Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thursday's Thoughts: Learning Curve

Thursday's Thoughts: a taste of what I'm thinking

When something goes askew in the kitchen I like to read up about it and figure out why.  Understanding the principle behind the problem decreases the likelihood of a repeat episode.  Here's just a taste of what I've been reading up on lately along with a few other bites I'm beginning to chew, swallow and digest.

1. Underbaking a meringue pie results in weeping, a layer of liquid between the meringue and filling.  This can be prevented by spreading the meringue on the pie while the pie is still hot.  However, the pie should not be too hot or the filling may not have set up enough to hold the meringue.

2. Beads on top of a meringue are the result of overbaking.

3. To prevent a meringue from shrinking and tearing, be sure to attach and seal it to the crust before baking.  Adding certain starches to the meringue also helps.

4. Soft meringue, hard meringue, Swiss meringue, Italian meringue, cooked, uncooked, added starch, ratio of sugar, type of sugar, temperature, beating time, underbaked, overbaked, acidity, much to consider.

Pie Crust
1.Overworking a pie crust stretches out the dough which causes shrinking while baking.

2.  A large gap between an upper crust and filling (such as apple) is due to a slow release of steam.  Thick apple slices release steam slowly, but thinner apple slices cook faster, allowing a quicker release of steam.  Thinner apple slices (along with cutting proper slits) prevent the crust from puffing up and leaving a large space.

Eggs in Custard
 1. Stirred custards without starch are heated over a double boiler and require constant stirring.  The eggs thicken anywhere between 160 and 180 degrees F.  The eggs can begin to thicken just one degree before turning to a scrambled curdled mess.  Rate of heat, milk to egg yolk ratio and sugar all influence curdling and thickening of stirred custards.

2. Baked custards without starch need a water bath.  The water for the water bath needs to be extremely hot.

3. Stirred custards with starch can be made over direct heat as opposed to a double boiler. Similarly, baked custards containing starch do not need water baths.

Consomme (just pretend the e has an accent over it)
1. This stock is clarified with egg whites.  As the stock simmers the egg whites coagulate and trap impurities.

2.  The egg and impurity mixture floats to the top forming what is called a raft.  An acidic ingredient such as lemon juice or tomatoes aids in forming a stable raft.

Food for Thought: "Don't fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have." -Louis E. Boone 

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