Monday, March 22, 2010

cornstarch, who knew?

Monday morning, off to a sluggish start. Head cold to boot! Big week, this week. Startin' the Passover bake tomorrow. Coconut macaroons, sponge cake, honey cake, florentines and flourless chocolate cake, by the truckload. I worked at Konopov's bakery on Devon avenue, in Chicago, in 1976. Briefly, maybe three months. But it was the right three months. Right thru Passover. I learned a lot. We made a lot more Passover variety, than we're making here, but the bakery was right at the corner of Devon and California. Chicagoans know what that means. This place rocked. Bagels and bialys, and the hallah, man. I didn't know you could make as many different sizes and shapes from one dough. Racks and racks of product. Friday nights, they set the oven at 500'. They had a huge rotating oven. When the stuff got brown, out it came, baked or not. They had no time to be concerned. Three or four of the items, we make here, are recipes that I got there. We follow all the rules, no flour or dairy, as they did. They weren't kosher, in fact the place was sold to an Italian guy named Tony, lasted, maybe eighteen months.

Kinda funny, way back, I started makin' the coconut macaroon cookies that we made there on Devon avenue. We package them so they don't dry out. We use a clamshell dome, I think in ten ounce units. So we packaged them, wrote a product label with the ingredients. The recipe called for cornstarch, not much. Mrs. Freid was a customer and my son's, maybe second grade teacher, at the grade school next to our house. She set me straight, "Can't use cornstarch. Corn is a legume. No flour, dairy or legumes are acceptable". Mrs. Fried bought our hallah bread, every Friday, for as long as I can remember. So we took the cornstarch out of the macaroons.

I've also learned that in France, bakers/pastry guys, can buy powdered sugar without cornstarch. Here at home, it's not available to us, on a commercial level. All of our powdered sugar has cornstarch in it "To prevent caking". The Frenchy's also believe that, it's one reason that it's difficult to make macarons here. I've never found it to be an issue. Maybe I, just don't know. So this time of year, we stock up on, one pound boxes of powdered sugar, that is "Acceptable for holiday baking". We buy it in a retail size pack. No, we don't use it for our Passover goods, we save it for the French macarons. Not sure how we addressed that issue, there on Devon avenue, but then after all, we were putting cornstarch in their cookies.

Not sure how many, if any, Jewish bakeries, there are left on Devon avenue. Used to be one every other store front. Gitel's, Faber's, Konopov's, Tel Aviv, Levinson's, Devon Avenue Bake Shop(for us goys), Ackerman's, I'm turning into my father, I can't remember the rest. I think most of their customer's have been transplanted. Most of the bakeries have closed. The neighborhood has completely changed. There is a Russian bakery on Devon, baking in a tandori oven.

I mentioned before, I like being a part of a family's "Holiday celebration". I'm very comfortable that the younger folks, buy our goods and run the Bennison's boxes out to the alley, to be hauled away, before the grand parents arrive for Seder. The ones I find funny are the orders we get for a pound of coconut macaroons, a honey cake, a chocolate lamb cake, a loaf of seeded rye, sliced, and a long poppy seed hallah. What??? That's Mrs. Clark's order, every Easter. See, that means something to me, that I know that. She shops here year 'round. I see her and we speak, I know the names of her grand kids. Maybe I should introduce her to Mrs. Freid.


Blogger Laminatrix said...

Sounds like Mrs. Clark has an ecumenical celebration, rather than a kosher one.

I think you can get powdered sugar w/o cornstarch at Whole Paycheck; I think the stuff I got from them didn't have cornstarch. Of course, it costs $483.72 per ounce or something, but if you just need it for your macarons, well, maybe. It definitely clumps. But they might sell you a case lot for a cheaper price or something.

I was going to make zeppoli (that's the plural; singular is zeppole) for St. Joseph's day, but, at the request of my boss, made chocolate-pastry-cream-filled cream puffs instead. Didn't suck.

March 22, 2010 at 8:29 AM  
Blogger Laminatrix said...

Okay, I checked; the Whole Foods brand has cornstarch, but the organic stuff, different brand, uses tapioca starch instead.

March 22, 2010 at 7:43 PM  
Blogger Jory Downer said...

chocolate pastry creme filled puffs, sounds like a chocolate eclair in france. they fill 'em there with chocolate pastry creme. good stuff. not sure if tapioca starch is within the rules. to bad i don't know where mrs. freid is.

March 24, 2010 at 7:26 AM  

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