August 15, 2006

Short Food Questions

by psu

I find myself confronted by the same food questions over and over again. Here are a few that have been bothering me lately.

1. I was in a rest stop on the turnpike yesterday. I bought a coke out of a vending machine. The coke was warm. This is not an uncommon occurrence these days. What kind of cruel world do we live in where cokes you buy out of a cooler or vending machine are warm? Shouldn't they lock the damn thing down until the drinks are cold?

2. This has always bothered me: why is flour-less chocolate cake considered cake? It has no flour. It has no texture. It's just a brick of brown sludge. What's the point?

3. How does Starbucks make a 2 shot iced latte that tastes like nothing but milk? (Yes I was at Starbucks. I was on the turnpike).

4. What kind of mutant actually likes that super sweet ISO standard American birthday cake icing? In a world where you can cover a cake in butter cream, this icing shit should die and never come back.

5. Why do people think that undercooking apples in pie and tarts is a good idea? Here's a hint: the apple in the pie should not have texture or bite or even the tiniest hint of crunch. If it does, you have failed.

6. The last one is not a question. Krispy Kreme donuts suck. A proper donut is cakey and substantial. For example, the New England style cider donut. Don't argue with me. You know it's true. That is all.

Posted by psu at August 15, 2006 05:45 PM | Bookmark This

In the realm of flourless chocolate cakes, the one I usually make is Queen Mother's Cake out of _Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts_. It gets lightness from ground nuts and egg, and it's wonderfully rich regardless. The rest of the stuff in the book is good, too.

And while I'm still of the mind the a Krispy Kreme from before the curtain of icing is pretty good, elsewise I'm with you on the donuts.

Posted by Goob at August 15, 2006 06:58 PM

I've never had flourless chocolate cake, but the ISO 9000 corporate cake is awful. I've taken to cutting my own piece: I take a knife, and first make a horizontal incision just below the frosting layer. Then I slide the knife in under this "roof of nasty" and cut downward. Once more and I extract a piece of okay sugar for my plate leaving the frosting roof standing there undisturbed.

Krispy Kremes suck. Long live the glendale donut man! (Too far to go these days unfortunately. I'll have to learn to ride a unicycle).

Posted by Doug at August 15, 2006 07:11 PM

PSU, I am entirely in agreement on the "icing" thing. Why eat sugary Crisco when butter cream exists?

I suspect that the only reason the hideous stuff is used _at all_ is because of its long shelf life, especially cherished by supermarket bakeries. The hardiness is doubtless attributable to the hermetic barrier formed by the icing's complete lack of desirability: even the microbes responsible for spoilage refuse to eat it.

Posted by Tom Moertel at August 15, 2006 09:50 PM

I *know* I've seen drink machines that post their internal temperature, which would seem to be helpful to at least warn you away. Nothing to be done about the cake problems though - I think Tom's right about sugar glop icing; although, I must add that in comparison to the indestructible mortar the British call "icing", it is not without its charms. Or perhaps not - at least with Royal Icing, you can argue you're not supposed to eat it but instead use it as a kind of bulletproof shield.

Posted by Mike Collins at August 16, 2006 12:50 AM

I used to completely agree with you about flourless chocolate cakes, but then I went gluten-free and found out a cake counts as flourless as long as it doesn't have wheat flour in it. Believe me, I can make an amazing "flourless" chocolate cake now. :)

As for frosting, I am in agreement as long as we're not talking about butter cream from Whole Foods. Only tried it once because I'm not really into having a stick of butter on top of my piece of cake.

Posted by Julie at August 16, 2006 09:48 AM

Starbuck's is to coffee as McDonald's is to food.

If they added "flavor", it would be too strong for someone.

Posted by Casey at August 16, 2006 10:00 AM

I was given to understand these questions would be exclusively pertaining to the realm of short food.

Posted by tilt at August 16, 2006 10:34 AM

You are TRAGICALLY WRONG about flourless chocolate cake. No texture? Brown sludge? What crap have you been eating, my friend? A good one has a dense, rich texture like a cross between fudge and cheesecake, and a powerful, dark chocolate taste; not sweet, not bitter, but hovering somewhere in between. It goes terrifically well with a few fresh berries or a little vanilla ice-cream (but what doesn't, frankly?) Think of a flourless choclate cake as a dense torte or an aerated chocolate bar, if its misnomer is preventing you from understanding its majesty.

And, as far as "undercooking" apples in a pie, I think it's better to slightly undercook, resulting in too much crunch, than to slightly overcook, reuslting in a runny gloppy mess. Any undercooked apples with soften as the pie sits, even if it only lasts for two or three days as in our household. In this vein, COOK'S ILLUSTRATED has a great apple pie recipe in which they use two kinds of apples (can't remember which off the top of my head) to make sure there is just the right ratio between goo and soft apply chunks.

Posted by jeff at August 16, 2006 12:22 PM

Cooks Illustrated, as usual, is tragically wrong about everything, even while trying to be an allegedly objective recipe testing source. The problem is that recipes by themselves don't teach you much.

Apple Pie should not crunch. Period.

Posted by psu at August 16, 2006 09:05 PM

I had never seen crunchy apple pie before moving to Pittsburgh.

The texture of apple pie must come from the carefully prepared butter-and-flour crust (chewy, not crispy), and it must never remind you that there is anything resembling healthy fruit inside.

Posted by Benoit at August 16, 2006 09:17 PM

Oh jeez, here we go again. Every time psu goes back to New England some neurosis spawned of his childhood pops up and he makes these declaration about how fluffy white bread buns are the best in the world, or how apple pies need to be mushy, or whatever it is this week.

Apple pies are stupid. You should be eating apple tarts instead.

And the apples in those tarts should be crisp.

If you disagree with me, it is simply because you are morally disordered.

Posted by peterb at August 16, 2006 10:20 PM

Pete has never been so wrong about anything. Apple tart is just apple pie without the top crust.

Posted by psu at August 16, 2006 10:43 PM

Starbucks Cappucinos are even more of a travesty than their other products in my opinion...
It's simple, really. One or two shots, twice as much milk, and a tiny bit of foam. The ones they sell now are pretty much lattes.

Posted by at August 16, 2006 10:44 PM

Mmm... Cider Donuts.

Apple pie is a large and diverse group of pastry, unfortuately allowing for a large degree of suckitude.

Personally, my current favorite is Tart Tatin, adding to my belief that the French make everything good by just adding a crapload of butter to it, much like Paula Deen.

As for flourless cake, it makes sense that gluten would be an enemy here and you could make a decent flourless chocolate cake, but I think I know the kind to which psu referes, and it is really a poor substitute for a healthy dose of fudge.

And I'm morally disordered, so I won't comment on the coffee other than to say you should just drink tea.

Posted by Shelby Davis at August 17, 2006 08:43 AM

See, crispy apple pie makes better breakfast pie than mushy apple pie. And what really makes apple pie a travesty is letting the dutch anywhere near it. Apple pie must have cinnamon, and a fair bit of it or it is no better than what you might get at McDonalds.

If you provide me with severeal flourless chocolate cakes I will tell you whether they are morally repugnant or not.

Posted by Doug at August 17, 2006 11:22 AM

An apple pie must also have ginder, and possibly Grand Marnier (or cheaper baking equivalent.)

Posted by Adam Vandenberg at August 17, 2006 12:37 PM

A friend of mine claims that there's a magic word you're supposed to say that makes the Starbucks drones put the correct amount of milk in the cap. No, I didn't bother to commit it to memory.

Posted by Benoit at August 17, 2006 04:12 PM

Based on my experiences at other Seattle-based chains, which all do the hyper-retarded Seattle-style foamacino, the right word is "wet."

Posted by peterb at August 17, 2006 04:22 PM

The alternative right word is "latte". The Seattle cappucino is just hopeless. Give up.

Posted by psu at August 17, 2006 04:28 PM

I think "dry" is what you might want at Starbucks, since they seem to really overdo it on the milk (in my experience, anyhow). At least if there's not enough milk, you can suck off some foam and then pour in a little milk from the pitcher at the condiment stand. Too much milk and it's just ruined.

psu, i will remember not to bring flourless chocolate cake over, but if your wife is unhappy about this, I'm blaming you. ;)

Posted by april at August 17, 2006 08:31 PM

The Important Trick with the proper New England apple pie is to get all the right ingredients to do all the right things.

1. The crust should be flakey, a little chewy and consistent no matter what part you bite into (bottom, edge, whatever). The crust should not be a brick, for instance. This is Super Difficult to get right.

2. The apples should be a little more tart than sweet, probably a MacIntosh -- never one of the Generi-Apple types that look like Disney produced them.

3. The filling should have some firmness, so that it doesn't schlump all over the plate. Yes, the apples should be thoroughly cooked. Yes, the filling should have cinnamon --- and nutmeg and a little ginger.

4. The resulting pie should be good hot or cold.

Vanilla ice cream or sharp cheddar cheese is optional.

Posted by John at August 21, 2006 03:01 PM

Hot Krispy Kremes are the accended form of doughnuts, leaving only an ethereal outline of their existence on our material plane. Clearly, you are possesed by evil Thetan doughnuts that lurk on the PA TP. Kindly pay Tom Cruise a couple of grand to yell at you while you hold a fancy skin resistance ohm meter.

Posted by Amos the Poker Cat at August 27, 2006 04:51 PM

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