Friday, October 19, 2007

Crunchy Truffles

It turned out all delightful. It was partly because I was too lazy to infuse tea in my ganaches, so I looked through the kitchen stash, and decided to make some truffles with chocolate crunchies, a valuable buy from Shermay's.

It was a high cream to chocolate truffle. 500 ml of whipping cream to 300 g of Araguani! I always loved creamy yet dark, melt-in-the-mouth truffles, so I went to quite an extreme for the cream proportion. The ganache was surprisingly easy to roll, maybe because the morning was a chilly one.

All of it was shared with friends promptly and finished up in less than a week!

I was not working from my own kitchen, so I was a little short on some of my favorite tools and packaging materials. Nonetheless, I managed alright. No fancy pictures, no cookies with ribbons, no truffles in martini glass. Just a little hill of truffle balls, crying to be eaten, and rightfully deserving so.

Yum... I'm thinking of dark truffles of white chocolate balls now. It's true you can't stop once you start, be it the eating or the making.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Baking with Chunks - Part II

I got down to the real baking! For readers looking for recipes, I am afraid I can't offer you much (yes, you are free to click on another blog link), because I have recently decided to give a shot at setting up a cookie shop (had a sudden awakening). Most of the recipes I'll be trying out in the next few months would be those I'm keen to use for my shop. So, I'm going to evolve into a cookie-ninja and you'll find me posting pictures with vivid descriptions but elusive, evasive references (if at all) to the recipes. Yes, call me awful, selfish, annoying, but I had kept those precious recipes in my 10-over year-old notebook with a tingling thought during my teens that I could set up a bakery one day, and like the baker-owners all say, "Ah.. that's my secret recipe." You won't deprive of having a chance (no matter how slim) to say that one day yup? ^___^

While this blog have never really been targeted to garner a huge audience (Yup, I think and write like I would love to read, and it serves more as my own kitchen diary). Those who have been reading regularly (I'm very thankful) would know they can skip the first few paragraphs because I never get to the point quickly. Alright point taken, let's get to it!

I have been baking a chocolate cookie with different types of chocolate chunks. I had used Valrhona's Guanaja before, and now recently tried the same recipe with Araguani, thinking its floral notes and subtle bitterness would go well with some cookie sweetness. The cookie is still good, but Guanaja's slight citrus sourness had a better go with this ultra chocolatey treat. (Personal take of course!)

I tried a sister cookie (yes I treat white chocolate and strawberries as feminine objects). It's really hard to get dried strawberries (please let me know if you know!). I emptied these morsels from an entire box of Post's cereal, and they were weightless on an digital scale! They rarely filled half a cup.

There are some distributors carrying freezed dried fruit (which researchers have reported to retain high levels of nutrients), but we have to order by the kg.

These cookies turn out quite crisp on the outside, and some bigger choc chunks remain liquidy, giving slight chewy centre. Ever wondered why some cookies turn out crispy and thin, some thick and chewy? Ah... mystery mystery. I have a thing for permutations and possibilities. I variate the same core recipe with difference types of sugars, flours, fats, and alter the amounts slightly. I would also bake the same dough under different conditions (temp. and time). Of course, with experimentation comes loads of failures and some nice surprises. Please check out this great information site on chocolate chip cookie for the theory part of it! The practical side of things: You just have to get down to doing it. The same dough produces different textures from different handlings, different ovens (tricky, but it's the whole mystifying nature of baking that gives you the kick ne? ^_-)

The second best part of baking goodies is definitely packaging them! Eating them comes a close 3rd. Yes I am one of those weird ones who doesn't eat much of what I make, my taste buds are numbed from the long hours of baking (and test tasting). These are carefully packaged to be given out to friends to "test-run" for me.

And you absolutely have to eat cookies with chilled milk. The duo sends a lovely cold jot of crumbliness, crunch, melting-ful of sensation, milky goodness, loads to chew and starts a new day like it's going to be a real good day.

Friday, October 5, 2007

The last lecture of Dr. Randy Pausch

I have been contemplating setting up a cookie store for a long while. It's a childhood dream (okie, not exactly childhood, more like teenhood).

After watching a touching and inspiring last lecture by Dr. Randy Pausch, I couldn't help but tear and started rethinking things in life reflectively and my future strategically.

I won't have pictures for you today, but some very important links. Please click here to view the full video. If you have buffering issues, try this on youtube instead. There are 10 videos on youtube for the full lecture. It would be a riveting 90 minutes, so sit tight.

I have been profoundly touched and inspired by Professor Pausch and I sincerely hope to share this with all of you stumbling onto my blog.

And to Dr. Pausch, thank you so much for sharing your life's lessons with us. My prayers go out to you and your family.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Baking with Chunks

Apologies for the lack of posts recently, if you do continue to see me missing from time to time on Kalena's Kitchen, I'm probably inking/printing something, working on photoshop, or cutting paper in the studio! Back to the chocolates, here's a little peep into the chocolates in my fridge. A dear friend and I used to bake mountain-heaps of cookies during our teens; it's my friend's mom's secret recipe for choc chip cookies and I remember buying loads of Hersheys mini chocolate chips.

Ever since I got fixated on home made truffles, I tapped readily into my supply of couverture chocolate and chop chunks out of blocks and buttons. Ummmm... uuuummmmMMMMmm... It's so true that you can't skimp on chocolate for chocolate desserts. It just gives the extra "Om" and gratification which chocoholics crave. Chunks (if not over overbaked) also gives rich liquidy centres, retaining fudge like qualities in chocolate cookies.

I am a big fan of some Valrhona chocolates, and I admit I stock up quite excessively (often blowing the monthly grocery budget, shhhh... *classified* to my husband). I don't take much milk and white chocolate, but I do keep a little so I don't need to make another trip when some good recipes come by. To allow myself (and some chocolate-loving friends who are guinea pigs for new recipes) to constantly try all at one time, I save little pastilles in containers, label them with a big smile like it's part of a prized collection. Everyone has a personal favorite, it's interesting to guess who might like what.

Ever since I started working with flavoured truffles, I can't stop thinking about chocolate pairings:- Guanaja with white tea? Too subtle? Caraibe with expresso, ahhh, dark and smoky indeed. Araguani with caramelized nuts? Should I try to accentuate or balance the bitterness? Which one goes well with rose? The questions go on and on. I am closer to grasping why there are plentiful flavours offered in our epicurious environment today. The endless possibilities with chocolate present ample room for creativity and fuels the sense of adventure pervading a chocolatier's kitchen. (even a pseudo one!)

As much as I love experimenting, the sentimental side cries for the classic and traditional. It's weird how some flavours just grow on you, and you almost feel bad to "turn your back on them". Ekks, sorry to sound so freaky, I am well aware of my longtime tendency of personifying my favorite things. I still whip out batches of plain old truffles from time to time; they are the familiar sights of comfort food in the fridge. When I run out, I reach for bars and buttons of couverture chocolate. All forms and textures, all yummy~~~