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ALPHA BUNNY

As you know, I planned for this battle all year.

Apparently, so did the Bunny.

My new weapon was the candy thermometer, but he continued to prefer psychological warfare. And he’s amazingly good at it. This year, by increasing the pressure with his standard psyche out – will I burn the mixture? will I melt a spoon in it again? when does a drip become a thread? – he managed to make me sooo focused on the sugar mixture, I forgot to buy the coconut!

Bad, brilliant Bunny.

Of course, the grocery store was open, and I was able to buy coconut, but the omission shook my confidence, and so even with my new weapon, I went into the battle with trepidation. At the last minute, I panicked and went on the internet to find more and better – and more foolproof – recipes. They varied so much, it actually made me less confident.

Eventually, I came up with a good batch of frosting. Very tasty and pretty, and very, very close to the correct consistency. The family was delighted. I was still smarting from the coconut incident.

And fyi, the thermometer was useless. Why? Because my mother-in-law’s recipe calls for me to cook the sugar until it drips in a thread that curls back on itself. The cookbook recipe calls for me to cook it until 245 degrees. This year, the thread formed at 230 degrees – so I had a decision to make, and I had to make it quickly. If I kept going till 245 degrees, I was afraid I’d burn the mixture, so I stopped.

I’ll never know if it would have been perfect had I just waited another minute or two. But we were already up to 9 minutes, and since it’s sometimes-called Seven-Minute-Frosting, I just couldn’t take the chance.

The internet calls it Italian Meringue, by the way. Most of the cooking sites make their Seven-Minute in a double boiler. I’m tempted to try that next year, but I think that’s the Bunny’s latest mind game, so I’ll try to resist.

Bye for now!
Kate

p.s. Next year, I’m going to post a picture of the result. It’s always pretty in a sloppy, homemade sort of way. He’s always smiling an evil smile no matter what kind of candy I use for his mouth. I meant to take a picture this year, but the coconut incident rattled me so much, I forgot!

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Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
miladyinsanity
Apr. 9th, 2007 05:02 pm (UTC)
Italian Meringue is when you drizzle a sugar syrup that's cooked to soft ball stage (about 235F) into whipped egg whites. When you whip the egg whites with the sugar on a double boiler, it's called a Swiss Meringue, which is softer and has less volume than an Italian Meringue.

Cooking all the way to soft thread stage is rather high, actually, for frosting.

I love this stuff--I lick the beaters, LOL!
katedonovan
Apr. 9th, 2007 06:08 pm (UTC)
tell me more!!!
Oh my gosh, an expert! You speak the lingo, so I'm officially drafting you as my military advisor for next year's campaign.

I've really had my ups and downs with these recipes, but the beaters are always ymmy.

Thanks for the help!

Kate
miladyinsanity
Apr. 9th, 2007 06:30 pm (UTC)
Re: tell me more!!!
Bug me any time. :) I love talking about cake and frosting.

Ups and downs...Then it's probably that you haven't gotten the hang of cooking the syrup to the right temperature.

My first batch of buttercream was gloop because I didn't cook it long enough, for instance.

You're welcome.
katedonovan
Apr. 9th, 2007 08:39 pm (UTC)
Re: tell me more!!!
You're so right, I just don't have the hang of it yet. I think my main problem is that I'm working from a hand-me-down recipe that leaves out a few steps and doesn't mention either a double-boiler or a thermometer. I've tried to supply the missing steps by using similar recipes, but each of those has its own vocabulary -- the soft ball, the thread, and my favorite, the thread that curls back on itself like a spider web (huh? I want to see that once before I die!!)

I actually enjoy this wacky stage of culinary bliss -- becoming one with my recipe. I went through it with handmade tortillas (our dog was the beneficiary of those early experiments because he ate all the truly mishapen ones) and also when I was learning to make tamales. You don't really "own" a complicated dish until you've gone thru hell with it.

In other words, I learn through trial and error. My only real complaint against the bunny is that he seems to take such sadistic pleasure in my errors.

Did you ever have the sugar mixture turn into a hard ball that imprisoned your spoon a la sword-in-the-stone? That one was pretty humiliating, I must say.

The next time you make Italian Meringue, please videotape it!! You could make a fortune from frustrated frosters, believe me.

Kate
miladyinsanity
Apr. 10th, 2007 05:07 pm (UTC)
Re: tell me more!!!
If you want to post or email me (miladyinsanity@gmail.com) the recipe, I could probably figure out the missing steps.

I think this chart should help you figure out the differences in terminology. I should add that the drop some sugar syrup in cold water test is supposed to be more reliable than the cheaper candy thermometers us amateurs use. The pros use infrared thermometers.

Me too! That's why I bake. I'm happy to make many different recipes for the same thing to find The One.

Sounds like you cooked the sugar too long, and took it all the way to hard crack stage--this is the stage if you want to make lollipops or hard candies.

It's not just how the sugar syrup looks. It smells different as well.

Sugar's cheap, and if you use use sugar syrup for your coffee/tea, you can work on the sugar thing. After you finish, just toss it all into a pot and add water.
katedonovan
Apr. 11th, 2007 04:44 am (UTC)
Re: tell me more!!!
Thanks, I'll email it to you!
Kate
katedonovan
Apr. 12th, 2007 11:23 pm (UTC)
Re: tell me more!!!
And by the way, that chart is great. So is that entire website.

It certainly solved one mystery for me. My mother-in-law's recipe says: cook until the mixture forms a soft ball. I thought the entire batch of sugar had to form a ball in the pan! And trust me, if you cook it long enough, it does, hence the sword=in-the-stone effect. But your 911 website explains that "cook to a soft ball" means the stage where a bit of the mixture dropped into cold water forms a soft ball. Sheesh, why didn't she say so?

You're a lifesaver, May! No wonder you have a royal title.

Your loyal subject,
Kate

p.s. The 911 website does perpetuate one terrible myth, tho. It says:

If it spins a long thread, like a spider web, it's done.

Eek, I just don't get the spider reference. But it's better than the Joy of Cooking, which describes it as a long thread that doubles back on itself like a spider web, or something like that. Crazy talk.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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