Thursday, September 19, 2013

Baking tips, utensils and Chocolate Dishwater

Hi everybody!
Yea, I know, it's been a while. I have been living in my whirlwind, whipping, melting, baking ,delivering and lots of chocolate dishwater! I am having a blast doing these authentic German and Austrian desserts. Sometimes I feel a little overwhelmed, but I just suck it up and put my nose to the grindstone and trudge forward, one chocolate dipped cherry at a time. Pretty soon, the end result comes to be and I pass it off to Viener Fest with a sense of accomplishment. Still pinching myself. Usually I leave a chocolate mess behind, since I create so many making various desserts at once. The "clean as you go" technique isn't always possible, at least for me, when you are making a ganache for the Opera Torte while you are preparing the apricot glaze for the Sacher Torte and melting chocolate for the German Chocolate and chopping nuts and preparing buttercream. Then I need chocolate for the tree silhouettes, and a different chocolate for the cherries, not to forget the whipped chocolate cherry ganache  for the Black Forest and fresh whipped cream too. That is only a few of the messes I create on  a very regular basis. I am messing up dishes faster than I can wash them. I not only could use an assistant, that would work for free, or Apple Strudel, I need an extra hand or two. For now, I will just do the best I can not to leave too much to clean after the delivery.
I haven't been doing much cooking lately. Mostly quick fix or crockpot. By the time I finish the baking and several sinks full of chocolate dishwater, I simply do not want to make another mess.

I have, however, gained a little knowledge in the past few months that have made my baking adventure a little easier. Since I am self taught, some of this will be too elementary for y'all experts.
 I figured I would share some of the things that have been instrumental in maintaining my sanity and eased the task at hand.

Stainless steel mixing bowls are wonderful! Lightweight, stackable for easy storage,they can be used like a double boiler top for melting stuff, easy to clean and they won't break when you throw them. Oops, I meant drop them :)

A small offset baking spatula is vital. You think that butter knife is the same thing, but no, it is inferior.

When making fussy frostings, like french buttercream, room temp butter means room temp. Another thing, most problems with it can be whipped away, just keep that mixer going full speed and cop a little attitude with that stuff. If it fails, it's only frosting, you can start over. Don't waste a bunch of time trying to recreate what might have been, Cut your losses and move on. Trust me on this.

If you are whipping cream to frost a cake, do it on med low speed with a hand mixer. As it starts to thicken, turn it down to low. You need to feel the resistance to know the proper thickness. It takes a little longer but I promise, it will stay firmer longer.

Replace liquid with buttermilk when baking chocolate cakes. Never been a fan of the stinky stuff till now.

Get you a couple of those scraper spatula things. I got mine at the dollar tree and they are so handy. I transfer cakes with them, scrape the stuck on melted and chilled chocolate glaze off in a snap, and smooth the sides of my cakes as well. There are many uses for these little things.

Invest in a KitchenAide if you can. A big professional one if possible. I got mine at Costco for about the same price as a regular sized one. If you aren't a member, you probably know someone who is. Speaking of Costco, they are a bakers best friend. Awesome deals on many of the things you will need. Maybe not as much as I go through, but a great place to stock up for holiday baking, or semi annual shopping.

Always test your cake batter to make sure you didn't forget the sugar.(Hard way lesson learned)

Preheat your oven for at least 20 minutes. You will get more even cooking.

Buy a can of Bakers Joy. I will never grease and flour again.

Sift your flour. And only beat your batter a couple of minutes once it is added. It create a tough holey cake if you over beat after it is added. You can go crazy beating the batter before adding flour, it will only make it fluffier.

Use light colored pans, preferably shiny. Dark pans tend to burn. If using them decrease heat to 325 and check cake early.

I know there are probably more things that just haven't come to mind. I will update when I think of them. Also, I am open to suggestions and tips from you. As I stated before, I am self taught and have never until now done accelerated multiple baking ventures that require a lot of steps and various forms of chocolate and lots of eggs.
 Those Europeans do some strange things to their eggs. I have always been accustomed to mixing it all together and whipping it up, or mixing liquid and then adding dry ingredients. One of my recipes starts off by beating just the eggs for 5 minutes on high. It has been a fun adventure, at times mind boggling, but I'm grateful for this experience. I probably would have never even heard of an Opera Torte, or a Sacher Torte if it weren't for this. Now, I have to say, I make a respectable version of both.

My final piece of advice, just go for it. Push your limits. You will amaze yourself.

Till next time... I got some chocolate dishwater to tend to.