Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mummified pupas, aka: my encounter with baking dried figs

I was going to post about the misconceptions often perceived when ordering a cake, but the draft was getting rather ranty to the point of being nonsensical, so I'm going to edit it for awhile until I feel it is at the perfect level of informative and vent-a-rific! I'm trying to use this blog partially as a teaching tool. Though few probably read this now, I'm hoping that in the future I will get more readers and that they can learn from my (frequent, haha) mistakes.

Anyway, on to the main subject of this post - dried fruit. Namely their pitfalls in baking.

The glorious thing about dried fruit is that you don't have to worry about it losing its beautiful plumpness and going bad and moldy. You can keep dried fruit for months, years even, as it has been proven in my household, where we are notorious for holding on to things longer than we probably should (NOTE: never fear, dear customers, as this behaviour does not ever translate into my baking. It is the only area where I am a stickler for freshness.)

Moving on, dried fruit is fantastic for many things - on salads, in curries, trail mix... the list could probably go on for a bit. What it doesn't really have a huge forte in is baking. Cookies are an exception because their baking time is relatively shorter than, say, a pie/tart. Unless there is a lot of liquid with the dried fruit whilst it bakes, you're going to end up with some burnt babies. There is a small window between having it warmed with the rest of the dessert in the oven, to it burning to a carmelized crisp. You have to really monitor it, and that was my huge mistake today. I set the timer and walked away. When I came back the fruit was crispy and not fit for selling. The fate of the tart is not a sad one, however - my family is more than pleased to indulge in my "screw ups"!

My first clue in baking the dried fruit should have been the fact that, well, they were dry enough to begin with. The high oven heat will only further this drying process to the point where there will be no more moisture to evaporate, and it will burn.

Below is the fruit of my negligence, no pun intended:

Mummified pupas. That was the first thing that came to mind. What could I have done differently to still obtain a baked dried fig tart? I could have mix all the sugar with the figs and added water, reducing slightly so that I have injected some moisture back into the fruit before baking, and also created a nice syrup that would help preserve this state during baking. I will test this next time and report back.

In other news, I made a raw tiramisu this week. Being a fan of the real thing, I scrutinized this dish a lot. The verdict? it was a nice thought, but nothing can replace the original. Especially when the replacement for the Frangipane cream calls for 6 ripe bananas. It's just going to taste like banana pudding with a cinnamon and coffee aftertaste! Pictures to come, though there really isn't much to look at. Next up, raw chocolate cake with raw chocolate ganache. Perhaps this recipe will be more successful.

Christmas is also coming up, and since I've gotten a full time job and thus am financially independent for most things, I am finding myself unable to be as fast and loose with my money this year. So everyone is either getting a box of chocolates, rum balls, christmas logs, or christmas cake. I still have to buy ingredients and chocolate moulds, but I'll spend a little to save a lot and besides, this is a much more personal gift anyway :).

Next post will hopefully contain more visually pleasing cakes. Lessons will take a backseat so that you can drool at my mad skills for a change, haha!

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