Archive for the ‘raspberries’ Category

August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Not Schweddy Balls

September 9, 2011


The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

When my husband asked me on Sunday if I was making Schweddy balls, we hadn’t even heard about the new Ben & Jerry’s Schweddy balls ice cream. But it’s always good for a laugh. And no, I wasn’t making Schweddy balls, I was making raspberry cream-filled chocolates.

Cream-filled chocolates have been a weakness of mine since I was a little girl. If you buy me a box of candy, skip the chocolate-covered nuts and caramels. I want the biggest box of buttercreams I can afford.

Another weakness of mine has been my fear of tempering chocolate. I couldn’t imagine success. So when I saw that this month’s challenge including tempering chocolate, I knew it meant it was time. I decided it didn’t matter if I failed or succeeded, but that I had to try. That I would make a buttercream was a given.

After dithering between making maple or raspberry creams, my son chose raspberry. I found a recipe on for a Raspberry fondant that included cream and fresh raspberries. The corn syrup and marshmallow creme would add a little insurance against crystalization.

I’m getting more comfortable with a candy thermometer but still feel some foreboding when I start making candy. Fortunately the weather had finally turned cooler and drier, so I felt as ready as I would ever be.

I’ve come a long way from my attempt to make caramel corn as a newlywed. I boiled the caramel on high for ten minutes, because anything that needs to boil should be cooked on high heat, shouldn’t it? I had a pot of tar at the end. I’m surprised I didn’t burn down the kitchen.

Making candy is a fascinating form of chemistry. I love to watch the changes as the syrup boils down. As the water boils out of the mixture the color changes, the syrup thickens, and the sound of the bubbles changes pitch. Cool stuff.

Here is the fondant at the beginning of the boil. Notice how light the color is and how foamy the bubbles look.


Here is the fondant as the temperature rises and the raspberries release their juices. It looks so pretty and smells divine. Notice the definition of the bubbles.


I worried about having too many seeds in my candy centers, but since the candy isn’t stirred while cooking, most of them settled to the bottom of the pan and I was careful to leave them there when I poured the syrup out.

Some candy recipes call for citric acid, to enhance fruit flavors. I knew I had some but I didn’t find my bag until I’d completely finished my candy. My grocery story didn’t have any either. So as a little cheat I bought a big bag of Sour Patch Kids. After rubbing the closed package between my hands, I had rubbed off more than enough citric acid for my recipe. Plus the bonus of having Sour Patch Kids to eat.


I felt success within my grasp. I poured the syrup onto a baking sheet to cool before I started kneading it. It was during the kneading that I started worrying this wasn’t going to turn out. I have carpal tunnel and I stirred and then kneaded that mixture for as long as I physically could, but it was becoming too painful. But the fondant was still shiny, with a texture like caramel. It definitely was not creamy like I needed.

I set down the fondant and walked away for some pouting on the couch. I tried to tell myself that raspberry caramels would still taste good. But then it hit me; if I can knead bread in the KitchenAid mixer, why couldn’t I knead fondant? It was worth a try.

I threw the fondant in the mixing bowl, attached the paddle (not the kneading attachment), turned it on and, once again, walked away. When I checked it after some time, I was amazed that the mixture was dull and creamy, just like it was supposed to be! I was ecstatic.

I rested the fondant overnight and then shaped the centers into bonbons.

After the drama with the fondant, tempering chocolate wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. It’s mainly about paying attention, and having a chocolate thermometer and a lot of patience. I have the chocolate thermometer. It’s the other two qualities I sometimes lack.

The big mystery, to me, about tempering chocolate has always been how to hold the chocolate at a steady temperature for dipping. It turns out the temperature doesn’t fluctuate as quickly as I thought it would. After reaching dipping temperature I kept the pan on a heating pad. When I needed to, I would put the chocolate back over hot water and stir for about 15-30 seconds to bring the temperature back up. Of course, the temperature will drop faster if you use chilled centers.


I dipped all the chocolates without getting more chocolate on my kitchen than on my fondant centers, and I didn’t get any my pink t-shirt! I guess I really didn’t have anything to worry about. My big worry now is how many buttercream chocolates I’ll be eating now that I can make them myself!


Kitchen Chemistry: Florida Pie

May 13, 2008

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Baking something is like doing a chemistry project, which is why baking needs to be more of an exercise in precision than cooking usually has to be. This week’s recipe for Florida Pie, chosen by Dianne of Dianne’s Dishes, included very little baking but it was still a great example of kitchen chemistry in action. And really, what could be better than a chemistry project that you can eat?

I was excited for this weeks recipe. I have been a key lime pie eater since my first trips to Florida in the 60’s, and the only time I could have it would be on family vacation’s to Florida. Key lime juice was a precious commodity to be carried back from vacation and hoarded. Oh, the joy when key lime pie became Baker’s Square’s July pie-of-the-month (they make a pretty decent one too) and when the local grocery stores started carrying the juice here up North. Baker’s Square also used to make a pie called key lime rickey which had a layer of raspberry puree in it. I thought it was even better than plain key lime pie. So I decided to add raspberries to this pie. Dorie’s recipe added coconut to the mix, which I welcome wholeheartedly to the party. I will admit to being a key lime snob and NEVER substitute lime juice for key lime juice. Sorry, but it’s not the same.

There were a lot of, ahem, “elements” to this pie.

First came the crust. I was a little shocked that Dorie said she always uses a store-bought graham cracker crust. After reading the ingredient list of the premade crust, I decided to make one using Newman’s cinnamon graham alphabet cookies. Once again this week my Escali Pana Volume and Weight Digital Scale with the pre-programmed ingredients codes came in handy (I sound like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story” . . . “A Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time”). How many little Newman’s cinnamon graham cookies would make 1 1/2 cups of crumbs. I entered the code for graham cracker crumbs and added cookies until the scale said 1 1/2 cups. On to the food processor.

This is my easy way to make a graham cracker piecrust. First pulverize the cookies. Add the melted butter, sugar and salt, pulse and few more times and pour them straight into the pie plate. Evenly distribute the crumbs, cover with plastic wrap, and press another pie plate on top of the crumbs. No muss, no fuss.

Now, if there’s one word in a recipe that strikes fear into my heart, it’s “reduce.” While I suppose a reduction couldn’t be called a chemical reaction, it’s still pretty cool, it you’re patient . . . which I’m not. But I was determined, and I was rewarded. If you’re patient, and keep the heat high enough that it bubbles and evaporates, but not so high that it scorches, you will be rewarded with creamy, thick, butter-colored goodness. Take a small bite, and then before you eat it all, set it aside.


After. See what I mean?

On to the good part, and what makes this a Florida Pie. Key lime filling. As I beat the egg yolks I didn’t think the they would ever get light and thick. But they finally did and then I could get to the fun part. I added the condensed milk and then started mixing in the key lime juice. During mixing, a chemical reaction, called souring, occurs between the condensed milk and the acidic juice which causes the filling to thicken on its own. The filling didn’t come anywhere near the stove and yet it still thickened.

Back in the “old days” you were done now except for the chilling. The new-fangled recipes give the filling a few minutes in the oven, in case the eggs have some salmonella lurking in them. But first, you have to assemble the pie. This is where I added my raspberries, and they were a very good addition indeed. See how pretty they look? Next time I will add even more raspberries. And do I have future plans for this coconut cream! Spread over brownies and topped with some almonds and milk chocolate ganache!

As for my meringue, I think my egg whites were on the edge of going over to the dark side of destabilization. If I do meringue again, I will add some cream of tartar for some insurance. See the transcript of the Good Eats episode “Let Them Eat Foam.” to learn more about egg whites. Alton Brown can say it better than I ever could. But for me, I much prefer whipping cream on my key lime pie and I’m not a fan of meringues.  I used my kitchen torch to brown the meringue.  I think running it under the broiler would have given the meringue a softer browning.

I really wasn’t sure what the trips to the freezer were all about. Maybe to cool it faster? Next time I would just chill in the fridge overnight.  If I had chilled it overnight I might have been able to cut a neater slice than shown at the top of this article.  I just couldn’t wait to dig in.  And sometimes the best piece of pie is the homiest looking. This is one of my favorite desserts, which I will choose over chocolate almost any day.  And except for the meringue, it lived up to my expectations. What can I say.  I’m a whipped cream girl. After it had chilled, the coconut cream took on a toothsome texture that was very satisfying.  I love the cool, tart, creaminess of the key lime filling.  Oh, my mouth is watering again, but at our house, this pie is already gone.

So that, my friends, are the keys to this sublime pie. Get it? Keys . . . sublime? Never mind.

Next week’s recipe is Traditional Madelines, chosen by Tara of “Smells Like Home.” I’ve been asked to bring some cookies to the memorial service for my friend this Saturday. I think Kari would have liked madelines. They’re simple and sophisticated, but still a fun cookie, like she was.  I miss her very much.

Florida Pie

Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

1 9-inch graham cracker crust (page 235), fully baked and cooled, or a store-bought crust
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
4 large eggs, seperated
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh Key (or regular) lime juice (from about 5 regular limes)
1/4 cup of sugar

Getting Ready:

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the pie plate on a baking sheet lined with parchment of a silicone mat.

Put the cream and 1 cup of the coconut in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring almost constantly. Continue to cook and stir until the cream is reduced by half and the mixture is slightly thickened. Scrape the coconut cream into a bowl and set it aside while you prepare the lime filling.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl beat the egg yolks at high speed until thick and pale. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the condensed milk. Still on low, add half of the lime juice. When it is incorporated, add the reaming juice, again mixing until it is blended. Spread the coconut cream in the bottom of the graham cracker crust, and pour over the lime filling.

Bake the pie for 12 minutes. Transfer the pie to a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes, then freeze the pie for at least 1 hour.

To Finish the Pie with Meringue:

Put the 4 egg whites and the sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat over medium-low heat, whisking all the while, until the whites are hot to the touch. Transfer the whites to a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, or use a hand mixer in a large bowl, and beat the whites at high speed until they reach room temperature and hold firm peaks. Using a rubber spatula, fold the remaining 1/2 cup coconut into the meringue.

Spread the meringue over the top of the pie, and run the pie under the broiler until the top of the meringue is golden brown. (Or, if you’ve got a blowtorch, you can use it to brown the meringue.) (I think broiling might have given a softer browned affect, but I used my torch and it worked pretty slick.) Return the pie to the freezer for another 30 minutes or for up to 3 hours before serving.