Food

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Jadagul
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Re: Food

Post by Jadagul »

I've been doing increasing amounts of mixing, because (1) I love cocktails but (2) have like zero alcohol tolerance. (Might be drinking variants of this tonight in lieu of champagne.) So I've been doing a bunch of mocktail-style things. But that's very different from the teenage-boy suicide cocktail.
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Jadagul
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Re: Food

Post by Jadagul »

Related: I tried making a brandy flip tonight and was really happy with how it turned out.

Unrelated: I'm really happy with the visuals of my yule log this year.
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Jennifer
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Re: Food

Post by Jennifer »

That Yule long looks awesome, Jadagul. Wish I could have some right now.

I'm having a long-running mystery complaint, since before covid, which Jeff has noticed and complained about many times as well, and I'm not sure exactly what causes it or what if anything I can do to avoid it: yesterday I baked a cake-mix cake, topped with pre-made frosting from a canister. Yesterday's frosting and cake mix both happened to be Duncan Hines brand, and well before their best-by dates, but I've had the identical complaint regarding Betty Crocker or grocery store-brand frostings too:

The way frosting's supposed to work is, however spreadable/gooey it initially is when you first apply it to the cake, it's supposed to "harden," or "crystalize" as Jeff put it, to the point where any little crumbs of frosting which fall off the cake later have a consistency almost like soft candy: you can pick up a dried frosting-nugget and eat it, without getting any frosting on your fingers.

But here in Georgia, frosting stays gooey and wet (or at least damp) and gets all over anything it touches. I remember Jeff first complaining about this well before covid, because the frosting's eternally wet/gooey status means he cannot take any to work with him for his lunches. This frosting doesn't leave "crumbs," it leaves "smears."

Possible causes/variables:

1. Extreme Georgia humidity/heat gets into the frosting and makes it melt. Except this is a problem even in local "winter" when the apartment is clement and reasonably non-humid, and even when other forms of frosting (like if we buy donuts) are hard/crystallized.

2. Before I spread the frosting, I remove the foil seal off the top and microwave it in its plastic container for 10 seconds, just long enough to soften it. I do this because previously I had a different frosting-related complaint dating all the way back to Connecticut: all brands of frosting were impossible to spread without sticking to/breaking the top of the cake or cupcake, regardless of which brand of frosting and cake mix we're talking about. Almost as bad as trying to spread cold butter fresh from the fridge. That is no longer an issue now. But I don't think my current problem is "microwaving the frosting goo-ifies the texture in ways it can never recover from," because I've been softening frosting in the microwave since living in Virginia the second time, with Jeff, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't a problem then. Besides, we're talking only ten seconds of microwaving a solid pound of dense frosting. I don't remember exactly when "eternally gooey frosting" started being an issue, or if it perfectly coincides with living in Georgia, because baking and frosting desserts isn't something I do frequently enough to really recall.

3. It's because, immediately after frosting a cake, I cut it into pieces and put them into Tupperware (or have Jeff do it), and something about being airtight affects the frosting somehow. Except, again, this wasn't an issue when we bought things like frosted donuts and stored them in Tupperware. And I kinda doubt everyone else in Georgia who uses store-bought cake frosting and stores the resulting pastries in airtight containers is having this problem.

The cake in the other room is currently almost 24 hours old. I just went in there and touched a bit of the chocolate frosting on the side of the Tupperware holding it-- wet and gooey, not like soft candy at all. And the frosting on the cake slices themselves doesn't even seem to have so much as a thin crust on top; it all has the sheen of something that is wet to the touch, as opposed to normal "cake frosting." Even in Jadagul's picture, you can tell his Yule log frosting has a "hard" as opposed to "smeary" texture, am I right?
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Jadagul
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Re: Food

Post by Jadagul »

Well, my frosting there was a ganache, not a buttercream-style frosting, because that holds the bark texture a lot better.

Assuming that your frosting can isn't doing any sort of weird culinary magic—which brief googling suggests it's not—your number 1 is essentially correct. Frosting is, structurally, sugar and fat. (It has other stuff there too, flavorings, probably preservatives, but the actual structure is sugar and fat.) The fats freeze somewhere below room temperature, and the sugars freeze somewhere above room temperature; the combination freezes somewhere around room temperature. Sugar also dissolves easily in water, which makes it no longer solid.

I can definitely imagine a more humid environment making your frosting set a little differently, and stay softer and gooier. (I could also see that interacting a lot with the tupperware, which keeps moisture from escaping. Does it set up better if you leave it out on the counter?)

There are a few things you can do to improve this. If you put the cake in the fridge, the frosting will almost certainly set cleanly. You might also want to let the cake stand on the counter for a day or so before putting it in tupperware to let the frosting set. You could also beat a couple extra tablespoons of powdered sugar into the frosting; that will make it stiffer and set firmer. (It will also make it less spreadable, but you can give it an extra few seconds in the microwave or something if that's too much of a problem.)

If the frosting is doing some weird culinary magic I could see the microwave breaking it, but I don't think that's a thing going on.

Incidentally, the donuts are probably different for two reasons. One is that it's probably a much higher-sugar and lower-fat glaze, which will set harder. (Especially on donuts, where it's probably _poured over_ in fully melted/liquid form.) The other is that, to the extent the tupperware is causing trouble by trapping humidity, the donuts have had a chance to set/dry before you put them in there.
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Jennifer
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Re: Food

Post by Jennifer »

Jadagul wrote: 01 Jan 2021, 17:30 Well, my frosting there was a ganache, not a buttercream-style frosting, because that holds the bark texture a lot better.

Assuming that your frosting can isn't doing any sort of weird culinary magic—which brief googling suggests it's not—your number 1 is essentially correct. Frosting is, structurally, sugar and fat. (It has other stuff there too, flavorings, probably preservatives, but the actual structure is sugar and fat.) The fats freeze somewhere below room temperature, and the sugars freeze somewhere above room temperature; the combination freezes somewhere around room temperature. Sugar also dissolves easily in water, which makes it no longer solid.

I can definitely imagine a more humid environment making your frosting set a little differently, and stay softer and gooier. (I could also see that interacting a lot with the tupperware, which keeps moisture from escaping. Does it set up better if you leave it out on the counter?)
I dare not try doing that, because the cake will get stale/hard almost immediately. Also, now that I live here I straddle the "reasonable concern/outright paranoia" line where bugs are concerned. (I shudder to recall the slobbish non-existence of my housekeeping standards I had in college and some while thereafter; transpose them to my current situation and the next dreadful pandemic virus would likely evolve in the filth.)

There are a few things you can do to improve this. If you put the cake in the fridge, the frosting will almost certainly set cleanly. You might also want to let the cake stand on the counter for a day or so before putting it in tupperware to let the frosting set. You could also beat a couple extra tablespoons of powdered sugar into the frosting; that will make it stiffer and set firmer. (It will also make it less spreadable, but you can give it an extra few seconds in the microwave or something if that's too much of a problem.)

If the frosting is doing some weird culinary magic I could see the microwave breaking it, but I don't think that's a thing going on.
Perhaps I could try something like, after I bake the cake I let it cool in the pan, and also frost it in the pan, so that between the frosting and the pan, the cake itself is "sealed off" from all air, and then let it sit overnight, in the pan, before I try eating any. Except I don't have any way to keep a 13x9-inch baking pan and its contents completely shielded by bugs. (I have a couple of wire-mesh colanders which in a pinch could be turned upside-down and used as fly screens for food items ... but none big enough for my baking pans.)

I have two more cake-mix and frosting-canister combos on the shelf, which of course I want to use to avoid waste. But I also don't want to make more cakes if the frosting stays wet enough to always be a complete mess when you try eating or even touching the cake.

I might just have to use up thee two frostings somehow, even if they''re gooey, and then do what Alton Brown suggests: make cake from a mix, but make the frosting from scratch. Which would entail learning whole new recipes, and also buying lots of new ingredients too, no doubt. The only "dessert potential" shelf-stable ingredients I generally keep on hand, besides various spices or herbs, are white sugar, brown sugar and some unsweetened cocoa powder.
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Jadagul
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Re: Food

Post by Jadagul »

Huh. Cake should _not_ be going stale or dry in just a day. (Especially not if it's frosted!) The fridge would help with the bugs problem. :P

You might try adding a couple tablespoons of sugar to the frosting and see if that helps, especially if you have powdered sugar. (If you don't, you can take regular sugar and run it through a food processor to get some of the effect. Maybe blended with a bit of corn starch.)

Another dumb idea: hit the frosting with a hair drier on cool for like ten minutes to dry it off, then store it like you already have.

My favorite frosting is just sugar, butter, and eggs, which you might have all of. My other favorite frosting is sugar, butter, flour, and milk. For chocolate frosting you can also do a whipped ganache, which is chocolate and either milk or cream.
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Highway
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Re: Food

Post by Highway »

It's unlikely you'll be able to dry out frosting if the humidity is still high, due to the hygroscopic nature of sugar with water. Pretty much everything you try and do will not make much of a difference. And Jadagul is right about the donut frosting. It's made to be liquid at a higher temperature and more solid at room temperature. And even then, if you keep the donuts around for a few days, exchanging the air in the container, they'll get gooey. And the fridge might help with the bugs, but will probably not hurt with the gooeyness, because fridges are pretty humid. Much more so than you'd think.

If you want a cake with more solid frosting, you might just have to go to more of a fondant-style frosting.
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Jennifer
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Re: Food

Post by Jennifer »

[Sigh] I suppose properly frosted "homemade" cakes are another food I have to give up now that I'm in Georgia. (Frankly, this doesn't bother me nearly as much as having to give up baked potatoes as a cheap-n-easy meal option did; raw potatoes either go bad or generate fruit flies practically overnight, so if Jeff or I want baked potatoes or any variant thereof, we have to buy and use the potatoes on the same day.)
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Jadagul
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Re: Food

Post by Jadagul »

Highway wrote: 01 Jan 2021, 20:47 It's unlikely you'll be able to dry out frosting if the humidity is still high, due to the hygroscopic nature of sugar with water. Pretty much everything you try and do will not make much of a difference. And Jadagul is right about the donut frosting. It's made to be liquid at a higher temperature and more solid at room temperature. And even then, if you keep the donuts around for a few days, exchanging the air in the container, they'll get gooey. And the fridge might help with the bugs, but will probably not hurt with the gooeyness, because fridges are pretty humid. Much more so than you'd think.

If you want a cake with more solid frosting, you might just have to go to more of a fondant-style frosting.
Fridges dehydrate stuff pretty okay. If you really wanna go for it, you can put it in the fruit side of the crisper drawer.

But also, adding sugar to the frosting will still work. :P At least in the short-to-medium term.
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dhex
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Re: Food

Post by dhex »

Or just make ganache which is the superior cake frosting anyway.
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Jadagul
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Re: Food

Post by Jadagul »

dhex wrote: 01 Jan 2021, 22:18 Or just make ganache which is the superior cake frosting anyway.
Whipped ganache is pretty good. I prefer the fancy buttercreams, though: French and Ermine are different and both great.
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dhex
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Re: Food

Post by dhex »

I made ermine once it was very finicky. Nice result however.
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Jadagul
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Re: Food

Post by Jadagul »

dhex wrote: 02 Jan 2021, 12:56 I made ermine once it was very finicky. Nice result however.
Really? Ermine seemed pretty easy to me as long as I planned in advance. But my standards for "easy" might be shifted.
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dhex
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Re: Food

Post by dhex »

Having only done (and grown up learning how to make) standard/American buttercream it was more involved than I'd expected when it came to getting the roux correct. That said I'd do it again now that I know what the deal is - please note this was pre youtube so I was going by a written recipe.
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Jadagul
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Re: Food

Post by Jadagul »

Yeah, that's legit. I haven't made American buttercream basically ever; I saw ermine as an alternative to French, which can be really fiddly depending on how you do it.

(Wanna try German some time soon but it does sound like the hard parts of both ermine and French.)
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Jennifer
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Re: Food

Post by Jennifer »

I might seriously just give up on frosted cakes altogether, once I use up the two mixes I already have; so long as I continue living in the Deep South, if I want to make "homemade" desserts either from mixes or from scratch I'll just stick with brownies or cookies. I intend to go grocery shopping next week once the whole holiday-weekend thing is past and the stores hopefully won't be crowded; I'll see if they have anything good on sale.
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Ellie
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Re: Food

Post by Ellie »

I clicked into this thread having forgotten it was a frosting discussion at the moment, and genuinely thought y'all were talking about cooking stoat
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Jasper
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Re: Food

Post by Jasper »

Jennifer wrote: 02 Jan 2021, 18:17 I might seriously just give up on frosted cakes altogether, once I use up the two mixes I already have; so long as I continue living in the Deep South, if I want to make "homemade" desserts either from mixes or from scratch I'll just stick with brownies or cookies. I intend to go grocery shopping next week once the whole holiday-weekend thing is past and the stores hopefully won't be crowded; I'll see if they have anything good on sale.
You could do the Italian thing and soak the cake in syrup (or booze) and just use whipped cream.

One of my favorite stupid little treats is plain chocolate pound cake (like Entemann's) splashed with dark or coconut rum and topped with Cool Whhhhip.
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JasonL
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Re: Food

Post by JasonL »

Ellie wrote: 02 Jan 2021, 23:16 I clicked into this thread having forgotten it was a frosting discussion at the moment, and genuinely thought y'all were talking about cooking stoat
dhex has gone native. Was bound to happen.
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Jennifer
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Re: Food

Post by Jennifer »

On another subject: Jeff sometimes likes to add a bit of vanilla extract when he drinks Coke, and a couple weeks ago (he told me later), he was craving a vanilla Coke but did not make one because we only had a small amount of vanilla extract left, which he needed to save to make French toast. We do not buy or use imitation vanilla extract, and genuine vanilla extract (basically vanilla beans steeped in a solution of water and potent alcohol) is fuckballs-expensive, enough that Jeff doesn't drink vanilla Coke nearly as often as he'd like to.

Anyway, at one of our local interesting-brand discount stores a few weeks ago he discovered something called "Molina Mexican vanilla blend," which is essentially real vanilla extract stretched out with imitation vanilla. Or imitation vanilla with actual vanilla extract added, I'm not sure. The store had four-ounce bottles so cheap, he bought one as an experiment and made vanilla Coke with it that night. Result: compared to pure vanilla extract, Jeff said, he needed to add more of the Molina to his drink, but otherwise... his exact words were "Hell, yeah."

Today, the first non-holiday non-weekend day he's had off in a long while, we went back to that store where, among other things, Jeff bought four additional bottles of the Mexican vanilla blend, because unlike pure vanilla extract, this stuff is so inexpensive (ETA: $1.20 for four ounces) that, even considering the need to use more of it, he can now make vanilla Cokes more-or-less with abandon, with no concern about saving that pricey vanilla extract for the next food recipe requiring it.
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JD
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Re: Food

Post by JD »

Jennifer wrote: 04 Jan 2021, 15:57Anyway, at one of our local interesting-brand discount stores a few weeks ago he discovered something called "Molina Mexican vanilla blend," which is essentially real vanilla extract stretched out with imitation vanilla. Or imitation vanilla with actual vanilla extract added, I'm not sure.
It looks like the Molina blend is US-compliant, but you might be interested to note this (which I've mentioned before, I think): https://abcnews.go.com/Health/Healthday ... 423&page=1
Mexican vanilla -- which may smell and taste like real vanilla and is cheaper than the real thing -- is sold in Mexico and other Latin American countries and has started appearing in some U.S. stores and restaurants, the FDA said.

Pure vanilla is made with the extract of beans from the vanilla plant. Mexican vanilla is frequently made with the extract of beans from the tonka tree, an entirely different plant that belongs to the pea family. Tonka bean extract contains coumarin. Since 1954, coumarin has been banned from all food products sold in the United States.
It should be noted, however, that the FDA has a stick up its ass about this, is completely inconsistent in what foods it regards as "dangerous and adulterated" in this fashion (cassia, for example, contains a lot of coumarin, yet remains completely legal here in the US) and no other agency in the world gives half as much of a shit about this as the FDA.
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Jennifer
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Re: Food

Post by Jennifer »

JD wrote: 04 Jan 2021, 16:56
Jennifer wrote: 04 Jan 2021, 15:57Anyway, at one of our local interesting-brand discount stores a few weeks ago he discovered something called "Molina Mexican vanilla blend," which is essentially real vanilla extract stretched out with imitation vanilla. Or imitation vanilla with actual vanilla extract added, I'm not sure.
It looks like the Molina blend is US-compliant, but you might be interested to note this (which I've mentioned before, I think): https://abcnews.go.com/Health/Healthday ... 423&page=1
Mexican vanilla -- which may smell and taste like real vanilla and is cheaper than the real thing -- is sold in Mexico and other Latin American countries and has started appearing in some U.S. stores and restaurants, the FDA said.

Pure vanilla is made with the extract of beans from the vanilla plant. Mexican vanilla is frequently made with the extract of beans from the tonka tree, an entirely different plant that belongs to the pea family. Tonka bean extract contains coumarin. Since 1954, coumarin has been banned from all food products sold in the United States.
It should be noted, however, that the FDA has a stick up its ass about this, is completely inconsistent in what foods it regards as "dangerous and adulterated" in this fashion (cassia, for example, contains a lot of coumarin, yet remains completely legal here in the US) and no other agency in the world gives half as much of a shit about this as the FDA.
Huh. The Molina bottles have the words NO COUMARIN on them in red letters, and I was about to Google that but you saved me the trouble.
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Jennifer
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Re: Food

Post by Jennifer »

I just took the relevant bottles down from their spice rack: the "Mexican vanilla blend," with NO COUMARIN, has water and 1.8 ethyl alcohol as the first two items on its ingredient list, and vanillin [fake vanilla flavoring] just before "pure vanilla extract." But the bottle of pure vanilla extract has no ingredient listing at all, not even mention of alcohol.

In Connecticut I regularly bought 4-ounce bottles of pure vanilla extract -- "Back Bay " brand IIRC -- fairly cheaply at Ocean State, and then when we became Costco members they had their store brand of bourbon vanilla extract in big bottles. But we let our Costco memberships lapse after we moved here, and I personally haven't done anything with vanilla in a loooong time, probably since living in Connecticut and making chocolate-chip pumpkin bread. Our current pure-vanilla supply is only a little two-ounce bottle, which I actually bought in a regular grocery store for some ridiculous price per ounce.
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