Posts Tagged ‘chocolate’

24
Feb

Chocolate Studies

   Posted by: Livia    in chocolate

So I have a friend who is serious about Chocolate, who for the last 15 years has been taking a week off to make chocolate things. Many things. Amazing things.

Since I started making truffles, the possibility of making desserts has seemed slightly less intimidating and I’ve started exploring baking.

This year, I took a couple days off work to help/apprentice with the chocolate making. Confectionery was the first half of the week, and I’m here for the baking portion.

Things I have learned so far:

  • I had an impression that both egg whites and cream were similarly fussy when whipped. I was wrong. They’re both fussy, but differently. Egg whites want a completely clean and dry bowl (no water or fat) and room temperature eggs. Cream is not so fussy about water or fat (since that’s what it’s made of anyway), but everything should be cool/cold.
  • lozenges of baking chocolate are not so awkward to use/store as I’d thought they’d be, so I’ll probably buy that form next time
  • Michel Cluizel processes their chocolate more than most and so they don’t use soy lecithin as an emulsifier
  • Using coconut fat in the vegan truffles as a brilliant idea because professionals pick coconut fat to create meltaway centers (from Chocolates & Confections by the CIA) – keyword: lauric fat
  • it’s no so hard to spot soft peaks of whipped cream
  • double boilers are for suckers. Melting chocolate in the microwave is where it’s at.
  • I should get some larger smooth glass bowls
  • the weird transfer of stuff between containers before folding in whipped stuff is not so much about temperatures (since they should probably both be cool) but about making the heavier stuff light enough to mix all fluffy-like
  • jelly-rolls – you can wait 5 min after making, roll them up, and then let them finish cooling rolled up.
  • you really should buy superfine sugar sometimes
  • it’s awesomely helpful to have cooling racks that fit inside your jelly roll pans
  • I’m not sure I could duplicate it, but I saw two gorgeous textbook perfect demonstrations of pouring ganache over cake to make a mirror-shiny coating. – proportions came from Cocolat by Alice Medrich
  • I used a disposable (brand = Wilton) pastry tube for the first time. To make white chocolate drizzles. Easier than expected. All pastry tips come in 2 sizes. There are universal screw couplers to keep them on the bag. Used a pastry bag again to frost cupcakes. Think that went well, too. Kept worrying my hands would be warm enough to melt the frosting.
  • I’d forgotten, but this household is where I picked up the knack of wrapping teabag tags around the mug handle to keep them from slipping into the cup when you pour hot water.
  • I had not forgotten, but this is also where I picked up the strong opinion that am important step toward sharing food accessibly is to just fucking label everything with the ingredients. It takes a little time and thought, but it’s not that hard.
  • bread pudding out of stale croissants!
  • If you have fresh croissants and a bowl of excellent mousse (Saturday is going to be yummy), you should scrape up that mousse with the croissant. I will be every bit as good as you think it will.
  • Cakes and cupcakes iced with cream cheese frosting should not be packed away in plastic right away. They need to sit out until the frosting has a slight crust, lest moisture condense and they become all melty and not pretty inside the container
  • there’s a(n avoidable) reason dried milk tastes nasty. Look for ones without lipase “a fat-degrading enzyme, resulting in a sort of controlled rancidity… done to increase the buttery flavor… to obtain the signature flavor profile the manufacturer seeks.” (Also from the CIA book)

I think I’ve separated about 3 dozen eggs. With only 1 broken yolk among them.

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Bake Sales are a challenge for me, as I’m new to baking. I’ve been calling myself new and baking for a couple years now, and it’s going to continue for a few years more because it’s still feels like a risky adventure every time.

I came to this recipe over the winter, when my friend Smittywing made a double batch for the Death Bi Chocolate bake sale. It was quick to put together and the ingredients were rather straightforward.

Having lost the recipe, I googled around and found several people with the recipe, and Post Punk Kitchen even attributed it to having come from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, so I’m mentioning that.

I am, however, changing almost half of the ingredients… slightly. And I’ve changed the name.

Ever since Chocolat, I have been aware of the adding of chili to chocolate and calling it exotic, and frequently also calling it Mexican. Also, I’m lucky enough that one of my local supermarkets has a good selection of Mexican and Central American food items. And, really, Mexican chocolate comprises a wide variety of spices and blends, and it’s also more about the processing of the original chocolate, as far as I understand. And I’d rather have my cultural appropriation from long dead people… I don’t know, actually. I just know that I wasn’t comfortable re-using the title this time. Your mileage may vary. (here, have David Lebovitz’s write up of Mexican Hot Chocolate)

Spice Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles

Preheat oven to 350F

Dump into the bowl of the mixer: 1 cup almond oil (being sure to use the 1/2 cup measure twice), 1/2 cup sorghum syrup (which now pours smoothly out of the greased measuring cup), 2 cups sugar, 6 Tablespoons unsweetened unflavored soy milk, 5 teaspoons spiced rum, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon kojinte cinnamon*, 1 teaspoon aleppo powder*.

Start the mixer going slowly, and then incorporate as you go: 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour, 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda.

Voila! Dough! (Okay, so it’s still a good idea to stir a little by hand and scrape the sides to make sure the edges and bottom are fully mixed). The end result is very stiff.

Mix together come cinnamon sugar in a small dish. I didn’t measure. If you do, the proportions in the recipe were: 1/3 cup sugar | 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Now I was going to present these in snack sized bags… and I thought they’d be lovely to dip into coffee… so I made thick, stumpy cylinder shapes. Don’t do this. Once they are flattened and baked, they look distinctly unappetizing. But they were very tasty, fit into the baggies, and would have been good dipped into a wide variety of beverages. You should make them round! The recipe suggests walnut-sized, rolled in sugar, and then flattened a bit. Mine did not spread much, so what you see is pretty much what you get.

On the other hand, what you feel is not what you get. It says to bake each batch for 10-12 minutes. And I ended up putting the first batch in for another 5 minutes because a quick poke test had them feeling exactly the same as when they went in. Apparently that’s perfectly normal for snickerdoodles, and they ended up being delightfully cookie-like when cooled, even though they seemed like they were still doughy fresh from the oven.

*I’ve bumped the spices up higher in the order, because my dough didn’t end up evenly mixed and some cookies were definitely spicier than others. (also those flavor varieties are chosen simply because they were what I had on hand, not because they’re better than any other cinnamon or hot pepper powder)

Also a note if you are making them for a bake sale, too – obviously, you don’t want to put them inside a bag until after they have fully cooled. Otherwise, the steam will condense on the inside of the bag and turn your cookies soggy and your sugary coating to slimy syrup. Luckily, I had 14 little labels and ingredients lists to write up while these not-so-pretties cooled.

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Thursday
Did not make progress of truffles because I had house buying mischief. Closing date is set to January 31st.

Mortgage rate would be 5%, which is higher than I’d hoped. Apparently rates went up right before the holidays. Do you think it would be weird/too late to shop around more?

I still don’t believe that the sellers will have all the repairs done in time, but I’m starting ye olde boxe collection of moving.

Gah!

Then met up with Hugh for dinner and socializing at Cheesecake Factory. I think they secretly add crack to their food because it’s bizarrely tasty.

And then I conned him into running errands with me: dropped of sewing machine for repair and bought rubber caps for the bottoms of my kitchen chairs (because it’s only okay for them to cut into the rented flooring.

Whee! Good times.

Friday
Made 5 batches of vegan ganache to be the center of truffles. Also made Smitten Kitchen’s buckeye filling.

And then I was wooed out of my kitchen by book group and potential movie watching, and I packed up my goods and rolled some chocolate balls that night. I even dipped some of them.

And then Smittywing showed up! I’d… erm… sort of forgotten having invited her up a couple months ago, but luckily my apartment was in decent shape and able to accommodate a guest with barely a hiccup. Plus I put her to work on the chocolate front. :)

Went home, went to bed, and resolved to wake up early to complete the truffle process.

Saturday
OMG – so nuts.

Breakfast of freshly baked bread while covering kitchen in chocolate as part of the frantic truffle making process.

Smittywing was kind enough to take orders and make labels for all the truffles. And a sign to post by the farmers market. And add signature garnishes to the tops for identification. Yay sous chefing!

And then I got a call reminding me that I hadn’t left the key with Lulu last night at book group, so I ran over quickly to open the door to the site before heading back home to finish making stuff and putting on clothing.

Ended up completing the following truffles: laurel, earl grey, peanut butter, and thai-inspired

Spent some time helping sell. Spent some time out front with Bitmonger doing a dance with the sign and encouraging people to come in and sample our wares.

And then we were running out of chocolate, and we were only a small fraction of the way into the bake sale… so I headed off back home to make more truffles (though as I was heading out, I did see more people with baked goods headed in). Smittywing came with me to review the shocking news of the day on her computer, and I twisted her arm into making a batch of (amazing!) cookies, too.

So we rolled chocolate in chocolate and talked politics of OMG.

Oh, and there was also experimental orange peel candying. Is there a trick to getting them dry enough not to make syrup?

completed truffles: masala and green tea
completed cookies: mexican hot chocolate snickerdoodles

Went back. Rendezvoused with MeriSunshine , who had made black cocoa brownies that were all light and fluffy.

More chocolate was sold, and a significant profit was made – another year’s worth of BiUnity’s operating expenses covered. Whee!

Geeksdoitbetter showed up, looking glorious, just in time for final call and the wrap up auction.

And then we went back to Lulu’s and Bitmonger’s place and had dinner. Much gratitude to Geeksdoitbetter for making dinner of infinite amounts of pizza go. I had no idea how much I needed that until it happened.

Sadly, we still didn’t watch Memento (which had been an option for both book group and tonight) – maybe next Thursday?

We did spontaneously schedule a dim sum brunch for next week.

And as I left, I surreptitiously snuck both Smittywing and D into the prospective house for a looksee.

Sunday
There was sleeping in on Sunday!

And then I started on cleaning the kitchen… and it was bad enough that I used the technique of just picking an edge and working along methodically. Then a round of dishes… then more cleaning… And we got it all in decent shape by noon (well, aside from some spots on the floor…). And that was good because I’d had a moment of insanity the previous week of inviting SCA people over for crafting at 1pm! Way to overbook my weekends.

There was still time, in the midst of the cleaning, for a fancipants breakfast. Bagels. Fried eggs. Potatoes. Scallion cream cheese made just that morning from scallions picked from the pot on my porch. An orange.

So then Smittywing departed and the SCA people started arriving.

The first one brought rosemary and garlic bread, for which I made some honey butter, and a kumihimo project (I think). We spent some time talking calligraphy and bookmaking, and I sent her home with a pen nib that I acquired in the Great Bryn Mawr Paste Room pillage of ’02.

The second person showed up with a bar of good chocolate, some yarn to ball, and a sewing project.

We ended up discussing garden plans, and it looks like I’ll have a set of 4 large raised beds to plant in next summer! Whoooo!

That makes my next summer diversified gardening plan up to:

  • 2 small vining vegetables in Lulu’s front bed
  • hot peppers, maybe a squash, maybe some other vegetable not tomatoes in Jen’s back yard
  • tomatoes, hot peppers, and some things not susceptible to late blight yet tasty to my parents in (you guessed it) my parents’ back yard
  • And raised beds of awesome, too!
  • And I think I’ll still pursue negotiations with the funeral home next to the prospective house to see if I can garden on the roof of their garage

I made a dinner out of random things hanging around in my fridge:

  • ground meat (beef, veal, pork) cooked down very thoroughly with some onions. Sauced up with some sheep’s milk version of gorgonzola. And then mellowed with some light, fluffy ricotta. Tossed with whole wheat penne. Topped with parsley.
  • Side dish of Dandelion greens wilted down in olive oil with ground savory, parsley, clove, red wine, fish sauce, and a lot of pepper.

I sewed a wee coptic book with a 2 needle version. I am not sure I did it correctly, but it worked. Next step will be gluing the covers together and trimming them to size, and then I’ll decide whether it needs a book or some sort of closure.

Monday
And I have almost all of the dishes done and everything! Whee!

And still had time for a brag-worthy breakfast. I minced the last of the ghost chilies (saving the seeds) and cooked that down with a portabella in bacon fat. Once that was thoroughly cooked and seasoned, I mixed that with the very last of the ricotta and used that as the filling for an omelet. Toasted up a bagel and had more of the scallion cheese. And a bit of tea. \o/!

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7
Jan

Project: Chocolate Truffles

   Posted by: Livia    in Death Bi Chocolate, Events/Promotions

I have two charity things going for which I am offering truffles: The Purple Dove – raising money to support LGBT youth and Death Bi Chocolate.

The latter had a call for vegan things, so the first round will be vegan – that just means I have spices steeping in coconut milk, instead of heavy cream.

Flavors I have started so far:

Earl Grey – 3 tea bags. Steeping so slow. – ganache made

Thai-ish – lemon grass, galangal, and green cardamom, Demerara sugar – ganache made

Green Tea – matcha, wasabi powder (will add black sesame later and maybe grated fresh ginger), Demerara sugar, buckwheat honey – ganache made

Masala – Penzey’s Rogan Josh, Garam Masala, and Kala Jeera (a favorite from last year), brown sugar

Laurel – Bay leaves, pink salt, buckwheat honey

Now I need to start on breaking up the chocolate.

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9
Nov

Ghost Chili Breakfast

   Posted by: Livia    in breakfast, Challenges, course, experiments, Food, Marx Foods

So I have these insanely hot peppers to test (see previous entry for full disclaimer about free peppers), and I don’t actually have any friends who will eat spicy foods with me. They sometimes have difficulties with black pepper.

I solved that by putting out a call on the internet to find local people who were excited by spicy food. And this morning I got to meet a lovely person with a delightfully high heat tolerance (who happened also to know two of my pre-existing friends).

We met for breakfast.

Fried eggs were just as tasty on the second go through.

The sweet potatoes were amazing! They didn’t get as caramelized as I expected, and the heat ended up being surprisingly mild. I think I might try candying the sweet potatoes, instead of glazing, just to see what happens.

The butters got approval (as did my homemade bread), and she preferred the honey butter on general principles of texture.

And then I started to improvise.

I picked some of the (bountiful and thriving) chard from my garden and prepared my Kenyan greens recipe, but with some hot pepper sliced in… and that was too hot. Unpleasantly so, without adding anything to the flavor. But once I picked the pieces of pepper out, it was pretty tasty – so perhaps just adding a chunk of pepper while cooking and then removing it.

And then I had the lovely stems left, so I made some fried rise with an onion, chard stems, diced carrot, leftover brown rice, finely sliced ghost chili, and a few drops of oyster sauce for moisture. It received approval from my guest, and I added some roast pork leftovers to it as I packed it up and froze it into lunch portions.

And I sent her home with the spicy truffles, so I haven’t heard back yet. The filling was right on the edge of okay for me, so I’m hoping they end up better once they have another layer of chocolate. I only had time to coat three of them, though, so my taste has to wait until tonight. I did learn an unrelated lesson about truffles, though – using a lower milk fat dairy option for the ganache center (the store was out of heavy cream) really makes a noticeable and unpleasant difference to the texture. I won’t be doing that again.

Note: Marx Foods did provide the ghost chilies to experiment with for free. They did not, however, influence my impressions of the product.

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So I was lucky enough to trip over Marx Foods and Justin Marx a bit ago. And he’s been generous about letting me try the products he sells.

So I tossed my name in to try out their fresh ghost chilies. Yes, these were free and given to me by a company.

And they are hella intimidating. I’ve never had peppers tingle my nose before, and these could do it while whole and untouched.

Right, so I haven’t talked about hot peppers much here. I’ve frequently grown jalapenos, serranos, and habaneros. I think the flesh of a couple jalapenos are pretty decent substitute for green bell peppers in many dishes. Serranos are perfect for tingling up a summer sandwich of garden fresh tomatoes, white bread, mayonnaise, and salt. I rarely ever use the habaneros because they don’t add much in the way of flavor while they’re adding heat. My father’s the one who wants to plant them, and it’s mainly so he can talk about how he grows these really hot peppers. The most machismo I’ve had about peppers was eating a whole fresh bird’s eye chili on a dare in college – it hurt a lot, but I managed to surreptitiously drink a can of cola and that did a great job of cutting the burn and giving me style points.

In addition that background, it’s also worth noting that I usually can’t be bothered to wear gloves, even with habaneros. I just have one dirty hand (which touches the peppers) and one clean hand (which only touches the knife) – and then I try to remember which was which as the day wears on (okay, fine – my right hand is always the one with the knife). For these, however, I went to the sex supplies and pulled out the gloves.

Right, so the first recipe was just a private experiment to see just how impossible it was to eat one.

Ghost Chili bagel and egg breakfast

step one – fry half a slice of bacon. Once crispy, remove the bacon to a towel to dry.

Cut flesh of the chili from the seeds and membranes. Slice very thinly. Toss the slices of chili into the hot bacon fat and stir them around until they start to brown.

Put sliced bagel in the oven to toast.

Scrape the toasty pepper slices into a single thickness gathering, and crack an egg over the peppers. Continue to fry the peppery egg as you enjoy.

Gather your plate of toasted bagel (with cream cheese), bacon, and fried egg. Place the egg on top of one bagel and salt generously – but don’t make a sandwich in case you want unadulterated bagel to soothe your mouth later. Also slice some cheese for buffering, too.

Nom

End result of the breakfast was actually not bad! I might do it again. My nose ran a little and there was a little sweat on my scalp, but it ended up being an entirely delicious breakfast.

Oh – one more bit of background, I recently went to visit my ex, who has since become a rabbi, and while there we made candied etrog peel. I suggested we save the boiling liquid, so I came home with two jars of etrog syrup and my bags having been searched by TSA.

Right, so etrog syrup.

First things I made was citrus candied chilies.

Candied Chilies

First, I cut the flesh of two chilies away from the seeds and membranes – hold by the stem, and aim shallow. I managed to get one pepper into two pieces and the other into three.

Next I boiled the etrog syrup – already so supersaturated that crystals had formed, so I didn’t add more sugar. If you are starting without syrup, add equal quantities of water and sugar of sufficient quantity that the pieces float about and you aren’t worried the liquid will boil away.

Once it came to a boil, I carefully transferred each piece of pepper and let them boil for about three to five minutes.

I placed the pieces on some waved paper to dry, and I poured the (now insanely spicy) syrup into a clean jar.

Once the peppers were drier, I dredged them in sugar and put them in a jar.

So what do I do with candied peppers? Well, so far I’ve tried truffles

Candied Ghost Chili Truffles

ganache center
6oz República del Cacao° 75% Los Rios
4oz light cream (should have been heavy cream, but the store was out)
2 grams candied ghost chili, minced finely

coating
70% Santander

But that just used up one of the five pieces, and the truffles are just on the slightly insane side of spicy, but tasty.

And I still have the etrog/pepper syrup. But I have a plan. Well, at least a plan for a little of it.

Chili-glazed Rosemary Roast Sweet Potatoes

Cut sweet potatoes into 1 inch cubes, or larger chunks.

Roast them in oven, until just cooked through, with rosemary and ground allspice.

When cool enough to handle, toss the potatoes with the etrog/chili syrup and then put the potatoes back in the oven long enough to get some caramelization.

Finish with kosher salt for texture.

I tried roasting some of the peppers in the oven, but they are thin-skinned peppers and I chose some of the smaller ones, so I ended up with dried peppers, instead. From them, I made two seasoned butters.

2 Ghost Chili Seasoned Butters – sweet and savory

Sweet
4-5 Tablespoons of softened butter
pinch powdered ghost pepper (about a pinch’s worth, if from a jar)
3-4 Tablespoons of buckwheat honey
sprinkle of powdered mace

Savory
4-5 Tablespoons of softened butter
pinch powdered ghost pepper (about a pinch’s worth, if from a jar)
1/16th teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon paprika

And that still leaves me with quite a few peppers to work with!

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Back in February, I tried making brownies for the first time (yes, I’m including any potential boxed mixes).

What changed my mind? Well, two things: Michael Ruhlan’s Ratio and it’s very persuasive argument in favor of weighed ingredients and inspiration grounded in math; and the accidental acquisition of a pound of Black Cocoa due to kind customer service after a box with an combined order with several friends was damaged.

And then into that willingness to bake brownies, Smitten Kitchen offered up a recipe she claimed to be the Best cocoa brownies ever, and she should know from brownies. (and SK found/adapted the recipe from Alice Mendrich’s Bittersweet)

Right, so brownies.

Now some people would know enough about cocoa powder to be a little intimidated by having the wrong (more alkali processed) kind, but this did not deter me as this was the kind of cocoa powder I had to experiment with. Or they might be intimidated by not having a brownie pan… but I had a casserole dish that looked to be of good dimensions for brownies. And I didn’t line it with parchment paper, just greased it with butter.

But other than that, I totally followed the recipe exactly. Probably.

Black Cocoa Brownies with Orange and Clove

Go ahead and preheat the oven to 325F

And bring out your double boiler. Okay, so SK admits that this step can probably be done in the microwave, but I have a double boiler that has been sitting unused since I acquired it for free about 4 years ago, so I used a double boiler. Put water in the bottom, but not too much – simmer.

Dump 141 grams (if I’ve got the scale out and the author is kind with the measurements, hell yes I’m going to use them ~g~) of butter (1 1/4 sticks) into the double boiler. Top with 280 grams of sugar. She used all white sugar; I did about 100 grams of brownulated sugar and 180 grams of white. Add a generous 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt. And add your cocoa powder (82 grams) – black, in this case. Stir it from time to time, breaking up the butter, until it’s an evenly grainy base.

Then pour in 1/2 tsp vanilla extract I scraped in some vanila seed from about half a bean. Because that’s what I had in my apartment.

Add 2 eggs, one at a time, beating them in well, but without splashing because that black cocoa powder is really hard to clean up. The mixture should look nice and shiney when you’re through.

Add 66 grams of all purpose flour, stirring it in so that it is thoroughly incorporated. And then even more stirring for good measure (she says 40 strokes). (Oh, and she also has everything off the heat by this point. I was enamored of my double boiler enough that I just turned the burner off and did not separate the top from the water.)

At this point, I tasted the batter – because batter is delicious. And it was very dark in flavor as well as appearance. So I took and orange and zested the entire rind into the batter. And then I crushed the heads of about 15 cloves into the batter (tasting/smelling at intervals to see whether the flavor seemed right).

And then I added a bunch of broken walnuts into the mix and stirred it up thoroughly.

Pour into my greased casserole dish of shame…

And bake.

And here’s where I ran into difficulty. The original recipe called for 20-25 minutes. SK’s ran about 35 minutes. Mine ran about 45 minutes, even with (because of?) enthusiastic toothpick testing.

The first batch wasn’t so good.

It went almost immediately from gooey pudding to a brownie impersonating a brick rather quickly. Actually, it was sort of like biscotti, so the overcooking did not stop me from eating almost half of the pan by myself.

So I appealed for help on Twitter. And I called friends. And my mom. And in general I did not take it well because everything had seemed to be going so well until those last nail-biting 20 minutes.

And apparently you should take it out still a bit moist and just trust in it cooking further… or eating it with a spoon.

So I made a second batch. And it was much improved. My co-workers gave my baking the seal of approval. And my foodie co-worker approved this recipe as my entry into the… wait for it…

Philadelphia Food Blogger Bake Sale for Share Our Strength
April 17, 2010, 10am – 3pm
A Full Plate Cafe, on Liberties Walk (1009 N. Bodine St Philadelphia, PA 19123)

April 17, 2010 - National Food Bloggers Bake Sale for Share Our Strength

Here’s some of the explanatory text from foodaphilia/Baker E‘s launch post:

On April 17th Food Bloggers from Philadelphia will be gathered with goodies for sale from their home kitchens in order to raise money for Share Our Strength. Funds raised through Great American Bake Sale support Share Our Strength’s efforts to end childhood hunger in America. Nearly 17 million— almost one in four—children in America face hunger. Despite the efforts of governments, private-sector institutions and everyday Americans, millions of our children still don’t have daily access to the nutritious meals they need to live active, healthy lives. Click for more information on Share Our Strength.

Philadelphia’s Great American Bake Sale is being held on April 17th from 10am till 3pm at A Full Plate Cafe on Liberties Walk (1009 N. Bodine St Philadelphia, PA 19123) in Northern Liberties (yes, this is the restaurant where I bake full-time) and snag goodies made by some of Philly’s most beloved food bloggers! I’m donating some Cookies ‘n Cream Whoopie Pies to the event and I know Sabrina of Rhodey Girl Tests is going to whip up some of her delectable chocolate and candy covered pretzel rods.

So, if you’re a fan of food blogs, or just want to do your part to ensure kids across the country are getting the nutritious food they need, come on out to the National Food Bloggers Bake Sale and spend some money! All proceeds benefit Share Our Strength. If you can’t make it to the bake sale, but would like to donate to the cause, please visit this link to make a safe and secure donation.

If you’re a food blogger in Philly or the surrounding area and would like to donate a goodie to the bake sale, please contact Julie at jmdenouden@gmail.com and visit her post of the Great American Bake Sale here.

AND That will be a convenient break from the other amazing thing happening in the city that weekend –

The Free Library Festival!
Saturday & Sunday, April 17 & 18, 2010

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About a month ago (at the start of December) Marx Foods ran a promotion where they’d offer esoteric food items to food bloggers willing to write up reviews. And, honestly, this was my first ever shot at free food just because I have this hobby, so I gleefully bopped on over and signed up.

And also for full disclosure, I found out about the company in the first place because my friend, Meghan, had been to their site and entered a photo contest that had scored her some vanilla beans, of which she spoke highly.

So of three choices, I asked to try the Black Garlic because earlier in the year there had been a wave of food bloggers trying out this ingredient, too, and it’s appeal seemed to come from its flavor as well as its novelty value.

And right away I had to change my shipping address and had to try out their customer service – and received prompt emails back from Justin Marx on a weekend. Wow! And he was very supportive of my little amateur blog and every welcoming even though many of the things he sells just seem way out of my league / price range. So I am very impressed by them.

But how impressive is the black garlic?

Scent – I had it shipped to my work address, and I could not resist opening the package and poking at it right away. At first it didn’t seem to have much scent, but then I left the office to do something, and I came back to realize that there was quite a strong, dark garlic scent all through my office. Oh, yeah. I am full of professionalism. Luckily, no one has to share the office with me. But it made me very hungry for the rest of the day.

It ended up arriving at a fairly busy time for me, and the first recipe I made from it was born of a need for simplicity. That Friday, was the Philadelphia Food Bloggers pot luck, and I’d been planning to make stuffed dates… and then just didn’t have any time to assemble them. So I went with an incredibly easy cream cheese dip instead.

Recipe 1 – flavored cream cheese with crackers
I made two side-by-side bowls of dip.

Garlic & Parsley Cream Cheese

Garlic (3 cloves minced black garlic in one, 5 cloves mashed roasted garlic in the other)
12 ounces neuchatel cheese
large bunch of flat leaf parsley, minced (the last from the summer garden)
2 Tablespoons finely minced purple onion
pinch of salt

So with exactly the same recipe, I set out to see what people thought the differences were.

First off – after a full day at work, the cream cheese with the black garlic needed to be mixed up with a fork again to be presentable because the brown color had seeped out into the surrounding cheese. (And with the leftovers, it continued to spread and blend into the cream cheese until there was an even mocha color – I might recommend making this 2-3 days ahead for maximum joy)

No one thought there was a licorice flavor to the black garlic spread. Descriptions tended more toward round and dark and complex, but no one could quite name the difference. That said, people loved them both equally, but separately. They were not interchangeable at all.

Recipe #2 – flavored butter
So since it melted to well into the cream cheese, I figured I’d try mixing it with butter, too.

Now, I’d already read Diane’s entry from White on Rice where she found that it didn’t infuse well into oil, but I figured it would not only be useful to confirm her results, but also be useful for extending the experiment – since I’d only acquired 2 heads of garlic.

And, no, the garlic didn’t melt into the butter at all. But it was still tasty spread on bread. My favorite experiment at this stage was making toast with the black garlic butter and a thin smear of thick, smooth Frontera salsa.

Texture: The reason so many descriptions of black garlic evoke licorice is that’s exactly what it looks like coming out of the papery husk. The paper skin is so thin, there’s not more than a single layer between you and the clove, but the clove has shrunk down to a thick black nub. It’s dry and squishy and a bit sticky/tacky as you but into it. Putting it in the freezer doesn’t change its texture much at all and doesn’t make it easier to slice. I ended up resenting the fine layer it would leave behind on my knife because I had so little to work with.

Experiment #3 – Black garlic in mushroom barley
I’d been trying to hold out against a Black Garlic Risotto recipe because that would be too ridiculously easy. How could black garlic not be tasty in that set up? But I caved because the taste matched exactly a Roman barley recipe, which I made for my last Roman cooking workshop (and, huh, never got around to writing up) and had promised myself I would revisit. So a cold night and much starch and there was a tasty, garlicy meal of joy. Guaranteed crowd pleaser. I’ll get my copy of Apicius and try to remember to make a separate entry for that one, but trust me – it’s a lot like risotto.

Taste: So it doesn’t taste quite like garlic, so what does it taste like? Well, darker and rounder and definitely umami… but that’s not helpful. The best description is that it tastes like garlic breath – everything around the flavor of garlic, without the obvious front taste. It’s dark and musky, but it’s all around the edges of flavor without confronting you directly.

Experiment #4 – Chocolate Truffles
Now I was a little dubious about this from the start, but the Marx Food people has promised this would be useful for savories or sweets. And they had even offered up a chocolate truffle recipe. Having read it, I’m kind of dubious about their preparation – which has a regular truffle center, rolled in minced black garlic. I think the garlic would end up too chewy and right there on your tongue.

So I set about to make the garlic part of the filling. I mixed together butter and garlic again, and I added as much chocolate as necessary to keep it from being overwhelmingly butter. I added enough sugar to make it feel like dessert, but I also added some salt and smoked paprika to bring out the smokier notes. I chilled this and dipped it in a pretty dark chocolate coating (a ratio of 2 squares unsweetened to 1 square semi-sweet Ghirardelli chocolate) and then garnished with a dusting a regular paprika.

And… it turned out bad. Not devastatingly bad, but not something I want to eat. Other people who tried it described it as a flavor explosion. But it wasn’t a pleasing one by my call, and I threw out the untried ones, instead of taking them home with me. (right, and I also need to write up the other, more sucessful, truffle recipes)

Experiment #5 – Black Garlic omelet
So I had just one clove left, and I decided to go with something I knew would be good. I sliced it very thinly, and I fried them crisp in a teaspoon and a half of bacon fat.

note: it was hard to track their cooking progress because they were already black. I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me before, but yeah worth pointing out.

And then I scrambled together an egg and almost an equal quantity of light cream. Poured in just enough to coat the pan, pulled the garlic slices back into the pan so they were evenly distributed, and rolled out a soft, luscious omelet of pure bliss!

(Note: this same trick of frying slices of garlic was also used in Steamy Kitchen‘s experiment, where she made Scallops with Black Garlic)

Conclusion: This was a lot of fun to try, and I’d definitely use them again… but I’m not sure it’s something I’ll feel the need to seek out.

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I’m taking off work tomorrow, and I have vague plans to make truffles all day. I suspect I lack most of the useful knowledge, skills, and tools – but I have about 4 pounds of chocolate, and how bad can that be?

So I’m pondering possible flavor combinations. Let me know what you think.

1) Black Garlic. I got some as a free sample from Marx Foods to review on my blog. So far I’ve made three savory things, and I should make a sweet for comparison. Even the sweet recipe sample on their blog is a truffle – only they just roll the chocolate in a coating of garlic, and that sounds nasty.

So here’s the plan – make garlic butter, add extra salt and maybe some hard cheese. Swirl enough semi-melted chocolate into the butter to make it more like a buttery chocolate center than a center of butter. Make rounds, cool. Dip in dark chocolate

Topping to distinguish them from all others: I’m torn between a quarter of a pecan or some sweet paprika.

2) Earl Grey truffles

She recommends enrobing in a dark milk chocolate, so I’d need to buy more chocolate to make that happen. La la la!

If my skill is up to it, I think I want to decorate these with a drippy swirly, rather than a coating.

3) Masala truffles – I have black cardamom, instead of green. So I think I’ll crush a couple instead of steeping them whole.

Dust with curry powder (and toasted mustard seeds?)

4) vegan coconut truffles

I’d need to buy coconut… and then figure out what to do with the rest of the bag.

5) Almonds – smash some almonds, mix them with the filling

dark coating? milk coating?

dust in cinnamon/confectioners sugar

6) Spicy – center with chipotle, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

milk coating

decoration – If I stud it with a clove, do you think people will know not to eat it? Probably not. Ummm… I could tie it with a strip of cayenne pepper like raffia, but that’s still not tasty. Demerara sugar! And the extra sweet will help moderate the spicy.

7) ginger – I have ginger juice and powdered ginger. Does this also need candied ginger?

decoration – I think powdered ginger on the outside might be too strong, so how about these be the ones rolled in cocoa powder?

to buy:

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12
Nov

More Chocolate

   Posted by: Livia    in chocolate, hot chocolate, Review

Oh, right – there’s more chocolate from last weekend.

So one of the things I had been delighted to note when I was planning the trip to New York was that there was a Vosges store near my aunt’s apartment. But, hey, I figured I’d see them at the Chocolate Show anyway – only they weren’t there. (I found out later that they were in the other side of the convention area in the Food & Wine section… and once I finished the Chocolate Show I did stop by the ticket counter to see how much it would cost to upgrade my ticket, but there was no way I was paying an additional $50 when I was already stretching my limits with just the chocolate.)

So I stopped by the store on Sunday. And while my favorite local purveyors of fine chocolate (and excellent coffees and teas), Walnut Bridge Coffee House (I am biased because I was dating someone who lived in the same building as the owners when the shop opened, and so there was the whole introduction and the hearing about their hopes and dreams and quest for amazing chocolate, but still – it’s run by a wonderful couple) have introduced me to their bar chocolates, I have never tried their truffles.

So I popped into the store, chatted up the people behind the counter, and was introduced to the truffles they had in stock.

I left with

  • Gianduia
    • store description: Crunchy hazelnut praline + milk chocolate + praline bits
    • my description – I’m not even sure that this is the right one… my receipt says I left with a Jazz truffle, and I’m sure I did not buy anything with any flavor of coffee. So this is my next best guess. Anyway, this was the one that was a pretty standard chocolate truffle with no distinguishing flavors at all.
  • Dulch de Leche
    • store description – Argentinean dulce de leche + milk chocolate + Costa Rican cashews. A creamy caramel-like spread, Dulce de Leche is a staple among Argentinean breakfast fare and desserts. Our Dulce de Leche truffle combines Argentinean caramel, milk chocolate and Costa Rican cashews to reference a truly Latin tradition.
    • my description – truffle. with creamy caramel inside. I had a better one at the show
  • Balsamico
    • store description – Twelve-year-aged balsamic vinegar from Modena blushes with dark chocolate and roasted hazelnuts
    • I had to really strain to catch the faint notes of the vinegar. This was very modest and dainty, and I far prefer the unapologetic (but well chosen and balanced) flavors in their bars.
  • Olio d’Oliva
    • store description – First press extra virgin olive oil + white chocolate + dried kalamata olives
    • my description – Okay, finally, one with a little boldness. The olive oil flavor was very pronounced. Now I was a little tentative choosing this one since I am not a fan of olives… but I think it was just strengthening the oil flavor because I was not put off by the olives at all (and I probably should have had to work a little harder to like it because and olive fan might be disappointed).

And when I went to the counter, the Rooster (Taleggio cheese + organic walnuts + Tahitian vanilla bean + bittersweet dark chocolate) caught my eye as it popped up in a proud little mountain, but they hadn’t gotten a proper shipment at this location, so I didn’t get to try that one.

Conclusion: I’m sticking with their candy bars.

~*~

And then I walked over to the 92nd Street Y to see Neil Gaiman be interviewed by Chip Kidd, and I figured I’d ooze into a sexy coffeeshop somewhere along the way and pick up some hot tea. Only the Upper East Side seems to be a vast wasteland for coffeeshops. There are corner diners and fancy restaurants, but I don’t think I passed a single coffeeshop. When I got to the Y, I asked the guys manning the desk, and they waved me over to the Dunkin Donuts across the street. Now I have nothing against Dunkin Donuts, but there’s one across the street from where I work, and I’m not going there when I’m in New York City. So I saw two properly urbane-looking women conversing on the steps, so I asked them if they were local enough to offer a recommendation – and it worked!

They pointed me up a block to a cupcake shop called Crumbs!

So one hot chocolate (ghirardelli powder, I think) and a lemon poppyseed muffin later, I was camped out on the steps myself waiting for a line. And then right before we started queuing to be let in (no real line because there was assigned seating), I popped back over for a second hot chocolate – because the beverage and the service was just that good.

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