Monday, May 26, 2014

Egads, we're back to May! Also, natural food dyes

My goodness, has it really been twelve months?  (Eleven? I didn't double check the month on the last post.)  Nevertheless, it has been a crazy crazy cake-filled year on this side of the screen.  Like so many of my fresh-faced, diploma-clutching brethren, I graduated with a lovely degree that I promptly set aside in favor of the career field I could get in to: The Bakery World.

Admittedly it's been a Grocery Bakery World, but it has been a smashing time with all sorts of forays into the world of natural and organic foods.  (If you can guess where, good for you. :) ) As it turns out, baking with organic flour is not much different than regular flour, although once you're in the food preparation industry, the process of maintaining the organic-ness of the product gets a lot more complicated.  (If the organic apple brushes a non-organic apple, the first apple is now no longer considered organic, etc.)

What IS massively, painfully, frustratingly different is the dye one uses when artificial dyes are not permitted.

Let me say, right now, that there are no good, natural sources for blue or black.  Red is tricky, but can be accomplished with the beet-based red (pro-tip, alone it'll make a gorgeous shade of pink) and a few drops of the orange (made from juniper? Carrots? I don't remember off the top of my head).  So the next time you're venturing into your neighborhood Organic/Natural/Wholesome Grocery, and look to get a custom cake with Thomas the Tank Engine draw on it, know that it's going to look more than a bit different from the picture your three-year-old is accustomed to seeing onscreen.

So what are some tricks for the odder colors?

I've had a good degree of success making blue with India Tree's blue/periwinkle dye--in large quantities it tends to create a navy-type shade--blue with a grayer undertone.  Depending on the dye, however, it can also appear more of a purplish-blue-gray.  By adding some green I can generally get a teal shade that can be a convincing sky blue once a small quantity of dyed frosting has been remixed into a batch of plain/white frosting.  (I'll need to double check the brands we use for the green, but I believe India Tree sells small quantities commercially of the periwinkle in their three-pack dye set.)

Black is more of a challenge, and so far my best solution has been to make a very, very dark chocolate frosting (keep adding in that cocoa powder), and then adding a bit of the periwinkle/blue dye to cancel out some of the reddishness of the cocoa.

The drawback is that generally there's so much cocoa powder that the frosting becomes stiff once it's allowed to sit for any period of time.

Another solution is to just use ganache--noticeably brown, but dark enough to get away with as a black-type substitute--and infinitely tastier than the chocolate/blue mix.

Anywhosies--hello again all my lovelies!  Hopefully I'll be back in the groove from now on!