Friday, October 2, 2009

Whipped Dark Chocolate Truffles and Key Lime Passion Truffles

For my second visit to Maryland, I baked a few of my favorites- with a few twists. I absolutely adore chocolate, especially dark chocolate, and proudly consider myself a chocolate purist. I figured, however, that for the occasion I should mix it up and try something new.

Wanting to bring something attractive, I finally settled on chocolate truffles and giant bakery-style cookies. I made both white and dark chocolate truffles, as I wasn't sure of anybody's preference (hey, I was covering my bases!). For a spin on my normal white and dark chocolate ganache recipes, I went with Key Lime Passion White Chocolate Truffles and also Whipped Dark Chocolate Chambord Truffles.

I haven't any photos of the ganache-making (I was covered in chocolate and working quickly, it's tough being the baker/photographer) but I can give a basic outline of the steps. Like most things I make, I do not have or use a recipe, but I can give basic amounts and ingredients in case anybody would like to make these or something similar.

As a general rule, I start my dark chocolate ganache with 1 pound of good bittersweet chocolate (whatever you use, make sure that it is good quality, and something that is high enough cocoa percentage to not be too sweet but also low enough that it will melt properly) and 1 cup of heavy cream. To my ganache, I added Chambord, good vanilla extract, and strong prepared coffee. After letting the prepared ganache cool and become firm, I whipped it until it was light and fluffy. I dipped each whipped center in dark melted chocolate, then decorated with an extra drizzle of dark chocolate and dark chocolate sprinkles.

I make white chocolate ganache slightly differently, using less cream and also sometimes adding a small amount of unsalted butter. Grand Marnier pairs well with white chocolate, and to these I also added fresh key lime juice, some key lime zest, vanilla, and passion fruit extract. I dipped these in dark chocolate (I like the contrast of the sweeter white chocolate with the slightly bitter dark chocolate- I feel that dipping them in white chocolate makes them too sweet) and decorated with "lime wedges" I made with white chocolate, green food coloring, and coarse sparkling sugar.

My inspiration for these cookies comes from a NY Times article which was released on my birthday in 2008. (A sign? Perhaps.) The article discusses the quest for the "Perfect" chocolate chip cookie, and is complete with a recipe. After trying the original recipe days later, I made a few changes and came up with my own version to suit my tastes. While the cookie in the recipe truly was delicious, I couldn't help but make a few alterations :)

I use salted butter, increase the amount of brown sugar and decrease the amount of white sugar (I used maybe 1/2c white), and use a mix of all-purpose and cake flour. (I prefer chewy cookies). Also, if you make these, I would suggest scooping the cookies as soon as you finish your dough and before you chill them- otherwise, you will run out of man power by your third cookie scoop and your pretty chocolate discs will have suffered some serious injuries. I also used a mixture of dark chocolate discs and white chocolate pieces. I highly suggest using discs/thin slices of chocolate as opposed to chips. The discs spread out while they bake, and give you beautiful thin layers of chocolate and cookie. I've counted 8 layers of chocolate before near the center!

Caramel Cake Cravings

A few months ago, I went through an intense and insatiable craving for caramel cake. This wasn't the sort of craving which could be satiated by a store-bought caramel, or even a bag of store bought caramels. It had to be a caramel cake, and I had to make it. In my desperate haste for satisfaction, I researched some caramel cake recipes and tips, eventually coming up with my own.

I started by making a basic caramel syrup with roughly 2 cups of sugar and 1.5 cups of water. Cook on high until the syrup becomes dark amber, making sure to brush down any crystals that form on the sides. Once the desired color is reached, quickly add 1 cup of water to stop the cooking process. BEWARE, this step is dangerous! The syrup does not take kindly to the water addition, and will pop and spit all over the place if you aren't careful. I (thankfully) was wearing long sleeves, but in the 2 seconds it took me to pour in the water, give a stir, and reach for a lid, my kitchen had received a caramelized sugar syrup makeover, and it was not fun to clean up :)

The syrup, while quite a hazard to my body and my kitchen, was delicious. Essentially, it tasted like the caramelized sugar topping to a Crème brûlée. Extra syrup is a great addition to coffee or spiced tea, giving it a festive touch.

I love cakes with layers. The more layers, the better. It makes for a beautiful cake, and really allows you to be versatile and creative with what you put between your layers. I used a basic yellow cake mix, and baked it into (I think) 8 layers. You can do this by either baking it in large amounts and then slicing it into layers, or by baking each layer individually. I prefer to bake each layer separately- this way, every layer has the same texture, it is not as crumbly, and I don't have to worry about messing up perfect layers.

For the frosting, I made a simple recipe with butter, vanilla, confectioner's sugar, heavy cream, and some of my caramel syrup. I did not use or write a recipe for this, but started with maybe 2 sticks of butter and added my other ingredients until the desired flavor and consistency was achieved. I do not like my desserts to be terribly sweet, and this icing is already extremely sweet in large amounts, so I initially iced my cake very thin (by adding more heavy cream to the frosting) then added more confectioner's sugar to the rest in order for it to be thick enough to decorate. The decorating was the best part! I did a very thin coating of frosting on each layer, alternately brushing the layers with caramel syrup. As long as you use a very little amount of each, it makes the cake wonderfully moist and not too sweet.

To decorate the outside of the cake, I caramelized some sugar with the kitchen torch and randomly broke it over the top, along with some coarse demerara sugar. The sides of the cake were completed with a "basket weave" design (I used a flat ridged tip), and the top was adorned with "flowers" from the special flower tip Dad gave me for Christmas. Thanks dad!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Truffled fries with manchego, sea salt, and fresh black pepper

This is one of my favorite things to make before dinner in the afternoons. After a long day, there's nothing better than the comforting crackle of oil and earthy smell of truffles to make everything better :)

I start by cutting a potato into wedges (I always leave the skin on- it's being fried, we may as well leave some nutrients in there!) and placing them on a towel to dry. I always double-fry my French fries- it makes them perfectly cooked in the middle and crispy on the outside :) First, fry them for 3 minutes at 350, then raise the temperature to 375 and cook again until golden and crispy.

As soon as they are finished frying, lay the fries out on a paper towel and drizzle with truffle oil. While the fries are still hot, grate your favorite cheese over the top (I love Manchego- it perfectly complements the truffle) and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt. Enjoy! This homey-yet-gourmet snack is enough to brighten any day.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ice cream, truffles, and french macarons oh my!

Hello all! I haven't been able to post for awhile, so all of these yummy confections are from Christmastime at my parent's house. I had a fantastic time baking in my mother's five star kitchen!

A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to visit Paris on a school trip. A friend (and resident of Paris!) Annabelle introduced me to heaven in edible form: French Macarons. My mission? Making some of my own! I decided to make raspberry and dark chocolate macarons- my dad helped me by making some fresh raspberry puree, which definitely added to the overall product. I included raspberry puree in both the shells and the dark chocolate ganache filling, so the freshness of the raspberries certainly shone through!

Above, I have the shells of my macarons in resting stage (pre-baking) and also some peppermint bark that I whipped up while waiting.

While the shells cooled, I prepared a chocolate ganache from Ghiradelli dark chocolate, a little cream, grand marnier, and of course raspberry puree! The final product was beautiful (and tasty!).

I had a great time plating :)

These next three photos show the versatility of vanilla ice cream. My vanilla ice cream is a simple recipe that never fails, the ingredients including only heavy cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla (in top secret ratios!) While I love ice creams made with custard, one doesn't always have the time to slave over the stove, hoping and praying that their saucepan should not decide to boil and ruin their creation. Also, this recipe is simple and delicious, and all the time you save by choosing the simpler route allows you to come up with some scrumptious toppings!
(this recipe also holds up well to other flavors. currently in my freezer? Guava, coconut, and mint chocolate chip!)

This is a somewhat healthier option that I make for myself sometimes in the evenings. I saute a couple of apples with a small amount of butter, some cinnamon, raisins, and pecans. Lots of textures, and a tasty ice cream topping!

Balsamic vinegar, fresh strawberries, and homemade vanilla ice cream. It may sound like a strange combination, but they complement each other beautifully! Just add a few tablespoons of good quality balsamic vinegar on freshly sliced strawberries and a bit of sugar. Let them sit in the refrigerator for a few hours to get an extra vinegar kick! The the strawberries start to break down with the sugar, and the juice combines with the vinegar to make a delicious syrup. A great quick dessert option if you are entertaining!

Extra bananas? Bananas foster! Brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, dark rum, and banana liqueur are a great way to kick up vanilla ice cream.

This is one of my favorite kitchen accessories- my Le Creuset dijon skillet. I've used it for everything from bananas foster, chocolate sauce, butterscotch, and simple syrup to fried fish, lemon chicken, chapattis and curries. It is slightly coated, so I don't have to worry about imparting any funky flavors in my desserts :)

One of my favorite things to make? Chocolate truffles. I've tried a plethora of flavors, both white and dark chocolate. They may be time consuming, but I find the combination of aromas and repetition very therapeutic. These have a white chocolate chambord ganache with pecans and godiva white chocolate liqueur within a hard dark chocolate shell. Decorated with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and topped with either a white or dark chocolate circle.

These have a dark chocolate grand marnier ganache with godiva chocolate and godiva capuccino liqueur. Delicious!