Combine 1 teaspoon buttermilk with 1 cup heaviest cream in a glass jar. Blend. Let stand, covered, for 6 to 8 hours at 75 degrees F. Stir and refrigerate until needed.
Milk, where referred to in the following recipes, means whole milk which has, of course, a certain percentage of butterfat. In all probablility, unless purchased direct from a farmer, this milk will be homogenized - treated in a way that prevents the butterfat from rising as cream.
Many of the following recipes require a sugar syrup boiled to some specified degree of heat. This may be judged approximately by various tests which involve dropping bits of the boiling syrup into cold water. A candy thermometer, however, is not only easier but more accurate. Use one by all means. If you have none, the cold water tests are as follows:
At 234 degrees to 240 degrees F. a bit of syrup dropped from a spoon into cold water will form a soft ball.
At 246 degrees to 248 degrees F. a firm ball.
At 265 degrees to 270 degrees F., a hard ball
At 295 degrees F. the hardened syrup will bend, then crack.
At 300 degrees F. it has the consistency of peanut brittle.
At 310 degrees F., the consistency of rock candy.
Electric beaters are great time and energy savers, so you should use one whenever possible for mixing batters (which do not have specific requirements), or beating egg yolk or egg-sugar combinations. Rotary hand-beaters, however, are preferable for beating egg whites; and wire whisks which take more time and labor are best of all. This is true also where whipped cream is concerned. Whipped cream should not be thought of simply as cream whipped stiff in any off-hand manner; it has special qualities which are brought out by special beating. It may be very soft and just barely whipped to hold a shape or it may be stiff enough to stand in straight high peaks. But it should always be smooth and of a silky texture. Over-beating or too fast or too hard beating will make it pebbly. If taken beyond a certain stage of stiffness it assumes a buttery taste and texture. And beyond that, of course, it becomes butter in fact.
Cream, to whip properly, should be refrigerator-cold and the bowl used for whipping should be cold as well. Egg whites, on the other hand, should be at room temperature.
When whipped cream is incorporated in any mixture, the mixture must be cold when the cream is added if it is to remain whipped. If whipped cream is added to a warm mixture, it gradually weeps away.
Once whipped, cream will stay whipped for several hours under refrigeration. Actually, if turned into a fine mesh sieve (which should in turn be set over a bowl of some sort), the whipped cream will improve under refrigeration for its watery content will drain away, leaving a firmer cream than otherwise.
Unlike whipped cream, beaten egg whites may be folded into eiither warm or cold mixtures. Their light fluffy quality will not be affected. If you wish them to have added gloss and stiffness when combining them with a cream custard, whip in a small amount of sugar after they form soft peaks
When creaming butter, start the process by hand if the butter is cold and hard. If you use an electric beater on hard butter (unless it is fitted with a pastry blending attachment), you will simply clog the blades.
In many of the following recipes we have specified use of a double boiler not because the double boiler is essential to the cooking process in question but simply because it obviates many difficulties and hazards - especially where chocolate and/or eggs or egg yolks are concerned. If you lack a large enough or small enough double boiler for any particular operation, use a saucepan of the required size for the top and set this over and in a larger saucepan with an inch or two of hot water. The water in most cases should be below the under surface of the upper pot; and it should be kept at whatever temperature is indicated by the recipe-sometimes merely hot, sometimes at a full boil.
For grinding nuts the best utensil to use is a nut grinder, of course, which is specially made for the purpose and grinds the nuts to a fine powder without having them oil, a matter of the nutmeat and oil separating. Lacking such a grinder, an electric blender is the best substitute. Use 1/2 cup nutmeats at a time and flick the blender on at high speed for only 30 seconds. Meat grinders, unless their blades are very sharp, are apt to mash the nuts to a paste.
So that you may roughly estimate the quantity of nuts you need to buy for any recipe, let us say that 1 cup whole blanched almonds or pecan or walnut halves weighs approximately 5.5 ounces, ` pound nuts in the shells equals approximately 1/2 pound shelled, and 1/2 pound shelled equals approximately 1,5 cups.
And to refresh your memory on other data:
2 cups = 1 pint 2 pints = 1 quart 16 ounces = 1 pound 4 cups flour = 1 pound 2 cups granulated sugar = 1 pound 3.5 cups powdered sugar = 1 pound
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