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Alton Brown reccommends box cake mix!

chiquiNO's picture

He was on last night .....but he did say to make frosting/icing from scratch!  He demonstrated buttercream and a ganache.  Glenys...maybe I need to send him the Sue B recipe??LOL

Chiqui from way down yonder in New Orleans

 

AmyElliesMom's picture

(post #63945, reply #62 of 87)

Where in the world are you paying $4.00 for a box cake mix???

Even Pillsbury is only ever $1.29 at Publix here in Florida; and they go on sale Buy One Get One Free, or for $.99 all the time.

And I will agree with you about the amount of chemical leaveners, etc. in box mixes. I consider that a quality of ingredients problem - too much of something isn't quality, right?

 


"God is in the cosmic microwaves."

 

Save the Earth! It's the only planet with wine and chocolate.

SallyBR1's picture

(post #63945, reply #63 of 87)

As a cake-challenged person, I find this discussion fascinating

NOw, if I may ask - why don t they make a cake=box that has the correct proportion of everything? I read somewhere that cake mixes are optimized so that ANY mistake you can possibly make won t affect the end result too much. IN other words, they sell those for folks like me: naive bakers.
(disclaimer: I have never bought a cake mix)

My question then - do you think that when you use the PERFECT ratio of everything like you would baking from scratch, technique becomes more important, so that the risk of failure is higher?

 


 


"The beauty of a Sally is how neatly she can be divided"
(CookiMonster, Dec 2005)

burger's picture

(post #63945, reply #64 of 87)

Mixes cost more then baking from scratch. But it's harder to bake well, so most bakeries use mixes to achieve a constant product. Now the public has gotten used to mixes and they don't like the texture of many scratch cakes. People like the taste of scratch cakes.......just not the texture. They don't understand the texture of a butter cake at all. They want all cakes now to be light and moist regardless of when it was baked or the type of cake it is.

No one in the food industry takes Alton Brown seriously. And he's just a horrible baker! He embarrasses himself when he does any shows on baking. He can not level or frost a cake at all. He's a tv cook, not a chef.

AmyElliesMom's picture

(post #63945, reply #65 of 87)

To be fair to him, though, he doesn't claim to be a chef.

His older shows were awesome (I agree the new ones are tad gimmicky). He really explained the "why" of cooking, not just the "how".

I mean, any show that has Shirley Corriher on as a regular guest couldn't be ALL bad, right?

He's just a quirky guy that wanted to learn how to cook, and wasn't satisfied with "saute for 3 minutes". He wanted to know WHY 3 minutes, and not 2 or 4 minutes, so learned.

He used to be a filmmaker, btw.

 


"God is in the cosmic microwaves."

 

Save the Earth! It's the only planet with wine and chocolate.

Ricks503's picture

(post #63945, reply #66 of 87)

Actually, he started as a filmaker, then went to culinary school and runs a catering business and then started Good Eats show as he missed the filmaking but did not want to give up cooking.


 


 



1 - measure the board twice, 2 - cut it once, 3 - measure the space where it is supposed to go        4 - get a new board and go back to step 1


Edited 5/7/2006 12:06 pm ET by Ricks503

 

 

" There'll be no living with her now" - Captain Jack Sparrow

AmyElliesMom's picture

(post #63945, reply #59 of 87)

For instance, take the Sue B. cake:

GROUP 1

3/4 cups cocoa powder COST: $2.00 for cocoa or $.50 if you already have it in the house.

3/4 cups boiling water COST: We'll call this one free, lol.

GROUP 2

1 cup buttermilk COST: $2.49 for a quart or $.62 if you already have it in the house.

1 cup oil COST: store brand veg. oil is around $1.89, so using the big 6 cup container of it, this is $.25

4 large eggs COST: at $.89/dozen, this is $.30

1 t. vanilla COST: $.50 ($5.99 for 2 ounces vanilla)

GROUP 3

2 cups sugar COST: $.22 (if sugar is $.99 for 2 pounds; I'm not sure how much sugar costs as I don't buy it regularly)

2 cups flour COST: $.10 ($.99 for 5 pounds of AP flour)

1/2 t. salt COST: we'll call this free, too

2 t. baking soda COST: this one, too - cost is neglible

Stir group 1 ingredients together. Set aside.

Stir group 2 ingredients together. Set aside.

Stir group 3 ingredients together.

Stir group 3 into group 2. Stir in group 1.

Bake at 350 in greased, floured pan(s) until cake springs back when lightly pressed.

Total cost (if all ingredients are on hand): $2.49

Cost of a cake mix: $.99 plus 1/4 cup oil ($.06) and two eggs ($.15); total cost: $1.20

My prices on the sugar might be off, but I estimated low for it, so I think this is pretty accurate. I didn't use high end cocoa prices, either. I did use the current price on vanilla, which is very high. I actually bought a vanillin/vanilla blend a few weeks ago it was so pricey, so using fake vanilla in the homemade cake would bring the price down.

 


"God is in the cosmic microwaves."

 

Save the Earth! It's the only planet with wine and chocolate.

Gretchen's picture

(post #63945, reply #60 of 87)

Yes, you ARE accountant material.  'o)

Gretchen

Gretchen
CookiM0nster's picture

(post #63945, reply #32 of 87)

"when testing this premise, do you use a basic white/yellow mix or some other flavored mix?"

Yes to the yellow, no to the white. As Tracy said, I don't think the chemical taste is harder to spot in the yellow at all. On the other hand, I once got into a heated argument with a friend over that very issue (with her swearing that you couldn't taste the difference with yellow cake). What it eventually came down to was that she couldn't taste it, but I could.

I do think the degree to which you notice the off taste is related to how much processed food you eat in general. If you're used to those flavors in your food you stop noticing them, or caring. I'd liken this to Samchang's story of the overly sweet Big Mac.

Pumpkie's picture

(post #63945, reply #25 of 87)

I've worked in an italian bakery and almost all bakeries use a commercial mix they do not make their own.  They do make the frostings, fillings , whipped cream and decorations but it is not cost effective to make the cake batter it is cheaper to order from a company like perkins in large quanities.

Glenys's picture

(post #63945, reply #7 of 87)

I would agree 100%. You have those that think a cake from Costco, which of course is a mix, is great because it hits the price point and it's fresh, moist and attractive (OK, to some) when it's plucked off the shelf.
Pride of product is different from one professional baker to another; ask anyone doing the finishing touches on a decorated Costco cake.
The exercise of making a cake from scratch is about the control of ingredients- pure and simple, or pure and real. A simple list of real ingredients comes together and we know how and what we're eating. It does take skill, but that's where we put the value.
Edited to say, agreeing with Lee's SIL, and Lee but just got carried away.


Edited 5/4/2006 1:12 pm by Glenys

KarenP's picture

(post #63945, reply #38 of 87)

In his blog on Top Chef, Tom Collichio says "Initially I was surprised to see boxes of the stuff, but frankly, it didn't trouble me. None of the chefs are bakers and white cake is white cake. A mix allowed them to turn out a decent product in a short amount of time. I wouldn't advocate this in other areas – say, substituting prepared food from a deli case for freshly made"


  Boxed cakes are way too sweet to me.  They're a step above safeway, though I'm sure they use some kind of box too, but thats not saying all that much.

Biscuit's picture

(post #63945, reply #42 of 87)

In his blog on Top Chef, Tom Collichio says "Initially I was surprised to see boxes of the stuff, but frankly, it didn't trouble me. None of the chefs are bakers and white cake is white cake. A mix allowed them to turn out a decent product in a short amount of time. I wouldn't advocate this in other areas – say, substituting prepared food from a deli case for freshly made"


I watched this episode, and I don't believe TC was saying that box cakes would be okay in a regular situation, but that in this one, where they had 24 hours to cater this wedding, and NONE of those contestants could bake worth a damn, that it was an acceptable solution to their looming problem.  I'd be willing to bet had they had a week to cater it, he would have knocked them for using a boxed mix.  That's why it didn't really bother me to see them do it - in their situation, I don't see that they had a choice.


Now, I'm a baker myself, and I know at the country club I worked at they used a commercial brand of boxed white cake mix for wedding cakes until I started to work there, and started to make them from scratch.  We actually saved money by me making them from scratch, and I could whip out 15 or 20 layers at a time.  When days were slow, I would just make cake layers, cool, wrap tightly in several layers of clingfilm and freeze for when we needed them.  Lots of high-end bakeries do this, and don't have to resort to cake mixes.


And I'm sure a lot of people don't know, but commercially you can buy eggs in cartons, like a milk carton, without the shell.  You buy them by the quart or gallon, and you can buy whole eggs, egg yolks, or egg whites.    These are not fake eggs - they are real, just shelled and packaged in a very easy-to-use form for professional bakers.  This is how I got MY eggs when I was baking.  And this is why I measured everything by weight - I had to know "1 lb. of whole eggs" or "2 lbs. of whites", in order to measure from the liquid eggs.


"I wouldn't shop at Walmart.com if they were the last online retailer on earth and they shipped everything using chocolate chips as packing material. "  - Miss Alli of TWoP

"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty."  - George Bernard Shaw

Glenys's picture

(post #63945, reply #43 of 87)

That's the clarification needed. Knew he wasn't endorsing cake mixes as a whole.

Biscuit's picture

(post #63945, reply #44 of 87)

Tom Collichio? (G)  No - can't see that happening (lol).  The chef's on this show are chefs - there wasn't a single baker in the group, which sort of surprised me, but there you are.  And as you know, baking takes a different mind-set from cooking.  These guys just couldn't have pulled off a cake-from-scratch plus all the other stuff they had to do in the time they had.

"I wouldn't shop at Walmart.com if they were the last online retailer on earth and they shipped everything using chocolate chips as packing material. "  - Miss Alli of TWoP

"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty."  - George Bernard Shaw

Glenys's picture

(post #63945, reply #45 of 87)

Try as they may, some can't make a decent cake after a semester. We actually had chefs apply for teaching positions in the culinary program, from Europe, who had no basic scratch baking experience; never made a muffin or brownie or loaf.

Biscuit's picture

(post #63945, reply #46 of 87)

When I was in school, there was a saying:  "Cooking is an Art; Baking is a Science".  I think that's true.  In cooking there is a lot of leeway and freedom to do a little of this, a little of that, and to swap out ingredients and still come out with a great product - sometimes a better product!  You really have to have a natural, intuitive feel and great tastebuds for cooking.


In baking - you just can't do that very much.  It's very exact, and you really have to know how things are supposed to look at different stages of the process and how things react.  You have to have good timing and discipline.


I'm a good baker - but I'm just an average cook.  They each really do take a different mind-set.



"I wouldn't shop at Walmart.com if they were the last online retailer on earth and they shipped everything using chocolate chips as packing material. "  - Miss Alli of TWoP


Edited 5/5/2006 12:44 pm ET by Biscuit

"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty."  - George Bernard Shaw

ashleyd's picture

(post #63945, reply #49 of 87)

chefs apply for teaching positions in the culinary program, from Europe, who had no basic scratch baking experience; never made a muffin or brownie or loaf.


Hardly surprising that any self-respecting European chef had never made a muffin or a brownie, good European baking is rather more sophisticated. The loaf bit is a shocker though.



Always take a good look at what you're about to eat. It's not so important to know what it is, but it's critical to know what it was.

Age is unimportant unless you’re a cheese.

Glenys's picture

(post #63945, reply #50 of 87)

Ironically it's more difficult to master chemically leavened baked goods and no course would be complete without covering that material. It doesn't matter if it's a scone or muffin or loaf, they have to understand more than one application of chemical leavening. Besides, while many didn't, others certainly did, especially those whose with work histories in hotels, and virtually every "imported" model on staff came from that background.

ashleyd's picture

(post #63945, reply #51 of 87)

Interesting. Chemical leavening (this from an eater not a baker) seems to be fairly well grasped in Europe, the lighter sponges, scones, even soda breads tend to bear testimony to this. I know it's a matter of taste and backgound but things like muffins and brownies are, to my (and possibly general European) taste , rather heavy. That's not to say they are better or worse, just a case of what you were brought up with.


Always take a good look at what you're about to eat. It's not so important to know what it is, but it's critical to know what it was.

Age is unimportant unless you’re a cheese.

Glenys's picture

(post #63945, reply #52 of 87)

Muffins and brownies were just an off the cuff example, but the premise still stands. It's the one difficulty with the system of indentured apprenticeship. At the same time a chef may be a master, his experience may not be diverse.

Jean's picture

(post #63945, reply #53 of 87)

Oh, poo,  you sound  like an uppity English snob. :-Þ~~~



Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.  Will Rogers


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ashleyd's picture

(post #63945, reply #56 of 87)

True.


Always take a good look at what you're about to eat. It's not so important to know what it is, but it's critical to know what it was.

Age is unimportant unless you’re a cheese.

SallyBR1's picture

(post #63945, reply #54 of 87)

Very interesting...

forgive my ignorance, but when you buy the liquid "whole eggs" - to they "scramble" whites and yolks together so that when you pour you get the right ratio between them?

 


 


"The beauty of a Sally is how neatly she can be divided"
(CookiMonster, Dec 2005)

KarenP's picture

(post #63945, reply #55 of 87)

Now, I'm a baker myself, and I know at the country club I worked at they used a commercial brand of boxed white cake mix for wedding cakes until I started to work there, and started to make them from scratch.  We actually saved money by me making them from scratch, and I could whip out 15 or 20 layers at a time.  When days were slow, I would just make cake layers, cool, wrap tightly in several layers of clingfilm and freeze for when we needed them.  Lots of high-end bakeries do this, and don't have to resort to cake mixes.


  Do you ever think about teaching?  I think your explanations of how ingredients work together have been a great help to me as I bumble along.

mer's picture

(post #63945, reply #9 of 87)

He has had plenty of shows explaining how to make cakes from scratch.  I am sure that he receives many emails asking for dumbed down recipes.  My guess was that this show was about icing cakes, not baking cakes. 

TracyK's picture

(post #63945, reply #11 of 87)

The show was technically about frostings, not cakes. In cake decorating classes they use cakes made out of styrofoam or cardboard, but I wouldn't qualify that as a "recommendation."  :-)

Why is it so cold on this beach? And what's taking the bartender so long?

chiquiNO's picture

(post #63945, reply #26 of 87)

He definitely discussed making cakes from scratch but flashed a box of Duncan Hines (my used to be favorite mix..before the SueB Epiphany...LOL) and said that you couldn't make a better cake than that....or some such wording....THAT IS the comment that got my attention....I was hanging draperies while the show was on!!


 


The cakes they showed were absolutely AWFUL looking....very dry and crumbly in appearance....certainly turned me off!!


 


FN has truly been going downhill and very quickly.  Yesterday afternoon the semi-half made gal said, "Now I want you to use this "boil-in-the-bag rice" and make your gravy with this can of cream of mushroom soup...ooooooooooh YUMMY!!"


Chiqui from way down yonder in New Orleans