Is sugar really “dry”?

Reader Chelsea writes: I’ve got what I hope is an interesting one for you. Yesterday I was baking a quick chocolate cake to serve as dessert. As I whisked up the batter, I could tell something was wrong: it was very, very thick, more like cookie dough than cake batter, and not the deep dark cocoa color I knew it should be. I gave it a taste and it was terrible: salty and bitter! I realized I’d forgotten to add the sugar. This is the part I found strange: when I added the sugar, the batter deepened to the cocoa…

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Next Up: Caramelized White Chocolate Something-Or-Other

I haven’t decided what I’ll do with my caramelized white chocolate once I make it, but there are all sorts of applications for this unusual component: mousse, ganache, pastry cream, truffles, ice cream, cake. Caramelized white chocolate has been around several years but only seems to have gotten really hip in the last eighteen months or so. A few of you have been asking about it lately so it seems like a good time to make a little of it. Or a lot.

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Making Sticky Toffee Pudding

British puddings as a rule are moist, rich and dense. Oh: and sweet. Stick toffee pudding doesn’t disappoint on any of those fronts, though the pudding itself is lighter than it may appear. Together the dates and the espresso give the pudding a deep, almost chocolate-like flavor that’s as delicious as it is hard to place, especially if you really process the fruit mixture into a fine purée. If you’re looking for an indulgent finisher for a meal, something a little different but also comforting, sticky toffee pudding is your ticket. This is of course an individual baked pudding, not a classic large steamed pudding, and I confess I quite like it. Gives you more serving and plating options. …

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The Difference Between Dark and Shiny Baking Pans

Reader Robert wants to know what the practical difference is between shiny baking pans and dark-colored nonstick versions (other than the fact that one is nonstick of course). The main difference, Robert, is that dark colors absorb more heat. That’s as true of pans as it is of clothes, even in the lightless environment of an oven. It’s why a tent of shiny aluminum foil does such a great job of preventing excess browning in a hot oven. It reflects heat energy.

A dark pan does the reverse and that’s not usually a good thing. Dark pans can not only create excess browning on edges, they can contribute to the premature hardening of surface crusts, and that can hold in rising or crust expansion. This is not to say that nonstick can’t be a good thing, however tart and pie crusts are very buttery to begin with. As a result they tend not to have a problem releasing…

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Making Toffee/Butterscotch Sauce

I use the slash because, while there is a clear difference between toffee and butterscotch candies there is little if any difference between toffee and butterscotch sauce. Butterscotch is generally a bit lighter in color I suppose. To produce that effect all you need to do is use light brown sugar instead of dark brown. Otherwise the procedure is the same. You’ll need:


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The Difference Between Candy and Sauce

My failure to distinguish between toffee, caramel and butterscotch sauces and their candy equivalents in an earlier post got me into some well-deserved hot water (syrup?). I confess it had never really occurred to me before, not being much of a confectioner, but caramel sauce is not necessarily just melted or diluted caramel. Indeed, chewy caramel candies are made by cooking caramel to the firm ball stage (248F). Caramel sauce is made by cooking sugar until it practically burns (300 – 330F or even more if you like it smoky!). …

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Back, but…

…settling in again is about as time consuming as vacationing. I returned yesterday to 134 questions in my in-box, many of them true head scratchers requiring detailed replies. I’m about half way through…then there’s my regular mortgage- and tuition-paying job to catch up on. Such an inconvenience! I’ll do my best to get my puddings made in the next day or so. If I’m not back in earnest before the weekend try not to hold it against me!

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Farewell to the Final Ramone

By 1975, rock music had become a parody of itself. The Beatles were split up, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison were dead. A lot of the great bands from the 60′s were still playing (The Who, the Stones, The Band and the Grateful Dead spring to mind) but most of the vitality was gone from the form. Popular culture had moved on to disco and lite rock acts like Seals & Crofts and England Dan & John Ford Coley. Little kids like my sister and me were listening to the Partridge Family, the Bay City Rollers, Wings and Leif Garrett. Concert goers were thrilling to the theatrics of KISS. Intellectual types were swooning to pompous art rock bands like Spirit, Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Some of it was fun, a little of it was artistic, none of it was rock n’ roll. …

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Pre- and Proto-Puddings II: The Rise of “White” Puddings

One thing pretty much everyone agreed upon back in the early days of puddings was that they were a very good idea. Organs, blood and grain all stuffed into a bladder and boiled? What’s not to love? Yet the big problem for pudding lovers of the period was that puddings were prisoners of seasonality. I mean let’s face it, the average person didn’t have fresh blood, guts and bladders lying around everywhere all the time. On the farm animals were only slaughtered in cool weather to prevent spoilage (refrigerators being in very short supply in the first few millennia before Christ). Thus at the dawn of the Age of Pudding, it would have only been a once-in-a-while treat….

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Pre- and Proto-Puddings

The word “pudding”, it’s thought, comes down to us from the Latin word botellus which basically means “sausage.” Boudin is how the word occurs now in French. Pudim is the Portuguese version, pudín the Spanish. Sounding a little familiar now? Thought so. But did spotted dick and sticky toffee pudding really start out as sausage? Yes. Sort of. Here it helps to take a brief — and very general — look at early days of sausage making. …

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