I spent yesterday doing two things:
First, I made a pectin-based pear patÃ©. This recipe is out of the excellent book Chocolates and Confections, by Peter Greweling, which is the textbook used by the CIA when they train new agents, I mean chefs. (CIA = Culinary Institute of America, which, amusingly enough, also has an F.B.I. (Food and Beverage Institute) as one of its divisions. Someone there has a sense of humor!)
Anyway, the recipe for pear patÃ© involved apple compote, for reasons that are not entirely clear to me (perhaps because apples have a lot of pectin?), and since every recipe for fruit patÃ© seemed to have apple compote in it, I couldn’t find a substitute for it. So I made some. It’s basically a cooked-down applesauce, and I made it by slicing apples, cooking with a minimum of water, running it through a food mill to take out the peels and cores, and then spreading it in a baking pan and baking it at 275 degrees for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened but not as thick as apple butter.
Then I made the pear patÃ©, mixing pear puree with the apple compote, some pure pectin (obtained from the gourmet wholesaler), glucose, and lots and lots of sugar, then boiling to 223 degrees, adding a little lemon juice to help the “set”, and pouring the whole thing rapidly into a parchment-lined half-sheet pan before it thickened too much to pour. Sprinkled sugar across the top before it set. (Later I will cut it into pieces and roll each piece in granulated sugar, to add a little texture.)
The result is a very pleasant fruit patÃ©, firm but not at all gummy. (Gumdrops and gummy bears are made with gelatin, which results in a tough, gummy texture that I don’t like. Pectin-based patÃ©s have a firm texture, but a pleasant “bite” and no gummy chewiness.) It has good pear flavor, but in retrospect I wish I’d used a more assertive fruit; it’s a little bland. Today I will try boysenberries, currants, and/or lingonberries and see if I like the results better. Probably not all three, though – each recipe uses up about a pound of glucose, and while I have enough for the moment, I want to save plenty for the caramels, fudges, and ganaches. Also for use throughout the year in candied citrus peels.
(Glucose in case you’re wondering, is a simple sugar – in fact, the simplest possible sugar – which is often used in confectionery to discourage sugar (sucrose) from crystallizing.)
The second thing I did was put together an Excel spreadsheet with quantities of materials for each candy. This is necessary to put together a shopping list. I need to make 48 boxes, so I am shooting for 75 of each piece. This probably seems excessive (and would be totally unacceptable in industry), but there are always a few flavors that prove problematic and result in a lot of defective candies, and then I need some extra to “pay” my helpers, so I generally plan for generous amounts.
If this sounds ruthlessly overplanned, it is: making 75 lbs of candies in two weeks (and particularly about 45 lbs of candy in four days) requires significant organization, much more than making a single batch. But I enjoy planning and analysis, so this doesn’t bother me at all. More calculations!
Today I will spend part of the day making another batch of patÃ©, part working on stuff for my design class, and (perhaps) part working on a new woven shibori design. This one will be a simple pattern of squares, with a small diamond in the center of each square. I have a suspicion that it will be too “busy”, but want to weave it up to find out!
Mike and I will also be going up to my friend Carolyn’s place to spread Sweetheart’s ashes across a rose garden where she loved to play. I think she’d have liked that.