Choosing the right coffee beans is the first step in brewing the perfect cup of coffee. Why beans and not ground coffee? Grinding your coffee just before making your cup insures a fuller flavor.
A coffee bean’s quality depends on individual taste. However, if you choose an inferior coffee species, the coffee will taste flat.
There are two main species of coffee beans found on the market- arabica and robusta. The arabica bean is used for the highest quality coffee. The robusta bean produces more beans per plant, and can grow at lower altitudes. Commercial companies began to favor the robusta for canned coffee because of the higher profit margin. But, the robusta bean brews a coffee that is vastly inferior to the arabica. So, buy only arabica beans.
All the potential flavor of a coffee bean is locked in the green (raw) bean. Roasting releases the oils and acids that gives each variety of bean its unique flavor. Once these oils and acids are released from the inside of the raw bean, they are vulnerable to flavor loss. To get the richest flavor into your coffee cup, start with the freshest beans possible.
When you go to your local gourmet shop, you have no idea when their coffee beans have been roasted. You need to ask. Ideally, coffee beans should be bought within a week of roasting. The finest coffee shops are aware of this necessity, and will know the roasting date.
Ordering beans from a mail order roasting merchant is the best way to find the freshest beans. Many are on-line. Using your search engine, enter coffee+retail. Look through the list to find coffee retailers who are also roasters. Companies that roast their own beans usually ship within a couple days of roasting.
Once you have found a source for fresh beans, you are still confronted with a dizzying array of varieties from Brazil to Zimbabwe. Like wine, there are distinct aromas in different bean varieties that you will smell before the coffee even hits your taste buds. Again, like wine, there are good years and bad years for certain coffee beans. To help choose have a look at coffee reviews.
As a seller of cheese graters, knives and slicers we are often asked about the different types or what wines should be chosen, etc. While we know our products well these questions are out of our area of expertise. So we did some research and have found a few websites to help you find answers.
Our favorite is http://www.cheese.com they have information set up by types, country of origin, milk used, texture, color and even vegetarian choices. You will also find wine and cheese paring information. About.com also has a very detailed wine and cheese paring list showing the wine types and which choice work well with them. Be sure to scroll down to see the complete list.
Many restaurants now offer a cheese course. Often it will include local choices with very unique flavors. Grocery stores now offer a supply of gourmet cheeses not available even a few years ago. One of my favorites is Blueberry Stilton which I fine at Wegmans. If you cannot fine what you are looking for locally try murryscheese.com . I have found them very helpful and reasonable priced. If you need cheese tools you can find them at shop.pastryitems.com.
Tuile templates are standard half sheet in size and made from the highest quality 1/16” thick High Density Polyethylene (HDPE). HDPE is also non-toxic and non-staining and meets FDA and USDA certification for food processing. Use them over and over again!
Before use, thoroughly hand wash your tuile template in warm soapy water. It is not recommended that you bend, fold or put your template in the dishwasher. Do not put the tuile template in the oven.
To use your template:
Place a non-stick baking mat on a sturdy, flat half sheet pan.
Place the template on the mat and use an offset spatula to fill in the cavities with tuile cookie dough. Remove the template before baking and bake the cookies between 350-375 degrees until desired doneness. Remove cookies from the tray and shape while hot.
Tuile templates are available for every season, holiday and occasion. Get creative and find one to fit your needs. Tuile templates are available at http://www.shop.pastryitems.com
A few years back I tried a bottle of hard cider and found it had an admirable flavor and low alcoholic content. At that time the sports bar I was at only had one brand of cider. As time marches on I revisited about 10 months later and was surprised to see they now had 8 types of hard cider including a Cherry Apple. I began a conversation with the bartender who spoke of its current popularity. He proudly said we now have 8 choices of hard cider and are looking for more. he said some are hard to locate because some are sold through beer distributors and some through wine merchants. It has something to do with the alcoholic content. This raised my curiosity as some years back I did a college report on how the repeal of prohibition led to the government control of alcoholic beverages.
Cake faults do not have to happen! You want to make a nice cake for a birthday, holiday or maybe a surprise for someone. After gathering all the mise en place you are ready to begin. You follow each step carefully like you are assembling a a model airplane. Now you have a batter that looks ready to perform. Slowly you pour the batter into the cake baking pan and place it in the oven. The oven was preheated to the exact required temperature and now you clean up the counter and wait for the magic results.
After the required time the cake is removed from the oven with a gentle touch and is allowed to cool. You go about your choirs and return a while later and OH NO! WHAT HAPPENED! IT COLLAPSED! Well first you are not alone, this has happened to us all at one time or another and can be caused by several things.
Fondant is a sweet paste like product made by boiling sugar syrup and then kneading it until it is soft, creamy, and smooth. The Fondant paste is used for cakes, and cake decorations. It can be colored, molded, rolled out and more to allow your imagination a chance to excel!
Fondant icings date to the early 20th century: “Fondant is a very popular kind of icing. It is a form of boiled icing which subsequently is worked to a creamy consistency. The formula and method for making fondant are stated later. A mixture of granulated sugar, glucose, and water is first boiled to a temperature of 240 degress F. In some formulas a small amount of cream of tartar or citric acid is used in the mix, often replacing the glucose. The sides of the kettle or receptacle in which the boiling is done should be washed down occasionally by means of a brush wet with water. Care chould be taken not to boil the syrup above the specified temperature. At this point is should be poured out on a stone slab, usually marble, which has just been previously mostined with cold water. The sugary mass is allowed to cool down to about 110 degrees F. and is then thoroughly worke back and forth, either by hand or machine, until a smooth, creamy mass is obtained. This treatment results in the formation of very fine crystals of sugar which account for the smoothness and glossy survace of the fondant. A large batch of fondant may be made up at a time and kept in good condition by storing in a clean receptacle and covering with a damp cloth. When it is desired to use this icing, the portion required is removed, and thinned down by warming, while stirring, over a hot water bath. The temrpartue of the fondant during this process should not go over 100 degrees F. otherwise it may lose its gloss and creaminess. The desired flavoring is then added to the fondant and it is ready to apply on the cake. On cooling, it will set nicely. Properly handled, it will not bcome hard and will retain its gloss. APPLICATION. Many of the smaller pieces can be dipped. For this work, a fondant icing is very good. The fondant, being very heavy and almost all sugar, is sometimes too sweet an icing. This may be toned down a bit by the addition of marshmallow, or beaten icing, which also lightness the fondant and makes it more fluff. Fondant sould be applied very thick and should always be used warm. Cakes as large as four inches in diameter may be dipped quickly. Where a number of small pieces are made, dipping is a very good method. The use of fondant is more general on these small pieces; small squares, oblongs, or fancy shapes cut from various cake bases, form the foundation for a great variety of holiday cakes.”
—Treatise on Cake Making, Fleischmann Division, Standard Brands Inc. [New York] 1935 (p. 151)
I forgot how satisfying an Irish coffee can be. Recently I have reconnected with a friend and we had lunch in a quiet little Bistro. Her drink selection was an Irish coffee. I thought to myself what a perfect choice as we were both chilled from the 20 degree temperatures. We talked for a few hours, had a nice lunch and made plans to meet again. On my way home I was thinking of what an enjoyable afternoon it was and it all began with my friend’s choice of an Irish coffee. Well being the history buff I am I thought I would look up the history of Irish coffee, which I did, and this is what I found.
Early print reference to classic Irish coffee confirmed the beverage was served to tired international travelers at Shannon Airport. Article personally recounts an American reporter’s experience, confirming pressmen frequented the facility. “Irish coffee” (aka “Gaelic coffee”) is forever transformed from swill to swank.
“You ever tried Irish coffee at 4 a.m. on a cold and rainy night in Shannon? You haven’t lived. I’m rolling across Newfoundland at this writing on a TWA Constellation and I’m still smacking my lips of that astonishing nectar the Irish provided at their snug little airport a few hours and one ocean ago. The recipe is simple: You take a goblet with a long stem so you’ll have something to hold on to. Into the bottom of it you sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar. On this you pour a jigger if Irish whisky. You stir it. Then you fill the glass to within a half inch of the top with strong, black coffee…On to this mixture, carefully so it won’t mix, you ladle stiff sweet cream into the brim. That does it. Now you sip appreciatively and silently thank the Irish for inventing such a brew to warm the inner and and quell the terrors of the night. Something else cheered me in Shannon, too, something with red hair and jeweled blue eyes: one of the prettiest sights I ever saw. Our plane had soared up from Orly Airport in Paris earlier in the night, circled once around the Eiffel Tower, cut through the blackness over France and England, and eased down in Shannon with the propellers beating cascades of rain against the windows. We weary-eyed passenger stumbled down the aluminum steps to stretch our legs (we didn’t know that we were about to learn the delights of Irish coffee;) and there she was. This colleen in the deep green uniform of her government, waiting to greet us. There were rain drops on her eyelashes, and, in the floodlights by the plane, they glistened like diamonds. We, who have just left the mascarred and rouged ladies of a Parisian hot spot, stopped and stared. I’m, afraid we weren’t very polite. She laughed, shook the rain from her eyes …and led us into the lounge by the fire where the waiters already had mixed the sugar and the whisky in the glasses and were poised with the coffee and the bowls of cream. Most of the big airliners these days give Shannon the old go-by. Only when they are heavily laden with passengers and plunder from the far corners of Europe do they put down in Ireland to fill the gas tanks for the hop access the Atlantic. This, I think, is too bad. Those passengers who skip Shannon miss one of the pleasantest interludes available anywhere to the traveler.”
—“Irish Coffee at 4 a.m. Is a Little Bit of Heaven,” Frederick C. Othman, El Paso Herald-Post, October 17, 1950 (p. 11)
Food historians trace the genesis of pastries to ancient Mediterranean paper-thin multi-layered baklava and filo. Returning crusaders introduced these sweet recipes to Medieval Europe where they were quickly adopted. French and Italian Renaissance chefs are credited for perfecting puff pastry and choux. 17th and 18th century chefs introduced several new recipes, including brioche, Napoleons, cream puffs and eclairs. Antonin Careme (1784-1833) is said to have elevated French pastry to art. In Central and Eastern Europe, strudels evolved. Sweet yeast-breads and cakes share a parallel history. About coffee cakes & galettes.
“Small sweet cakes eaten by the ancient Egyptians may well have included types using pastry. With their fine flour, oils, and honey they had the materials, and with their professional bakers they had the skills. In the plays of Aristophenes (5th century BC) there are mentions of sweetmeats including small pastries filled with fruit. Nothing is known of the actual pastry used, but the Greeks certainly recognized the trade of pastry-cook as distinct from that of baker. The Romans made a plain pastry of flour, oil, and water to cover meats and fowls which were baked, thus keeping in the juices. (The covering was not meant to be eaten; it filled the role of what was later called puff paste’) A richer pastry, intended to be eaten, was used to make small pasties containing eggs or little birds which were among the minor items served at banquets….In Medieval Northern Europe the usual cooking fats were lard and butter, which–especially lard–were conducive to making stiff pastry and permitted development of the solid, upright case of the raised pie…No medieval cookery books give detailed instructions on how to make pastry; they assume the necessary knowledge…Not all Medieval pastry was coarse. Small tarts would be made with a rich pastry of fine white flour, butter, sugar, saffron, and other good things, certainly meant to be eaten. From the middle of the 16th century on, actual recipes for pastry begin to appear. ..
—Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 586-7).
My first experience with cake decorating was long ago. I was 7 or 8 years old and Mothers Day was approaching. I wanted to do something special for her, but what? Sometimes after school my brother and I would browse the local shopping area which only had about 15 stores, nothing like shopping centers today. However, they did have a bakery. Well as we browsed and approached the bakery a sign read, ”come in and decorate a cake for your mother”. WOW! What a great idea! Just one problem, We knew nothing about cake decorating, but that was not going to stop us. We went inside and there was a table full of icings, sprinkles, candies, and all sorts of stuff to help with cake decorating. Needless to say, our search for the perfect Mothers Day gift was over, all we had to do now was make the cake. With the help of a very kind lady at the bakery we began. Mother’s favorite color was pink, so the icing was colored pink and the lady helped us apply it over a base coat already on the cake. Next we choose mini roses and other flower decorations as mom loves flowers. We also added a few jelly beans and reeses cups. Now our masterpiece was ready to add writing. Once again the kind lady helped, this time she filled a pastry bag with a writing tip and white icing. The rule was we had to do the writing. Ouch! Well first we had to decide what to say, we chose, ‘we all love you” now the tough part. I began and sloppy wrote “we” but the “e” looked like an “a”, not to worry said the lady I can remove it which she did. This time I somehow got it right. So I did “we all” on the cake, now my brother had to do the remainder and he did fine as his handwriting is much better than mine. We paid the $2.00 fee, this gives you an idea how long ago this was, and we went home and hid the cake until the next day. Mom always got up first but we quickly followed and without her seeing placed the cake on the kitchen table, then we sat quietly in the next room. Mom walked past us and into the kitchen and began to cry. We walked in and yelled “HAPPY MOTHER”S DAY”! Our first experience with cake decorating was an enormous success!