Archive for the ‘Chocolate’ Category

Chocolate Strawberries

This afternoon I made some chocolate covered strawberries. I have dipped berries in chocolate before but I will admit, I have never actually tempered the chocolate. I figured it was time to do it right so I tempered it, since I don’t have a nice big marble slab I chose to use the “seeding” method. It is really very simple, you chop some chocolate (about 1 lb.)…

…bring it up to about 110*F in a double boiler mixing constantly at this point all the chunks should have melted. Let it cool to about 100*F and then add some more chocolate (about 4 oz.) which will bring the temperature down further still. When the chocolate reaches the desired temperature, in this case about 90*F  remove the solid chocolate.

Since I was using the chocolate for dipping, I placed the bowl of tempered chocolate in a bath of water that was a few degrees warmer in order to keep the chocolate liquid for dipping.

I dipped clean and DRY strawberries in the melted chocolate and set them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. When I had finished, I  put the tray of berries in the fridge to set up.

Tempering the chocolate resulted in a smoother finish and a crisper break when you bite through the chocolate. It only took a little more time but I think it is definitely worth it.

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C is for Cookie

Last weekend I was on a major cookie kick, starting with some chocolate chip cookies on Thursday. One of my good friends had an Art Show Opening on Sunday, a lucky excuse to bake some more. I made two kinds for the opening, lemon sugar cookies and chocolate sables.

The lemon sugar cookies were cut out in the shape of bones in honor of the main focus of her work, Max (a fantastic poodle.)

The chocolate sables were thin and crispy with irregular bits of molten chocolate. The dough, sprinkled with fleur de sel, was just sweet enough to balance the deep chocolate.

Having a hard time fighting the temptation to bake still more cookies, with no real excuse, I gave in on Tuesday and made a batch of makrouth. A Tunisian cookie made with semolina, dates, oranges, and olive oil. The end result somewhat resembles a fig newton.

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I got up early this morning to bake a cake. I only have one large sheet cake pan so I had to bake two layers, separately. I used the same recipe that I used for my friends wedding cake last summer. Last night while reading through some cookbooks, I came across a useful tip. When baking large cakes, reduce the oven temperature by 25*F to allow for more even cooking. I tried this out today and I am pleased to say that my cake turned out quite nicely, no dry or crispy edges and the center is cooked through!

While the first layer was baking, I prepared the batter for the second layer. With both layers baked and cooling…

I thinly sliced some strawberries. (Normally I don’t buy like to buy fruit out of season but I had a request for strawberries and they actually looked pretty juicy so I went for it.)

I put the berries in a bowl and sprinkled a some sugar (maybe 2 Tbsp.) on them.  I whipped some cream and assembled the cake. I put the strawberries in between the two layers with just a touch of whipped cream…

…then covered the entire cake with whipped cream and dusted it with a little cocoa powder.

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Last weekend I went for a little drive and wound up Michigan. Among many things I (I should really say we, as it was a group effort) made some delicious chocolate chip cookies. The recipe that we used is from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. They were delicious, especially with a large glass of milk!

I am back home now and tonight I wanted to make some more cookies, I decided to play with the recipe and use yogurt with a little baking soda as a substitute for the eggs. They were quite tasty, though a bit thinner and more chewy with crispy edges. It’s hard to compare the two cookies, they are totally different. I enjoyed the eggless version but I am not completely satisfied. I will let you know when I come up with the perfect compromise, until then here are some more pictures.

This time, I used chocolate morsels from Askinosie Chocolate. They were well worth it! These dark chocolate morsels are a nice break from sweet cookie.

Ready to go in the oven…

and finally cookies before bed….

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A couple of weeks ago I was having dinner with some of my friends and their daughter and I came up with a plan to make chocolate truffles for her classmates for Valentine’s day. So, today, we did just that. We used the ganache that I had leftover from the Sarah Bernhardts that I made yesterday.

The Munchkin chose orange zest, roses, sea salt, and cocoa powder for garnishing. She may be 10, but she has quite the refined palate.

We spooned out portions of the ganache and rolled them into balls.

Since the chocolate melted in our hands, it required some cleaning up between batches. Don’t worry, the Munchkin also used the sink for this step…)

When we were finished making the balls, we prepared the garnishes.

For one variation, we crushed dried rose buds and mixed the petals with some orange zest and rolled the truffles in it.

For the other, we rolled the truffles in cocoa powder. Both types got a touch of vanilla sea salt on top. Finally we put one of each in their little boxes…

…and tied them up with a ribbon and a card.

They are simple and delicious!

Here is a basic recipe for ganache:

1/2 lb. finely chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate

1 c. cream

1/4 tsp. salt

Place chopped chocolate in a heat-proof mixing bowl and set aside. Place cream and salt in a heavy bottomed saucepan and slowly bring to a boil. Pour the hot cream on top of the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Leave the ganache at room temperature for least 6 hours. Note: You can speed up the “setting up” process by refrigerating it and stirring it every 20 minutes until it is set, but I don’t recommend this technique, it tends to come out a bit grainy in texture.

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Sarah Bernhardts

Yesterday I did a cooking demo at the At Home Store. I made some really wonderful cookies that are a cross between a macaron and a truffle. The recipe that I used is from The Sono Baking Company Cookbook:The Best Sweet and Savory Recipes for Every Occasion by John Barricelli. They were really fun to make! They were pretty simple even though lots of different steps were involved. The first step was making the chocolate ganache.

Secondly, I made the almond macarons. I used a pastry bag to pipe out tiny little rounds…

Then I melted some chocolate for the hard casing. (This was the only place that I didn’t follow the recipe exactly. It calls for a little bit of vegetable oil, to keep the chocolate looking shiny, but I only had olive oil pressed with tangerines–so that is what I used instead. The orange was very nice although maybe a little too strong. If I were to use it again I would use even less and maybe mix it with some vegetable oil.

With all of the elements ready, it was time to assemble the cookies. I piped some ganache onto each cookie…

…and then dipped each one  in chocolate.

They were really tasty! I had a lot of ganache left over! I think I could have made about a third of what the recipe called for and had enough.

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A birdday cake

My sister made this cake a while ago and it looked delicious! When I was deciding what to bake for my brother for his birthday, the “Chocolate Guinness Cake” came to mind, it is rich, chocolaty, and moist. Perfect for a wintry day like today.

The first step was to pour the Guinness in a wide saucepan, add the butter and warm it until the butter melts.

Next, I whisked in the cocoa powder and the sugar, until it was smooth. I slid the pan off the  hot burner and beat the eggs with some vanilla and sour cream. I added the egg mixture to the pan and mixed again. Lastly, I added the flour and a little baking soda.

I poured the batter into a springform pan and popped it in the oven for about 45 minutes. When it was done, I put the cake outside to cool.

Meanwhile, I made up a batch of cream cheese frosting. The recipe calls for a little whipping cream to be added into it, making it fluffy, somewhat resembling the foam on top of a pint of Guinness.

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Hedgehog Cake

I have been wanting to make this cake since last winter. I couldn’t find any chestnut paste in Michigan and when I finally got some from my mom’s store, it seemed too rich and wintry to make in April. My sister loves chestnuts and hedgehogs I made it for her birthday last week. The recipe for this “Hedgehog Cake” came from Simply Sensational Desserts by Francois Payard, you might recall a lime tart I made a while back- also from this wonderful book.

I started by making the cake, a chocolate sponge. I baked it in on of my favorite pans, my mom’s all-clad jelly roll pan.

While the cake was baking, I made the chestnut ganache! I chopped up a bunch of bittersweet chocolate and poured boiling cream on top and whisked away. When that was smooth, I added some chestnut puree and whisked some more. I cooled it in the fridge for about 45 minutes, stirring it occasionally.

By this time, the cake had cooled and everything was ready to be assembled. I used some bowls to trace around and cut out the layers. I lined a bowl with some saran wrap and spread a generous layer of the ganache evenly across it.

I placed the smallest of the three cake rounds in the bottom and smeared on some more ganache. Then more cake, more ganache, and a big dollop of whipped cream. I topped it off with the last of the cake rounds and sealed it with some ganache. I put it in the freezer over night so that it would hold its shape.

In the morning, I filled the sink with hot water and set the bowl in it long enough that the cake would unmold.I turned it out onto a cake plate and with the back of a spoon spread the spiked the rest of the ganache on it to resemble spines. (I think this step would have been a little better if I had let the ganache warm up a bit more.) I decided to leave it headless. I thought that it would be too disturbing to have to cut off the head of a hedgehog. Eeek. I dusted it with cocoa powder.


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A couple of weeks ago I went to my friends land south of town. He is developing a very beautiful orchard, King Edward’s. This spring he planted about 50 fruit trees! Lucky for us, he already has a giant pear tree that is loaded with fruit.

I like to let my pears ripen off the tree quite a bit, so they get really sweet and juicy. The other day my friend and I canned  some pearsauce and lemon-ginger pears. The pears were so sweet that we didn’t have to add any sugar to the pearsauce and cut the sugar in half from what I used last year for the lemon-ginger pears. We also dehydrated a few to make pear chips.

Still having tons of pears left, I decided to make a couple of pies. I made the crust last night so I would have plenty of time to chill, resulting in a flakier crust. I also added a little bit of lemon zest in with the flour, butter, and water for the crust, I think this will be especially nice with the pears. This morning, I peeled and sliced a whole bunch of pears, tossed them with some sugar, flour and a touch of freshly grated ginger. I filled the bottom shells with the pears and dotted it with butter. A while ago, a friend made a pear galette with chocolate, this inspired me to shave on a little chocolate before I put on the top and sealed it up.

The pies are now cooling and I am having a hard time not slicing into the pies while it is still hot because they smell so good!

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Every year my mom would ask me what kind of cake I wanted for my birthday and for the past 10 years or so, I have had the same request, coeur a la creme. Coeur a la creme is a smooth and silky dessert made with cream and cream cheese, a little mousse-y in texture. Traditionally it was not sweetened and served with fresh fruit. My mom always added a little chocolate too, she would use half white chocolate and half dark chocolate, and finished it with raspberry sauce and some fresh raspberries. This year, I decided I wanted to try making it myself so I spent my free time on my birthday making coeur a la creme as well as a couple of other treats.

The coeur a la creme was so simple to make. First, I melted a little bit of white chocolate and semisweet chocolate (separately,) while that was cooling I mixed the cream cheese and powdered sugar together until it was nice and fluffy, then I added a little bit of heavy cream and vanilla and mixed again.

I split the mixture into two bowls and added white chocolate to one and dark chocolate to the other.

I whipped the rest of the cream and folded it into the mixture. I spooned it into the special heart-shaped molds lined with cheesecloth and set them in the fridge to drain. (The molds are equipped with lots of little holes in the bottom.)

I took them out of the fridge (about 8 hours later), turned them out onto a plate and removed the cheesecloth. This was the interesting part, the dark chocolate mixture set up and held its form but the white did not. I am not sure why this happened, I did the exact same thing for both types. The white chocolate variation still tasted delicious so I put it in a bowl to serve.

For the other treats, I made a couple of little  fresh fig tarts and lemon meringue pie. I have been drooling over this recipe out of The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern by Claudia Fleming, it is a fresh fig tart with a cornmeal crust, yum! I ended up using a different recipe for the crust, one without egg. I love the added texture that cornmeal adds to baked goods, it is so crunchy! (The crust made 4 x 4″tart shells.) I pricked the shells and pre-baked them so they would be ready for their respective fillings.

I didn’t have quite enough figs to make the “jam” for the bottom but, I did have a jam of fig jam from Tunisia so I mixed a little of the jam with a little bit of orange zest and juice and spread it on the crust. I nestled in the quartered figs and called it done.

Lastly, I made a couple of little lemon meringue pies. These were inspired by the gigantic egg that I got in the morning. (I am working a couple of mornings a week at Radiance Dairy, hanging out with cows is a wonderful way to start the day! Francis, the owner of the farm, and i had just been talking about his chickens when he called out to me, the next thing I knew, there was an egg flying through the air. It was one of the biggest eggs I have seen, and it was still warm!) I thought a lemon meringue pie would be the perfect use for it, spotlighting both the yolk and the white.

I made a simple curd using the egg yolk, sugar, lemon juice and zest, and butter. While the curd cooled, I whipped up the egg white with a touch of cream of tartar and sugar. I smoothed the curd over the crust (cornmeal .and spooned on the meringue topping, being sure to overlap with the crust a little so that the meringue wouldn’t pull away and shrink while it baked.I baked it for about 15 minutes, until it was golden.

Out for delivery…

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