Results tagged baking from David Lebovitz

All-New Menu for Hope 6 Items + Chocolate Treats!

We’re in the final week, the home stretch, of Menu for Hope 6 and I’m thrilled that so many of you have generously bid on items for this important charitable event.

(Update: The deadline for bidding has been extended to December 31, 2009!)

It’s amazing that when so many people contribute even just a small amount, just $10 a person, collectively we can make a major impact.

However I am committed to making this the best-ever year for Menu for Hope, so I’ve rounded up some additional, extra-special surprises in addition to the other fantastic European and UK bid items, most of which can be shipped globally.

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Two American chocolate-experts, Ginger Elizabeth Hahn and Shawn Askinosie have offered the most incredible gift baskets for bakers and chocolate lovers I’ve ever seen. (And I’m not kidding, folks.) Speaking of chocolate, if you live or plan to travel to London, there’s a private chocolate tour for you and your guests.

My friends at Ten Speed Press have put together a collection of their best-ever baking books, including one from me. And any frites-lovers out there will certainly appreciate a professional deep-fryer, courtesy of Krups.


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Ginger Elizabeth Hatbox Chocolate Extravaganza

On my last trip to the states, I managed to get through most of the chocolates that people generously plied me with along the way. But I did bring a box of Ginger Elizabeth chocolate back to Paris, which I opened one night after dinner. And after we each plucked one of the shiny brown squares from the box and put in on our mouths, we both fell silent, then looked at each other. Then I just said, “Wow”, and Romain pronounced them “…Better than La Maison du Chocolat“, which is some praise, especially from a Frenchman!

Continue Reading All-New Menu for Hope 6 Items + Chocolate Treats!…

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…

Clotilde’s Very Chocolate Cookie Recipe

Triple Chocolate Cookies

I’m glad I’m not the only one around here who experiences what I call “Only in France” moments.

Recently I met up with Clotilde, who writes the popular Chocolate & Zucchini blog, for a drink one afternoon. I ordered a glass of wine and she, a mineral water. Although there was a large, unopened bottle of Badoit sparkling water standing prominently behind the bar, ripe for the taking, the serveuse told us they didn’t have any bottled water.

Of course, neither one of us questioned that. But when she left to fetch our drinks, we both looked at each other, wrinkled up our perplexed faces, then shrugged it off. It’s nice to know the locals find things as curious around here as I do.

Speaking of curious French things, if you’re a regular reader of Chocolate & Zucchini, you’re privy to her charming stories about her life in Paris accompanied by recipes. And you unless you’ve been hiding like a bottle of Badoit behind the bar, you’ve likely heard of her new book: Chocolate & Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen.

Scoop of Chocolate Cookie Dough

Turning the pages and reading about her life in Montmarte is like spending the day with une vraie Parisienne, which seem to be an endless quest of finding the best markets and sourcing ingredients then taking them home and making them into fabulous dinners to share with friends and her lucky neighbors.

Before I met Clotilde, I was certain she was some burly truck-driver from Wisconsin pulling a fast one over on us all.

Continue Reading Clotilde’s Very Chocolate Cookie Recipe…

Pastry Chef Sherry Yard

With all due respects, the first time I met Sherry Yard, I was squirming in my seat. I was sitting in the originally Spago, in West Hollywood, overlooking the city of Los Angeles. The room was filled with celebrities, but I remember getting special treatment.

I arrived in my best; a well-tailored Italian wool suit that I hoped made me fit in a little better with all the glamorous types seated all around me. It was a great meal, and we were having a wonderful time. But the longer I sat in the stylish chairs, the most uncomfortable I was becoming. It wasn’t that I felt out of place. It was that my rear-end was starting to itch uncontrollably.

I knew that I shouldn’t stand up and engage in an all-out scratch-fest (although nothing would have felt better), but I didn’t know what to do. The longer I sat, the more intense it got. The wool in combination with the padded chairs was driving me nuts!

But soon enough, it was time for dessert, the cavalcade started. Sherry starting bringing out all sorts of wonderful things; tastes of hand-dipped dark chocolates, puckery lemon tartlets, and twists of crackly caramel that were so stunning, all these hot-shot celebrities starting looking at me.

But miraculously, as I started to spoon up and savor all these desserts, the itching subsided and each dessert was more delicious than the next. That was the first time we met and I was charmed at what a genuinely lovely and funny person Sherry is.

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A few years later, Sherry moved over to Wolfgang Puck’s newer Spago restaurant, located a few miles away in swanky Beverly Hills which replaced the original. Since we were pastry-pals, Sherry and I run into each other every now and then over the years; her vivacious personality is infectious and I don’t know anyone who’s more enthusiastic about what she does than Sherry. And if you talked to her for a few minutes, as I recently did, you’d see what I mean…

David: Every time I talk to you there seems to be something new and fabulous going on in your life. After all, being the pastry chef at Spago in Beverly Hills makes you the pastry chef to the stars. Plus you make the dessert for the big Oscar dinner every year.

Who are some of your favorite celebrities that you’ve cooked for?

Sherry: I guess you can say them all, from David Lebovitz to Presidents.

David: Thanks for the flattery, but compared to Madonna and Andy Dick (ick!), I’m a rube. But I loved celebrity-watching and Spago is the best. I one stood next to Shaq O’Neill there and his feet were huge! But your boss is a bit of a celebrity too. You’ve been with Wolfgang Puck for a long time as his executive pastry chef.

How’s it been working with him, and what’s he like as a boss?

Sherry: At the 2000 Bon Appétit Awards, Barbara Fairchild introduced Wolfgang Puck as my boss. His response, with a chuckle, when he walked up to the mike was “Anyone that knows Sherry knows she is my boss!”


David: He’s actually quite funny, and works very hard too, which I think is because he was trained as a chef from a really early age. I also like that he gives ample credit to the chef’s in his restaurants, and they tend to stay with him for a long time.

I love the desserts you make. They’re always so contemporary, with clean, modern tastes yet grounded in traditional pastry techniques. I remember a Concord Grape Gelée that you made, enrobed in dark chocolate that was exceptionally good.

Continue Reading Pastry Chef Sherry Yard…

Tips to Keep Cookies From Spreading

chocolate chip cookies

Several of you had asked about how to avoid cookies from spreading out during baking, which can be rather vexing…especially when you’ve gone through all that trouble of getting the counter all covered with flour, then rolling ‘em out, and cutting them into all those nifty shapes.

So here are some tips…

Continue Reading Tips to Keep Cookies From Spreading…

How to Prevent Cookies From Spreading

Triple Chocolate Cookies

Here are some helpful tips to prevent cookies from spreading:

Don’t Overbeat the Batter

Far too many recipes advise bakers to simply “Cream butter and sugar until smooth”. So many people just turn on the mixer and go check their e-mail.

When you beat butter and sugar, those little crystals of sugar create air pockets between the butterfat. The more you beat, the more air you incorporate (those trapped air pockets steam open and expand in the oven). That’s great for a nice, light cake…but not for most cookies. So when the recipe says, ““Cream or beat butter and sugar”, just mix them for about 30 seconds, until well-combined.

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Pecan-Brown Sugar Shortbreads from Ready For Dessert

Use Ungreased Baking Sheets

Unless the recipe says so, bake cookies on an ungreased or unbuttered baking sheet. You’re creating a slippery surface if you do, which causes cookies dough to slide. I use parchment paper, which has just enough friction for cookies to stay-put without sliding around, but they don’t stick.

Measure Ingredients Properly

I know this is a big duh!, but adding more liquid or less flour than a recipe indicates makes a big difference. When people tell me, “I can’t bake”, I never understand that. I mean, how difficult is “8 ounces of butter” or “3 large eggs”? It’s not like a piece of meat that you need to guess and adjust cooking times. Baking is a no-brainer.

Don’t change ingredients either. Using extra-large eggs in place of large eggs means you’ve added more liquid. Using anything other than all-purpose flour (or whatever is called for) can also be problematic.

Check Your Fat

Most butter is about 80% fat, meaning the rest is roughly 20% water. When used in a batter, that water liquefies, and voila!. You can use a ‘European-style’ butter, which has a higher percentage of fat and remains more stable when baked. Examples of this include Plugra.

Some recipes use vegetable shortening instead of butter, which is another alternative (although I don’t personally use vegetable shortening). Vegetable shortening is 100% percent fat, which means there’s little water so things stay in place better when baked (it’s why pie dough made with shortening is flakier…there’s little water to saturate and toughen the flour.)

If you choose to replace butter in your recipe with vegetable shortening, find one without trans-fats, which are now available.

Check Your Oven Temperature

Every oven is completely different. I had a someone call me at 11pm one night to tell me her Peanut Butter Cookies took 10 minutes to bake instead of 9 minutes, as indicated by the recipe. Buy an oven thermometer and check the accuracy of your oven.

If you put cookies in an oven that’s not hot enough, they’ll droop and spread before firming up.

You can find more tips at my post: Tips to Keep Cookies From Spreading



Related Links

Is sifting necessary?

Chocolate FAQs

Cocoa powder FAQs

Why you should use aluminum-free baking powder (and how to make your own)

Recipes for using up leftover egg whites

American baking ingredients in Paris

French sugar

Tips to keep cooking from spreading

Paris Pastry Shops

Patrick Roger Chocolates patrick roger chocolate

Paris has some of the most amazing pastry and chocolate shops in the world!

I’ve written up many of them and you can browse through my archives to find out more about them: Paris Pastry Shops.

A recommended book for visitors is The Pâtisseries of Paris: A Paris Pastry Guide, which lists many favorites, along with addresses and specialties.

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