today at Gretchen’s Bakery so be sure to get your tips ordered and have some fun!

russian-ball-tips-reviewrussian-ball-tips-reviewrussian-ball-tips-review

5.0 from 1 reviews
Buttercream Recipe
 
Serves: 6 cups
Ingredients
  • Unsalted Butter 1½ Cups (3 sticks) (336g)
  • Hi Ratio Solid Vegetable Shortening 1½ Cups (336g)
  • Confectioners Sugar (Domino Brand 10X Sugar) 6 cups 720g)
  • Heavy Cream 6 Tablespoons (90ml)
  • Vanilla Extract 2 teaspoons
  • Butter Extract 1 teaspoon
  • Salt ¼ teaspoon
Instructions
  1. Combine the butter and shortening in the Kitchen Aid (or stand mixer) bowl with the paddle attachment
  2. Whip on medium to high speed for about 3 minutes.
  3. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure it is evenly mixed and add the salt. Mix well.
  4. Stop mixer and add the sifted confectioners sugar all at once.
  5. Mix on low speed until incorporated , scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and then mix on high speed for 3 minutes.
  6. Scrape the bowl again and then while mixing on low speed slowly drizzle in the heavy cream.
  7. Increase speed to high and whip for another 5 minutes
  8. Add the flavor extracts and then you are done!
  9. The icing will gain volume almost to the top of a 6qt Kitchen Aid bowl and get very white. (*If you are using a hand beater, the volume will not get as high since the hand beaters cannot incorporate air as efficiently as the Kitchen Aid or stand mixers)
 

 

 

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Russian Piping Tips Updated Review

Russian Piping Tips Updated Review

Russian Piping Tips Review

As you may well know the Russian Piping Tips hit the scene several months ago and they have gained momentum ever since!

It seems every person and their grandmother is selling Russian Piping Tips these days!

I shared my experiences in sorting through all those different sets of tips and vendors here on my original Russian Piping Tips Review along with a video showing the different tips in the smaller set that I bought with a not so great vendor through Amazon.

Since then I have been offered many more tips and sets through dozens of vendors asking me to do more reviews and to try out their Russian Piping Tips.

I thought it would be a good idea to spend some time to find a vendor for you all that I could deem reliable and who carried a quality set; since my first go at it was a bit hectic and I want to spare you the trouble.

I decided to go with It’sAllGoodMart.com since they seemed to offer the best quality of the Russian Tips that I have seen, complete with a website that shows you exactly what each tip will look like once it is piped with buttercream.

Additionally they include the coupler that fits these larger style tips and if you read my original review you will know that was one thing I listed on the “cons” list when buying from the vendor I chose.

The Tri Coupler is a really nice addition to the set that also comes with a Silicone Pastry Bag (and this is new to me! Since you know me and my Arrow Thermo Bags) but the silicone bag they include is very durable and reusable. 3 Disposable plastic bags are also included but they are slightly small for the size of the Russian Tips, but hey you can never have too many pastry bags in my opinion; so I’ll just be using those for something else.

So hopefully you have read both reviews and ended up here so you can head over to ItsAllGoodMart.com to buy the tips (Currently they do not offer International Shipping~ HOWEVER you can email Chris direct at [email protected] to arrange a PayPal payment and he will personally ship to you Internationally! Woohoo! It pays to know people in high places! LOL

Click here for the Amazon Page to by the Russian Piping Tips from ItsAllGoodMart to grab your set of tips

Then you can get to making beautifully decorated cakes with minimal skill like my Almond Cake with Raspberry Cream Cheese Icing!

And don’t forget the best Buttercream Icing Recipe to use with these tips is right here too!

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How to Get Flat Topped Cakes (or not!)

flat-topped-cakes

I get this question so much that I felt I had to write a blog post just to talk about How to Get Flat Topped Cakes (ummm, errr….OR NOT!)

I think I get the other question just as much and that is “How do I get my cakes to Dome!?” (I think more specifically folks are talking about cupcake recipes for that question though)

So many people comment about my cake recipes here and how do I get them to stay so flat?

But this is not completely true, since I do sometimes have to trim; and this all depends on the recipe I am using.

Here’s the deal.

Some recipes will dome more than others. I hate to break it to ya, But I am not doing anything magical to keep my cakes flat.

But let me preface this entire post to say I can only really speak about my recipes really, since other people’s recipes may react differently than mine, but for the most part it is very much  determined by the mix method.

But generally speaking Creamed Cakes will dome more than Foamed Cakes.

Now this is a general rule since my Butter Cake recipe is a creaming method cake and it stays quite flat, I rarely have to trim anything off of it before I begin building.

And then again my Chocolate Cake recipe is a creaming and foaming recipe combined and it will get a slight dome, but nothing severe.

So it seems to me that most people are looking for slight domes when it comes to cupcakes but flat tops when it comes to cake layers.

So we want the best of all the world’s don’t we!? LOL

If you can try to understand the basics of what we are talking about as far as What Is Cake?

And how each recipe differs, you can start to choose your recipes more wisely to accommodate the specific project you are working on.

For example many people LOVE LOVE LOVE my Vanilla Sponge Cake recipe and often ask me if they can use it for cupcakes.

My answer is always,  “sure you can do it but I’m not sure you want to.”

You see sponge cakes will almost never dome and will more likely even sink slightly.

Because of the structure that relies mainly on the foamed egg matrix it really can’t support a high dome and consequently will almost always sink because of this.

This will also apply for cakes that you want to remain flat as can be since sponge cakes by nature typically do not dome- there you go! Problem solved!

Or is it solved?

Since you also don’t want to be stuck to one type of cake or the other for all your projects right?

I mean, our customers don’t really care about the science behind baking, they just want what they want when they want it!

And that can often mean we have to just deal with some trimming here or there and some cupcake sink-age from time to time.

But there is a product on the market and I have heard some pretty good reviews.

I’m sure you have heard of the Magic Cake Collars that prevent cakes from doming while baking.

I don’t use these, and never have…so it’s difficult for me to even comment on them really; but I will give you a summary of the research I have found online.

As per Cook’s Illustrated test kitchen they found that the Heavenly Bakeware Cake Strip worked the best of all the brands, and since Rose Levy Beranbaum is the queen of cake, I trust this endorsement!

The thing you have to note though, is that this product is intended for EVEN baking and not so much to prevent domes (since again, this is science not magic that is taking place here)

However many have found these to be very helpful in reducing the level of doming that occurs.

For those who do not want to purchase yet another “gadget” for the kitchen, I have been told of a very high success rate in making your own “bake even strips” simply by taking an old towel and cutting it into strips, get them wet then wrap around your cakes securing them with a pin or tack or better yet one of those little hook thingy’s from an Ace Bandage! (that is my contribution to the home version magic strips! Yeah~ MacGyver in the house!)

Basically the idea behind those strips (and the home version wet towel method gives a much clearer picture of the science that is happening here) just like when we bake cheesecakes in a water bath the direct oven heat is displaced through the towel or silicone “magic strip” making a less harsh heat environment.  So by diverting some of the heat that would otherwise penetrate the sides of your cake pan first, the “bake even strips” take on a lot of that heat.  See more below.

 

The reason why cakes dome in the first place (other than the mix method as I mentioned above) is as follows:

  • Too high oven heat will cause the the edges/perimeter of the metal cake pans to heat up much faster than the center batter, which will obviously/ naturally set the batter on the perimeter faster than the rate at which the center batter is baking.  Try to lower the temperature slightly to create a more even baking environment and if you want to try the bake even strips, by all means give it a go! *This is another reason why you may have heard the suggestion when baking cupcakes to start them off at a high temperature like 375°F or even 400°F for the first 10 minutes of baking to get them to “jump” (the edges will always set before the center- and once that batter has set, it is not going anywhere!)
  • The structure of the cake is too strong /tight causing the leavening gasses to be trapped inside and delayed where it can only escape towards the end of baking where it typically erupts through the top center giving that characteristic gorgeous domed top like in pound cake recipes.  Again I cannot speak for other people’s recipes, but here at Gretchen’s Bakery I repeat I have more success in achieving doming with my creamed butter cakes and very flat results in my foamed sponge cakes. You can try to use cake flour if the recipe asks for all purpose (lightening up the structure)
  • Sometimes not enough leavening ingredients (baking powder and baking soda) will cause more doming that wanted, which is strange since you associate doming (rising) with leavening so one would think the opposite, however  when the leavener starts to do “it’s thing” in the recipe, it is actually breaking through the structure of the gluten formation and trying to work it’s way through and out of the batter.  So by adding about ¼ teaspoon more baking powder (or just a pinch more baking soda) can help this. But be warned adding too much will weaken the structure so much that you will have a cake that cannot hold itself up at all! (**See picture below!)
too-much-leavening
TOO MUCH LEAVENING!

Now these are general suggestions, and you may need to do some experimentation depending on what recipe you are using, but hopefully you now have a better sense of what is actually happening inside your cake recipes, their structures and the functions of ingredients and mix methods as they pertain to the end result.

Consequently if you cakes are not doming enough you can try all those steps above in the opposite!

I would like to add last, that my practices and what I show you guys here at Gretchen’s Bakery and in all of my videos is and has always been a direct teaching of “how we do things in the industry.”

Since my experience is in high volume retail, hotel and catering production where you would never see hundreds of “bake even strips” or the wet towel method.

That system is just too laborious and in-efficient for a high volume bakery setting that is baking upwards of 100+ cakes day.

For the last 20 years of my career in 2 separate establishments (1 was my own bakery- the other a large catering facility) we used Fat Daddios Anodized Aluminum Pans for baking.

This is a direct quote from their website about the type of pans they manufacture: Anodized aluminum ensures that your cakes bake evenly, giving you a nice rise, and cool quickly preventing overbaking. 

I do believe this to be true and why I only use their pans.  For the serious baker I would recommend to start a set of them for yourself.

They last for years and years and years! I had my bakery for 10 years and they are still going strong! (this was not a paid endorsement! I just really think the pans are great!)

CLICK HERE for more about Anodized Aluminum Pans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cheesecakes and Springform Pans

New York Style Vanilla Strawberry Cheesecake

springform-pan

Let me start off by saying I dislike many things about the Springform pan.

But the #1 worst thing I dislike about them, is that spellcheck flags me every time I write Springform Pan. (Apparently it is Spring Form?  Ooooh the pretentiousness is making it worse)

However~ if you search Amazon, or anyone else in the world talking about springform pans you will see it is spelled WITHOUT A SPACE!!

No, I am not grammar police since you can attest to the fact that I spell things wrong all the time and my world doesn’t fall to pieces.

Heck I hate apostrophes….but well….thats for another blog post post (I just find them tedious, there I said it).

But let’s get real about springform pans and cheesecakes. (Yes google I am ignoring your red underlined alerts that I failed English 101)

I have not encountered one person who has said to me, “Oh my God…my cheesecake came out perfect because I used a springform pan and no water bath”

On the contrary, I have gotten: “What did I do wrong? My cheesecake was all soggy because the water leaked into it”.

Or, I am not using a water bath because I don’t want a leaky crust , but my cheesecake was dry and cracked, what did I do wrong?”

First of all let’s address the water bath.

Why do we have to use a water bath when baking cheesecakes?

Cheesecakes are not cakes. They are baked custards.

Custard is a delicate balance of eggs and dairy that require a less harsh heating environment, thus~ the water bath was born.

The heat must now travel through a layer of water before it gets to the actual item you are baking, thus creating a very mild, yet effective heating environment for those delicate egg and dairy proteins.

I am not exactly sure who invented the Springform pan (yea….that’s the level of disdain I have for whoever it was,  that I cannot even give 2 minutes to “Wikipedia” the topic)

I want to believe it was some inane, egotistical person who just had to invent yet one more kitchen gadget that has only one purpose, and an inferior purpose at that.

Can ya feel my anger?!

It should be dubbed the “Spring-a-Leak Pan” since that’s all it really does (in my opinion)

Well….Ok ~ I won’t be so extremely harsh. I honestly have recommended the springform pan collar (no bottom) attached when making molded cakes such as the 7 Layer Ice Cream Cake, Chocolate Eclair Cake and the Death to Diets Cake, where if you don’t have a Ring Mold ~ a springform pan with no bottom inserted will do just fine.

But let’s not get too sentimental with the old Springform.

In my opinion it should have been retired long ago.

Better yet…BURIED!

I just don’t have anything nice to say about it because there is a perfectly AWESOME substitute for baking cheesecakes and it is……………….. wait for it………….

a cake pan.

That’s right. The same pan you already have in your cabinet that you use for all your regular cake baking.

What a let down right?

No! Not a let down! It’s a damn glorious moment when you realize your entire life is a lie, and you have been led to believe that the end all – be all of cheesecake baking starts and stops with the springform pan. It’s just not true.

Now I know I will get some flack from the die-hard springform pans lovers, but until I can get a reason why the springform pan is better (and a valid reason please, not some pipe dream of the lie that you have bought into)…I’m sticking to my cake pans.

And just for the record, there will be no reason because it doesn’t exist.

Now, I am not just talking “who-ha” out of my pie hole. I have had many years experience in the professional bakery industry and I have yet to encounter a single establishment that commissions a springform pan for cheesecake. (by the way – I was educated at the Culinary Institute of America~ no springform pans there mate!)

Once I was seasoned into this work environment and I happened to give a retrospective thought to the “retired springform from my youth” (yes…… My first cheesecake was baked in a spring form of course….as was all of yours I’m sure……) I realized how insane it would have been to actually use springforms in a high volume bakery setting.

First of all they are cumbersome.

When running a commercial bakery there are two things that matter.

#1 Bottom line (Defintion: the ultimate outcome in financial terms from a days work – all things considered)

and #2 how to get to the best most efficient bottom line while keeping the highest quality~ product since after all, customers only care about high quality bang for the buck~ and rightly so.

So imagine paying someone to put together the tops and bottoms of your springform pan menagerie (since commercial bakeries bake dozens of cheesecakes at a time! not 1!)

First of all he/she must FIND the tops and bottoms to put them in place, and then the infamous foil wrapping begins.

The greasing to be sure you get all the crevices (and crevices are a-plenty in springform pan world)

Not only does that foil cost a lot in terms of $$$ but the environmental impact of that wasted material makes me cringe! (OK green girl, enough outta you.)

But just that labor cost alone makes me want to re think the entire process……. and we should!

I know not many of you have commercial bakeries, so what I just explained may not be of importance, but let’s talk about LEAKAGE!

Yes, you all know what I am talking about.

Soggy bottoms from a leaky springform pan no matter how tightly you wrapped it with about 1 lb of tin foil.  (wasteful~ tsk tsk.)

But this can all be avoided if you just trust me that a cake pan is superior.

I know….I know…it is difficult to change your thinking when you have been brainwashed to believe that the springform pan….the very same thing that was INVENTED for a sole purpose, could be anything less than perfect!

But I beg you to just try the cake pan method and you will be a believer!

Now the cake pan method is superior not only because it will not spring a leak, but in my opinion (combine my professional bakery pan grease & a piece of parchment paper to line the bottom) you will have a much better looking cheesecake once it is un-molded than any springform pan could dream of.

It may take a bit of practice on your first run, but heck so did the springform am I right??

I always use my trusty blowtorch but you can achieve the same results by simply dipping your pan into hot water to release the fats that cause the cheesecake to stick in the first place.

And let’s talk Pan Grease for a moment.

Well, not much to say except- USE THIS RECIPE  for ALL your baking needs, you will thank me for the rest of your life.

Now back to the infamous un-molding of the cheesecake.

Watch the video below to see just how to first of all to bake a cheesecake properly and second of all un-mold a cheesecake that is NOT in a springform pan!

And well……I don’t know what else to say, except ditch that springform pan and you will never have soggy-crusted, dry, cracked cheesecake sorrows again!

If nothing else, clear some room in your cabinets from a one-tasker taking up way too much room than it is worth the space for!

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How to Write on Cakes ~ Basic tips for beginners

how_to_write_on_cakes

How to write on cakes is probably one of the most NOT asked questions!

If that makes any sense!?

What I mean is that many people have trouble with it, but most won’t really dig in or ask why they are having trouble!

I think it is because this is where a lot of frustration occurs, and perhaps even embarrassment if the final inscription on the cake is not what you had envisioned.

But there are ways to overcome sub-par cake inscriptions!

Just watch the video below for the tips and tricks to see exactly where you may be going wrong.

First of all WHAT you are using to write with will make all the difference in the world.

Buttercream? Chocolate? Royal Icing?

Well, they all have their place. Let me explain.

A little backstory first: (You know me and my stories!) I was a born and bred chocolate writer.

My experience both in the Culinary Institute as a student, and then one of my first and most influential jobs after school commissioned chocolate to write on cakes.

I wish I had some pictures from those days (and yes I say “those days” as if it was an ancient time long ago, but in terms of technology~ IT WAS!)

Sadly I don’t have any pictures of my work from those days……….oh wait…let me break out the scanner and get some old polaroids from 1997!

old pics

So as you can see the delicate fine lines of chocolate is (in my opinion) superior to any other writing medium.

But……. dun dun duhhhhhhhhhh………………………..

When I arrived as the new owner of a 45 year old bakery in NJ way back in 2005, I tried to incorporate the delicate fine lines of chocolate inscriptions on cakes~ I was met by my unhappy customers with:”Why is it black?” “It’s a girl, why is it written in chocolate?”

So…..major sigh…….I was forced to adapt to writing on cakes with buttercream.

But as with anything, people have personal preferences and it is up to you to decide what works for you and what you are most comfortable with.

Buttercream was definitely a learning curve from me, and while I was able to do scroll work in buttercream for wedding cakes and such, I just never really got comfortable with writing on cakes with buttercream as I though it was inferior and well, just not what I was great at…. CLICK HERE FOR MORE

Anywho…. about Royal Icing:

I would not recommend writing on cakes with royal icing unless the cake is covered with fondant.

Royal Icing is an icing that must dry to be at it’s best, and if you are putting it onto a cake that has an icing like buttercream or worse yet, Whipped Cream or even Cream Cheese Icing!

Gaaaah! This = disaster!

Royal Icing will melt when placed upon another recipe like those since they are so high in moisture content they will surely disintegrate the Royal.

If you make plagues though, little tags made out of gumpaste or fondant– royal icing will be great!

Very fine detailed lines with royal icing for sure!

So you see, you have to be mindful of what you are working with to make sure you can maximize the potential of each and every medium!

*Cover photo courtesy of Alissa Jayne ~ my star cake decorator when I owned my bakery!

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