Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lucky Number Three

When I was a little girl, my grandma and I would visit my aunt in Southern California nearly every summer.  One year while Grandma and I were visiting, my aunt and her incredibly chic friend, Maxine, decided we should all pile into Maxine’s convertible and drive to Las Vegas.  So we did. 

After arriving, finding a hotel and going up to our room, I wanted to go back to the car to get something.  No one else was interested in leaving the air conditioning and, at that time, no one thought anything of sending me on my own to retrieve what I wanted from the car.  On my way back to our room, a well-dressed gentleman in a smart black suit called out to me, “What’s your number?”  Being the naïve, Midwestern girl I was, I started to look at the room key in my hand for our room number.  “No, no.  Your lucky number!”  Feeling a bit embarrassed I sheepishly replied “Oh.  Three.”  He then flipped me a silver dollar and said he was going to go bet on it.  I was too dumbstruck to even say thank you.  I never saw him again and to this day I wonder what he played and if he won.

I don’t remember every detail of that trip (I think I was only six at the time) but a few things have stuck with me:  I’ll never forget Maxine and her red convertible; I’ll never forget that we stayed at the Stardust; and I’ll never forget “lucky number three”. 

Apparently, the pâte de fruit needed a lucky number three. 

This is only about a quarter of the berries I have.
I bought a flat of strawberries yesterday, doing so with the intent of trying another batch of pâte de fruit.  This time, given the quantity of berries I bought, I decided to go with the full recipe instead of cutting it in half.

While I was in school I had purchased a pea-sized melon baller in anticipation of needing it for a final project.  That need never arose, but I discovered yesterday that it’s an awesome tool for hulling strawberries.  Making quick work of nearly five pounds of berries made it worth it.


Before getting started, I made sure that this time the parchment would be greased.  Instead of buttering it, I sprayed it lightly with our olive oil mister.  The fact that I finally remembered this was a good sign in and of itself.  The next step was to make sure all of my ingredients were assemble and measured out.  (I can’t stress how important this is.) 

This is where I hit a small snag and got a little panicky.  I had run out of sugar 100g – about a half of a cup – shy of what I needed.  A jar of vanilla sugar stashed in the cabinet with my tea came to my rescue.  And since I was using a bit of vanilla sugar, why not toss in a vanilla bean? 

mise en place
The procedure was the same as for the mango-chile pâte de fruit.  I did make sure to whisk the pectin thoroughly this time, and made sure it was at a full boil before adding the glucose and sugar.  So far so good.  I boiled and stirred and dreamed of perfect pâte de fruit.  Waiting until this morning to find out was excruciating.  Could it be?  It could.


These cut like a dream compared to the mango.

Since I wanted to cut even squares, the ruler came out.  To keep it from sticking to the pâte de fruit, I coated the top with sugar before removing it from the pan.  My first hint of success was that when lifting the parchment from the pan, the pâte de fruit separated cleanly from the parchment.  I believe I felt my heart flutter.  I still went through three knives and a pizza cutter trying to decide on the best tool for the job.  In the end, a thin bladed, sharp knife dipped in warm water seemed to do just fine.  They were cutting cleanly and lifting cleanly off of the parchment.  My excitment was building as I rolled them in the turbinado sugar (the only sugar I had left).

While I’m not certain that these are perfect (they're a wee bit soft and extremely sweet), I think I’m thisclose to pâte de perfection.


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