In The Beginning…

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It all started with a post-wedding cake in aBatteredOldSuitcase. Daniel and Frances were married in Sacramento, then honeymooned in Egypt. Upon returning to the States they stopped by South Florida for a second reception for our friends and family who couldn’t travel to California. I made my first “wedding” cake for the party.

Once safely ensconced in retirement I expanded both my baking and short story writing. I recently joined an online forum which provides writing help for amateurs like me and am currently revising everything I wrote over the past few years, including my first book “Ruth,” several short-stories basked on our rescued Havanese/Poodle, Rosalita. I also wrote a political thriller, ”The Star Alliance”, and science fiction with “The Quantum Butterfly Effect,” all of which should be considered proofs until they have been revised—ToAHotelSomeplace.

GhostsThatSell Memories is my sporadically updated travel blog. I wrote it primarily for friends and family we visited during our 2018 cross country road trip.

Header photo of my hometown, Middlebury, Vermont by my life long friend David Griggs. Please visit his website  www.djgriggsphoto.com.

 

Fruit Braided Tarts

Ok, so I made fruit tarts in braided tart shells. Should the title be Braided Tarts with Fruit, or Fruit Braided Tarts, or Braided Fruit Tarts? Reminds me of Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

QC had the day off and was out with some friends, leaving me home alone, heh, heh, heh. What to do, oh what to do?

There were braided tart shells in the freezer and I recently bought a kiwi and picked an orange from my neighbor’s tree. I promised a couple of friends I would make them some fruit tarts when everything came together and yesterday all the stars aligned.

First freshen the frozen tart shells (notice the braided sides) in the over at 400F for 5-8 minutes, then an additional 5 minutes at 320F.

Peel and cut the kiwi into thin slices and slice the orange and strawberries.

Make the Crème Diplomat and pipe into the cool shells, add the fruit in your best imitation of a pretty pattern. Sprinkle a few blueberries around the other fruit for color.

Serve as soon as possible as the Crème Diplomat will deflate fairly quickly.

A good, quiet “me” day.

Crème Diplomat

INGREDIENTS
• ½c sugar
• ¼c corn starch
• Pinch salt
• 2 c whole milk
• 4 egg yolks
• 2 Tbl butter
• 2 cups heavy cream, cold

METHOD

  1. Whisk eggs and milk together and add to all other ingredients (except vanilla) to a medium saucepan.
  2. Bring to boil whisking constantly
  3. Cook until thickened (it will look lumpy, its ok)
  4. Sieve lumpy mixture into a bowl and add 1 tsp vanilla, mix thoroughly
  5. When incorporated, cover with plastic directly on the cream and cool about an hour.
  6. Whip the cold heavy cream to medium peaks.
  7. Fold a few spoonfuls of the custard into the cream. Gradually add the rest of the custard, being careful to not knock the air out.

Notes

  1. You can make the custard or creme patisserie ahead of time, it will keep for a few days in an airtight container in the fridge. However, I would not add the whipped cream until you were ready to serve it. It is best served immediately.
  2. Mix crème patisserie 1::1 with whipped cream if making crème patisserie in advance,

I Needed No Kneaded Cinnamon Swirl Bread

I saw a picture of a loaf of cinnamon swirl bread online and that was it. I knew I would make it. It’s an enriched bread dough, stretched into a long rectangle, filled, and rolled up to make a swirl. It doesn’t require kneading, which is nice, although my Kitchen-aid mixer doesn’t really mind.

A few things I discovered as making the bread. When rolled out, stretch the rectangle to at least 18” and better if you can make it 10” x 22”. The longer the rectangle, and thinner the dough, the more rolls there will be and the better the cinnamon/sugar filling will be distributed.

If you have spring back when stretching the dough let it rest 5-10 minutes. The gluten is trying to contract and letting it rest will help. Other than that, the recipe is pretty accurate. BTW: it is delicious.

No Knead Cinnamon Bread

Makes 2 loaves
INGREDIENTS

DOUGH
• 6 cups (768g) unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon kosher salt
• ¼ cup (55g) granulated sugar
• 2½ teaspoons instant yeast
• 1½ cups (340g) buttermilk or milk
• 1 cup (236g) water
• 6 tablespoons (¾ stick, or 86g)) unsalted butter, melted
• Baking spray with flour
FILLING
• ¼ cup (32g) flour, for dusting the counter + 4 tsp to stabilize filling
• ½ cup (110g) granulated sugar
• 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
• 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water
• (Optional raisins, diced to less than ¼”)

METHOD
DOUGH:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk and water. Stir to combine, then heat to 100 -110F.
  3. Add the milk and water mixture then the melted butter. Mix until the liquid is absorbed and the mixture forms a sticky dough ball. (I added an additional ¼ c flour before it formed a good shaggy ball.)
  4. Cover and set aside in a warm spot to rise until the dough has doubled in bulk, about 1½ hours.
  5. Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 375°F. Grease two 8.5-by-4.5-inch loaf pans generously with the softened butter.
  6. Release the dough from the sides of the bowl and pull it toward the center, then tip out onto a lightly floured bench. Gently deflate the dough and form into a rough ball.

ASSEMBLE THE BREAD:

  1. Separate the dough into two equal pieces. Using as much flour as necessary, dust your hands and the exterior of the dough, and shape each half into a ball. Let the dough balls rest, covered for 20 minutes without touching.
  2. Transfer one round to the clean, flour dusted bench and gently stretch the dough into a rough 9×20-inch rectangle. (The thinner the rectangle, the more swirls and better distribution of the filling.) If the dough springs back while stretching, let it rest 5 minutes, covered.( In a small bowl, mix 4 tsp AP flour, the sugar and the cinnamon. Brush the dough with the egg wash. Use a small sieve and evenly distribute the filling over the dough with half of the flour-cinnamon-sugar mix, saving the other half for the other dough ball. (Optional: thoroughly mix and coat diced raisins, no more than ¼” in size, into the mix.)
  3. Beginning with one short end, roll it tightly into a coil and place it in a sprayed loaf pan. Repeat with the remaining round. Do not cover the pans. Let the coils rise on the countertop near the oven (or another warm, draft-free spot) until the top of the dough just crowns the rim of the pans, about 10 minutes. (It took mine 20+ minutes in the proofing drawer)
  4. Transfer the pans to the oven and bake until the tops are golden brown and firm to the touch, 40 to 45 minutes. Check the loaves after 20 minutes. The tops were browning and the internal temperature was only 135F. I tented each loaf with aluminum foil and set the timer for an additional 10 minutes. Check every 10 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 185F.
  5. Remove the loaves from the oven, turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool on their sides for 20 minutes before slicing.

NOTES:
According to KAF adding flour to the cinnamon/sugar mix and assuring any added fruit chunks are less than ¼” diameter, will reduce the gaps between the rolls of dough.

Hot Dog! Hamburger Rolls

I like to keep a dozen or so hamburger rolls in the freezer for ‘impulse’ dinner nights. (You know what I mean: “What do you want for dinner?” “I don’t know, what do you want?” The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been… hamburgers. We always agree on hamburgers. My supply was down to three, meaning there was plenty of room in the freezer for more.

Since I found (and made) a new recipe for dinner rolls with one of my granddaughters yesterday, I decided to make some hamburger rolls today. Also, I wanted some homemade hotdog rolls and this was a perfect opportunity to fulfill that wish. This bread is very briochey. The addition of milk, butter and eggs enriches the normal bread dough resulting in a soft, moist, delicious bread.

A question I am often asked is: “how do I know when I have the right amount of flour in the dough?” I am not sure mine’s the ‘correct’ method, but once the dough starts to clean the sides of the stand mixer bowl, I add flour by the tablespoon until the bottom is clean as well. The two short videos following show the dough cleaning the side of the bowl, and, after adding a few more tablespoons, the bottom.

You probably already know this but the difference between dinner rolls as posted yesterday and the hamburger rolls in todays post is how far apart each ball of dough is positioned when baked. The dinner rolls were allowed to grow together in a baking pan and the hamburger rolls were more widely separated on a baking sheet.

I found a few methods of forming the dough logs to make the hotdog rolls. One is to press or roll a portion of dough into a 3”x3” square, perform an envelope fold, pinch the joins together then roll out into the cylindrical shape, about 6” long and 1” diameter.

The other method (and the one I used for hotdog rolls #2 – 12) is to stretch and tension each portion of dough into a ball then roll out into a log 6” long. It seemed easier and faster than the fold and roll method.

Roll to make the center thinner than the ends. The rise and oven spring tends to enlarged the center more than the ends.

I like to cover the dough with a paper towel, then plastic wrap before putting them into the proofing drawer. I read this time somewhere that the paper towel reduces sticking. It works for me.

After proofing, the rolls are egg washed and baked for 12 – 14 minutes or when the tops are a nice brown and the internal temperature is about 180F.

Enriched Dinner, Hamburger and Hotdog Rolls

INGREDIENTS
• 488 g (2 cups) warm milk
• 2 tablespoons instant dry yeast
• 50 g white granulated sugar
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 6 tablespoons butter softened
• 2 large eggs
• 750 g all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon melted butter

METHOD

  1. In a stand mixer bowl, combine and mix all ingredients except the flour.
  2. Add in 5 ½ cups of flour. Using a dough hook, turn the mixer on and increase speed slowly to keep the flour from flying all over. Slowly add the remaining flour until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. (I watch the bottom of the bowl and add flour until the dough just comes clean from the bottom.) The dough mixture should be sticky and soft.
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl. Cover and let rise 60 minutes, (until doubled.)
  4. Punch down the dough and form into 24 rolls. (My dough weighed 1630 g therefore, each roll should be 68g.) Place in an 11×15” greased baking pan. Cover and let rise 45 – 60 min.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 F. Bake the rolls for 12 to 14 minutes, until lightly browned.
  6. Remove rolls from oven and brush with melted butter. Best when served warm. To cool, let rest in the pan for 15 minutes then transfer to a wire rack. Once cooled completely, store in a plastic bag.

To Make Hamburger and Hot Dog Rolls

Use the same recipe as above. There will be enough dough to make twelve 70 g hamburger rolls and 12 hotdog rolls.

Hamburger

  1. Cut 70g portions of dough and stretch into a ball. Pinch the bottom together and tension each ball with the rolling “cupped hand” technique.
  2. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. If you want the rolls to touch, during baking space the rolls about 1” apart. If you want to keep them separate, increase the spacing to 2”.
  3. Cover the rolls with a paper towel to keep them from sticking to the plastic wrap on top.
  4. Let the rolls rise for 45 min, until doubled.
  5. Coat each roll with an egg wash (1 whole egg::1 Tbl water)
  6. Bake at 375F for 12 minutes, until nicely browned and the internal temperature is 180F

Hot Dogs

  1. Cut 68g portions of dough. There are two options (that I tried) to form the hot dog dough into logs.
    a. Fold and roll method
    i. Form the portion into a 3”x3” square
    ii. Envelope fold the dough into an approximately 1”x3” log, then roll as you would a breadstick, or pretzel etc until the log is about 6” long and 1” thick.
    b. Roll Method
    i. Stretch the portion into a ball and tension as will the dinner rolls above
    ii. Roll the ball into a 6” log. (Why take the extra step to fold?)
  2. In either case try to make the center 3-4” of the log a little thinner as when the dough proofs and oven rises the centers tend to rise more than the ends.
  3. Bake the hamburger and hot dog buns as described in the hamburger roll section above.

Enriched Dinner Rolls

I have a recipe and method for making dinner rolls that receive great reviews and are in constant demand. With such a success why wouldn’t I try and new recipe, enriched this time?

I forgot to photograph the final rolls, so took this on the way to Grace’s house. Due to time restraints I had to remove the rolls from the pan early which led to their distortion. Believe me, they were perfect coming out of the oven.

I showed Grace how to cut the dough into small portions (68 g for this recipe) using a bench chopper. It took her a few try’s to figure out when to add or subtract dough from what was on the scale. When I say a few, I mean very few. Three or four tries and she could cut 68 g portions in seconds.

She tried to form dough balls with her hands, but alas, at 5 years old this size dough ball was too large for her to handle. We ended up with her cutting and weighing, and me forming the balls. I like to stretch the dough by pulling the it from front to back with my thumbs, rotating and repeating. Pinch the rough backside together, place on a dry counter, cup your fingers over the ball and quickly roll around the counter top. This will smooth and tension the dough providing a great shaped roll.

Enriched Dinner Rolls

INGREDIENTS

• 488 g (2 cups) warm milk
• 2 tablespoons instant dry yeast
• 50 g white granulated sugar
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 6 tablespoons salted butter softened
• 2 large eggs
• 750 g all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon melted butter

METHOD

  1. In a stand mixer bowl, combine and mix all ingredients except the flour.
  2. Add in 5 ½ cups of flour. Using a dough hook, turn the mixer on and increase speed slowly to keep the flour from flying all over. Slowly add the remaining flour until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. (I watch the bottom of the bowl and add flour until the dough just comes clean from the bottom.) The dough mixture should be sticky and soft.
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl. Cover and let rise 60 minutes, (until doubled.)
  4. Punch down the dough and form into 24 rolls. (My dough weighed 1630 g therefore, each roll should be 68g.) Place in an 11×15” greased baking pan. Cover and let rise 45 – 60 min.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 F. Bake the rolls for 12 to 14 minutes, until lightly browned. (The internal temperature reached 180 F.)
  6. Remove rolls from oven and brush with melted butter. Best when served warm. To cool, let rest in the pan for 15 minutes then transfer to a wire rack. Once cooled completely, store in a plastic bag.

L1’s Should Do This Tort(e). It’s Simple!

I saw a picture of a chocolate – raspberry torte on King Arthur Baking’s website. With no hesitation I thought, “I am so making that.” However, my extreme chocolate cake cannot be beat and basic chocolate whipped cream is a piece of cake. (Well, sometimes cake, but this time torte.)

I made the cake and placed both 9” layers in the freezer, one to chill, the other to freeze until needed sometime in the future. Once chilled I sliced one layer in half. I used the toothpick and floss method, something I showed my 3 year old granddaughter today. She had never seen that before (no big surprise, after all she is only 3) but I am sure she will not forget it. That girl forgets nothing!

She and I then whipped up some chocolate whip cream, spread half over the top of the lower layer and spread about 4 oz of raspberries randomly around the cake. Be sure the whipped cream is thick enough so you can bury the raspberries.

Place the second layer of cake over the first and (we piped, KAF spread,) whipped cream over the top, adding the rest of the raspberries. KAF suggested dusting with cocoa, we decided to use powered sugar. I used 6 oz raspberries total.

Chocolate Whipped Cream

INGREDIENTS

  • 454 g (2 Cups) Milk
  • 56 g (4 Tbl) Caster Sugar
  • 20 g (4 Tbl) Special Dark Cocoa
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla

METHOD

  1. Chill mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  2. Add milk to mixing bowl and whip to soft peaks
  3. Slowly add caster sugar until firm peaks
  4. Add cocoa, but start the mixer slowly to keep the cocoa from flying all over.
  5. Increase the mixer speed to form stiff peaks and assure the cocoa is fully incorporated.

Not All That Glitters is Gold!

This year (as every year) New Year’s Eve party cake was requested (thankfully.) I love to make them. A couple of days later a follow up request for a silver 2022 topper which was an excellent suggestion. I decided to learn to work with isomalt to create the numbers, rather than buying some. It never hurts to add a new skill.

It took some practice to learn the method (how hot to boil it, the amount of water to add, how long to cool after it reaches the optimum temperature, and more.) It took a lot of practice and failures.

Some were boiled too long and discolored. Some were too thick, some never cleared.

Finally I found the correct combination. And the resulting sugar numbers were acceptable.

Once the temperature is 320 let the molten sugar sit for a few seconds to clear some of the bubbles then place the pan into cold water to stop the cooking.

After the sugar is cold, place some sticks on the back and “glue” them in place with some molten sugar. Once they are cool turn the numbers (or stars) over and dampen slightly with your finger, then sprinkle sparkly glitter on the damp sugar and spread with a brush to cover completely and let dry.

Frost the cake and add the numbers. I used plastic straws in the cake to give the numbers and stars more support. Once the numbers were in place I added the stars, staggering their height. The colored straws gave the impression of fireworks. (I hope.) Lots of fun and an opportunity to learn new skills.

Extreme Chocolate Cake

Makes two 9” round cakes
INGREDIENTS

(Makes one 10’ ROUND CAKE [and two 5”] – quantities are in parenthesis.)
• 2 cups white sugar (3)
• 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (2 2/3)
• 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (1 ¼)
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (2 ¼)
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (2 ¼)
• 1 teaspoon salt (1 ½)
• 2 eggs (3)
• 1 cup milk (1 ½)
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil (¾)
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (3)
• 1 cup boiling water (1 ½)
Frosting
• 3/4 cup butter
• 1 1/2 cups (125g) unsweetened cocoa powder
• 5 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar 624g (1c confectioners sugar = 117g)
• 2/3 cup milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans. (SEE QTY FOR 10” CAKES)
  2. Use the first set of ingredients to make the cake. In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa,
    baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla, mix for 3 minutes with an
    electric mixer. Stir in the boiling water by hand. Pour evenly into the two prepared pans. (For cupcakes,
    portion ¼ scant cups in each cupcake paper.
  3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean or 205
    internal temp. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to cool completely.
  4. To make the frosting, use the second set of ingredients. Cream butter until light and fluffy. Stir in the
    cocoa and confectioners’ sugar alternately with the milk and vanilla. Beat to a spreading consistency.
    (This recipe will frost 36 cupcakes.)
  5. Split the layers of cooled cake horizontally, cover the top of each layer with frosting, then stack them
    onto a serving plate. Frost the outside of the cake.

    Isomalt
  6. Mix isomalt and water in a 4:1 ratio in a stainless steel or non stick pan
  7. Heat under medium high heat until the isomalt reaches 320 deg F
  8. Remove from heat and let sit for a few moments to allow the bubbles to subside then place the hot pan in water for a few seconds to stop the isomalt cooking.
  9. Carefully pour the molten solution into dry molds and let cool.
  10. (I wear heat proof silicone gloves while working with molten sugar. It is very hot!

    NOTES
    a. Do NOT let the internal temp exceed 210 deg F or the cake will be overdone.
    b. Fill cupcake papers 2/3rds full. This will allow space for the cupcakes to expand and create a nice
    domed shape.

Sugar Snow-Globe Cake

I saw a technique for making sugar domes on Netflix’s School of Chocolate. Initially, I thought that looked like a fun and easy skill to learn. I soon discovered it was fun. Plus I had the added incentive of wanting to make a snow-globe cake for my granddaughters. I envisioned an evergreen tree and snowman under the dome.

‘Simply’ pour a little (1-2 Tbl depending on ring size) molten (hard crack) sugar/glucose mixture inside a ring mold, resting on 3 layers of plastic wrap stretched (not too tightly) and sealed across a large bowl.

Press down on the outside of the ring and keep increasing the pressure until the sugar reaches the side of the mold and starts to dome up. If the sugar is too hot it can melt the plastic wrap, too cold it won’t spread to the edges of the ring mold. No matter what you do, your fingers will burn. (After this I purchased some heat resistant silicone gloves.)

It was about now that I decided to make the cake an actual snow-globe. There is no way to pick it up and shake it, but a life time of skiing around snow makers gave me an idea. If I could blow the ‘snow’ (or powdered sugar) from inside the dome it would look like it was snowing.

I changed my plan from a small dome on shell tart to a 5” fondant covered cake. Now I had to make the domes bigger and higher.

I saw a method for making the globes (the author was actually making sugar bowls, but inverted would be perfect.) Ann Reardon – How To Cook That has a great tutorial.

Use helium quality balloons so the molten sugar doesn’t melt them. Ann explains using water filled balloons to disperse the heat and keep them from bursting when covering with the sugar.

This technique also required some practice. You need to be sure to use enough molten sugar or the balloon won’t be fully covered. I found covering the balloon in one smooth pour was more successful than trying to go back and filling in places that weren’t covered.

I made some white gum paste and rolled a little into balls for the snowmen. I colored some black to make buttons, eyes etc. I dyed some green and shaped it into cones. Another YouTube video demonstrated how to use cuticle scissors to snip bits to make the boughs of the trees.

Now to the engineering ‘genius’ of the cakes. To make the snow blower I procured some mini funnels (1.5” across at the top.) I connected a piece of flexible tubing (I happened to have the exact correct size and length from my beer making equipment.)

A squeeze bottle served as the air pump and a small sugar pearl blocked the sugar from pouring down the tubing. A firm squeeze on the bottle and voilà, a mini snowstorm. This is my test set up.

The cake was put on a 5” cake board which I had cut in its center, then it was crumb coated and covered in fondant. The flexible tubing was fed up through the cake board, cake and fondant and the funnel attached. The other end was fed through the checkerboard ‘tablecloth’ and two 5.25” styrofoam disks with holes cut in the center. The bottom disk had a channel cut from the bottom center to the edge to have a place for the tubing to run to the outside.

Everything was stacked, filled and covered with the sugar dome. Imagine my surprise when the girls and I tried it all together the first time, and it worked!

Slow Motion – IMHO Awesome!

Now, back to those braided fruit tarts.

Holiday Sweets

As the holidays approach, the baker often changes his spots from baker to chocolatier. Everyone seems to like my chocolate coated soft caramels dusted with some Maldon Sea Salt Flakes.

I ran out of my favorite Barry 64% cacao chocolate. This chocolate is both delicious and has a 4 out of 5 liquidity which makes a nice thin coating. I found some re-packaged bulk Barry Callebaut 70% dark chocolate which did not have a liquidity rating. After using it I would guess it is in the 2-3 range of 5. By not flowing as well yhis resulted in a thicker coating, but it was all that was available. Hopefully, my “go to” 64% will be back in stock soon!

Paying attention to the temperatures while tempering the chocolate really pays off. The chocolates don’t melt in your fingers and have an attractive, shiny appearance.

I hit the maximum temperature of the caramel perfectly. (238 deg) To cut it I put in in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, then cut into about 1” squared. I still had to coat the knife with some baking spray to make cleanish cuts.

Happy Thanksgiving 2021

Hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving has a safe and peaceful one this year, a much needed culinary respite from life’s trials and tribulations. (Note: you have the means to read this, no doubt we are the most fortunate of all.)

This year I decided to take a turkey to our family dinner.

Of course, it is a turkey made of bread. I also brought a couple of dozen dinner rolls and a high hydration honey bread as a hostess gift. This morning was another good baking session.

You can find the method and recipe here: https://youtu.be/s1peTKP0fvg

Enhancing the Scarlet Pumpernickel

Amazingly, each batch of pumpernickel bread seems to be better than the previous. Today I enhanced my recipe with KAF Cake and Bread Enhancer.

This product is an emulsifier which “enhances” the ability of fats and liquids to combine more easily. This in turn makes the bread (or cake) softer, moister and stay fresh longer. Other than this addition (one Tbl per cup of flour) this recipe is the same as the last one. The result was exactly as advertised, great taste, soft, moist and delicious.

A quick story about how I came to have Cake and Bread Enhancer. I was visiting my home state which also happens to be the home of King Arthur Baking. We decided to take a road trip, not that I needed anything. Well, a couple of hours and -$395 later I had the mini loaf pan, enhancer and dozens of other baking items I did not need. QC no longer allows me to go into that store with any credit cards.☹️