Posts Tagged ‘chocolate’

Yellow layer butter cake with guittard ganache frosting

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

ATK's Yellow cake with Guittard ganache frosting by lkwm on dRc

By nature, I am an introvert, so I tend to keep a few friends close, and tend to find long distances challenging. I am working on this, though I imagine it used to be easier for people to make friends and stay in touch with one another, since historically people tended to live in one place for longer, many times being born, raised, and carrying on the next generation within the same few square miles of their own birth place. Life was also less convenient. Washing and drying clothes, growing and preparing food, and supplying one’s household with basic necessities all required some degree of working outdoors, and invited interaction with one’s neighbors. Life demanded more direct human interchanges than is often required present day, which in turn, created rich, interdependent local communities. You needed your neighbors, and they needed you, and over time, friendships were cultivated.

Flowers falling by lkwm on dRcFlowers askew ll by lkwm on dRcLooking down on flowers by lkwm on dRc

Though perhaps requiring more conscientious efforts, these sorts of relationships surely live on in the present day, going beyond more casual definitions of friendship in dedication and tolerance, and ultimately still forming the foundations of thriving modern families, communities, and cultures. Friends of this sort do special things things for one another.

Things like throwing one another baby showers, giving up whole Saturdays to help each other replace defunct 1980s water heaters, helping lay new hardwood floors over quite acceptable old hardwood floors, saving a friend from woeful design errors and painting bathrooms in the corrected shade for the friend, ordering perfectly cut custom glass shelves for a friend’s bathroom and driving them over at 11:00 p.m. on a work night so there will be a spot for towels and toiletries for an impending parental arrival the next day, helping with wiring until past midnight, and other special things like making each other homemade birthday cakes.

Guittard discsGuittard discsGuittard disks on silk by lkwm on dRc

My husband and I first met Sheila and John in 2007 when I completed my graduate internship at Sheila’s counseling practice, and since that time they have become dear friends. Life is busy, and there are times we do not see each other for several weeks at a time before one set or the other of us will forge the 30 minute drive separating our homes, and remember why we should never let such time spans pass again.

Buttered and floured by lkwm on dRcButtered and floured by lkwm on dRcButtered and floured by lkwm on dRc

The men do what Sheila and I have come to term “work exchanges. Jon will come over to our house and help Brian, my husband, with some project, such as cutting and putting up a stairwell banister, or installing accent lights throughout our kitchen, and I will cook dinner for everyone (Indian, Italian and all things dark chocolate are always favorites) and Sheila and I will watch chic flicks late into the night, with the men sometimes pausing to join us for a show, and always stopping for food.

We do the same thing at Sheila’s home. She will cook some gorgeous, elaborate meal and dessert (I have come to learn she is incapable of doing it any other way) and we will sit tending to my little boy and leafing through cookbooks and design magazines while the guys hammer away on some project talking nanotechnology or some other foreign language. I love these days.

Flowers laying by lkwm on dRc

For Jon’s birthday this year, Sheila decided we should all go out for Thai and then back to her house for dessert, so I offered to try another yellow cake recipe (which I secretly eagerly volunteered for since I had just bought new cake pans – I get excited about this sort of thing). I say “another”, because since I’ve been thinking about being a better friend over the past several months, I have started making a conscious effort to make birthday cakes more often for people. It is a small gesture, but since I love to bake, it simply fits for me to fill this role, which brings me back to my hunt for my own personal religious yellow cake recipe. I have tried at least five recipes over the past year, with many turning out dry, or too eggy, or even almost a bit like sweet cornbread – all in all, just not what I have been looking for in a classic yellow cake.

Eggs vertical by lkwm on dRcEggs vertical by lkwm on dRcEggs horizontal by lkwm on dRc

But this one turned out just right. It is moist with a tender and delicate crumb, tastes deeply of butter, is beautifully hued from the four eggs, and is not overly sweet. Just about any favorite frosting would pair nicely with this cake. I chose a chocolate cream frosting, using Guittard 61% cocoa disks, which turned out to essentially be an incredibly smooth and luscious ganache – think heavenly, moist, butter laden yellow cake covered by the insides of a decadent chocolate truffle, and that’s what you’ve got here.

Swirls by lkwm on dRcBattered up by lkwm on dRcBattered up by lkwm on dRcBattered up by lkwm on dRc

In other news, I am starting to read novels again, which I haven’t done since my son was born and since finishing the last Harry Potter book. I have begun with The Keys of the Kingdom by A.J. Cronin because my brother recommended it and because it was on the top of my book pile. I’ll let you know how it goes. My favorite quote so far:

Decisively, Monsignor Sleeth closed the gilt-edged book. “To say the least, you seem to have lost your command of souls.”
“But…” Calmly: “I don’t want to command anyone’s soul.”

Cutting the cake at Sheila'sHappy birthday John! by lkwm on dRcThe cake and the lady by lkwm on dRcFor later by lkwm on dRcSheila sheila sheilaLast bite by lkwm on dRc
Yellow layer butter cake
adapted from American Classics by the editor’s of Cook’s Illustrated

4 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sifted (6 3/4 ounces) plain cake flour
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons aluminum free baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted organic butter, softened, each stick cut into 8 pieces

Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9 inch cake pans with vegetable shortening (I use a natural oil spray) and cover the pan bottoms with rounds of parchment paper or wax paper. Grease the parchment rounds and dust the cake pans with flour, tapping out the excess.

Beat the eggs, milk, and vanilla with a fork in a small bowl; measure out 1 cup of this mixture and set aside. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on the lowest speed to blend, about 30 seconds. With the mixer still running at the lowest speed, add the butter one piece at a time; mix until the butter and flour begin to clump together and look sandy and pebbly, with pieces about the size of peas, 30 to 40 seconds after all the butter is added. Add reserved 1 cup of egg mixture and mix at the lowest speed until incorporated, 5 to 10 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the remaining egg mixture (about 1/2 cup) in a slow steady stream, about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Beat on medium-high until thoroughly combined and the batter looks slightly curdled, about 15 seconds.

Divide the batter equally between the prepared cake pans; spread to the sides of the pan and smooth with a rubber spatula. Bake until the cake tops are light gold and a toothpick or skewer comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. (Cakes may mound slightly but will level when cooled.) Cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the pan perimeters to loosen. Invert one cake onto a large plate, peel off the parchment, and reinvert onto a lightly greased rack. Repeat with the other cake. Cool completely before icing. Store iced cake in the refrigerator, but bring to room temperature before serving (bringing to room temperature took about four to five hours for my cake).

Guittard ganache frosting (Chocolate Cream Frosting)
adapted from American Classics by the editor’s of Cook’s Illustrated

16 ounces 61% or 70% Guittard bittersweet chocolate, or other bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine*
1 1/2 cups heavy organic cream
1/3 cup light corn syrup*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; pour over the chocolate. Add the corn syrup and let stand 3 minutes. Whisk gently until smooth; stir in the vanilla. Refrigerate 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes, until the mixture reaches a spreadable consistency (mine got a bit hard, so I microwaved it for a very few seconds and it was perfect. Also, if you heat cake with this frosting on it, the frosting will almost immediately turn to fudge sauce – delicious fudge sauce, but not icing anymore)

* I used 61% Guittard, but would likely go even darker next time around. This had a very smooth, rich chocolate flavor, but if you love dark chocolate, like me, you could go darker. This recipe makes a large amount of frosting and it is rich, so next time I might use 3/4 of the icing for the cake and save the rest to heat up as a sauce to serve over ice cream alongside.
* The corn syrup makes the icing smooth and spreadable, I would not substitute another ingredient.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Dessert | 35 Comments »

Lavender, cardamom, and dark chocolate truffles

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Lavender infused truffle in line by lkwm on dRc

I had not intended on making 240 truffles last week – If these were gourmet mall chocolates selling for two fifty apiece, we are talking about six hundred dollars worth of truffles! Fortunately, even these of the ritzy homemade variety, were only pennies on the retail dollar.

Cocoa and chocolate by lkwm on dRcPernigotti cocoa and Valrhona pearls by lkwm on dRcCardamom and lavender by lkwm on dRc

S., my ever persuasive friend, who talked me into participating in Smithfield’s Valentine’s Day Chocolate Lover’s event where individuals and businesses prepare chocolate specialties for sampling to raise money for the American Cancer Society. As it turns out, I actually placed in the amateur category with the lavender truffles (I feel like I’m in grade school all over again receiving BIG shiny gold stars)!

Cardamom by lkwm on dRcLavender by lkwm on dRcCardamom and lavender by lkwm on dRcValrhona chocolate pearls by lkwm on dRc

I had never considered making homemade truffles before this past holiday season when I read about this incredible intensely chocolate, truffle recipe. Normally, I would leave this type of confection making to the professionals, but I had just ordered a large quantity of Valrhona chocolate and cocoa, and I couldn’t resist the idea of what special, petite, and spectacular gifts these would make for friends and family.

Fleur de sel by lkwm on dRcFleur de sel by lkwm on dRcLavender in mini chopper by lkwm on dRcCrushed lavender by lkwm on dRc

This time around, I decided to play with the recipe a bit. After all, I was making four batches. FOUR. Yes, four batches of 60 truffles each. If that doesn’t inspire me to experiment, I’m not sure what would!

Chocolate ganache by lkwm on dRcBoiling cream for ganache by lkwm on dRcWeighing chocolate by lkwm on dRcPouring cream onto chocolate by lkwm on dRcMixing boiled cream into chocolate by lkwm on dRc

After reading about one of rachel eats favorite cardamom scented chocolates, I decided to lace a bit of this lovely aromatic spice, often used in Indian and Thai cuisine, into one batch. In a second batch, knowing that lavender and chocolate make an intoxicating combination, I settled on infusing it with beautiful, floral crushed lavender buds. The last two batches I completed as traditional triple dark chocolate, adding pinches of sea salt, and a bit of extra chocolate to the ganache and coating to suit my taste, and to make it easier to form the truffles.

A lovely mess by lkwm on dRcA lovely mess by lkwm on dRcA lovely mess by lkwm on dRc

Have you ever had cardamom and chocolate together? Lavender and chocolate? If not, it is recommended that you try them. If so, then you know what I am talking about. Some things are simply meant to go together – like spaghetti and meatballs, like pancakes and maple syrup, like dark chocolate and me, like cardamom and chocolate, and lavender and chocolate.

Dunking truffles in cocoa powder by lkwm on dRcDipped! by lkwm on dRcChocolate heaven by lkwm on dRcBeauty in row by lkwm on dRc

Lavender infused truffles, cardamom laced truffles, and triple dark chocolate truffles
Triple dark base recipe adapted liberally from Robert Linxe’s chocolate truffles via smitten kitchen

Since truffles are no more than ganache (chocolate and cream and perhaps some flavoring) dipped in chocolate, and in this case, dunked a third time in cocoa, it is essential that your ingredients be of the creme de la creme variety. After all, even using the finest chocolate, cocoa, spices, and cream available on the market, you will still be able to make home made truffles at a tiny fraction of the professional retail price. And I will not gloss over the process, it’s not that’s it’s difficult, but it does require some patience, and it makes a beautiful mess, so, if you are to go to such efforts, it is worth purchasing, even ordering, very special chocolate. My recommendations are below with links for where I have ordered successfully online. However, do not be afraid to try the recipe with a dark Ghirardelli or Green & Black chocolate available in many grocery stores. With all the adaptations, I am quite certain Robert Linxe would no longer claim this as a version of his recipe, however, these are some spectacular truffles and I appreciate both Deb and Linxe’s inspiration – not to mention the fact that the original recipe is fantastic.

14 ounces of the best bittersweet chocolate you can afford and access, shaved, in small pieces, or finely chopped (55-60% cocoa content, I used Valrhona “Les Perles” 55%, ordered from here as well as some 60% Ghirardelli when I ran out of Valrhona)

2/3 cup organic heavy cream (I believe organic tastes better, and makes a better truffle, I used Horizon)

Cocoa powder for dusting (Valrhona is recommended and this is what I thought I had pulled out of my pantry, but as it turns out, I used Pernigotti, also very nice, ordered from here)

couple of pinches of fine sea salt (I used fleur de sel)

generous 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (for cardamom truffles only)

2 teaspoons of whole lavender buds, crushed fine using a mini chopper (for lavender truffles only)

Measure out 9 ounces of the chocolate and place in a medium heat resistant bowl. Add a pinch of sea salt, and if you are going to flavor the truffles, add either the lavender or cardamom in with the bowl of chocolate. Bring the cream to a boil in a small, heavy saucepan (apparently Linxe boils his cream three times, believing this increases the shelf life of the ganache – your choice on this step) and then pour hot cream over the 9 ounces of chocolate and flavorings. Stir gently and patiently until cream and chocolate come together into a silky soft ganache. Allow the ganache to either sit at room temperature to thicken (at least an hour) or place in the fridge for about 30 minutes (my impatient method).

Now you have two choices. I’ve tried both, both were messy, but I am a bit messy, so this should not be a good measure for your experience. You may either place ganache several spoonfuls at a time into a pastry bag fitted with a 3/8 inch tip and pipe out pretty mounded, rosette shaped truffles (method I used over Christmas), or you may use a mellon baller, or other spoon to scoop out rounded mounds and then roll them between your hands to smooth out (method I used this time). Both work. Pick your desired method and use all of the ganache to create about 3/4-1 inch mounds/balls.

When ganache balls are fully set, add just a pinch of sea salt to the last 5 ounces of chocolate and slowly melt over a double boiler or in the microwave in 30 second increments, checking and stirring each time. At this point, you have a choice to use latex gloves, smearing a bit of melted chocolate on your gloved hand, and then gently rolling each truffle one at a time in a smear of chocolate, and directly placing in a bowl of cocoa for coating. You may do this. It works. I did it at Christmas. This is the key to having a thin crispy shell. This time around, however, I made sure my melted chocolate was not too hot, and I dunked about three truffles at a time in the bowl of chocolate, using my hands to be sure they were evenly coated, shaking off excess chocolate, and then placing on parchment (or wax) paper to harden before coating in cocoa. This method produces a thicker chocolate coating with a bit of puddled chocolate around each truffle. I found that the cocoa coating is quite dense when the truffle is dunked directly following the wet chocolate dipping, so this time I allowed the outer chocolate to almost harden before dunking in a bowl of cocoa powder and using a fork (or cocoa dusted fingers!) to roll them around and fish them out.

You are done! Place completely cool truffles in an air tight container in the fridge to set up for several hours, and store in the fridge until ready to eat. I prefer the truffles at room temperature, but they may be eaten cold.  If you make these and experiment with different flavors, please let me know!

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Dessert | 40 Comments »