Friday, January 28, 2011

How to Prepare Red Food Coloring - Using Cochineal

Of all the food colorings that were produced, red is the most unusual for me. When I think of red food coloring I think of a red velvet cake, sweet hummingbird food, and Valentine's day treats. I don't think of insects.

Dried Female Cochineal Insects
Cochineal is the red coloring produced from the manufacture or process of the Cochineal (Dactylopius coccus), a scale insect that produces and stores a deep reddish-maroon color inside its body. Although the thought of eating ground up bugs is not very appealing, it is a natural coloring that has been used for hundreds of years, and is still used today. Carmine is the cochineal product further refined and processed.

These authentic 'recipe' come from The Complete Confectioner, Pastry-Cook and Baker.

From The
Household Cyclopedia
As the author states:
One of the principal colours requisite for the confectioner's use is coccinella, or cochineal. The sorts generally sold are the black, silver, foxy, and the granille. The insect is of two species, the fine and the wild cochineal; the fine differs from the wild in size, and is also covered with a white mealy powder. The best is of a deep mulberry colour, with a white powder between the wrinkles, and a bright red within. A great deal of adulteration is practised with this article, both at home and abroad; it is on this account that persons prefer the silver grain, because it cannot be so well sophisticated. Good cochineal should be heavy, dry, and more or less of a silvery colour, and without smell.
To prepare the recipe for a rich red coloring, these ingredients are called for: cochineal, river water, potash or soda, powdered alum, and optionally powdered loaf sugar. To prepare the recipe for Carmine, these ingredients are further needed: filtered water, alum, and possibly solution of tin or solution of green vitriol (described below).

After all this, it makes you appreciate just going to the market and finding food coloring in any shade you need for your projects, whenever you need it.

The recipe for Cochineal:
To Prepare Cochineal - Pound an ounce of cochineal quite fine, and put it into a pint of river water with a little potash or soda, and let it boil; then add about a quarter of an ounce powdered alum, the same of cream of tartar, and boil for ten minutes; if it is required for keeping, add two or three ounces of powdered loaf sugar.
The recipe for Carmine:
Carmine - Reduce one ounce of cochineal to a fine powder, add to it six quarts of clear rain or filtered water, as for cochineal. Put this into a large tin saucepan, or a copper one tinned, and let it boil for three minutes, then add twenty-five grains of alum, and let it boil two minutes longer; take it off the fire to cool; when it is blood warm pour off the clear liquor into shallow vessels, and put them by to settle for two days, covering them with paper to keep out the dust. In case the carmin has not separated properly, add a few drops of a solution of tin, or a solution of green vitriol, which is tin dissolved in muriatic acid, or the following may be substituted: - one ounce and a half spirit of nitre, three scruples of sal-ammoniac, three scruples of tin dissolved in a bottle, and use a few drops as required. When the carmine has settled, decant off the clear which is liquid rouge. The first sediment is Florence lake, which remove, and dry the carmine for use. This preparation is by far superior to the first, for in this same colour is obtained as before, which is the liquid rouge, the other and more expensive parts being invaribly thrown away. The carmine can be obtained by the first process, as can be seen if the whole id poured into a clear bottle and allowed to settle, when the carmine will be deposited in a layer of bright red near the bottom. It produces about half an ounce of carmine.
Different shades can be made using this red:
Purple - Mix carmine or cochineal, and a small portion of indigo.
Lilac - The same, making the blue predominate.
Orange - Yellow, with a portion of red.
Gold - The same, but the yellow must be more in excess.
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How to Make Yellow Food Coloring

Saffron is used to both flavor and color a dish. Yellow food coloring is easily made through the use of saffron, and different shades of yellow uses different strength, or a mixture of saffron and other other colors. These authentic food color recipes come from The Complete Confectioner, Pastry-Cook and Baker, from 1849.

Yellow - Infuse saffron in warm water, and use it for colouring any thing that is eatable. The English hay-saffron is the best; it is taken from the tops of the pistils of the crocus flower; it is frequently adulterated with the flowers of marygolds or safflower, which is known as the bastard saffron, and is pressed into thin cakes with oil. Good saffron has a strong agreeable odour, and an aromatic taste. Gum paste and other articles which are not eaten may be coloured with gamboge dissolved in warm water.
To make different shades of yellow, the author recommends:
Orange - Yellow, with a portion of red.
Gold - The same, but the yellow must be in excess.
Lemon - Use a solution of saffron.
Green - Blue and Yellow.
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How to Make Green Food Coloring

Green food coloring is important in confectionery work, as with all the other colorings. There are many different ways to make a greed food coloring, using vegetables and other ingredients. These authentic food color recipes come from The Complete Confectioner, Pastry-Cook and Baker.

Sap Green - This is prepared from the fruit of the buckthorn, and is purgative.
Spinach Green - This is prefectly harmless and will answer most purposes. Wash and drain a sufficient quantity of spinach, pound it well in a mortar, and squeeze the pounded leaves in a coarse cloth to extract all the juice; put it in a pan and set it on a good fire, and stir it occasionally until it curdles, which will be when it is at the boiling point; then take it off and strain off the water with a fine sieve; the residue left is the green; dry it and rub it through a lawn sieve. This is only fit for opaque bodies, such a ices, creams, or syrups.
Another green- is made with a mixture of saffron or gamboge, and prepared indigo; the lighter green the more yellow must be used.
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Foodie Friday - Old Fashioned Tomato Ketchup (Catsup)

Here is an entry in Foodie Friday - non-pastry recipes and food info from archival and historical cook books.

Ketchup Condiement - Image courtesy Morguefile

Think ketchup is something that Heinz made up? The tomato preserve called ketchup, or catsup, or any other variation to the name, has been around a long time. Here are two versions from an 1890's cookbook. By the way they are spiced, this condiment back then was an intensely flavored one.
Tomato Catsup - No. 1
One-half bushel ripe tomatoes cut in halves; sprinkle with salt and leave them over night. Drain off the juice, add one pint of water, and stew slowly in a large preserving-kettle till quite soft. Then put through a colander to free from skins. Return to the kettle and add one cupful of salt, one-half ounce cayenne pepper, one ounce powdered cloves, one ounce each of nutmeg and mace. Simmer slowly for two or three hours, and add, when nearly cooked, one bottle of cooking wine.
Tomato Catsup - No. 2
Boil one bushel of tomatoes in a granite ware kettle until soft, press them through a sieve; then add half a gallon of vinegar, two ounces of cloves, one and a half pint of salt, one ounce cayenne pepper, five heads of garlic skinned or chopped, two ounces of whole pepper, one pound of allspice, five ounces of mace, and five ounces of celery seed. Mix all together, and boil until it is reduced one-half. Strain. Black pepper may be used instead of cayenne, and onions instead of garlic. 
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Monday, January 24, 2011

Blanched Almonds

Blanched and ground almonds are used in many pastry applications. They provide crunch in cookies, and the base to many desserts. With the recognition of celiac disease, it has even help bakers create crusts for cheesecake and pies without the use of flour. How to blanche them? The procedure in a cook book from 1864 is remarkably similar to now. From The Complete Confectioner:

 My method:

Blanching and Peeling AlmondsWhole almonds with skins -Bring a pot of water to boiling. Add in desired amount of nuts and allow to boil for 2-3 minutes, depending on how much almonds are in the pot. Remove from heat and drain nuts. Allow to cool enough so that peeling the nuts will not burn skin but still warmed, and simply pop the almonds out of their skins. Squeezing from the rounded ends usually assists in removal. When all the nuts have been skinned, allow to dry then dry thoroughly in oven, or toast until desired shade of brown and use in recipes.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lemon Pie

Lemon pies are a favorite at my house, and for good reason. They are sweet and tart at the same time, and leave the kitchen with a nice fragrant smell of citrus once you grate or squeeze the fruit. The following recipe comes from The Model Cook Book, by Mrs. Frances Willey, from 1890. Apparently lemon pies were a favorite of the author as well, as there are seven different lemon pies in the book, including lemon fruit, lemon custard, and lemon cream.

My favorite lemon pie at home isn't technically a pie - it's a tart. I usually match it up with a shortbread cookie crust, but whatever you're in the mood for is what your crust should be. But make it a cookie or similar no-bake crust, as the pie is not baked.
Mrs. Willey's Lemon Pie - No. 1
One cup of hot water, one tablespoon of cornstarch, one cup of white sugar, one tablespoon of butter, the juice and grated rind of one lemon. Cook for a few minutes, add one egg, and bake with a top and bottom crust.
My recipe: a lemon tart with a shortbread crust. Easy, since there is no baking involved.

Caramelized Lemon Tart with Shortbread Butter Crust
This recipe is for an 11inch fluted tart pan.

2 3/4 c packed shortbread cookie crumbs (ground in food processor)
8 T unsalted butter, melted
1/4 c powdered sugar
2 eggs
3 yolks
3/4 c sugar
1/2 c freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 t finely chopped lemon peel
1/2 c unsalted butter, cut in tablespoons
Granulated sugar for caramelizing

For the crust:
Mix the crumbs, butter and sugar until combined. Pour mixture on the bottom of the tart pan. Start by pressing on the bottom to firmly pack and then work up the sides. Press until there is an even layer of crust on the bottom and sides of the tart pan. Chill; reserve.
For the filling:
Place eggs, yolks, sugar, lemon juice, and chopped lemon peel in a large stainless steel mixing bowl set over simmering water. Whisk the mixture with a stainless steel whip until thickened and light. Mixture will be very hot; be careful not to overcook. Remove from heat and stir with a wooden spoon for a couple of minutes. Slowly add in the butter pat by pat, stirring the lemon curd until the butter is melted before adding in another pat. Cool to room temperature, keeping it covered and stirring occasionally, then pour into reserved crust. Using an offset spatula, spread until even and cover the top with plastic film. Chill until firm, at least an hour or two.

For decoration, you can cut slice into individual portions and caramelize on the individual plate, or caramelize the entire tart and bring to the table for service. For caramelizing: sprinkle an even layer of granulated sugar over the surface. With a flame torch, wave back and forth over surface until the sugar is caramelized. Allow it to cool to a crisp caramel topping before serving.

Recipe from Renee Shelton.
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Saturday, January 15, 2011

What's in Imitation Vanilla - Coumarin and Tonka Bean Danger

Sometimes an old recipe isn't so hot, especially when it contains an ingredient that could be harmful to your health. It is in the case of old recipes using 'Imitation Vanillin,' 'Coumarin,' and 'Vanilla and Tonka Flavor.' I was intrigued by these flavors I found in an old Perfection Recipe Book by Avon Products, Inc. I'm not sure when it was printed, but on the inside had this interesting note to the readers:
Only Perfection Olive Oil is not available now, due to war conditions....You will notice some changes in the packaging of Perfection products - some of the metal containers have had to be replaced with glass or specially-process cardboard.
All this indicates that these products were being sold during wartime, and used prior. And I wanted to find out if this 'new' old flavoring was something to get excited about, and if it could be recreated, or found and used at home. It turns out this stuff was hazardous to human,s but it is still being manufactured in other countries since it is a cheap alternative to pure vanilla extract. It is also a popular for use in perfumes.
Imitation Vanillin, Coumarin, Vanilla and Tonka Flavor

So, just what is coumarin, tonka and all that stuff? 

Coumarin happens to be a naturally occurring compound in plants (cinnamon, tonka beans, apricots, sweet clover, etc) but is also chemically manufactured (benzopryone) as a perfume ingredient. It has a vanilla-like flavor but has a hay-like smell. What it does to the body: it acts as a blood thinner and has found to be toxic for the liver and kidney organs. It is still found in certain alcoholic drinks, like Maiwein and Żubrówka, because of the ingredients in them contain coumarin naturally: Maiwein is a German drink made with sweet woodruff and Żubrówka is a Polish vodka flavored with buffalo grass. Both woodruff and buffalo grass are known to contain naturally occurring coumarin.

Tonka beans are small beans, and are actually legumes, from the pea family. Why they are no longer in processed foods now is because they contain coumarin. Tonka beans have a vanilla-caramel flavor, and are still used for perfumes and cosmetics here in the U.S. While the United States prohibits the use of coumarin-containing products (like tonka beans in particular) to be used in food production, France still uses tonka beans in pastry production.

Tonka Bean whole 1 oz
Tonka Beans: Can be purchased through


Sources and More Information:
  • "Some 'Vanilla Extract' Produced in Mexico is No Bargain." U. S. Food and Drug Administration. March 2009. Site Accessed 15 January 2011.
  • "Maiwein." Wikipedia. 3 August 2010. Site Accessed 15 January 2011.
  • Woehrlin F, Fry H, Abraham K, Preiss-Weigert A."Quantification of flavoring constituents in cinnamon: high variation of coumarin in cassia bark from the German retail market and in authentic samples from indonesia." Abstract. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U. S. National Library of Medicine. 13 October 2010. Site Accessed 15 January 2011.  
  • "What is Coumarin?" Site Accessed 15 January 2011.
  • "Żubrówka." Wikipedia. 4 December 2010. Site Accessed 15 January 2011.
  • More info: Coumarins : Biology, Applications, and Mode of Action
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