Thursday, July 26, 2007

Chocolate and hazelnuts

Hey – So, I have finally gotten off the dime on the chocolate/hazelnut confections. I love that combination so much, and the little ones I got in Germany were so good, that I wanted to try my very own. So, I came up with the thought of a milk chocolate truffle filling, coated with a layer of crushed hazelnuts and rice crispy things, dipped in dark chocolate. It was so perfect in theory . . . .
Wow, do I have a long way to go.

Luckily, I evaluated the rice crispy element and discovered that they lose their crispness and they have a plain/flat flavor that is terrible, even in combination with chocolate (at least the organic ones do – ok, I should have gotten the real ones, but Whole Foods only sells the cardboard ones). So, at least I didn’t waste a whole bunch of milk chocolate truffle filling. But if you roll the ganache in just plain crushed toasted hazelnuts, they’re really really good!

The truffle filling is a ganache made from 2 parts milk chocolate and 1 part heavy cream. I used Callebaut chocolate and the ganache comes out with a caramel-y flavor that’s very good. It is a little soft, so maybe I would back off the cream a little bit. I formed the filling into balls with a small ice cream scoop, but it was too soft to really handle so then I popped them in the freezer to firm them up a bit before rolling them. It would be easy and good to add an extract – almond, rum, etc., to the cream and flavor the filling that way.

The coating is another story – tempered chocolate could be my downfall. You have to temper the chocolate in order to have a glossy coating with a good snap. Tempering chocolate is hard. It has to do with heating the chocolate up and then cooling it back down so that it is still melted, but at some perfect temperature where the cocoa butter doesn’t separate from the cocoa solids and it hardens with a beautiful shine and the right texture. I am not qualified to explain how to do it, because apparently I can’t. If you fail to temper it properly, the chocolate hardens streaky and ugly, and not as crisp as it should be, though it is still very tasty. But not something you can put out for company. I have since read a lot about tempering chocolate, and short of a tempering machine there is no easy solution – you just have to be patient and accurate – traits I thought I had in abundance J. The good thing is, you can re-temper chocolate. You can also use the broken stuff in anything calling for melted chocolate, including brownies and chocolate gelato, to name a few things. . . . .

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Risotto with Molé Verde

July 11

Risotto with Molé Verde

OK – well, I have a million ideas related to chocolate, but that’s not what’s flowing right now. But traditional molé has unsweetened chocolate in it, right? So I’m going with the position that this entry is not disqualified.

This recipe was an accident, really. It started with a cooking magazine – I swear it was just three days ago and now I can’t find the magazine or remember which one it was – which inspired my need for a snack of quesadillas with roasted Anaheim chiles. Then, in a southwestern mood, there was a request for the mole verde to be used as a side with grilled beef porterhouse steak. Everything for the mole is fresh right now, and it’s been a long time since a trip to Santa Fe or since I have made tamales or anything that we’d normally eat the molé verde with, so it sounded really good. But we needed to run out for virtually every ingredient – oh well. . . .

This particular recipe is based on one from the Coyote Café Cookbook – it is fabulous, though admittedly a lot of work. But the flavor alone is worth it, and the quantity it produces allows you to have a big-ish dinner party or to freeze some of it for another meal or two.

After making the molé, it seemed like it needed rice to go with it, because rice really carries the sauce better than any other starch. So, why make ordinary rice when risotto is so good? Then, it was a fairly short leap to stirring in sour cream at the end instead of heavy cream, and topping it with a fresh pecorino-like cheese (goat milk) from the Bainbridge Island dairy that makes chevre, and with a huge handful of halved grape tomatoes on top. Stir the molé into the risotto right after the sour cream . . . . omg – I had it for breakfast today!

Mole Verde

9 tomatillos – husked and washed in hot water
6 fresh poblano (pasilla) chiles – roasted, seeded and peeled
2 cups romaine leaves – no ribs
½ cup cilantro leaves
1 ½ - 2 cups rich chicken stock
½ t. cumim powder
1 t. coriander seeds and ¼ t. anise seeds – ground in a mortar and pestle
1 small corn tortilla OR 6-8 corn tortilla chips

2 T olive oil or canola oil or duck fat

Preheat the broiler, or heat up a large cast iron skillet. Broil the tomatillos on a foil-lined cookie sheet, turning once, (or dry roast in the skillet) until lightly charred on both sides. Let cool and then place in the container of a food processor. Add the chiles, the romaine, the cilantro and the chicken stock and process until fine. Add the spices, then add the corn tortilla or corn chips and process again until fine. You may need to do this in batches until everything is combined.

Heat the oil or the duck fat in a large cast iron skillet until nearly smoking – add the molé and fry it, stirring, for 3-5 minutes. Then put it through a fine sieve in batches, stirring and pressing hard to make sure enough solids come through to make the texture of the sauce slightly thick – kind of the consistency of a regular tomato sauce.

The sauce should be used slightly warm or at room temperature, not hot. It is fabulous with tamales, roasted chicken, etc.

For the risotto I just used about 1 ¼ cups Arborio rice sautéed with some butter and olive oil, 4 oz. white wine and 4 cups of chicken stock. Then at the end I stirred in about ¼ cup of sour cream, took it off the heat and then added about a cup of the mole. Sprinkle on the grated cheese and the tomatoes when each individual serving is plated up.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Almond Pound Cake and Peach Ice Cream

July 9, 2007

Directly contrary to the overall theme, there is no direct link to chocolate in this first post, but hey, sometimes there just isn't.

This cake/combination was inspired by two things. Always in the back of my mind there is the awareness of ingredients I have that might be pressed into service for some thing or another. It’s a just a matter of finding the right catalyst.
So, there are usually two things – the raw material and the inspiration.

In this case the inspiration was a food blog that originates in Singapore that I love/am in awe of – - she just wrote about a kumquat preserve pound cake with white chocolate (there's the chocolate!!) ice cream. She usually doesn’t give recipes, but the inspiration factor is high. Raw material is the two jars of Austrian jam we were given while we were in Germany – one of them is a combination of apricot and yellow plum, I think, though but I haven’t looked up the translation for the label yet. Anyway, this jam is authentic stuff – the label, as noted above, is only in German, and the flavor is fantastic. That said, it is unlikely the we would actually use a 9 oz. jar of jam anytime soon, seeing as how we have tons of my homemade stuff and that we just don’t eat much toast. So. The thought of stirring some jam into a cake batter was quite inspiring.

Then, the peaches looked great in the Columbia City Farmers’ Market – wanted to use apricots but they are at least 48 hours away from being ripe. And there just happened to be peach schnapps in the liquor cabinet, courtesy of a wild hair of Jill’s probably.

At this point (July 4) no taste test has yet been done – except of course for the clean up on the ice cream transfer from one container to another – that one seems like a keeper so far! Anyway, the pound cake seems like it will be good in a few hours when we have some with the fireworks, but I do think that the batter probably should have had some sour cream in addition to the listed ingredients. [Late note - definitely add 1 c. of sour cream, alternating with the flour - probably unnecessary to adjust the other ingredients.]

Apricot Almond Pound Cake with Peach Ice Cream

Apricot Almond Pound Cake

8 oz. butter
5 oz. almond paste
4 oz. apricot, or yellow plum, preserves
1 ½ cups sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
½ t. almond extract
½ t. each baking powder and baking soda
¼ t. salt
¼ cup peach schnapps
3 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350, butter and flour a fluted tube pan, or an angel food cake pan is fine too.

Cream the butter and almond paste in the bowl of the Kitchenaid – I was going to say “in the bowl of a stand mixer”, but I have a Kitchenaid and everyone knows what I’m talking about, I hope, and no one says I have to be brand-neutral here, so what the heck – cream the butter and almond paste until fluffy. Then add the preserves and the sugar and cream some more, then add the eggs one at a time and cream until very light and fluffy. Add the extracts, the baking powder and baking soda, the salt, and the schnapps – stir until just mixed in. Then add the flour and stir it in until completely mixed, but don’t overbeat. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until just golden brown and risen – about 45 minutes. Cool on a rack and unmold after about 20 minutes, while still warm but not hot. Serve slices at room temperature with a scoop of peach ice cream and a mint leaf garnish. The pic shows an apricot as well. mmmmm.

Peach Ice Cream

2 large peaches, skins removed and chopped fine
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
2 T peach schnapps (optional)

Blanch the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds in order to be able to slip the skins off. Peel the peaches, then cut the fruit from the pit and chop fine – put into a large mixing bowl and put in the fridge. Mix the sugar into the milk and let stand in the fridge until the sugar is dissolved (I put the milk and sugar into a wide-mouthed mason jar and shake a few times to get things going. This is far better than heating the milk in order to dissolve the sugar). After the sugar is dissolved (30 minutes or so) stir the milk/sugar mixture into the chopped peaches, then stir in the heavy cream and the schnapps. The schnapps isn’t critical
but it adds a nice flavor nuance and the additional sugar and alcohol keeps the ice cream from freezing too hard. Pour all into the bowl of an ice cream freezer and freeze according to directions, approximately 30 minutes in a Simac, which is what I have. Then transfer to a container and put it in the freezer for at least 4 hours until firm.
In the future I might disolve the sugar with the chopped peaches before freezing - it might help the peaches from getting an icy texture, though it was not a big problem with this ice cream.