Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ingredient chaos

As I'm home for Easter, I have decided to attempt the Apple Caramel Charlotte for our Easter cake.  Here's what Rose says about it: "When this European inspired cake is made with a Bavarian filling, it is one of the most complex and elegant desserts the finest restaurants and confiseries can offer. In this version ethreal slices of layered biscuit encase a caramelized billowy crème anglaise-based filling that blends perfectly with the apples."  Stay tuned for tomorrow's post for that one.

But in the mean time, I have had a horrible time trying to find what I need for this cake. Problem ingredients: vanilla beans and castor's sugar (superfine sugar).

Why can't I use regular sugar and vanilla extract you ask?

First, vanilla beans are important because, as Rose says, they "add a subtle depth of flavor and unique sweet quality to baked goods."  But, just so you know, vanilla beans vary so much depending on where they are from.  Madagascar vanilla beans are known for being the best because they have the most flavor and aroma.  Rose likes the Tahitian vanilla beans because they are even stronger than Madagascar beans (you even have to use different quantities because it is so much stronger).  I read somewhere online that Indonesian vanilla beans are really not that great because they harvest them too early in order to produce more in bulk and as a result a lot of the flavor is compromised.

There's a lot more to say about vanilla beans, but I won't bore you with all the details.  What you need to know is that it matters where they come from.

And that's where my problem came in.

I went to Fresh Market and this is what they had for me:

Please note that there is no mention of where it is from. It's just a vanilla bean. Not helpful.

So of course I decide to ask.  I find this poor sales lady who was helping me earlier with the castor's sugar (whole different story) who was probably horrified that I was coming back to ask her another question.

I explain my issue. I need to know where the vanilla bean is from because it yadda yadda ya...

She just stares at me like I have completely lost my mind. It was great. I finished my babble and she continued to stare me down and went ummm hm........ I have no idea where that bean is from (insert rude sarcasm here).  She's obviously annoyed. Then she walks down the isle and throws a madegascar vanilla bean in my hand. Ah, success.
As for the castor's sugar, as Rose says,  it "results in the finest texture and and most neutral flavor, adding sweetness that balances and accentuates the other ingredients." The problem- basically no one carries it.  It seems like Fresh Market has it monopolized because seriously, no where else carries it.  On top of that, when you do manage to find it, it is absurdly expensive.

But ladies and gents my kitchen has expanded this weekend and I have warmly welcomed the addition of a Cuisine Art food processor!  Now I can just put regular sugar in the processor and voila! It's magically transformed into superfine sugar.

Here's the sugar before:

And here it is after:

I'm excited about the apple caramel charlotte- back to baking for now!

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