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