Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chocolate Overload

Last week was a big chocolate-making extravaganza, the occasion being a surprise treat for Emily's birthday. Her sister-in-law Katie went to visit them in Switzerland this week, so I made the chocolates and then drove them up to her in Tacoma before she left. July is not a great month to ship chocolate overseas! Also not a great month to make them unless you have good air conditioning, which I don't. But I survived by pointing our portable AC into the kitchen all week, and it turned out OK. I don't know if that would have even worked this week, with temps at 106 outside.

After much trial and error (and tantrums) I finally got a pretty decent handle on molding the chocolates. I think the biggest mistake with the previous batch was letting them set up in a warm kitchen. When I put them in the wine cooler right away, they set up nicely with no streaks and released from the molds easily. Some were shinier than others, though. I also got better results with tempering the chocolate a little bit longer. Before I figured all this out, though, I had to throw away a whole batch of passion fruit chocolates. Sorry, Pat! The filling was kind of grainy anyway...still need to work on that recipe.

I made Jasmine tea chocolates, recipe from Michael Recchiuti's cookbook. The ganache was a mixture of dark and milk chocolates:

Then my own recipe for strawberry:

The filling could have been more intensely strawberry flavored, so for my marionberry ganache I increased the berries and decreased the cream. Much better:
I put a bright pink lustre dust in the molds, and it didn't show at all on the dark chocolate. It did look very nice on the milk chocolate for the strawberry, though.

I have finally perfected my key lime chocolate...better than Godiva! The trick was to use key lime concentrate, which I got from the Perfect Puree of Napa Valley. The green lustre dust also looked particularly nice.

One of the chocolates I really liked from Recchiuti was his Star Anise & Pink Peppercorn (milk chocolate). The recipe said to steep the spices for 5-8 minutes, and I unfortunately left them in the cream for 8 minutes. Yikes...way too strong licorice flavor. I can only stand a bite or two. I think you need to be a big licorice fan to appreciate them...hopefully Mom will take them off my hands.

And the last batch was a rose caramel in white chocolate with a dark chocolate base, also Recchiuti's recipe. That was my favorite from his store. The recipe called for rose geranium oil, but I already had rose oil, which was expensive, so I used that instead. It was good, but of course I'm curious to taste the difference with the rose geranium (can't remember from way back in February). Yet another pricey ingredient for me to invest in. My batch turned out to be a tasty confection, but I have to say the overly salty salt caramels from the previous week were more addictive to me. I think salt caramels are my new favorite thing.

Of course, I also really like a strawberry/milk chocolate combo. So I finally tracked down a decent dried strawberry, Stoneridge Orchards. The result tasted just like the ones from Godiva...delicious!
I also felt creative and decided that freeze dried strawberries mixed with milk chocolate might be good. I was right! They have a nice crunch.
I think I would like to try them with a 45% dark chocolate, though. Which is naturally 2 or 3 times more expensive than the 38% Callebaut milk that I use.

All in all, it was a productive week with lots of good learning experiences. One of which was, I should have bought a much bigger wine cooler for chocolate storage! But the one I have was certainly better than nothing, and it has been a lifesaver these past few weeks. Now I need to eat my way through what is left of the most recent chocolates, so that I can make another batch of salt caramels.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ginger Chocolates and Salt Caramels

Finally, I've gotten off my heiney and made a couple batches of chocolates! This week's excuse was mother's birthday (which was last month). She likes ginger, and I just got Michael Recchiuti's cookbook which includes the recipe for his marvelous ginger ganache. So I had to try it! I'm very excited about this cookbook...Recchiuti chocolates are my favorite of all that I've tasted anywhere in the world, and all of my favorite flavors are in this book....yay! I've had it with dipping chocolates (tedious!), so this month I invested in some polycarbonate molds. Easier, and a prettier result. Though as usual, due to my tenuous grasp of chocolate tempering technique, the results were mixed. About half of them were nice and shiny, and half had streaks of untempered chocolate, or were cracked because they didn't fall out of the molds easily, and I had to whack the molds too hard to get them out.

Since I was in the chocolatier spirit, I also decided to modify one of Recchiuti's caramel recipes to try to replicate my favorite salt caramels from Sahagun.

Started out by tempering the chocolate in the machine...
Dusted some of the molds with lustre dust...
Then filled the chocolate molds and let them drain of excess chocolate. You're supposed to scrape the tops off again, but I waited too long for the dark chocolate, so they had set up too much and some got a little raggedy.
Then filled the molds with the ganache or caramel, and topped them with another layer of chocolate after filling was set...
Some of them turned out pretty well....
Others not so much....
The ginger ganache was a dark chocolate in a white chocolate mold, and the salt caramel was covered with dark chocolate.

Lessons for next time:
1. Use less lustre dust. I think less is more in this case...they looked a little funky.
2. Cut the salt in the caramel by 1 tsp. I got a little carried away, and it was a bit salty, even for me! But I will not let them go to waste, because I am frugal that way! ( "Don't waste chocolate": my number one motto).
3. Tempering: practice, practice, practice. I will try warming the molds first and letting the chocolate filled molds rest for a few minutes before draining for a thicker shell, which will hopefully release from the mold easier.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Caramelized White Chocolate

After reading David Lebovitz's fantastic blog post about Valrhona, I knew I needed to have some carmelized white chocolate. Immediately. David did not describe the caramlization procedure, but a quick google search came up with a few hits. One blogger said to chop the white chocolate and bake it at 265 degrees, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes. So, I dutifully chopped up some Callebaut white chocolate, put it in the preheated oven (without checking the thermometer at the back of the oven), stirred a couple times, and in 20 minutes had this: Not exactly what I was going for. I guessed that maybe the oven was too hot. So today I preheated the oven to 250, and before putting in the chocolate, checked the thermometer: 300 degrees. That could be the problem. So after lowering the temp to 250, I put in the chocolate. I used Ghirardelli this time, and melted it in the microwave first for good measure. I started stirring at 5 minutes. Not much happened for awhile, when I realized the temp was now at 200, so I increased the oven temp again. 7 minutes later the chocolate had gotten brown and a little crunchy on the bottom. Too much heat when it was warming up, I guess, but the color was right. I kept on baking and stirring it for quite awhile, maybe 30-45 minutes. But it never got much browner than after that initial heat burst. Comparing it to David's picture, I think it needed quite a bit more baking. I guess it's a balancing act to get the right temperature to caramelize it, but not burn it. But it was tasty nonetheless, and would probably make a nice ganache. But I ate all of it plain while it was still warm! I'll need to try one more time to see if I can get it browner.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Wow, it's been a long time since I've posted anything. And I've gotten grief from several people about it, so here is my latest pastry adventure, even though it was not chocolate: canelés! I discovered these at Ken's Artisan Bakery in Portland, and was immediately hooked. They also have them at St. Honore bakery, but I like Ken's a little better because they are cooked to a darker brown on the outside. Canelés are kind of like a cross between a crispy cake on the outside, with a creamy, pudding-like interior. Scrumptious! You can read more about them at Paula Wolfert's website.

I've been meaning to try my hand at baking them since summer, but it took me awhile to order the molds.
Traditional copper molds are about $20 apiece, so I bought the silicone molds, and they worked just fine. Then I stalled some more since I was a little daunted by the long process, and the fact that you need to melt beeswax to coat them. Turns out that the beeswax smells really nice when melted! Then you mix it with vegetable oil to make a "white oil". Paula didn't specify how much oil to mix in, so I wasn't sure if I'd know when it was right. Turns out it's pretty obvious, because it did turn white: Pioneer Woman would have taken much prettier pictures than I did.
Actually, I may have added too much oil, because it was so thick that I had to rub the molds with the mixture, rather than brushing the inside and letting the excess drain. It was way too thick to drain. I used Paula Wolfert's canelé recipe, but used half a tahitian vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract. They turned out quite nicely for a first attempt, I think. They look a little suspicious first coming out of the oven: But they're so pretty once they're unmolded! Actually, the bottoms did get a little bit charred, so I just ate around those. Next time I'll cover them with foil once they're a dark brown. I suspect the rest of the surface didn't brown as quickly in the silicone as it would have in the traditional copper molds, otherwise I could have cooked them for a shorter time. Now that I've got a supply of white oil, it will be pretty easy to make these again. The hardest part is letting the batter sit for 24-48 hours. When I decide that I want a dessert, I want it NOW! These little treats are definitely worth the wait, though. Let's pretend that I didn't eat the whole batch by myself last night!

Yield 16 canelés

22.6 oz whole milk
1.33 oz unsalted butter, chilled
4.4 oz cake flour
2 pinches salt
8.1 oz baker’s sugar
6-7 egg yolks (102-112g)
4 t dark rum
½ - ¼ Tahitian vanilla bean
White oil (see notes)

1. Place butter, flour, and salt in the bowl of a processor; pulse until combined. Scatter sugar on top; pulse once or twice to mix.
2. Add egg yolks; process until mixture begins to tighten.
3. Microwave milk and vanilla bean in a measuring cup to 183 degrees.
4. With the motor running, quickly and steadily pour hot milk into batter, strain through very fine sieve into 2 qt measuring cup; press any congealed yolk through; stir in rum; cool to room temperature; cover, refrigerate 24 to 48 hours.
5. About 6 to 7 hours before serving, lightly brush the interior of each mold with lightly warmed white oil (use finger); set on paper towels crown side up to avoid pooling of oil in crevices; set molds in the freezer at least 30 minutes before baking.
6. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
7. Place chilled molds on wire cooling rack; gently whisk batter; fill each mold almost to the top; place on lower oven rack. After about 1 hour, cover canelés with foil. Continue to bake another 45-60 minutes or until canelés are deep, deep brown in color, or if desired, almost black.
9. Remove the molds from the oven. Unmold as quickly as possible. If any canelés resist, bake 5 to 10 minutes longer, or if necessary, use a toothpick to loosen. Cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

To make "white oil": Place 1 ounce of bee's wax in a 1 pint glass cup; melt in microwave; while still warm, gradually stir in enough canola oil to make a whitened mixture, light enough to coat the back of a spoon); cool to room temperature; store in the glass container at room temperature.
Canelé batter can be frozen up to two weeks; defrost in refrigerator.
Canelés turn spongy and heavy after 5 to 6 hours. To refresh: heat (without molds) in 450 degrees oven 5 minutes; remove from oven; let cool until exteriors hardens.
Leftover baked canelés can be frozen up to 1 month; to freeze, wrap individually in plastic wrap; to serve, remove from the freezer; while still frozen, bake unwrapped in 500 degrees F 5 minutes; remove from oven; let rest 30 minutes; bake 5 minutes; remove from oven; cool until exteriors harden.

Adapted from Paula Wolfert, The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen: Recipes for the Passionate Cook

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sort of Professional

This week I got a tiny glimpse of what it might be like to be a professional realtor hired me to make truffles for a baby shower! Very exciting! And yet I remember why I decided to never make a wedding cake again after my sisters were married. If I'm making something for someone else who has expectations of high quality, then invariably twice as many things will go wrong as normal. And I normally have a lot of things go wrong to begin with! I'll blame it on the fact that I haven't had any formal training, and that I'm still learning. And the fact that I'm constantly adapting my own recipes doesn't really help. When I told Debbie that my raspberry truffles were very popular, I'd forgotten that I hadn't actually made plain raspberry truffles for over a year, that I hadn't written down the recipe that I came up with at that time, and that I've since discovered a new formula for ganache centers. More on the outcome of that later....

So Debbie requested raspberry truffles, vanilla bean truffles, and another of my choice. The vanilla bean ganache should have been an incident-free event, since I successfully made a batch last month. No tweaking of the recipe required. And yet this was the result:

A broken ganache--note the fat globules that separated out after I added the butter. I have no idea why it did this. None of the reasons given in my textbook apply...such as stirring it at the wrong temperature. It was the appropriate 95 degrees when I added the butter. In retrospect, I should have attempted to fix the ganache, which is something I've never done before. But I just poured it into a slab and hoped that it would taste better than it looked. And it did, but the texture was definitely not silky smooth. So I had to make a new recipe of vanilla bean ganache, and this time I opted for piping it into truffles instead of the slab method. Which is what I think I'll stick to in the future, for reasons that will soon become clear. Fortunately, the 2nd batch of vanilla turned out fine--very smooth and silky.
My second task was the raspberry truffle. I used the formula guidelines from my CIA textbook to come up with a recipe. The slab method of mixing the ganache is supposed to yield the smoothest results, so I went that route. Unfortunately, as meticulous as I try to be, without a guitar cutter, cutting the ganache with a regular knife just does not give very pretty results. This was one of the better looking end products:Kind of lumpy. I'm not sure that Debbie cares, but still...this is not something I would market. Would anybody like to buy me a $2,000 guitar cutter for Christmas? In the meantime, I think I'll stick with the plain old piped truffles. And more importantly, in this case, is the fact that the truffle texture was much more firm than I would have liked. It tastes good, but the recipe needs more cream. I'm not sure if this one will end up at the baby shower.

For the next batch, I decided on gingerbread. Everyone has really like this one in the past, and since I've made it several times, no tweaking of the recipe involved. Foolproof, right? Of course not! I ran out of spices, and rather than spend several hours making a trip to Penzey's, I decided to just grind my own cinnamon and grate the dried whole gingerroot. That seemed to be a good solution, until I stirred the spices into the ganache and it promptly turned very grainy. Hmm, maybe I should have sifted the spices to filter out the larger particles. I did not have high hopes for the finished product, but since the truffle is rolled in a rice krispy mixture after being dipped in white chocolate, I thought that maybe it wouldn't matter. But then I brilliantly left the rolled ganache centers on top of the microwave as I was using it, and the bottoms melted! Now I really thought the recipe was a goner, but I set them aside to firm up again, thinking that I would just finish them up and eat them all myself. But as it turned out, the truffle seemed to be just as good as previous batches, though rather too large. I think the photo might be nearly life-sized:

But I think it's a keeper, so I boxed 30 of them for Debbie.

Since on day one I already wasn't happy with the prospects of several of the truffles, I decided to make a few backups. First I made a raspberry/rose/milk chocolate, because I had extra raspberry puree. That was actually quite scrumptious...good flavor combo, I'll add that to the regular rotation! But it didn't quite yield 30 truffles, which is the number that Debbie wanted for each flavor.

I also made a plain dark chocolate truffle using Guittard's Hawaiian Kokoleka. How simple could a plain dark chocolate truffle be? You would think the CIA book would have such a recipe already...but no, so I adapted one myself. Naturally, it set up so firmly that I couldn't roll it into balls, so this was yet another one that I had to redo. Sigh. And at this point I was also out of glucose, the source of which is 30 minutes away. Fortunately, Karen, Aunt Janice & Molly wanted to come down from Tigard and participate in the chocolate dipping, so Aunt Janice kindly stopped at the Decorette Shop and picked me up some supplies. I let Karen dip the too-firm (but yet still tasty) Kokolekas and keep most of them for herself...they did look funky, but I didn't take a picture. I added more cream to the second batch, and they turned out quite nicely. I think I'll probably give these to Debbie.

Freshly Dipped!
With my replenished supply of glucose I made the second batch of vanilla bean truffles and dipped the good vanilla, bad vanilla, and raspberry rose in milk chocolate on Wednesday night. I was done by 1am. Whew. But I didn't want to wait any longer to dip the raspberry rose, since I had made the ganache on Tuesday. They are much more shelf-stable once they are dipped in chocolate. The "bad" vanilla batch actually turned out pretty good. I wouldn't make anyone pay for them, but I'll definitely not let them go to waste!

So that's it for truffles for now. I think I need a couple weeks in Hawaii to recuperate. And whaddya know....I have a plane ticket for departure on Monday! Fortuitous! I guess I'll be making more truffles around Christmas time, so I'll post more next month!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Vanilla BeanTruffles

I wasn't going to make more truffles so soon, but I got a bee in my bonnet to try a new technique for the ganache. It is the slab technique...the ganache is poured out into a slab instead of piped, and then cut with a knife when it has set. A professional would cut it with a fancy piece of equipment with strings called a guitar. This would make the squares nice and even, something I couldn't accomplish even though I used a ruler. The ganache is also mixed differently for the slab technique than when piped, supposedly resulting in a smoother ganache. Indeed, these truffles were the smoothest I've ever made...melting in your mouth like butter! (although Karen's not-so-pinapply truffles were square, they were not mixed with the slab method). The chocolate actually has to be tempered before adding the cream, which must be at 105 degrees. Tricker to make, but worth it.

The vanilla ganache is a divinely inspired flavor. I taste the vanilla the most during the first bite, after that it is not so distinguishable, other than adding to the complexity of the chocolate flavor. It is dipped in the Callebaut 36% milk chocolate, which has a nice caramely taste.
This is definitely one of my favorite truffles so far, right up there with the passionfruit. I sent some to Emily in Switzerland, and I was planning to give some to Georgia next week. But now there are only 3 left...hopefully I can be a good girl and keep my hands off the last 3 so that she gets a taste!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Switzerland Truffles, Day 2

Day 2 was actually 2 days ago. All 4 truffle batches turned out quite well, though not without a few problems, of course. Thanks to a good tip from one of the professionals over at the Pastry Chef Forum, most of my truffles do not have feet (little puddles of chocolate at the bottom of the truffles)! The key is: during the dipping process, hold about a quarter of the truffle in the chocolate while surface tension pulls off the excess, and then wipe the bottom of the fork on the side of the bowl before putting the truffle on the tray. works!

Before dipping, however, I precoated all the truffles by rolling them in chocolate between my hands, to give them a light coat. Fun!
Unfortunately, it turns out that I should have done this twice for the passionfruit truffles--dark chocolate center covered in white chocolate. You can see the dark chocolate beneath the white, and also the precoat was a little thin sometimes and the ganache peeks through the bottom of the truffle. This shortens the shelf life, so sadly I will have to eat all of those right away. It's a tough job, but I'm a trooper and I'll get it done! Lesson: 3 coats of white chocolate if covering dark ganache.The gingerbread truffles are scrumptious, though I might go for a tad less of the spices next time. The nice thing about the crisped rice coating is that it covers any flaws!

I accidentally used the wrong dark chocolate for the lemon truffles. I was going to use the strong and acidic Valrhona Manjari, but accidentally tempered the more mild El Rey Mijao instead. Not to worry, they're still tasty! Tastier than I thought they would before before I dipped them, in fact.

What was supposed to be Banana Caramel Crunch turned into just plain Banana Caramel. The crunch disappeared overnight, which may be because the ganache didn't set up too well. Possibly because I agitated the ganache too much before letting it cool down. The hot cream/banana mixture did not adequately melt the chocolate, so first I put it over a steam bath, and when it was still lumpy after being heated I whizzed it up with an immersion blender. I should have followed the directions and heated the banana and the cream separately...I think the cream may have curdled and contributed to the problem. So I had a sticky ganache to work with, and I'm worried that it may not be stable enough for a long shelf life. Hopefully the truffles will last a few more days til they arrive in Switzerland. Lesson: Don't heat fruit puree and cream together.I also made a few milk chocolate covered dried strawberries. I was inspired by the tasty but outrageously expensive confections at Godiva, so I ordered 3# of dried strawberries. Unfortunately, I neglected to look at the ingredients first, and didn't discover until they arrived that they were sweetened. They do taste good, but I think they might be better if they were unsweetened. But maybe Godiva uses sweetened strawberries too. I'll have to buy another package and analyze them.

All in all a good effort, and I'm already anticipating trying a new ganache technique with my milk chocolate vanilla truffles! Maybe next week!