I spent yesterday doing two things:
First, I made a pectin-based pear paté. 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 paté 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 paté 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 paté, 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 paté, 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 patés 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 paté, 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.