PASTRY IN THE MIRROR
Today we're going to talk about a sweet preparation widely used in contemporary pastry making or rather: MIRROR ICING.
We all remain enraptured in front of those modern cakes decorated with shiny and variously colored covers that make up the windows of the most up-to-date pastry shops around the world. Even the social profiles of many prominent professionals are overflowing with wonderful videos of this art form that has become a real art form: Glazing Art. One example for all...if you're not already a follower, I suggest you take a trip on Instagram and take a look at the incredible "work" of Glazing Queen Ksenia Penkina.
Of course, to reach such levels requires a lot of practice, dedication and materials that in the normal commercial circuit you can not find, but to stay in the world of ordinary mortals I guarantee that by following some basic guidelines on raw materials and procedures, accompanied by some small but great shrewdness, the result at home can give considerable satisfaction.
Frosting is a decorative form that has been used in confectionery for a very long time. A classic example is the Sacher cake covered with a sweet layer of chocolate icing, or in the past (or even nowadays in those pastry shops that continue to offer their customers traditionally decorated desserts) cream puffs or small pastries covered with variously coloured icings of fondant sugar.
The above mentioned glazes, however, tended to be opaque, while the evolution of aesthetic taste, accompanied by new knowledge of both applications and materials, has presented, initially at the highest levels, in recent decades, increasingly shiny and variously colored glazes.
Modern glazes therefore have the purpose, in addition to the classic one of keeping fresh the product they cover, also to bring the final gloss to the cake ... cake, single portion or mignon that is.
Mirror icings can be divided into four major categories:
- COLD GLOSSES which are made starting from a first heating to a boiling state of pectin, granulated sugar and water (if you want to create a neutral icing) or fruit puree (if you want a neutral fruit icing); and a second heating in boiling state by adding glucose syrup. After these two "cooking" you add the acidifier that can be lemon juice or citric acid, is left to stabilize well covered in the refrigerator and then be used as is on cold desserts.
- CHOCOLATE GLASSES that can be compared to the ganache only a little 'sweeter. These icings are normally prepared by bringing to the boil the liquid (water, milk or cream) and the sugars (caster sugar, honey, glucose syrup); after boiling, the thickener is added (usually animal gelatine), which is poured over the chopped chocolate. As for the cold glaze, the chocolate glaze should be left in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours in order to stabilize the mixture, and then be gently heated to 35-37 ° C and used on cold desserts.
- CACAO-BASED GLAZES, which must be cooked above 103°C in order to completely solubilize the cocoa powder, which would otherwise be perceived in the tasting phase as having a sandy effect. The characteristic flavor in these glazes is inevitably provided by the cocoa that is cooked precisely, out of the fire, you add the thickener, is left to stabilize for 24 hours, heated to 34-36 ° C and is used on cold desserts.
- CARAMEL GLAZES that are made precisely from the preparation of caramel gently cooking to dry sugars up to a maximum of 190 ° C, which is decocted by slowly adding the liquids (milk, cream, water) boiling. The caramel glaze is completed by first adding the potato starch, heating again to 102°C and adding the thickener off the heat. Also this glaze should be cooled and heated before use but a temperature of 22-27 ° C.
After this general overview of the types of modern glazes, we now see the very important characteristics that have the ingredients that compose them and their role in the final result.
Sugars are the ingredients that, in addition to making the icing sweet, allow it to have a longer shelf life, keep it together and dense, prevent it from crystallizing if frozen, keep it soft and help the final gloss. Let's see them one by one:
- SEEDED SUGAR is better to use the fine refined white one because it allows a faster melting during the heating/baking phase. The caster sugar gives sweetness and preservation to the icings. Warning! If to prepare fruit glazes you use purees or juices ready to use and then sweetened, the amount of sugar in the recipe must be lowered in relation to that present in the fruit.
- Glucose syrup (not to be confused with sugar syrup) is a sweetener that can now be found on the shelves of almost all major supermarkets. It plays a very important role in the softness and in the creation and persistence of the glossiness of the icing as it inhibits and delays the re-crystallization of the sugar, i.e. the formation of crystals in the icing when it is cooled and frozen. The amount of glucose syrup can vary greatly depending on the recipe from 10 to 40%. Finally, glucose syrup has a lower sweetening power than granulated sugar.
- HONEY, unlike glucose syrup, has a higher sweetening power than granulated sugar, has a lower antifreeze power than glucose syrup but gives more moisture to the icing.
The role of liquids in icing is to generate gloss. The most commonly used liquid is water, whose main function is to melt the sugars and hydrate the thickeners. Milk and cream have the same function as water, only they increase the taste and brightness of the glaze thanks to the fats they contain.In case you use fruit purées in the glaze recipe (whole blended fruit), you have to pay attention to the degree of acidity of the fruit itself. Kiwi, pineapple, figs, berries contain proteolytic enzymes, that is, they break the protein bonds of the ingredients. These fruits must be boiled in pieces in water for 3-5 minutes to inhibit these enzymes which would otherwise affect the gelling of the thickeners.
CHOCOLATE AND COCOA
Chocolate to use is always pure chocolate with cocoa butter, called couverture. Whether dark, milk or white, chocolate is the ingredient that characterizes the taste of the icing as well as giving it shine thanks to its fats. For cocoa, as mentioned above, it must be cooked together with liquids at temperatures of about 103-105°C in order to solubilize it first and foremost, but also to sterilize it from any microorganisms that are naturally present in it. In addition, the glaze prepared with cocoa will be darker in color, lowering the sweetness of the glaze on the palate.
They are used to generate the necessary structure which allows the icing to remain stable, i.e. not dripping and with the right consistency. The most used thickeners to prepare the icing are:
- PECTIN in the market there are several types each with different characteristics. We can find it also mixed with other types of thickeners such as carrageenan, alginates, with modified starches, so it is necessary to test its thickening power directly on the "field". The pectin to be activated must be heated over 90°C. Pectin is mainly used for fruit glazes. Its quantity varies from 0.3 to 1.5% of the total of the recipe.
- Animal GELATIN is among the thickeners the most ductile in the use as it begins to gel at low temperatures keeping the glaze fluid at relatively low temperatures (30-40 ° C). It is accompanied by chocolate-cocoa glazes and also for it the amount varies from 0.3 to 1.5%.
- PATATE GELATIN used mainly on caramel glazes, gives a slightly stringy consistency. It is added to the recipe by bringing it together with the caramel over 100°C in order to activate gelation and solubilize it with the other ingredients. Quantity 2-3%.
I'm going to end this post by talking about a very important operation to perform for cocoa-chocolate and caramel icings. I'm talking about mixing. Such icings contain within them both liquids and fats. In order to obtain a fluid and glossy product, these two compounds, which normally tend to separate, must be mixed together as much as possible through an EMULSION operation. The emulsion of the liquids and fats in the glaze is obtained through prolonged mixing that lasts a few minutes using an IMMERSION MIXER. The emulsion is carried out by pouring the icing while it is still hot into a jug with a capacity such that it is filled with half to three quarters of its volume. The immersion mixer should be operated at low speed and then gradually increased. This very important operation allows to disperse the fats inside the liquids in very small bubbles with the effect of brightness, fluidity and stability. The only trick to keep in mind for the mixing is to avoid the insertion of air inside the icing. But we will talk about all this in the video tutorials on our YouTube channel. We look forward to seeing you!
Blog by Enrico Gumirato pastry chef and trainer