12/21/2007

12-21-07 - 2

So I made the caramels and fudge yesterday.

I made the Good Eats Fudge recipe because it's more chocolaty than the Joy of Baking . One note : I think the Good Eats recipe has a misprint. It says 1 tablespoon of vanilla. Every single other fudge recipe in the world has 1 teaspoon of vanilla. I compromised and used a half tablespoon (=1.5 teaspoon) and it tastes good to me. I also added a tiny bit of salt. The texture came out great, and good walnuts are absolutely crucial, it would be insipid without them.

For the caramels, I found there are two general types of recipe. There's the one pot recipes, such as the New York Times recipe, where you don't seperately brown the sugar. Then there's the two pot recipes, such as the Gourmet Magazine Salted Caramel Recipe . Brian Sharp has a big thing about how you need the caramelization (browing) flavor from browning the sugar, so I went with the two-pot method. But I noticed that the NYT recipe uses a lot more salt, and I really want the nice salty caramel effect, so I used 1.5 teaspoon instead of 1 teaspoon, and also put fleur de sel crystals on top. Note that using fleur de sel inside the caramel is totally pointless since all the salt is the same when it dissolves.

Later I found the much more instructive Jacques Pepin Caramel Recipe which is a joy to read. Jacques is one of the few chefs in the world that doesn't have his head up his ass. He respects the proper techniques and is an exacting gourmet, but completely without pretention, and he has no problem with using half assed and lowbrow ingredients when it doesn't make a difference. And he seems to really enjoy food and cooking, and he has good taste. I can't think of anyone else in his league, all the modern stars are such fucking retarded pricks. A lot of the problem is that mediocre people don't really understand why they're doing things, so they do understand when it's okay to cut corners, and they can only talk about the way things "should" be done.

BTW I used my digital probe for the candy temperatures and it worked fine. There's no need for a candy thermometer these days. Actually the probe is way better because you can set an alarm temperature. Also, I had the problem that Brian predicted with heavy pans. I have Calphalon pans and they have a very large "heat momentum". When you're heating the caramel up to 248, you can shut off the heat but the pan keeps going. I panicked for about 3 seconds then just poured the caramel off into a cool empty pan.

Today I dipped half the caramels in chocolate. I tempered the chocolate using the simple seed method . I think it worked out okay to restore the chocolate to good temper. There's a big thing about the crystals involved in tempering chocolate at wikipedia ; it gives you an idea how you can have various qualities of temper; the seed method doesn't really give you a super hard super shiny chocolate like you would dream of, but it's better than nothing. After dipping the caramels I had a bunch of melted chocolate left over, so I dipped a few pieces of fudge. HOLY ZOMG WTF BBQ !!! Chocolate dipped fudge is the fucking bomb.

BTW every time I see a comedian or a NYT article make a joke about Wikipedia, it just reveals to me how fucking retarded they are.

Tasting notes : I think the caramels with the fleur de sel were the best, rich and buttery and when you get a big salt crystal it just explodes with a zing in your mouth that's quite pleasant as a contrast to the caramel. I know, I know, it's so 2003.

Oh, I also made the cookies the next day. A few little notes for myself - the walnuts in cookies are a little tricky. If you just put in raw walnuts they don't toast enough with the cookie; if you put in fully preroasted walnuts some of them will burn; the ideal thing would be something like half-roasted nuts. I still haven't found a good chocolate chunk solution. The pre-chunked ones in stores like Nestle chunks are ridiculously overpriced and also shitty ass quality chocolate. My solution this time was tasty but labor intensive. I bought the 54% Pound Plus bar at Trader Joe's, put it in the oven briefly to just get it soft but not melted, and then cut it into chunks. If you cut it cold it slivers into tiny pieces that aren't good in a cookie. I then put the cut pieces in the fridge to solidify. It worked fine but it's not worth doing for normal occasions. I cut the bar pieces into 4 chunks, they were still a bit too big that way.

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