Monday, November 11, 2013

Playing in Chocolate

My best friend Jennifer and I got together this past weekend to play with chocolate.  It was a day that was long overdue.  I mean what isn't better than getting together with a friend, catching up and playing with chocolate?

We were supposed to go to the National Chocolate Show held in Chicago this past October together. Unfortunately I was unable to attend as my day job took precedence over the hobby.  I felt bad for letting Jen down and having to ask her to get samples and information for me.  But that allowed us to get some time together to share samples but by the time we were able to do that, we couldn't have fun playing with the chocolate.

I had found an amazing Apple Spice Truffle recipe and had already created the ganache filling and so all she would have to do is mold and coat them.  I knew she would love the recipe!   So our day of fun started by pulling out our Truffly Made molds and using the Classic European Round Truffle mold we piped in the filling and let them chill out in the freezer to firm up before popping them out and dipping them in milk chocolate. We topped them with a mixture of cinnamon and graham cracker crumbs.  Don't they look delicious?  She even posted them to her FaceBook page and the first lucky local respondents were going to receive free truffles!

While those were chilling we next set to try creating one of our passions, passion fruit chocolates.  We had sampled a chocolate from the show that was a milk chocolate passion fruit bar.  Looking at the ingredient list we noted that it was made with passion fruit powder.  This of course led to an immediate search on the web to find NutraFresh Passion Fruit Powder.  This was then part of Jen's birthday gift which included the book Chocolates and Confections at Home with The Culinary Institute of America.

So, using the basic chocolate ganache recipe in the book (sorry I can't post due to copyright laws but it is worth owning the book or borrowing it from the library which I did at first) we added the passion fruit powder until we thought it would be enough but not overpowering.  We first used warmed raw cocoa butter and added in some rose coloring.  The cocoa butter mixture was painted into the truffle molds.  For these we used the heart mold (also Truffly Made).  Piped the filling in and popped them into the freezer.  These will be coated on the bottom with a cocoa powder/passion fruit powder mix to show off the pretty pink top.

We did so much more but these will be a theme for another post. Soon to come!

Keeping lifeTasty!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Strawberries & Cream macarons

When I had filled some of my culinary curiosity months ago by attending a class on the traditional French Macaron, there was an active discussion on the flavoring and coloring of the macaron.  You don't want to add too much moisture back into the cookie so it is important to use items like gel food coloring, dried herbs and it was hypothesized that you could use a properly dehydrated fruit.

My mind jumped immediately to these amazing freeze dried fruits called Crunchies.  They are the whole fruit with the water removed and are light and crunchy, almost puffs.  I believed I could smash them into a powder and use that to flavor the cookies with full fruit flavor and all the nutrients.  This turned into my Strawberries & Cream Macarons.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts and comments but in the meantime, I want to share the recipe and the tips for making these delightful treats.

In my commute from my day job, I sat next to a person and couldn't help overhear her phone call.  I asked a couple of questions and found out that her business is advising restaurants on the creation and effective usage of their dessert menus.  How lucky was I!  I opted to take the moment and ask her about areas where I had run into issues.

We enjoyed a discussion on my new passion and challenge, the macaron.  Her advice to leave the egg whites on the counter for two to three days with a cheesecloth covering was the best tip I could leave with you.  I typically do leave my eggs for baking most cookies on the counter overnight but three to five days is fine if they are in the refrigerator.  She told me about the French bakeries and their tiers of sifters and how they leave their egg whites on the counters as well.  I figure if centuries of tradition are working, I'm going to follow along.

The next best tip I can give is regarding how to pipe to keep the cookies even without the little tip.  With your pastry bag fitted with a large round tip, hold the bag perpendicular to the tray and about a quarter of an inch high.  Squeeze to pipe out, the mixture will flow from the bag and up around the tip.  Lift the bag up slightly when you have reached the preferred size and swirl the tip in a "c" shape to cut off the batter.  When I pipe I am typically thinking: pipe, pipe, pipe, lift and swirl.

For the basic recipe, I used the Sur la Table recipe from class but since I don't have permission, a copy can be found here.   Instead of using the lavender and purple food coloring, I used 1/2 of a package of Crunchies Strawberries crushed into a powder.  I used a rolling pin with the berries in a bag but you can use any food processor to do the same.  The idea is to have powdered strawberries or blueberries or any of the other fruits.  I also added a bit of red food coloring to boost the color although the powdered berries added a lot of color when stirred into the mix.

The ultimate result is a burst of real fruit flavor with the creamy center.  A decadent treat isn't so decadent when you have fruit in it.  Or at least it is a reason to justify that extra one (or two).

Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Don't Fear the "D" Word

Do you cringe when, after a delightful dinner, your family asks "What is for dessert?"

If you do, a few staples can make a fun and easy dessert in no time.  If you are like me and tend to keep fruit in the fridge, mix up your favorite berries or tropical fruits and let them sit to get juicy.  For dessert tonight, I mixed blueberries, strawberries and blackberries with a little sugar and Cointreau (all attending were adults). For children, you can use a splash of orange juice instead.  Stir lightly and let sit while you finish getting dinner ready and have dinner.

I used a panini sandwich maker to lightly grill the pound cake.  I sliced a loaf of Sara Lee pound cake about 1/2" thick.  I brushed a little butter on each side of the pound cake to prevent sticking to the panini grill and to give a bit of moistness to the frozen and thawed cake.  I also let these slices sit while we had dinner.

After dinner, I plugged in the sandwich maker and once hot, put four slices in and closed the cover to let them get toasty and happy.  The smell from the grill was slightly sweet and hot like sugar cookies coming out of the oven.

After two minutes, I opened the grill, took two slices out and topped them with the berry mixture.  After the addition of the whipped cream, it was a delicious, light and yes, very easy dessert.

After dessert was over, I imagined what the dessert would be like with a bit of Nutella or PB & J.  I can easily see these appealing options when the fridge might not yield the fresh berries.  You can also do a variation where you grill apples or peaches on the panini grill as well.  I think I know what I will be trying next.

Enjoy and don't fear the "D" word. ;)