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!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Switzerland truffles, Day 1

I'll begin my foray into blogging with the truffles that are bound for Switzerland next week with mom. They will be an early Christmas present / consolation present for a 9 months pregnant sister! I am making:

1) Banana Caramel Crunch (Emily's favorite)
2) Gingerbread (Pat's favorite)
3) Passionfruit (My favorite)
4) Lemon (Experimental Truffle of the Day)

It was hard to narrow down the flavors to many new ones I want to try. But Pumpkin Caramel and Vanilla Milk Chocolate will have to wait for another day (sigh).

Sometimes I develop my own flavors, but all of today's truffles are from other chocolatiers' recipes, with some modifications. I get flavor ideas from Andrew Schotts' Making Artisan Chocolates and Dede Wilson's Truffles, but I am adapting the recipes to the techniques of Peter Greweling's Chocolates & Confections, the textbook of the Culinary Institute of America. My chocolates have improved tremendously since I discovered this book.

Today I made the ganache. This is the easier task for me, but it always ends up taking much longer than expected...this was pretty much an all day event for 4 ganaches.

For the Gingerbread I used El Rey Mijao, a 61% Venezuelan chocolate. It's got a mild, warm, earthy flavor (my palate is not sophisticated enough to pick up the "notes of apricot and plum" that a reviewer detected). It goes well with the pumpkin pie spices. Gingerbread is dipped in white chocolate, and when taking a chocolate inventory of my cupboard, I of course discovered that I do not have enough white chocolate. This necessitated an order from Chocosphere, which I'll pick it up in Tualatin in the morning. I like Callebaut white, but it only comes in callets (which do not work well in my tempering machine) and 11# blocks (I do not use that much white chocolate). So I ordered Santander white, a Columbian variety that I haven't tried yet. I like their milk chocolate, so I'm hopeful that the white will be good.

The lemon truffles use a white chocolate ganache, and I added lemon oil instead of infusing the cream with lemon peel (easier). They turned out all right, but not exactly what I was hoping for. Very lemony, but I guess I was expecting a little more tang. Maybe next time I'll add some citric acid.

Banana Caramel Crunch is the most labor needs a banana puree and a hard caramel that is pulsed into a coarse powder. I managed to only burn one batch of caramel in the process (yay), and I am saving that for another occasion. Maybe some sort of salt caramel truffle. Today's recipe calls for rum, but I left it out because I did not sufficiently plan ahead and am too lazy to go to the liquor store today. The ganache is very tasty nonetheless!

And for the passionfruit ganache I used Valrhona Manjari, an intense acidic and fruity dark chocolate that is one of my favorites (great for hot chocolate--thanks to Sahagun for that idea). The ganache is very strong and tangy, so I like to dip it in white chocolate to sweeten it up.

Probably about 20 pounds of chocolate in my cupboard

Before adding the cream

Blanca is not excited about truffle-making

Caramel powder and banana puree (with red bananas...why did Fred Meyer only have red bananas, plantains, and organic bananas for $50 per pound? Where were the cheap insecticide-laden banans? I have no idea.)

Cooling the ganache

My piped ganache is pretty lumpy looking--I haven't figured out how to make them nice and pretty like the textbook. Oh well, they need to be rolled out after they set anyway.

Tomorrow we'll see if my dipping skills have improved any from the last batch!