"How many women you see in this kitchen? Only me. Why do you think that is? Because high cuisine is an antiquated hierarchy built upon rules written by stupid, old men. Rules designed to make it impossible for women to enter this world, but still I'm here. How did this happen?"
"You think cooking is a cute job, eh? Like Mommy in the kitchen? Well, Mommy never had to face the dinner rush while the orders come flooding in, and every dish is different, and none are simple, and all different cooking time, but must arrive at the customer's table at the exactly the same time, hot and perfect! Every second counts and you CANNOT be MOMMY!"
"What is this? Keep..your..station clear! Messy stations slow things down, food doesn't go, orders pile up, disaster! I will make this easier to remember: keep your station clean......or I WILL KILL YOU!"
Recipes are only guides, and at times I need to remember that. Lately, I have been very interested in making candy and have barreled right into it, like a bull in a china shop. The whole thing started when a customer issued a challenge. "Hey, Paige can you make penuche? My mom used to make penuche, when I was a kid, boy, I miss that." That was all it took, I was off and running.
If you know me, I can get hyper diaper about a challenge someone has given me, and worry about the logistics later, Just ask my boss, she'll mention Cider Donuts, Pirogies, Marshmallows, etc, etc. My ideas aren't always well thought out, but eventually with a little tweaking they will generate money.
Yesterday, with much whining, complaining and failure to wrap my brain around the recipe, I attempted a penuche fudge, out of one of my favorite cookbooks Southern Living. Now, I have made caramel numerous times in the past, and I am not sure why this time would be any different. But let me tell you!!! somewhere someone pushed the "Epic Fail" button. First attempt, I made sugar rocks that I needed to cool down before I threw them in the trash, so not to melt the liner. Second attempt, my co-worker Jasmine and I, (FYI, Jas is a baking and pastry arts graduate) wracked our brains about the whole caramel issue, do we start dry?, or do we start with a wet sand consistency? Well, wet sand consistency prevailed, only I don't think I knew what I was doing, I had the flame to high, went from liquid sugar to crystallizing it, added more water, got impatient, blamed the sugar, the pot, the flame, the wooden spoon and the air. Finally by a stroke of divine intervention the sugar caramelized. But, guess what??? When adding it to the evaporated milk mixture and cooking it the REST of the way, I misread the thermometer and the whole method of preparation and decided to do it my way. This way consisted of throwing it in a pan, after I waited the allotted 20 minutes, doing a Hoodoo dance backwards, while blindfolded, and last but not least putting it on the speed rack for 40 seconds and then in the refrigerator for 40 seconds. The whole time, kicking myself for not researching the process. Stupid recipe anyway.
I went home, and researched the recipe, and the process and today, I made a perfect penuche fudge. But of course, I was not satisfied with my newly acquired candy making skills. I had to master the mechanics of all candy. There was a woman last year, that came in the bakery for the flavored marshmallows that we make. She said; "Hey, Paige can you make Divinity?, boy my mother used to make me divinity when I was kid, I miss that", stumped I replied "No", darn it another challenge. Here are some pointers to making divinity. First, clear your calendar for the entire day. Second, use a candy thermometer that works, and have a backup one in case you throw the first one against the wall. Third, cross reference all recipes for divinity and avoid ones that have any technique involved. Trust me on this one, I have experience. Lastly, when all else fails, refer only to the "Never-fail Divinity recipes". This last pointer saves you tons of time and clean up. Otherwise you will end up like me, boiling lots of water to melt all the sugar and egg whites stuck to the mixing bowl, the whip, the spatula, your fingers, the wall, and anything else you have touched along the way. Making candy is a messy job!
When I stumbled upon the never-fail divinity it was like the Angel Gabriel came down and handed me the the candy sceptre. His message was "Hey, over achiever, stick only to never-fail recipes", and alas here I am, a candy semi-almost expert. A few more days, I might be able to teach a class with the "never -fail" method securely under my belt. All I need is a ruler, aviation sunglasses and a huge "I don't care attitude". Maybe a blackberry to play with, will reinforce the "I am too busy" persona.
What follows is the recipe that I found to be my saving grace, however true to my form...I need to spice it up just a little.
Never-fail Maple Divinity
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
In a heavy bottomed sauce pan mix the sugar, water, maple syrup, salt, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil without stirring until the temperature reaches hard ball stage 250F. Place the marshmallow cream and maple extract in a mixing bowl and slowly add the hot syrup while beating. Beat the mixture until it is stiff and stands in peaks, Fold in the vanilla and nuts, and working very quickly drop by teaspoonfuls on waxed paper. Allow to sit, and then enjoy.
Chocolate is an antidepressant, which is especially useful as you star to gain weight.~Jason Love