September 14th, 2015

Coco&Me’s How Best To Whip Egg Whites

How to obtain high volume foam with stability

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Coco&Me - How to whip egg whites ~ How to obtain high volume foams with foam stability ~ www.cocoandme.com ~ Coco And Me

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Getting the most out of your ingredients is, I think, one of the most delightful things to do as a baker or a cook. It brings out the best results (in our case, a fine & moist sponge that has high volume!) & because you know how to best approach the ingredients, you can progress with the baking in a relaxed, untroubled manner.
– I also think we can get a lot more out of the ingredients when we treat it with respect & use it to its full potential. By proceeding with respect & gratitude to our foodstuff for being available to us, the sense of pleasure from cooking with it & then eating it is tenfold.
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In terms of baking, whipping the egg whites is an essential technique.
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There are actually 3 distinct methods to whip ~ French, Swiss, & Italian way. Each are suited for different desserts. For example, the French meringue method is often used for sponge baking. The Swiss & the Italian method on the other hand are often used in cold mousses & cremes because the heat-process kills off bacteria, & makes it safer to incorporate.
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The French meringue technique is by far the most widely used in home baking, so for this post I would like to focus on that & tell you everything I know to make foam that is fine & stable.
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Fine foam = results in fine structured sponge (as opposed to course textured) that has a tender mouthfeel.
Stable foam = will not deflate so readily. Particularly vital for retaining the volume of the foam when folding in to the batter. It will also give you a bigger & fluffier sponge.
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So, below, I have written the ‘how-to’ in steps (in bold letters) with the reasoning behind each (in regular letters). It gets a bit too science-y, but hopefully I have managed to get it across well enough! Happy reading~! xx
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Coco&Me’s How Best To Whip Egg Whites
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1. 
Start with eggs straight from the fridge.
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I know some say use room temperature, & some say no, use refrigerated. ~ So here is the logic to both:
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The room temperature egg white is indeed easier to whip. It will trap the air easier because the surface tension is weaker. (= surface tension is the elastic tendency of liquids which makes them acquire the least surface area possible). But the downside is that the foam is less stable/ easier to deflate because it is not as viscous/ thick.
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Whereas, for the cold whites, although it takes longer to whip (because it is thicker), the foam will come out stable. You will be able to create a much finer foam too, as, when you whip the stable foam, you are successfully splitting it to smaller multiples without it deflating.
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= Using cold refrigerated egg whites wins the competition.
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Some patissiers even go as far as putting the egg whites in the freezer until it is 1~4 degrees centigrade so that they have the added effect of having a head-start.
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2. 
Separate the egg whites in to a dry clean bowl that is not plastic. – Make sure you don’t have any broken yolk residue. 
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The reason for both has to do with lipids (another word for ‘fats’.) The fats contained in the yolk & any trace amount of oil on the surface of your mixing bowl has the negative effect on the foaming properties. 
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To explain why, I first need to tell you about what happens when you whisk:
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When you whisk the egg whites ~ which is made of about 90% water &10% protein ~ the tangly globular balls of protein uncurls. This is a process called denaturation, & as it uncurls, it exposes it’s long strands of amino acids. These amino acids has two distinct ends; the water-loving ‘hydrophilic’ & the water-repelling ‘hydrophobic’.
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As the 10% protein uncurls in the 90% water, it aligns itself inbetween the water & the air, because of the hydrophilic/ hydrophobic nature. – Meaning, it immerses the hydrophilic end to the water, & sticks the hydrophobic end to the air.
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Upon whisking air in to the egg whites, all the while, the uncurled strands get busy to attach to it & consequently traps the whisked in air within its new tangle. This tangle is now a network which crosslinks & holds its shape, stabilising the foam.
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It’s a little difficult to grasp in words, so have a look at my diagram below:
Coco&Me - How to whip egg whites ~ How to obtain high volume foams with foam stability ~ www.cocoandme.com ~ Coco And Me ~ the perfect meringue
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Getting back to why lipids (such as fats from yolk & the grease from the bowl) inhibits the foaming properties is because it interferes with the protein that want to make a stable network. Namely, the air bubble & the lipids are in competition for the water-repelling hydrophobic protein.  
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As for why plastic bowls are not a good idea to use is because plastic is a porous material, & sometimes it can have residues of fats from the last use, even if you think you have washed it well.
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3.
Firstly, on the lowest speed, loosen it up. 
The egg whites has two parts ~ the thick viscous portion that used to surround the yolk & then the other part which is watery. It is best to first whisk those two parts together to blend it. This is because the watery part gets foamy quicker as it has less surface tension (same explanation as in step 1). When the two parts are blended, they foam at equal speed.
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Coco&Me - How to whip egg whites ~ How to obtain high volume foams with foam stability ~ www.cocoandme.com ~ Coco And Me ~ the perfect meringue
Coco&Me - How to whip egg whites ~ How to obtain high volume foams with foam stability ~ www.cocoandme.com ~ Coco And Me ~ the perfect meringue
(First on lowest speed!)
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4.
When most of the liquid has turned fluffy white, & the foam starts to cling to your whisk, put in the first 1/3 of the sugar. Then turn the speed to high. 
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Coco&Me - How to whip egg whites ~ How to obtain high volume foams with foam stability ~ www.cocoandme.com ~ Coco And Me ~ the perfect meringue
(Ready for the first sugar to be poured in!)
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The timing at which you add sugar is very important. If too early, the foam will not stabilise & will be syrupy. And if too late, the water within will leak. To figure the timing for sugar, it’s best to understand the role of sugar in egg whites.
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Sugar is hygroscopic (= it attracts & holds water molecules from the surrounding environment).
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When you add sugar, the water content of the egg whites is withheld. The water becomes viscous/ thick & elastic. This thickened water has a stabling effect on the protein structure & holds the air bubbles in place.
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This viscous water greatly helps when the cake is in the oven, as, the water is so thick, it is difficult for it to readily escape as vapour. As a result, it holds the air bubbles in place while the cake structure is stiffening its shape around it.
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Which is all great news, but on the other hand, it is important to know that sugar has a negative effect on the foaming properties & results in reduced volume. If the water is too viscous, it is difficult to form the bubbles inside.
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This is why sugar has to be introduced in stages, with the right timing. The egg white has to be foamed enough to accept the inclusion.
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5.
The timing for the next sugar is when the volume has massed, & the foam is starting to get evenly fine. Put in half of the rest of sugar. The speed of the hand mixer should remain on high.
At this point, think about how your whisk is mixing it. The ideal way is for the whisk to incorporate as much air, right? So, if the whole whisk-head is submerged completely in the whites, it’s not catching in any air.
– Also, rotate your bowl so that you are whisking from every angle, & from every nook so that it foams uniformly.
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Coco&Me - How to whip egg whites ~ How to obtain high volume foams with foam stability ~ www.cocoandme.com ~ Coco And Me ~ the perfect meringue
(The foam’s evenly fine! Next sugar please~! Whizzing on high.)
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6.
When you feel the foam is getting heavier & you can see stroke patterns, put in the rest of the sugar. – Nearer the end, when you think it has reached maximum volume, lower the hand mixer speed to low.

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Coco&Me - How to whip egg whites ~ How to obtain high volume foams with foam stability ~ www.cocoandme.com ~ Coco And Me ~ the perfect meringue

(Soon as you can make strokes in the whites, put the last lot of sugar in.)

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Coco&Me - How to whip egg whites ~ How to obtain high volume foams with foam stability ~ www.cocoandme.com ~ Coco And Me ~ the perfect meringue
(Done? Wait… there’s one last step…)
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7. 
As a last step, whiz your mixer around the outskirt edges & tighten the foam to make sure that the foam is of equal fine-ness all over. 
In culinary terms this is called ‘serrer’. Foam on the outskirts tend to be less whisked. Because of that it tends to have a larger air bubble. In baking, it is best to have uniformly sized foam, as the larger air bubble will absorb the nearest smaller ones & become bigger (=’Coalescence’), giving you an unevenly textured sponge. 
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Coco&Me - How to whip egg whites ~ How to obtain high volume foams with foam stability ~ www.cocoandme.com ~ Coco And Me ~ the perfect meringue
(Don’t forget the edges~! Above picture is an example of how the edges have bigger bubbles, so make sure you whisk these big bubbles too!)
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Note A:
The ratio of whites to sugar:
When the amount of sugar is more than half of the whites, it is recommended to add sugar in 5 stages, not 3. This is because you’ll want to give each sugar inclusion a chance to melt before the next. – On the other hand, if the amount of sugar is less than 1/3 of the whites, the foam will be unstable & would not keep shape so well. The bubble will collapse too soon as it bakes & the sponge will come out too dense. I often hear of ladies with health conscience cutting back on sugar in the recipe, but I don’t recommend messing with it. But then again, so long as they don’t blame the recipe itself, it’s their cup-of-tea in the end I suppose…, right?
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Note B:
About adding a pinch of Cream of Tartar & lemon juice or vinegar:
It’s all about the science-y pH balance…
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The pH is measured between 0 to 14. 0 being ultimate acidic, 14 being ultimate alkaline. Lucky number pH 7 sits in the middle at neutral.
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Our egg whites in question is sitting around pH 8 to 10 (Actually, more precisely speaking, fresh egg is pH 8, & older egg is at pH 10 as the acidity escapes from the pores of the egg shell during storage). Meaning, it is slightly on the alkaline side of the scale.
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Lemon juice & vinegar is very acidic. They sit on a pH 2. Cream of tartar is at pH 4. Each number on the scale is 10 times more either way each time, so you can just imagine how super acidic these are.
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In terms of whipping egg whites for baking, the protein strands (as explained in Step 1) react better when it is near pH 4 to 6. From this you can understand that when you add lemon juice/ vinegar/ cream of tartar,  you are readjusting the pH so that your egg proteins have a better chance. Note of warning though – too much added will have an inhibiting effect on foaming.
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When I bake, I personally don’t bother with lemon juice/ vinegar/ cream of tartar. I like preciseness, so when a recipe calls for a ‘pinch’, it is too vague for me. But, if you are to use any of these ingredients, I would suggest that cream of tartar is probably the best option of the lot, as it is the least acidic at pH 4.
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Note C:
Should sugar be added in the middle or the side of the bowl?
Quite some years ago, I came across somebody’s food blog, boasting about how adding from the side of the bowl was her idea, & how the method caught on. “…as dumping sugar in the centre would deflate the foamy whites.” Firstly I should point out, that that is wrong. Please pour in the sugar in a slow steady stream in the centre. If whipped correctly at each stage, the weight of a bit of sugar will not deflate any foam. The major problem when adding from the side of bowl is, it is a lot more difficult to get your whisk to, & because of that, you might have granular bits that hasn’t been incorporated sitting on the side, which would make your whites syrupy.
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Lastly, my personal take:
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Here is what I believe makes a baker create the best foam. And that is… ‘Imagination’. ‘Observation’. ‘Taking pleasure’. ‘Repetition’. 
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In this particular case with whipping the finest foam, imagine how the actual air can be best incorporated.
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For example:
After reading my guide above, you now know that sugar makes the foam stable, but at the same time, if too much too soon, it inhibits it, right? So observe the foam you’re whipping, & imagine the bubbles forming. Do you think your protein network is tangling well? Imagine the new air bubbles created – popPOPpop! Oh you need more sugar? OKAY! Let’s pour more sugar in! Let’s trap the next batch of air!
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When the whisking is done, feel the pleasure in how the bowl has gotten heavy with so much air inside. You’d be really amazed with the difference in weight. Take pleasure in the confirming moment that ‘air’ is actually ‘heavy’. Smile at how well you’ve managed this task!
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Every week, I whisk about 25 egg whites in one go for the 6 flourless chocolate cakes for my cake stall. I make this in a huge huge bowl. When I succeed with whisking the best foam, I notice that my cakes are taller, & it looks good. I also get a bigger yield from it which could mean a sale or no sale for me! ^^
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Ofcourse, like anybody, my skills were not good in the beginning, but over the years, I’ve gotten better. Good enough to now be able to write this ‘how to’ article. With baking, practising, practising, practising is the only way to success. Like learning a piano perhaps or riding a bike, you’ve got to practise it repetitively to get better. You can’t expect it to be amazingly perfect the first time round. No one is a superman or a superwoman!
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October 21st, 2014

Two pictures

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Two pictures to share with you:
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an alternative design for an apple galette. Chain link pattern on round puff pastry. Caramelised apple sauce. Tamami. www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me

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Sometime ago, I was playing around with an alternative design for an apple galette.

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The recipe goes something like this:

1. Peel Granny Smith apples & thinly slice with a mandolin.

2. The raw apple slices are too brittle to loop in to pattern, so blanche them for 1 minute, then dunk in cold water to stop it from cooking further. (This method also stops them from oxidising & turning brown!)

3. The chain design only works with similarly large slices, so to use up the unused end scraps of apple, make a caramelised apple mix which will go in-between the apple chain & the puff pastry base.

4. Use an apple corer to cut a circle in the centre of the apple slices, then loop them up to make a chain pattern.

5. Then assemble that on puff & caramel mix, & bake…

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… The recipe itself was a definite success, super moreish, the caramel layer really made it special together with the flakey puff pastry. But the chain design was too fiddly to say the least. Perhaps I’ll ditch the pattern idea & go for a more universal look after-all, like how others do it, layering the slices like roof tiles, so that I can share the recipe properly with you one day…?

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Gifts from Paris - Chocolon (chocolate covered macaron) from Sadaharu Aoki Paris and Mendiants Chocolate bar from Alain Ducasse. www.cocoandme.com - Coco&Me - Coco and Me

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Last Saturday I had a surprise visit from Mrs.C & her husband Mr.E from Paris! :) :) :) It was a super happy moment. :) :) :) Smiles (Mrs. C), smiles (Mr.E), smiles (Me) !  It was really great to catch up on each other’s news! The extra surprise was that they’d brought with them a gift for me too! Wow… thank you… It was chocolate-coated macarons from my favourite Japanese patissier Sadaharu Aoki, & a mendiant chocolate bar from the one & only Alain Ducasse! I own cookbooks by both of these men* & absolutely respect them, so believe me when I say that these sweet things are highly valued by me & will be truly enjoyed, ~ slowly…, not a single crumb will be wronged by landing anywhere other than in my mouth.

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In fact, why not try one now as I write. Oooooh… (fingers dancing over the macarons), let’s see…, the…, yes, the mac with the red top. Ah! Raspberry! Or should I say ‘framboise’ since it’s from France. ~ (sigh) I needs me a trip to Paris again .Yep… (scoff), yep… (munch).

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* Here’s a confession ~ I’ve not counted (& I dare not want to ~ it’ll be a bad reality check of my spendings), but I think I have around 150 food-related books in my bookshelf… When I’m ‘in’ to something, I like to get ‘in’ to it knee-deep obviously. Lol… Recently I’m ‘in’ to dropping in to the local Oxfam Bookstore (a charity second-hand bookstore here in UK) to check their latest offerings. Last time I was in there, I bought a signed Raymond Blanc book from 1991 for £5. The pictures are a little dated, but every single one a fantastic, no-nonsense recipe. I’m learning a lot from it, currently cooking from the vegetable section. I also plan on making the pumpkin soup from this book for Halloween! ^^

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April 2nd, 2014

Coco&Me’s Animal Dome Cakes

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Last Saturday, I skipped work at the market despite it being Mother’s Day weekend which would certainly have been a hands down fantastic cake-sales opportunity. Instead, we held a a joint birthday party for our daughter S with her classmate K.

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We invited all the kids from their class. And for the entertainer, we chose the Animal Man Nick to come give an AMAZING show with his private collection of exotic animals! Nick brought over his red foot tortoise, tarantula (!), giant African land snail, giant black millipede, meerkat, chinchilla (v.cute), tawny owl, emperor scorpion, skunk (!), bearded dragon & to finish the show, a large black snake. Thanks to the show & to K’s mum who was fantastic to be organising the party with, the party was a big hit. Phew…! ^^

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To go with the theme of animal, I made two birthday cakes – a bear & a cat shape – for each of the birthday kids to blow their candles on. I suppose I could have taken the inspiration for my choice of which animal to make from Nick’s exotic animals, but it would’ve been more of a challenge to shape I think & perhaps not so cute or tasty-looking…!? (a bearded dragon shaped cake…?!) Lol!

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Coco&Me - Coco And Me - Domed Birthday Cake - Broadway Market E8 - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami Haga - Hello Kitty cake - Bear shaped cake - Genoise sponge with chantilly cream creme

(Chocolate bear.)

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Coco&Me - Coco And Me - Domed Birthday Cake - Broadway Market E8 - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami Haga - Hello Kitty cake - Bear shaped cake - Genoise sponge with chantilly cream creme

(Chantilly Cat. I studied Hello Kitty for the features.)

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Coco&Me - Coco And Me - Domed Birthday Cake - Broadway Market E8 - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami Haga - Hello Kitty cake - Bear shaped cake - Genoise sponge with chantilly cream creme

(♥ Together ♥)

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To make the dome shape, I buttered then cling-filmed the inside of a mixing bowl. Next, carefully lined a sheet of genoise sponge (baked in a roulade pan) in the internal wall. After that, just like when assembling lasagne, there are alternate layers of cream, strawberry, sponge. A while of refrigeration later, it is set enough to de-mold out to the plate to then decorate.

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Coco&Me - Coco And Me - Domed Birthday Cake - Broadway Market E8 - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami Haga - Hello Kitty cake - Bear shaped cake - Genoise sponge with chantilly cream creme

The facial features are made from chocolate. Shapes are piped out on to a baking sheet, then once solid, used the reverse-side (the side that was touching the baking sheet) as the front because it is flatter & matt. These are simply stuck on directly to the cream on the cake.

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Coco&Me - Coco And Me - Domed Birthday Cake - Broadway Market E8 - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami Haga - Hello Kitty cake - Bear shaped cake - Genoise sponge with chantilly cream creme

The cream is simple chocolate chantilly piped with a closed-star tip.

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A spherical cupcake to take away!

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Don’t know about how it’s done elsewhere, but here in the UK, it seems to be the norm for the invited children go home from the party with a slice of the birthday cake.

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Instead of hastily cutting the large cake during the party, which, not only can it be stressful while entertaining, but can potentially become a messy affair, what with the cream & all, I opted to bake 30 individual cupcakes that is easier to give out. It is also easier for the children to hold.

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– Besides, there was a cake idea I’ve been meaning to try out, & it seemed a good opportunity to invest my time & effort in to it.

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Coco&Me - Coco And Me - Domed Birthday Cake - Broadway Market E8 - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami Haga - Bear shaped sphere cake - Domed genoise sponge with silicine mould

(… with milk, white & strawberry chocolate features.)

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Coco&Me - Coco And Me - Domed Birthday Cake - Broadway Market E8 - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami Haga - Bear shaped sphere cake - Domed genoise sponge with silicine mould - raspberry jam filling

(Snuggly sitting in a mini-muffin case!)

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Coco&Me - Coco And Me - Domed Birthday Cake - Broadway Market E8 - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami Haga - Bear shaped sphere cake - Domed genoise sponge with silicine mould - raspberry jam filling

(I made thirty!)

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To make the animal cupcakes, I baked semi-sphere sponges using silicone moulds. Using a cupcake corer/ plunger, I cut out two circular discs which was used to form the ears. The cake was again made from genoise, but any sponge recipe will work so long as there is enough flour in it to form the pillar structure to keep it’s domed shape without it deflating. The recipe will have to have enough butter content too so it de-moulds cleanly, but then again, the cake must not be too heavy on butter either, as that leaves the paper cupcake casing with greasy imprints.

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Coco&Me - Coco And Me - Domed Birthday Cake - Broadway Market E8 - www.cocoandme.com - Tamami Haga - Bear shaped sphere cake - Domed genoise sponge with silicine mould - raspberry jam filling

(I stewed down raspberry jam & filled the hole where I cored out the ears.) 

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January 8th, 2013

Galette des Rois 2013

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Hi!!! Happy New Year~!!!!!!

How was your winter holiday? Did you get a good rest? Hopefully all charged up, ready for the new year? ;-) And how did your first week of 2013 pan out? Back to school or work already?
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For me, soon as entering the year, all I think about is the Galette des Rois for Epithany (which was the 6th January).
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But this year, I missed the date. The 6th landed on a Sunday this year & I just couldn’t find the time. It proved to be too much of a challenge to fit a task such as classic-puff-pastry-making when the kids are around…
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I mean, how can I work on a pastry that requires so much attention when interruptions aplenty!
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The kitchen is a highway of coming ins & outs, “S” to show me a drawing or “I” to ask me to solve a quiz. Sometimes it could be a “come upstairs & look at my lego model”, or it might be the little one forever pulling the hem of my skirt as I move around in the kitchen. Running around the central kitchen-island playing chase might be an option for them too… It’s simply impossible to do anything that remotely needs concentration…! So, at times like that, I put my hand up & resign, I let go of any baking desires & join in with running around playing chase too. Might as well, hey.
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Anyway, so here’s my Galette des Rois, that was not made on Epithany day, but on the following day.
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This year I made three.
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(The swirly pattern!!)
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Shame about the unsightly middle, but atleast it came out circle & relatively flat! To etch the swirls, I used the edge of a round cake card to depress an impression, & then use that as the guideline to score with a scalpel knife. When scoring, I always apply same pressure & “try” to cut less then 1mm deep. (… notice “try”. It’s su~per difficult!!!) Lastly I brushed cooled down sugar syrup on just-baked hot galette to make the surface shiny & appetizing. The momentary sizzling sound as the syrup initially hits the hot pastry is one of my favourite sounds in the kitchen.
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(The ladder pattern!) 
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Grr, there’s a crack in the design…! Humph. But I think the colour is the best out of the three. I dissolved coffee granules in the egg wash to make it dark – this technique is the same as when egg-washing the Gateau Basque. Also, have you noticed that the edges are scalloped? Well, instead of cutting around the pastry with a knife like usual, I used the tart tin edges like a cutter!!! There’s a couple of advantage point to my technique other than aesthetics – as you press the tin down to cut off the excess pastry, it seals the two sheets of pastry tighter together. You can also use the scallop shape as a guide for when crimping the sides.
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Coco&Me - Coco & Me - Galette des Rois 2013 - girl face design pattern scored/ drawn on to - homemade classic puff pastry - Pate Feuilletee Clasique - www.cocoandme.com
(My original design! My daughter S with a flower cheek!) 
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Out of pure luck, the etching came out in a painterly brush-strokey feel, which worked quite well with the design I think. I’m happy with this one, but how I wish I didn’t brush the sugar-syrup on the surface at the end…! The face looks too shiny, as if you slathered sun-oil on a sunny holiday…! Lol! Definitely not a winter look! (…unless the girl was lucky & went somewhere hot for the winter hols I guess…!)
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Anyway, hope all is well with you guys! Chao for now! 
T xx

January 6th, 2012

Galette des Rois 2012

Coco&Me - Coco and Me - Homemade Galette des Rois 2012 with leaf pattern - www.cocoandme.com

(Leaf pattern!)

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This year for Epithany, I made Galette des Rois from scratch again. Puff pastry & all. This time, leaf pattern. I think it looks country-esque & more like a pie compared to the swirly patterns on Parisian ones but I was wary of scoring those swirls as it needs to be so precise.

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Anyway, I’m quite pleased with the result, the puff pastry didn’t pull in strange angles & the galette came out almost perfectly circle! Phew!

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The ultimate tip when working with puff is PATIENCE.

Firstly, I know it takes a looong time to make, but the waiting time in the fridge mustn’t be shortened by haste. And after you made it, it also needs a 12 hour rest in the fridge before using it/ rolling it out. It’s all about resting the gluten in the flour, otherwise the pastry will shrink upon baking.

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Then when rolling, if you think that the pastry is getting too soft, you have to put it back in the fridge to cool before approaching it again. – Never let that multitude layers of butter melt, because it’s the butter (actually, it’s the water content in the butter) who does the all-important puffing/ lifting, when it evaporates under the extreme oven heat. This ‘extreme oven heat’ is key too. It needs to be atleast 200 degrees centigrade. Anything less than that, the layers of flour will stick together because of poor evaporation & the whole thing won’t rise like the way you want it to.

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So yes, resting it in fridge & keeping it cool while working. And oh, when rolling out, roll to all directions from the middle outwards (never back & forth), & also turn it over & do a bit of rolling on that side too. Yes, phew!

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(Cooled down sugar syrup (water & sugar 5:5) brushed on surface of just-baked galette for the shiny look! )

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No picture of it cut in to a slice, I’m afraid! We’re gonna eat it later with everyone & try find my fève charms, Lyla & Roger, doing their once-a-year duty of hide & seek!

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