Sunday, April 22, 2012

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Bites

I know out in most areas spring is in full bloom, but here in the dessert, it feels a whole lot more like summer to me! It's in the 90's everyday and only getting hotter [I haven't decided if I find this thrilling or horrifying....] So I have been in such a huge summer-y mood this past week and I don't see that changing anytime soon. So in honor of this hot summer weather, I have started working on some new ganache flavors that are inspired by summer flavors: mainly refreshing fruits, juices, etc. So today I finally finished my newest creation and I am so excited to share it! A Chocolate Strawberry Bonbon! Everything you love about fresh chocolate covered strawberries, without having the chocolate break and fall off the strawberry before you can finish your first bite! :] This candy has a delicious strawberry milk chocolate ganache topped with a thin layer of refreshing, yet tangy strawberry gele. You can leave these centers un dipped if you please, because they are very beautiful; but if you chose to do this, then make sure you are going to serve them within a day or two because the pectin gele will dry out and become slightly fruit leather-ish. If you dip them in chocolate, this is not a problem and they will last much longer.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry
makes about 50
Strawberry Gele
adapted from Chef Rubber
Strawberry Puree [see below]: 70g
Sugar: 30g
Pectin: 7g * see note below*
Sugar: 30g

1. Combine the puree and first sugar in a small sauce pot and bring to a boil.
2. Combine pectin and second sugar and stir and add to the puree.
3. Boil the mixture for two minutes, stirring constantly.
4. Spread over wax paper with an offset spatula, in a very thin layer and allow to cool.

Fresh Strawberry Puree [see below]: 60g
Butter: 10g
Milk Chocolate: 175g

1. Melt and temper your milk chocolate.
2. Mix in the cool strawberry puree until homogenous.
3. Stir in the very soft butter and then spread the ganache ontop of the cooled gele about 1/4 inch thick.

Strawberry Puree:
Strawberries hulled: 5 oz [about 6 average size]
Lemon Juice [fresh]: 1/2 lemon
-blend together until completely smooth 

Once everything has setup [allow overnight for best results] you can flip the ganache over and cut into whatever shape and size you like. I dipped my centers in dark chocolate because i didn't want to add too much sweetness ontop of the milk chocolate and natural sweetness in the strawberries.

* pectin is a naturally occurring gelling agent found in fruits. you can buy powdered pectin from many different companies and use to make your own fruit geles ["pate de fruit"]. I use pectin from Chef Rubber. Their product is specifically formulated and comes with a recipe for great pate de fruit. I used this recipe from their packaging, but modified it a little bit for my own needs!*

Monday, March 19, 2012

The way I "See's" it...

For the most part, my recipes are not "mock ups" of a previously existing item [other than the homemade oreo's] I don't generally just want to copy a flavor that someone else has already come up with, I am more interested in working on my own flavors and combinations to create my own personal style.... with one exception: See's Candy Bordeaux Truffle.
My Dad's FAVORITE candy [underneath only reeses pb cups] is See's Bordeaux Truffle. They were his fathers favorite, and since then, have kind of been the universal favorite in the entire family. All my aunts and uncles love them...although, I think that almost everyone loves them, because they are so delicious. If you haven't ever had one, go to See's right now and try it. They are a wonderful balance of sweet and slightly salty, while being creamy and delicious. So for my Dads birthday this past December, I set out to try and reproduce his favorite candy! It took about 4 different recipe failures until I finally formulated the perfect recipe!

Bordeaux Truffles
Brown Sugar: 80g
Salt: 6g
Water: 10g
Butter[VERY SOFT]: 100g
White Chocolate [tempered]: 200g
Dark Chocolate [tempered]: 80g
[white/dark/milk]Chocolate [tempered] for dipping
1. Combine brown sugar, salt, and water in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow syrup to cool completely. 
2.  Cream the butter and slowly stream in the cooled syrup. continue mixing until homogenous.
3. Combine the white and dark chocolate and stream into the butter while mixing on LOW speed. Make sure to scrape the bowl ad mix until completely homogenous.
4. Now pipe your ganache on parchment paper into small balls. Allow your ganache centers to set up [about 1 hour] once they are firm, you can dip them in your chocolate [whatever kind you like] and garnish as you please :]

Bordeaux ganache, before being dipped!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tiramisu Layer Cake

Literally meaning "pick me up" Tiramisu is my all time favorite dessert. Anytime I'm at an Italian restaurant I always order Tiramisu, no matter what. Although I have yet to find the perfect slice of fluffy lady fingers drunk with coffee and rum [yes, i prefer rum to marsala wine in my Tiramisu] layered between a smooth mascarpone cream and topped with cocoa powder at any restaurant, I personally have had great success with Tiramisu at home! Truth is, Tiramisu can be a time consuming project if it's your first time - if you want to simplify the process, you can always opt for store bought lady fingers and simply soak them with some fresh coffee...but trust me, its best to make it all from scratch!

Right now I'm on a cake kick! Trying to turn my favorite items into layered cakes that can be stacked and decorated [ S'mores Cake] So in this recipe, instead of soaking the cake all the way through, I made a liquid ganache with all the soaking effects and spread that on top of each layer of cake to keep it moist and add flavor! Also, it is important to note that I like my Tiramisu fairly strong on both the booze and the coffee flavor, so if its too much for you, just dial down the rum/kahlua/coffee.

Lady Fingers

Eggs Separated - 3 ea
Sugar - 1 C
Flour - 1 C
Vanilla - 1tsp

1. whip yolks and sugar
2. whip whites and sugar
3. fold those together  and fold in flour and vanilla

Coffee Ganache Soak
Rum - 3 Tbsp
Kahlua - 3 Tbsp
Coffee - 1/2 C
Dark Chocolate - 1/4 C

1. Boil coffee, rum, and kahlua and pour over chocolate to make ganache.

Mascarpone Cream 
Mascarpone Cheese - 10 oz
Egs separated - 4 ea
Sugar -1/4 C
Water - 1/4 C
Rum - 2 Tbsp

1. Cream your mascarpone cheese and rum until very soft and fluffy. set aside.
2. Combine half of your sugar and half of your water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil.
3. While the sugar heats up, begin to slowly whip your yolks - make sure they are very thick and light, and stream in the sugar when it comes to a boil. whip until very thick and set aside.
4. Combine the rest of your sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
5. Whip up your egg whites [with clean beaters] while your sugar heats up. When it boils, stream in to your whites and whip until stiff peaks. set aside.
6. Mix together your yolks and mascarpone, then fold in your whites.

Now, assemble your cake and decorate in any way you wish! You're going to want to refrigerate and/or freeze your cake before you serve it it order to allow the filling to set up enough!

Monday, February 27, 2012

S'mores Cake!

"First you take the graham, you stick the chocolate on the graham. Then you roast the 'mallow. When the 'mallows flaming... you stick it on the chocolate. Then cover with the other end. Then you scarf. Kind of messy, but good!" - The Sandlot

Some of my favorite food memories [besides my mom's lasagna every year for my birthday] as a child revolve around a campfire with flaming marshmallows and hershey's chocolate melting all over my hands. My family used to go camping almost every summer when i was little and, besides fishing and mosquito bites, s'mores make a camping trip. So in my quest for delicious desserts, I took the childhood classic and turned it into a layered cake! I will admit, this is kind of a lengthy recipe, having 3 parts to it: cake, ganache, and meringue. And although it is a bit of a process, it is definitely WELL worth the effort! In order to try and reincarnate a s'more into a cake I made sure to incorporate  graham crackers [as the cake], marshmallows [in the form of a fluffy meringue] and chocolate [ a smoked chocolate ganache finishes out the dessert by adding chocolate and that campfire flavor]

Graham Cracker Cake
Butter - 1 C
Brown Sugar - 2 C
Eggs - 6 ea [SEPARATED]
Honey - 2 TBSP
Graham Crackers - 4 C [ ground up into crumbs - 1 entire box]
Flour - 1/2 C
Baking Powder - 4 tsp
Salt - 1 tsp
Heavy Cream - 2 C

1. Cream butter and sugar until very light and fluffy
2. whisk together the egg yolks and honey and add to the sugar/butter
3. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl [graham crackers/flour/bpowder/salt] and alternate adding to the batter with the cream.
4. With clean beaters, whip up your eggs whites to stiff peaks and then fold into the batter. [go slowly, because the batter is very thick to begin with]
Bake at 350 F for 20-30 minutes

Smoked Chocolate Ganache
Heavy Cream - 250 g
Dark Chocolate - 400 g
Butter - 50 g
Charcoal, wood chips, tin foil, and a large pan/plate

1. Place your charcoal on the stove and heat over a flame until red hot and place on one end of a large pan or plate. on the other end place your chocolate [chopped up preferably]. Sprinkle the wood chips over the charcoal and cover the entire pan with foil. poke a single hole in it to allow ventilation. Allow to smoke for 5-10 minutes
2.  Bring heavy cream to a boil.
3. Place chocolate in a bowl and pour the cream on top. Stir until all homogenous.
4. Stir in your butter and set aside until ready to use.

Swiss Meringue
Egg Whites - 5 oz
Sugar - 10 oz

1. Combine whites and sugar in your mixing bowl and  place on top of a pot of boiling water.
2. Heat until 140 F, then place on the mixer and whip until completely cool and stiff peaks.

Now assemble any way you like. I layered: cake, ganache, meringue, cake, etc. But you can also simply fill the cake with the meringue and glaze the entire cake with ganache. or the opposite: fill with ganache and frost with the meringue!
I ended up decorating my cake, just for fun :]

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cherries and Valentines Day

With Valentine's Day right around the corner [tomorrow], there are a ton of chocolate/cherry recipes circulating around. Now, personally I am really not a chocolate/cherry fan. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE chocolate and I also love cherries, but for some reason, the combination doesn't do anything for me. This could go back to my hatred towards cherry cordials [I am not a fan of biting into something expecting a solid, and having cherry squirt everywhere] and ever since my first experience, I think the aversion has stuck. But, since it is such a classic Valentine's Day pairing, I decided to work out my own cherry featured dessert sans chocolate - yes, odd since this is a chocolate  blog...but delicious nonetheless. Today we are going to finally work with the third and final CUSTARD! We previously discussed boiled custards with pomegranate pudding and we also touched on baked custards with both pomegranate tartlets and pumpkin creme brulee. Today we are making a stirred custard...let's have a quick recap on the difference between the three...

A STIRRED CUSTARD means that you cook the custard on the stove, and cook it, but do NOT bring it to a final boil. [example: creme anglaise/vanilla sauce/ice cream base]
A BOILED CUSTARD is exactly that....boiled on the stove [example: pastry cream/pudding]
A BAKED CUSTARD, again, is just what it says...put it in the oven! [example: creme brulee, creme caramel, cheesecake, quiche-yes! custards can be savory too!]

alright, now that we are all back on the same page we are going to make

Sour Cream Ice Cream with a Warm Cherry Compote

Sour Cream Ice Cream Base:
Sour Cream: 8oz
Whole Milk: 8oz
Sugar: 4 oz
Egg Yolks: 4 oz

1. In a medium sauce pan, bring your sour cream, milk, and half the sugar to a boil.
2. while those ingredients are heating up, whisk together your yolks and the remaining sugar
3. whisk about half of your boiling liquids into the yolk mixture [DO  NOT STOP WHISKING]
4. over medium heat, pour the yolk mixture back into the remaining liquids and stir continuously. do not allow this mixture to come to a boil. you want it to thicken slightly. To be precise, use a thermometer. You want to bring this mixture to 165 F, which is referred to as "nappe". another way to test this is to dip a spoon into the mixture and holding it upright, run your finger in a line through the sauce. If the sauce stays separated then you are at nappe. If the sauce simply leaks back together then you need to continue cooking the sauce.
5. once the sauce is finished, pour it into a bowl and allow it to cool completely in the fridge

...meanwhile, we will make the compote...

Cherry Compote
Cherries [pitted]: 5oz
Cranberry Juice: 4 oz
Lime Juice: 1 Tbsp
Red Wine: 2 Tbsp

1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
2. Once boiling, turn the heat down and allow to simmer until reduced by more than half. this will take between 6-10 minutes. you want a tangy/sweet and very thick reduction. there will be very little liquid left in the pan.
3. - OPTIONAL STEP - if you want a smoother sauce, you can puree this up and make a liquid fruit sauce. i kept the cherries in chunks and went with a compote instead

Now, churn your ice cream [follow directions on your ice cream machine]...... freeze for a few hours after churning to let the ice cream set up, then reheat your cherries, scoop some ice cream and top it off!

liquids, yolks, sugar are cooked together until....


beginning of the cherry compote...

turns into this deliciousness!
Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Oreos and the hunt for cake

I've been a little overwhelmed on my end over here. I made the move from NYC back to LA in December, bringing a large chapter of my life to a close. I did take a break from chocolate while I was in Los Angeles for the holidays, just spending time with family and friends. Now with January coming to a close, I have moved onto my next big adventure- Las Vegas. I'm looking forward to working out here [again] and growing and learning everything I can. So, to get back into the swing of things, we are going to re-enter the world of chocolate, starting with some super chocolate-y homemade oreos!

Homemade Oreo's
Cocoa Powder: 1 1/3 cups
Flour: 1 1/2 cups
Salt: 1 tsp
Butter: 1 cup
Sugar: 2 cups
Eggs: 2 ea
Vanilla: 1 tsp

1. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy
2. Beat in eggs until homogenous
3. Add in cocoa, flour, salt, and vanilla and mix JUST until combined. DO NOT OVERMIX- this will make your dough tough.
4. Wrap the dough and allow to chill in the fridge for 20 minutes to an hour- now roll, cut and bale
325 F 10-15 minutes

Vanilla Filling:
Butter: 1 cup
Powdered Sugar: 2-3 cups
Vanilla Extract: 2-3 tbps

1. Cream butter until very light and soft
2. Add in the powdered sugar and vanilla extract
[here is a point of taste- i like it strongly vanilla and pretty sweet, but mix to taste]

finished cookie dough
wrap and chill the dough for easy rolling
cut out your circles [or any shape you want really]

Fill and enjoy!
this week I am searching for the most delicious chocolate cake recipe [well, a very delicious recipe]  that will pair well with buttercream and work for stacking and carving as well :]

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Happy National Popcorn Day

I'm not sure who doesn't enjoy a hot bowl of popcorn, smothered in butter and salted to perfection [ especially while watching a great movie ] but personally, I would rather have a warm bowl of salty sweet kettle corn - nothing against good ol' fashioned butter, but with a sweet tooth like mine, I gotta have the sugar in there somewhere. so to celebrate national popcorn day I am going to post a very basic and delicious sweet and salty popcorn recipe, which is wonderful eaten warm or at room temperature!

Sweet and Salty Popcorn
1/4 c oil
1/4 c sugar
1/2 c popcorn kernels
1/4 tsp salt [i personally like a little more salt, but this is a good amount to start with]

1. in a large pot with a lid heat the oil and stir in the sugar
2. be careful not to burn the sugar- so once the oil is hot, add in the kernels and cover with the lid
3. over medium/high heat shake the pot with the lid on continually. The kernels will begin to pop- DONT STOP SHAKING. [otherwise the sugar will burn on the bottom]
4. once the popping slows, turn the heat off and allow the last few kernels to pop. pour the popcorn into a very large bowl
5. while still hot, pour the salt over the popcorn and toss lightly together. now eat :]

hot oil and sugar together
Add the kernels [notice the sugar is beginning to take on color]
finished popping!
add salt and enjoy!
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