Q: We recently had a request for a croquembouche, but struggled making the spun sugar that decorates the cake. Can you provide us with a formula for the sugar topping?
L.B., Blackfoot, Idaho
A: I have used the formula below with great success to make spun sugar to decorate a croquembouche.
|Total appr. wt.||3||8.05||1.6kg|
Method: Combine all ingredients in a copper pot and heat to 311°F (155°C). When the ideal temperature is reached, dip the bottom of the pot in ice water for a few seconds to stop the cooking. Set the pan aside for 5 minutes to rest. After resting, the sugar should be fluid but slightly thickened. Use a whisk with the rounded ends cut off to create long, straight rods to dip into the sugar. Swish the whisk clockwise as well as back and forth over the croquembouche to create long, decorative threads.
Q: What are the advantages to using paper cups over greasing our muffin pans?
Prasad, via email
A: Paper muffin cups are a standard tool that just about every baker will keep on hand in their kitchen. Perfect for muffins or cupcakes, they eliminate the need to grease a pan and ensure that your baked products don’t stick to the pan. Muffin cups also make products much more portable, and you also can use paper loaf pans, bundt pans and round cake pans. These pans are designed to do the exact same thing that paper muffin cups do: eliminate the need to grease a large pan and make the baked products easier to transport. The paper baking liners are similar to parchment paper and will not burn in the oven unless exposed to very high temperatures (most are safe up to about 400°F/205°C), so they are good for almost any baking application.
Q: Why is hot milk used in some sponge cake formulas?
J.T., San Diego
A: Hot milk sponge cakes use scalded milk to warm the eggs. Warmed eggs hold more air and create more volume when they’re whipped than cold eggs. Use a stainless steel bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Add a small amount of the sugar from the formula to your egg whites, and whisk. Sugar has an insulating effect, and helps protect the eggs from coagulating over the heat. Keep whisking the eggs as you heat them until they feel warm to the touch. When the egg whites (or yolks–whatever you’re heating) are warm, transfer them to your mixing bowl and whip until medium-stiff peaks form.
Q: Most of our granulated sugar is clumping while in storage. How do we avoid this?
V.M., Toms River, N.J.
A: Normally dry granulated sugar is packaged in large, multilayer paper bags that create a moisture barrier to slow the penetration of moisture from the product and the moisture present in a dry storage area. Generally, if the relative humidity of the air is less than 70 percent, little or no clumping will occur, so you may need to adjust your storage area accordingly. If feasible, you can also minimize clumping by rotating the bags every few days to prevent a hard mass from forming.
Q: In some formulas a DE value is stated. What is this?
A: Dextrose equivalent (DE) is the percent of reducing sugars in a syrup, calculated as dextrose (glucose) on a dry weight basis. The simple way to remember this is that DE indicates what percentage of syrup is glucose, expressed as a percentage on a dry weight basis.
Q: Can you provide us with a cream cheese icing that contains a hint of pineapple?
A: I have used this pineapple cream cheese icing with great success on carrot cakes.
|Pineapple cream cheese icing|
|Cream cheese, room temperature||2||4||1.02kg|
|Confectioners’ sugar, sifted||1||8||680g|
|Pineapple, canned, crushed and well drained||2||8||1.134 kg|
|Total appr. wt.||8||8.5||3.868 kg|
Method: Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment, and mix until well combined. Use as an icing or filling.
Dr. Klaus Tenbergen is certified as a Master Baker in Germany, South Africa and the United States. He is currently an assistant professor at California State University in Fresno, directing the Culinology® program, which blends culinary arts and the science of food. For more information about Culinology®, or to submit a question, contact Dr. Tenbergen at email@example.com.