Friday, February 8, 2013

Where does it go? The evolution of a recipe.

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Testing for the 5th book today.  This is sloppy assembly but it's the start of something good.


I'm asked, daily, "What happens to all the pastries/bread in the pictures you post?"  This wasn't a question I entertained when I had my pastry shop, Gesine Confectionary.  Recipes I posted on the blog or that appeared in my baking memoir Confections of a Closet Master Baker/My Life from Scratch were a natural byproduct of what I made and sold.  I tested all those things but the bulk flew out the door of our popular bakery.

First element of today's test.  Flakey, crunchy, sweet.  A little salty.  Nutty and aromatic.  But it needs something to pull it together.

So I tried a few things.  I like it.  I'll wrap it and try again tomorrow.  Once I have some sense of how long it keeps, I'll work on perfecting the recipe.  Which leads to more tasting....

Unless I was having one of "those" days.  I think Agnes witnessed one of "those" days.  She was working the La Marzocco and manning the pastry counter in front.  She came into the pastry kitchen to check on the ETA of the palmier only to find me shoveling said flaky, buttery, caramelized gloriousness into my very own pie hole.  I can share this now that we no longer have the shop because it's against code to shovel sweet puff pastry bits straight from the speed rack into a proprietresses' open maw.  But in case you were curious (and angry) about that time you came into the shop expecting palmier, I was having one of "those" days.

Some days I post pictures of my cakes that are intended for an event...and to be eaten by all and sundry!
And then they are eaten.


Now that I develop recipes for books in my commercial bakery, it's natural for the curious and hungry to ask, "Where the hell do all the goodies go?" because I'm no longer selling the actual product to the public.  I perform an act that in professional cookbook author's parlance is called "recipe testing."  I develop a treat on paper.  I look through the formula, making sure the ratios make sense.  I then translate the numbers and ratios (what the permanently befloured call "baker's formula") into the standard language of cookbooks:  cups and tablespoons.  I then take the butter, sugar and flour for a test drive.  And then I taste it.

My little babies, how can I not give them treats from my kitchen?  And why do you think they actually come running when I call?  They're fed pastry on a regular basis.

If I don't like what I've tasted, I either toss it (sorry) or if it's poultry friendly, I feed it to my feathered flocks.

I made this for my neighbors because I love them.  But I took this baking opportunity to work on a formula I've been perfecting.

If I like what I've tasted, I dissect a portion of it for visual consistency.  How's the crumb?  The color of the crumb?  If an artisan bread, do I have lovely translucent pockets randomly pocking each slice and has the bread developed enough flavor or did I jump the gun and bake too soon?  Is it overly acidic, meaning have I overproofed?  If a cake sponge, is it springy and consistent without any gaping holes?  If it's a layer cake or entremet, I check for visual consistency of layers.  Does the pastry look appealing and visually balanced?  Does it slice beautifully?

This was a test for a choux with sable.  The Birdies got the extras.
This was a test cake.  We ate it.  

I share with others in close proximity.  I then take a bit and wrap it in cellophane to keep at room temperature and test the next day.  I wrap another bit to refrigerate to test over the course of a week.  I wrap another bit and freeze it to test in the distance future.  In other words, if I'm pleased with my concoction, I EAT IT!  This is why, at the end of a cookbook journey, I'm usually 10 to 20 pounds heavier than my standard resting weight.  The tragic part is that this timing usually coincides with the photo shoot for the book I've just finished testing my way through.  The happy part is that I have an excuse to wear draw string pajama bottoms to the grocery store because none of my pants fit.

So as you see my feed and posts, you'll know that there is a home for each treat.  Usually that home is my tummy.
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