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French Sugar

sugars

Many people who tackle French recipes get stumped by the sugars, which don’t necessarily correspond to the sugars available elsewhere. All supermarkets in France carry white granulated sugar and there’s often unrefined sugars, such as cassonade, which grocers stock and are widely-available. In America and elsewhere, bakers often have to do a bit of hunting around to find the corresponding sugar.

French brown sugars are quite varied and don’t always neatly fit into substitutions. In general, if you have a recipe that calls for brown sugar, you can use moist cassonade, vergeoise, or any unrefined amber-colored sugar that’s not granulated. For the sake of these descriptions, moist brown sugar is sugar that clumps together easily if you pinch it. Crystallized sugar is granulated, or free-flowing, and pours easily.

For caramelization, you need to use refined white sugar; impurities in unrefined sugars will cause crystallization. There’s some controversy in the pastry community that sugar refined from beets, which the majority of the sugar in France is, will give you difficulty if you try to caramelize it. But I haven’t experienced any problems.

I’ve listed a few places outside of France where these sugars, and others, are available at the end of the post. Depending on where you live, your best bet is to search online or find a store that specializes in baking ingredients for professionals or dedicated home bakers. There are also links to various sugar companies and websites where you can learn more about these sugars.

Sucre cristallisé or sucre cristal

This is plain white sugar, whose crystals are a bit larger than what’s considered granulated sugar in the United States. You can use this sugar for almost all baking and cooking applications.

Sucre semoule and Sucre en poudre

This is sugar whose crystals are very fine. In America, this would be similar to what is called superfine or baker’s sugar. In other countries it’s called castor or caster sugar. Its fine texture means it melts quickly and will give a finer crumb to many cakes, meringues and cookies.

You can make your own by pulsing granulated sugar in a food processor or blender a few times until it’s in smaller crystals.

Continue Reading French Sugar…

“Will my KitchenAid mixer from America work in Europe?”

kitchenaid

Over the years, a number of people have asked if it was possible to bring a KitchenAid mixer from the United States to Europe, and use it here. I certainly couldn’t live without my 5-quart mixer, and since they’re less-expensive in America than they are abroad (because of the electrical modifications and shipping), many folks, naturally, want to know if they can bring their mixer with them.

Several readers kindly chimed in with comments and suggestions (thanks, Sunny!), noting that theirs worked fine with a voltage transformer.

Continue Reading “Will my KitchenAid mixer from America work in Europe?”…

Why and When To Use (or Not Use) Corn Syrup

corn syrup

Because this comes up frequently, I’d like to take a moment to explain why and when one uses corn syrup in recipes. I use it judiciously, when I feel it will make a discernible difference in a recipe. For those of you who are regular readers of the site and my books, you’ll notice almost all of the time, I hardly ever use pre-packaged or convenience foods in my baking. So when I do call for something, like corn syrup, it’ll often be in amounts of one teaspoon or a tablespoon. And since most recipes feed eight-to-twelve people, proportionally, that’s a pretty small amount.

For example, the recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies with Salted Butter Caramel has one tablespoon of corn syrup added to the caramel, to keep it smooth. Since the recipe makes fifty cookies, that means each cookie contains less than 1/16th of a teaspoon of corn syrup.

Yes, people who live in America probably do eat too much corn syrup. (High fructose, or otherwise.) That can be controlled and monitored by using less-packaged foods and reducing the amounts of fast foods that you consume. If you’re worried about corn syrup “hiding” in foods, read labels, cook for yourself as much as possible, and buy locally-produced products from smaller producers who are less-likely to put additives in foods, so you’ll be in control of how much you’re eating. I am a fan of natural and alternative liquid sweeteners, such as agave nectar, maple syrup, honey, rice syrup, and golden syrup, and do have recipes that use them, and encourage folks to give them a try, where applicable.

There’s a lot of studies, medical reports, advertising, propaganda, and all sorts of information being disseminated from a variety of sources. Evidence does point to high-fructose corn syrup contributing more than other sweeteners, to obesity and other health issues, and you can search around and come to your own conclusions. Since I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, or medical researcher, I’ve provided some links at the end of this post for further reading and you can draw your own conclusions.

My personal philosophy about corn syrup consumption: Like other foods that don’t meet a nutritionally-ideal profile, I limit my consumption, but don’t obsess about it. I drink alcohol and coffee. I sometimes eat red meat and cheese, plus chocolate, ice cream, sugar, and marshmallows, all of which have their detractors, too. I walk and ride a bike as much as possible and try to eat a healthy diet that includes a lot of fruits and vegetables, proteins, and whole grains, which offset treating myself to those indulgences.

Corn Syrup FAQs

Why do some recipes have corn syrup in them?

Corn syrup is an invert sugar, which means that it prevents sugar crystals from forming. Microscopically, sugar has jagged edges and when you melt it, sugar liquefies. But if you keep cooking it to a syrup, those jagged edged-fellas want to re-attach themselves to others. Corn syrup acts as interfering agent, which ‘interfere’ with that process. Honey, agave, and the like, don’t have the same properties.

If making a caramel, and a recipe calls for corn syrup, you can substitute a dash of lemon juice or cream of tartar, which performs nearly the same function.

In other cases, like my Best Chocolate Sauce, corn syrup is used to give it a shine. (See below.)


Is the corn syrup one buys in the supermarket the same at high-fructose corn syrup?

No. According to Harold McGee, high-fructose corn syrup goes through an additional process to make it sweeter than standard corn syrup. Karo, the company that makes most of the corn syrup found on supermarket shelves in America, has come out with Karo Lite, which contains no high-fructose corn syrup. I haven’t used it so I can’t comment on how it works, or if its nutritional claims are sound or not.


Will corn syrup make you fat?

Yes.

So will sugar, as well as other sweeteners. And so will French fries, red meat, chocolate, dried apricots, heavy cream, honey, nuts, beer, wine, maple syrup, martinis, croissants, and tacos, if you eat too much of them.


When can another liquid sweetener be substituted for corn syrup in a recipe?

Like the aforementioned chocolate sauce, the corn syrup is there for the shine and body. Not to prevent crystallization. So you can use another liquid sweetener, although I’d use one that was mild-flavored (like agave) or close to neutral, to keep the chocolate flavor pronounced.

I can’t think of any cake recipes that have corn syrup in them, but my Butterscotch-Pecan Cookie Cups uses it to keep the batter smooth and to make sure the cookies will caramelize properly in the oven. In a recipe like that, I would not use another liquid sweetener.


When can one not substitute something for the corn syrup called for in a recipe?

For candy making, I strongly suggest sticking to the recipe. If a recipe calls for boiling a sugar syrup, unless specified, stick to using corn syrup. Especially ones cooked to a higher temperature. Honey, and the like, tend to burn when cooked down, so care should be taken to avoid that.

If the recipe calls for cooking a syrup to a relatively low temperature (below 230F, or 110C), you can experiment with other liquid sweeteners, but I can’t advise in each and every case. You’ll just have to try it and see.


If one wants to substitute another liquid sweetener, such as corn syrup, honey, or golden syrup, for granulated sugar, what proportion can one use?

In general, liquid sweeteners should be used in a 3/4s proportion to granulated sugar if substituting. That is, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, use 3/4 cup honey, or another liquid sweetener. If baking a cake or cookies, lower the baking temperature 25ºF and reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup per cup of liquid sweetener you’re using.

If substituting another liquid sweetener for corn syrup, use equal amounts.


Why do some recipes for ice creams and sorbets have corn syrup in them?

I very rarely use corn syrup in sorbets, and don’t use it in ice creams. Because it has more viscosity than sugar, some recipes call for corn syrup to keep the churned and frozen sorbets and ice creams smoother and creamier.

In my recipes, this is infrequently done in sorbets that have a lot of water, such as lemon, lime, or grape sorbets, which tend to freeze very hard and get icy. If a recipe calls for corn syrup, it’s usually a minimum quantity. In those cases, another liquid sweetener can be used, or granulated sugar. If using sugar, increase the amount by 25%.


What can be used if corn syrup isn’t available where I live?

Glucose is what most professionals use and can be substituted 1 for 1. It can come from different sources, including corn or wheat. You can look for it online or visit a professional baking supply store in your area.

Further Reading and Related Links:

Looking at the Health Claims of Agave Nectar (Wall Street Journal)

Corn Syrup (Culinate)

A Recipe to Replace Corn Syrup: How to Make Cane Syrup (The Kitchn)

Corn Syrup vs HFCS (Serious Eats)

On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee

King Corn (Documentary film)

Care for Some Mercury with Your Oatmeal? (The Ethicurian)

Is High-Fructose Corn Syrup Making Us Fat? (Seattle Times)

Karo Corn Syrup (FAQs)

A Few Favorite Sweeteners (101 Cookbooks)

Agave Nectar: the High-Fructose Health Food Fraud (Natural News)

The Omnivore’s Dilemna by Michael Pollen

The Whole Truth About High-Fructose Corn Syrup (Consumer Reports)

A Sweetener with a Bad Rap (New York Times)

Agave Nectar: A Sweetener for Any Occasion (Popular Science)

Corn Syrup (Wikipedia)

Glucose (Wilton)

Agave Nectar (Amazon)

Agave-Sweetened Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe

Lyle’s Golden Syrup (Amazon)

American Baking in Paris

Chocolate Extract

chocolate extract

One of the things that no one prepares you for when you write a book, is that people are going to be in touch, many that you haven’t seen in a long, long time.

When Room for Dessert came out in 1999, I heard from people that I knew all the way back in high school. While I don’t quite share everyone’s glee for wanting to relive all the “good ol’ days”, I did get a message from someone who’d gone to the same college as me, and whose family had been making wonderful-smelling extracts since 1890. And what particularly caught my attention was that he mentioned the magic word—chocolate.

His family’s company, Star Kay White, produces extracts, mostly to sell to the ice cream and confectionery industry. But back then, they were just launching their extracts for home bakers. I asked Ben Katzenstein, who wrote to me, what exactly chocolate extract was, and he explained that when cacao beans are ground up into chocolate, some of the ‘top notes’ of the beans are lost in the process and adding chocolate extract replaces them.

Their chocolate extract is made without heat to avoid ameliorating the true flavor: the beans are soaked in alcohol, then removed. What’s left is a deep-dark brown elixir of highly-concentrated pure chocolate flavor and aroma. If you take the cap off and give it a sniff, the scent of pure chocolate will blow you away.

chocolate extract

The vexing thing is since chocolate extract somewhat of an unusual ingredient, it’s hard to call for chocolate extract in a recipe, since a majority of people probably don’t keep it on hand, like I do. So it falls into the “optional” category. But at home, I find myself adding a teaspoon to almost any chocolate cake, cookie, brownie, or ice cream mixture that I’m stirring up. You can replace the vanilla extract with chocolate extract, but they work so well together, I often add both.

When I taught cooking classes, I’d often bring bottles with me to pass around for a sniff, and the look on people’s faces was first of disbelief, then surprise, and a big smile would rise in their face. It was always quite a surprise to find something so chocolaty in such a little bottle.

more brownies!

In preparation for Thanksgiving, this morning when I was mixing up my second batch of Baked Brownies for the week (I have no idea what happened to the first one…I swear), I pulled out my little bottle and spilled a bit into the batter, then stirred it up.

And when the batch of brownies went into my now-famous oven, I licked the chocolate-covered spatula clean as the day I bought it. I can’t say for sure whether I would’ve done that had I not added some chocolate extract to the batter. But it definitely didn’t hurt.



Related links and posts:

Star Kay White Chocolate Extract (Amazon)

Star Kay White Chocolate Extract (Dean & DeLuca)

The Best Ingredients Make the Best Cookies (Fine Cooking magazine)

Clotilde’s Very Chocolate Cookies (Recipe)

Boyajian Citrus Oils


Making French Macarons: Instructions & Recipes

It seems like there’s a wave of macaron questions that are sweeping my way. Unlike les brownies or le gâteau weekend (poundcake), successful macarons are more the result of the technique, rather than following a mere recipe. There’s lots of tips and tricks around the web that will help you out with these little devils, including some interesting recipes, too.

macarons

You can find my chocolate macaron recipe on the site, but here are a few links and places for further reading that I think are particularly helpful and insightful.



Websites and Blogs

*Not So Humble Pie offers extensive Macaron Troubleshooting and a Recipe.

* Duncan at Syrup & Tang presents Macaronicité, and goes into detail with side-by-side photos of common errors.

* Bravetart explodes some Macaron Myths.

* Follow the online tutorial on making macarons by Helen of Tartlette
Desserts Magazine.

* And at Tartlette, you’ll find Helen’s instructions for Red Berry, Black Pepper, Mint & Strawberry, and my favorite, Snicker’s macarons, which sound particularly good to me.

* Béatrice at La Tartine Gourmand has helpful step-by-step photos, accompanied by her nontraditional recipe for Cardamom and Wattle Seed Macarons.

* Desert Candy tackles colorful Hibiscus Macarons.

* Veronica at Kitchen Musings gets it right in her Macaron Chronicles.

* My Food Geek presents Almost Foolproof Macarons for the truly-intrepid.

* For those with time to kill, there’s a fifteen page thread on eGullet, devoted to Macarons: The delicate French invention.

* A Frenchwoman explains macarons in plain English at Mercotte, in Desperately Seeking Macarons, with great precision. And check out her Index of macaron flavors and recipes.

* Over at Canelle-Vanille, you’ll find recipes and techniques (and beautiful photos) for a tropical storm of French macarons, with salted peanut butter or milk chocolate-passion fruit filling

* Melissa at Traveler’s Lunchbox presents The Mighty Macaron in three guises.

* At À la Cuisine, there’s macarons flavored with matcha, caramel, and chestnut.

* Sweet Fanny at Foodbeam offers Pierre Hermé’s rose-flavored macarons

* Serious Eats seriously explores macarons in their post on making macarons


macarons


Books on Macarons


Here are some books that are devoted to macaron-making in English:

* I Love Macarons by Hisako Ogita


* Mad About Macarons: Make Macarons Like the French by Jill Colonna


* Macarons: Authentic French Cookies You Can Make at Home by Cecile Cannone



My Macaron Posts

* I Love Macarons! (Book Review)

* Chocolate Macaron recipe

* Gerard Mulot

* Macarons et chocolats

* Pierre Hermé’s Ketchup Macaron Recipe

* Paris Pastry Crawl

* Ladurée

* Pierre Hermé’s White Truffle Macaron

* Arabesque Macarons at Pierre Hermé

* Chocolate-covered Macarons at Ladurée


UPDATEMacarons by Pierre Hermé is now available in English!

The Melon Washer

washing charentais melon

I happily eat raw-milk cheese. I’ll dive into steak tartar without any fear. And heck, I drink horse milk like it’s going out of style. (Actually, if someone could tell me that drinking horse milk never was in style, that’d be great, so I can stop drinking it…) But I have a confession to make: I wash melons.
Continue Reading The Melon Washer…

Tips on How to Make Ice Cream: Questions & Answers

Gelato Spoons

For a number of years, this forum has been a place to ask questions about ice cream making. However after hundreds of questions, everything that could be asked and answered about ice cream making has been said. So comments have been closed and if you have a question, you can use the search feature on your browser to scan the comments.

I’ve learned a lot listening to you about ice cream making and am thrilled that so many of you have taken up the task of churning up ice cream and sorbets at home. Thanks for participating in this forum!

-david


Here’s a list of links to various places on the site where you can find more information and tips about how to make ice cream.

However because to the number of inquiries, please keep in mind…

-If you have questions regarding a specific machine, I suggest contacting the manufacturer as they’re best equipped to give advice on your particular model.

-If you have questions about other people’s recipes, it’s advisable to contact the chef or author of that recipe.

-If you wish to try to recreate a favorite flavor you’ve had in a restaurant or ice cream shop, I suggest contacting the source of the inspiration, such as the company or chef, for guidance.

-While I appreciate those who are on special or restricted diets, there are a number of books out there which address ice cream recipes that are specifically tailored for those seeking recipes on that nature and it’s best to check those sources for recipes and for making modifications.

-Due to the number of comments and questions, yours might have already been answered. You can do a search using your browser for keywords in your question, to find is there is already a response.

-For questions about ingredient substitutions, check out my post on Baking Ingredients and Substitutions.

  • Recipes to use up leftover egg whites

  • How long does ice cream last?

  • Tips for making homemade ice cream softer

  • Recommended equipment to make ice cream

  • Vegan Ice Cream Books

  • Recipes to use up leftover egg whites

  • Making ice cream without a machine

  • The ice cream shops of Paris

  • Meet your maker: buying an ice cream machine

  • Compendium of recipes for ice creams & sorbets

  • What is gelato?

  • How to make the perfect caramel

  • Let’s Make Ice Cream!

  • perfectscoop.jpg

    Chocolate FAQs

    chocolate

    My chocolate has gray streaks. It is okay to use?

    That’s called bloom and it happens when the chocolate melts or gets warm, and then cools again without being tempered. When you buy chocolate, it is already tempered. However if it’s exposed to heat or melted, it can fall out of temper and lose its emulsification. (You can read my instructions for how to temper chocolate.)

    Those streaks that you see are harmless swirls of cocoa fat rising to the surface because when the chocolate was warmed, it lost its emulsion (like chicken stock or vinaigrette, which separates when heated, then cooled). Similarly, if there are crystal-like formations on the surface, those indicate ‘sugar bloom’ and the chocolate is safe to use. In either case, the chocolate can be melted and used as normal. If there is green mold, or anything furry, that means the chocolate got damp. In that case, it should be tossed.

    How long does chocolate last?

    Contrary to what you may hear, dark chocolate lasts around five years. That’s in part due to the high amount of antioxidants, as well as the sugar, which is a preservative. Milk chocolate and white chocolate contain milk solids and should be used within a year.

    What’s the difference between bittersweet and semisweet chocolate?

    Technically nothing. Both chocolates must contain a minimum of 35% cacao solids in the US. Some manufacturers that make both will often call their sweeter chocolate “semisweet”, although it’s totally arbitrary and they can be used interchangeably in recipes.

    What’s the difference between bitter and bittersweet chocolate?

    Bitter chocolate contains no sugar, and is often called “unsweetened” or “baking” chocolate. In some countries it’s called 100% cacao since it’s composed only of ground up cocoa bean mass. Because bitter chocolate has no sugar and no added fat (cocoa beans are about half fat), it is more stubborn to melt and may be slightly grainy in custard and ice cream recipes. Often that can be mitigated by whirling the mixture in an electric mixer before cooking or churning it.

    There is so substitution of bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate for the other, although if you don’t have unsweetened chocolate, you can replicate it by mixing 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil or melted butter to equal 1 ounce of unsweetened (bitter) chocolate. Mix them together as a paste and you can use that for unsweetened chocolate in recipes.

    Why does chocolate and liquid melted together sometimes become grainy?

    Chocolate is an emulsion, which means when you add something to it, and heat it, you break that emulsion. When melting chocolate, make sure you have at least 1 part liquid to 4 parts chocolate. So if you have 1 ounce of water and melt it with 8 ounces of chocolate, that won’t work and you’ll end up with a seized, grainy mass. You need at least 2 ounces of liquid for 8 ounces of chocolate, or at least 1 part liquid to 4 parts chocolate by weight.

    Pure oil, such as peppermint or essential oils, can be added to chocolate in any quantity since the oil doesn’t break the emulsion like water or other liquids do.

    melting chocolates

    Can I Use Chocolate Chips for Melting in a Recipe?

    Most commercial-brands of chocolate chips are made of baking resistant chocolate, fabricated with less cocoa butter than standard chocolate so they keep their shape when heated. (Think of classic chocolate chip cookies with clearly-discernible chips.) If you melt them, you’ll often end up with a sludgy, thick pool of chocolate rather than one that’s smooth.

    Some recipes, however, may specifically call for melting chips and although I can’t vouch for every recipe out there, I advise people to follow the author’s advice. Also there are now many chocolate chips that are made from premium-quality chocolate, such as those from Ghiradelli, Guittard, and Scharffen Berger, which can be used for melting, as well as baking in cookies.

    What is the best chocolate?

    That is a tough question. Like anything edible, many things come into play. Do you like bitter chocolate? Or one that is sweeter? Do you prefer a roasted flavor? Or one that is softer, and creamier?

    I tell people that the best chocolate is the one that tastes best to them. So I encourage folks to taste as many chocolates as they can, and choose one they like best.

    What Country Makes the Best Chocolate?

    Like the previous question, that’s very tough to say. Almost all cocoa beans are grown close to the equator, then shipped for processing, so there is nothing geographically advantageous if they’re processed in America, Belgium, France, or Switzerland. Most of the quality of the finished chocolate comes from the quality of the raw beans, their fermentation, then the roasting, grinding, and mixing at the factory.

    I Should Only Bake with Top-Quality, Very Expensive Chocolate. Right?

    When you melt chocolate and add it to a batter, such as for brownies or cookies, the finer points of an expensive chocolate may get lost. And while those fancy chocolates may be excellent for nibbling, I’m not sure if using an extremely pricey or rare chocolate is best of baking. I recommend sticking with a middle-range chocolate for baking.

    Similarly, many of the new high-percentage chocolate, boasting cocoa contents of 70% and above are very acid and can cause creams and ganaches to break. So I recommend following the advice in the recipe, or using a dark chocolate in the 35-64% range, for best results.

    I Can’t Get, or Can’t Afford, Good Chocolate. Any tips?

    To boost the flavor of chocolate, you can add 1 teaspoon of instant coffee powder to the recipe. The roasted flavor helps improve and highlight the flavor of the chocolate.

    I also like to use chocolate extract, and add a dash to recipes along with vanilla extract (or in place of) in recipes. Some of the ‘top notes’ of flavor are lost when cocoa beans are processed, and chocolate extract replaces many of them. It’s a secret used by some manufacturer’s, and one whiff from the bottle is enough to convince you that it’s a secret worth sharing.

    Can I Use Drinking Cocoa or Ground in a Recipe That Calls for Cocoa Powder?

    Nope. Both drinking cocoa and ground chocolate are formulated with sugar and sometimes other ingredients, since they’re meant for beverages, not baking.

    When a recipe calls for unsweetened cocoa powder, do not substitute anything else.

    What’s the Difference Between Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder and Natural? And Can They Be Interchanged?

    Dutch-process cocoa means that the beans have been acid-neutralized, which tames the flavor and makes the cocoa darker as well. Many recipes that call for baking powder call for Dutch-process cocoa. Recipes that use baking soda will often call for ‘natural’ (or non-alkalized) cocoa powder. One should not switch one for the other. If you’re unsure of whether your cocoa powder is natural or not, a look at the ingredients will reveal if there is potassium bromate or carbonate in it, an indication it’s been ‘Dutched’.

    In Europe, virtually all the cocoa powder is Dutched, whereas in America, both kinds are widely available. Companies like Hershey’s, Nestlé, Ghiradelli, and Guittard make natural cocoa, and Askinosie, a bean-to-bar chocolate maker, produces a ‘natural’ cocoa powder as well.

    Hershey’s makes a Dutch-process blend cocoa which is extremely dark (think Oreo cookie- colored) and European brands like Droste and Valrhona are good-quality Dutch-process cocoa powders.

    chocolate-covered cups

    Paris and Chocolate-Related Posts

    What is white chocolate?

    Cocoa Powder FAQs

    David’s Amazon Chocolate Shop

    Why you should use aluminum-free baking powder

    Ingredients for American baking in Paris

    Bernachon

    La Maison du Chocolat

    Jean-Charles Rochoux

    A l’Etoile d’Or

    Valrhona Chocolate School

    The Pâtisseries of Paris Guide

    Patrick Roger

    Le Furet Tanrade

    Fouquet

    10 Insanely Delicious Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Paris

    Paris Favorites

    Arnaud Larher

    The Great Book of Chocolate

    Paris Chocolate & Pastry Shop Archives