Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ganache 101

These truffles won't turn out well if I had not picked up Alice M.'s Bittersweet some time ago. The ganache broke:- curdled up into a oily puddle, greasing the sides of the bowl, instead of emulsifying into a uniform pudding-like texture. I panicked a little and wonder what wrong I did this time round. Could it be the tea? Or did I overmix (huh, I don't think so) or could it be the cream that got too hot and burned the chocolate? I didn't have much time to figure out while in the kitchen. I stared at the oily curdle, froze for a few seconds, and got down to fixing it.

I have done this twice (and I bet I'll still freeze in the state of panic the next time it happens) and it worked well for me. According to Alice M., no matter how much ganache you are fixing (I have never worked with over 1 kg of chocolate for truffle centers, so I can't testify it works if you work in a chocolate plant), heat up 4 tbsp of cream to a simmer, pour into a bowl, and slowly add the broken ganache to the heated cream, little at a time, stirring slowly. Voila! I was very relieved. To add to the distress, my visiting cousin was staying with us for a month, and she got into the kitchen just in time to observe the curdly mess. I was hoping she didn't quite figure it went "wrong" at first, as it would affect her tasting buds psychologically.

It seems this white tea dark truffle turned out well enough to get a few "wow"s from friends. I love it personally, small, bite-sized, bittersweet, smooth, deep, with hints of apricot and floral notes. So subtle that you won't think it had been flavoured. Think I would increase the white tea dosage in future.

Thumbs up to Alice M's tip! You could also refer to this page on Baking 911 a few ganache how-tos.

Welcome to the mystifying world of chocolate. ^_^

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Good Morning Mousse...

When you get a ice cream base so yummy before it gets churned in the ice cream maker, you get a no-nonsense mousse. Real, rich, smooth, thick. Most of the mixture went into the Kitchenaid ice-cream maker, which had been well utilized since it got recruited into my kitchen's regiment. The rest of it which didn't get churned are dressed with bows and floral headpieces, decidedly ready to be eaten at an imaginary wedding.

The mixer itself, however is crying for the whisk and paddle to be fitted on more frequently. Yes, I got the order mixed up. We bought a 5 qt mixer before we got an oven. For 2 months, I have only made a few batches of cookie doughs with this astute member of our kitchen, freeze them, and brought it to my mom's house to bake. We can't seem to be able to find the elusive ideal oven. I had wanted to get a larger-than-our-usual-domestic oven because I bake a lot of cookies during X'mas. Built an affinity for the industrial ones in bakeries but was dismayed that they are unsuitable for domestic use. Contemplating to get 2 90cm long ones and build one on top of the other. Justifiable for just baking for X'mas? Errrmmmmm... let's get back to the mousse and ice cream.

This recipe created an end mixture so thick that it was hard to pour, and got my hands all gooey after (which resulted in a massive licking aftermath). If you don't believe in finger-licking goodness, try this recipe. And be sure to lick your fingers and favorite spatula clean. (don't tell me I'm the only gross one?)

Though the ice cream turn out a little icy/grainy (most likely due to freezing that happened too quickly), its deepness, darkness and fudginess would please any chocolate lover. When I do it again, I would add more burnt caramel and less milk (caramel to deepen the complexity of flavours, and less milk to balance the water content).

Dark Chocolate Ice Cream
recipe from The Essence of Chocolate

- 3.5 oz 62% semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used 70%)
- 4 large egg yolks (I used 9 medium ones for 2 batches)
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar (150g plus 25g)
- 1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (about 80g)
- 2 cups whole milk (480 ml)
- 2 tsp water


-- Place the chocolate in a large bowl. Set a fine-mesh strainer over the bowl, and set aside.

-- In a medium bowl, whisk the yolks and 3/4 cup of the sugar until slightly paler in color. Add the cocoa and whisk until a paste forms.

-- Bring the milk to a bowl over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Whisking constantly, slowly pour the milk into the cocoa mixture, and whisk until smooth. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, about 3-5 min. (Yes, please be very watchful as the mixture thickens slowly at first and more quickly gradually)

-- Strain the hot mixture onto the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted.

-- Place the remaining 2 tbsp sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to cook, without stirring, until the caramel is dark brown. Swirl the saucepan to achieve an evenly cooked caramel, remove from heat and pour immediately into the chocolate mixture, whisking constantly. (Please start whisking just before you pour, as the super-hot caramel creates a little "explosion" when added to the chocolate mixture) If any of the caramel solidifies into small chunks, strain.

-- Let cool, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least several hours, or overnight.

-- Churn and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Because the mixture is so thick to begin with, it may take less time than most ice cream to freeze to the desired consistency.

-- Enjoy! Yummmmmmmmmmmm.......

Friday, August 3, 2007

Does anyone need some wrist corsages?

My first experience with wrist corsages was a month ago when I helped a distant friend out with making some for her wedding. S.C. thought she could use some of my artsy talents (or so she claims, but I think it was more because I was the only available one on a weekday afternoon!). It's fun actually, but tough, tedious and quite exhausting to put small fresh flowers all round a wristlet. It would be easier to make a chest corsage (for the groom and groomsmen), or a wrist corsage that resembles the pin-on version, just with an extra ribbon attached. I guess we liked the journey less travelled, and wanted the bridesmaids to feel a little special. We did the corsage in a bracelet form, with small flowers all round the first half of the wrist. Tedious, arrghhh tedious... I think I took more than half an hour for 1.

I didn't bring a proper camera then, and one month later, a sudden urge came. I recreated these corsages, with wax (not candle wax, not ear wax either, hehe... it's a cute hardy flower) and limonium, to take proper pictures. Except that, these are not for any particular occasion, and I am really not sure what to do with them. I am kind of kicking myself now. I better be reading this entry 10 years later for a good laugh to make all the work well worth it!

It is very enjoyable though, I am reliving part of my childhood dream of being a florist. If you intend to make some yourself, equip with:

- good sharp scissors
- florist tape
- wire (may not be applicable, it depends on your design)
- ribbons (I used 1/4" thick for the above design)
- flowers and greens of your choice (best to pick hardy ones to withstand the twisting torture, and small ones if you want to make wristlets like mine)
- patience (it probably won't turn out well on the first try)
- ample time! you can't rush it...
- refrigeration (don't leave the wrist corsages to wilt in sweltering heat!)

P.S. Let me know if you are getting married this weekend? I would love to see these worn on a joyous occasion. ^^