Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sugaring Skills

Remember when we went over making caramel? That skill translates into other things. 

Like waxing. 

The process is called sugaring and has been used for thousands of years in the Middle East. Sugaring is cheap, easy to make, and doesn't stick to the skin like wax does...so if you're into the whole North American hair removal thing it may be worth a try. 

Like caramel, sugaring paste is made from boiled sugar. In fact, only the ingredient amounts are different. 

Sugaring paste generally has more lemon juice (an acid) and no dairy additives at all, so in essence it is a simple caramel. 

Basic Recipe:
2 cups sugar (any kind)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup lemon juice (lime juice is okay too)

This video is a really good visual. Even if you're making caramel it's interesting to see how the sugar foams up and begins to brown. Unlike caramel the consistency of the sugaring paste really matters. If it's too dark it won't spread well enough. Too light and it won't stick well. Sugaring paste should be COMPLETELY cooled before using on your skin. It can always be reheated! Go too cold rather than too hot. 

Also, if you reheat too long in the microwave (longer than a minute or two) the sugar will superheat and melt your plastic container. So stick to a minute or reheat by placing the bowl in another bowl filled with hot water. 

The paste can be spread with a knife (test the temperature first). It cools and then can be pulled up with strips of cloth or even your own fingernails. Leftovers can be refrigerated and reheated later. 

Results for a newbie can be mixed. If you're new to waxing I'd also recommend a light coat of alcohol or hydrogen peroxide when you're done...in case you've been a little rough with your skin. Then moisturize. 

Oh! Get that cooking pan full of water right away. And leave it there for a few hours. The sugar may be frozen hard to the pan but the water will erode it and the next morning a few swipes and everything goes down the drain. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Homemade Caramel Apples

We don't do the Halloween thing much (too much candy for the Keto diet, too many nightmares for the little ones) but I thought it would be fun to have a little autumnal feast. 

Caramel...not that hard to make but it takes focus. 

Caramel is always made out of sugar (white or brown). It often has butter or cream in it as well. 

I took 2 recipes, one from Rose Levy-Beranbaum and one from Cooks.com, and mixed them up a little depending on what I had at hand. 

My Recipe:

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
a swig of lemon juice (an acid stabilizes the sugar crystal so it isn't grainy)

I heated this on the stove, mixing constantly until it started to foam (btw sugar gets REALLY hot, please be careful). It foams for a long time. When it starts to brown lightly I turn the stove down to check the color and the temp (@240 F). You can also check the stage (soft ball) by dripping a little in a cup of cool water. If it forms a soft ball it has reached this stage. The next stage it forms a hard line (or whatever shape you make) instead of balling up. 

At this point you should be stirring. You don't want this to burn. It can also go through this stage very quickly and be very hard to coat anything. Don't get distracted and go start laundry or talk to your spouse. I overcooked my first batch (D. made hard caramels out if it). 

While I was waiting I heated 

1/2 cup of cream

 in a measuring cup. It should be warm/hot. At this point I stirred it right in. If the cream is considerably cooler then the sugar it will foam up a bit when you do. 

Everything should be ready at this point. The caramel can set quickly. If you want nuts, chocolate, or other coats all ready. 

Leftover caramel can be poured onto a sheet of buttered wax paper. A light coating of salt will really make this just perfect. Cool in the fridge and cut into pieces if you like. Or eat some apples. 

The boys loved them. D. and I loved the dip (once you have this salted caramel you'll never go back to supermarket dip), and I think I've found a new Christmas candy recipe! 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Stretching the Buttermilk...and Other Types of Dairy Products

Speaking of cultured milk products...

I've been reading a lot about homemade dairy products this month. It's amazing what you can do with a little milk. 

Remember yogurt? Heat, add lacto-bacteria, keep warm (at a temp in the higher range for the lacto-bacteria but which discourages competitive bacteria which would make the milk go bad) for a number of hours, chill, eat. 

If you understand this concept a lot of other cultured dairy products become possible. 

That quart of buttermilk getting a little low? Fill with milk, shake, and leave in a warm place 12-24 hours. In that time the buttermilk bacteria should have taken over the milk and changed the flavor and taste. Chill. Use in those pancakes. 

It should be noted that buttermilk and yogurt use different kinds of bacteria. Buttermilk is actually easier because it just needs to be generally warm (like the back of the stove) for it to eat, break down the milk sugars, and reproduce. 

The kind of bacteria used in buttermilk is the same as they use in creme fraiche and sour cream. Creme fraiche? Take out a cup of cream and add a tablespoon or two of buttermilk. Leave in a warm place. Chill. It thickens right up. 
Creme fraiche can be used in place of sour cream (sour cream is generally less 'creamy'), but it seems to be difficult to make with pasturerized cream/milk. The difference appears to be that sour cream uses a lighter cream (or added milk) and is lightly curdled with an acid like vinegar or lemon juice, inoculated with buttermilk (or sour cream) and then left in a warm place. I haven't tried to make it yet because sites either use a creme fraiche recipe instead or say its impossible without unpasteurized cream and milk. Maybe some day.

The lesson to take from this is milk curdling.Curdling the milk makes another dairy product--small curd cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is a lot like making simple cheeses, only without the rennet to further harden the curds. Check out the link, it looks very easy. I haven't had an opportunity to try it out yet.

Which brings us to rennet-based cheeses. Soft cheeses like mozzarella seem very easy to make once you understand the pattern of culturing/curdling milk. Mozzarella also doesn't require a cheese press and can be made right on the stove. Rennet tabs (or liquid) can also be used to make cream cheese, another cultured dairy product a lot like creme fraiche (it uses the same culture in buttermilk/sour cream) but with rennet added for extra umph.

Check out the links. Most are from Dr. Fankhouser, a biology and chemistry professor from Ohio. He also has a link to cheap rennet tablets ($1.50 box) for curious folks.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Harvest Tutorial in Pictures

Greek yogurt.

 Fancy corn de-kernaler.

 Can be difficult to get the ends.
 Must drain.
 Packed up.
Our freezer.