Saturday, June 26, 2010

No such thing as too much CHOCOLATE

Random side note--if you haven't seen Wordle yet, go entertain yourself. I ran our blog through it and lo and behold, CHOCOLATE came up in lovely big letters. It's about to get bigger.

Recently I was hosting a ladies' luncheon and did a bit of baking (there was cooking, too, but that's boring and doesn't involve chocolate).

On the menu:
  • Homemade Eatable Presentation of Fruit (that doesn't infringe on copyright, right?)
  • Pecan Tassies
  • Lemon Tassies
  • Blackberry Mousse in Chocolate Cups
  • Raspberry Mousse in Chocolate Cups
  • Chocolate Strawberries
I definitely forgot to photograph the tassies, so those will have to wait for another time. I really like the lemon filling, though (a bit like a curd), so that may feature in an upcoming recipe.

Without further ado:

"Fruit Basket"
1 whole fresh pineapple
1 honeydew
1 cantaloupe
Red grapes
Chocolate strawberries (see next)
Wooden skewers

*all of these can be substituted; these just keep well & won't turn color

Pineapple flowers: On firm surface (like a cutting board, if you use those silly things), slice off the top & bottom, so you're left with a (spiny) cylinder of roughly even diameter. With a long, serrated knife, slice off the outside of the pineapple in long thin sections (1.5 inches in width is about right). Next, with a paring knife, cut out triangles where you want the spaces between the petals to be. You can round these out later. Eat the delicious fresh pineapple scraps! Now, the detail work--go back in and cut the curve for the petals, and smooth out the spacing for the petals. Slice the extruded-flower-shape into 1 inch pieces & set aside.

Potentially you could do this with a metal cookie cutter of the right size and sharpness--let me know if you try it! I think that's what the official maker of such fruit baskets does.

Using a melon baller, scoop out balls of cantaloupe and honeydew. Use only the greenest part of the honeydew; throw the rest in a fruit salad or something. Save the 6-8 best cantaloupe balls (depending on your # of flower slices) for the flowers.

Thread fruit onto skewers, starting with red (strawberry) and ending with purple (blackberry) so that the purple is closest to the pointy end. Thread pineapple flowers onto skewers (starting with melon ball), and push slightly past the edge. Make skewers of grapes, if desired. Carefully skewer chocolate strawberries (if your coating is thick, chocolate can crack).

Cut cabbage/lettuce to fit basket, and insert skewers. Voila!

Chocolate Strawberries (Tuxedo style)
These look adorable, and are actually pretty simple to make. I'm hoping to record a video at some point so I can show the technique, because that's actually the only tricky part. The ones at right were used as favors at the party.

You'll need
-Small to medium uniform shaped strawberries, leaves on, washed & fully dried (Imperative: no water droplets!!)
-Dark chocolate (Use milk if you prefer)
-White chocolate

A note about chocolate--you can do this with chocolate chips or other low-end chocolate, & they'll turn out fine. If you want that "shiny" finish, use couveteure, the melting wafers, or high quality chocolate. I buy the wafers in bulk and they work just fine.

Place a foil- or parchment-covered baking sheet in the freezer. Melt white chocolate in the method of your choice--I use a double boiler except when using wafers. You want some depth to whatever container it ends up in.

Remove sheet from freezer. Grasping a strawberry by the leaves (gathered up so they're touching the stem), dip into white chocolate just short of touching your fingers. Twist as you pull up from the chocolate, then lay immediately onto sheet. As you'll see, the chocolate sets almost instantly from the cold, eliminating the bare spot common on the back of dipped berries. Finish your strawberries, and chill for at least 1 hour. Prepare an additional foil-covered cookie sheet in the freezer.

Melt dark/milk chocolate. Grasping dipped strawberry by the leaves, dip the right side in the chocolate, then the left. Because strawberries widen at the top, this creates a natural triangle for the "shirt." Be sure to cover the back as well. Transfer to cold sheet & chill at least 20 min.

Using a squirt bottle (Wilton makes mini ones you can get for $2/2-pack) or paper cone (the official way), add details--buttons or bowtie, swirls, or other decorations. If you want to do traditional dipped strawberries, just start with your base chocolate & add details after dipping.

Chocolate Cups & Berry Mousse
Mousse is a very general term, so don't knock me because this doesn't contain gelatin or other complicated things. I like my desserts simple but elegant.

Chocolate cups:
Melt chocolate of your choice (I use dark wafers) and let cool until slightly thick. Coat the inside of FOIL MINI MUFFIN CUPS with the cooled chocolate, and invert over a chilled, foil-lined baking sheet. Return to fridge or freezer to chill, then peel foil from cups. If you're really good, you might even be able to reuse them. You can also buy molds for doing this kind of thing...or you could use mini muffin liners.

Berry Mousse
1 cup of frozen berries
1 Tbl sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt
1 cup of heavy cream

Heat berries with sugar, lemon, and salt until simmering. Continue to cook on low heat until berries completely reduce and mixture begins to gel. Press through sieve (if you don't want seeds) and cool.

While mixture cools, whip cream to heavy peaks, and then a slight bit more (adding the liquid will smooth it out). Fold cooled berry mixture into cream until completely incorporated.

Pipe or spoon into chocolate shells, & chill until ready to serve (mousse shouldn't be made more than 1 day ahead). I garnished the blackberry ones with a berry (and used a different pastry tip to differentiate).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Flourless Chocolate Cake

A friend of mine is gluten-intolerant, and she had a birthday recently. And I happened to be in town. And I needed some stress relief/distractions from real life. Sounded like an excellent reason to bake. I adapted this recipe from I baked in a water bath--poor decision. Water seeped in, so after the stated baking time, I ended up taking it out of said water bath and baking it an extra 10-12 minutes to try to get rid of the excess moisture. I have made this recipe before without the water bath, and it turned out fine, so I think I will return to that method for next time! Without further ado, here is the recipe:

  • 1/2 c. Chambord
  • 3/4 c. white sugar
  • 12 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao)
  • 6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli again)
  • 1 c. salted butter or margarine (add a pinch of salt if your butter is unsalted)
  • 6 eggs

Combine Chambord and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat and stir over medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved.

Melt chocolate in a large, microwave-safe bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and beat them in, one at a time. (Two notes on this: 1., an electric mixer makes this much easier. 2., light margarine will not work--it has too high of a water content and will make your chocolate seize. Trust me, I learned the hard way.) Once the butter is incorporated, beat the Chambord mixture into the chocolate. Next, beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Pour batter into a greased 9" springform pan. If you're feeling brave, wrap it with several layers of foil and put it in a water bath. Bake ~45-50 min at 300 degrees F. This is like cheesecake--the center will still look shiny and wet, but 1/2" or so around the edges should look cooked. Let cool, then chill overnight. This is best served with fresh whipped cream to cut the richness of the chocolate.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cake Balls!

In case you hadn't heard, apparently cupcakes are soooooooo last year in terms of dessert fads (this was news to me, too). This year, it's all about cake balls. I looked up a recipe for these...are you ready for this one? Cake (from a boxed mix) + frosting (from a can), then dipped in chocolate. Man, that's one tough recipe. Well, I couldn't just leave it at that...that just seemed so...pedestrian. Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you not one, but TWO recipes...Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake Balls and Orange Creamsicle Cake Balls. Read on, MacDuff.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake Balls

  • 1 box red velvet cake mix
  • 1 1/4 c. strawberry puree
  • Strawberry liqueur
  • 1/2 container chocolate frosting
  • 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbl. vegetable oil
Prepare and bake red velvet cake according to package instructions EXCEPT substitute strawberry puree for the water (use however much the package calls for--varies by brand) and add a hefty splash of strawberry liqueur. Cool completely. Pulse in a food processor to crumble cake.

Put chocolate frosting in a large bowl. Stir in a hefty splash of strawberry liqueur. Add cake crumbs, and stir until thoroughly combined. Roll into ~1" balls. Put balls in fridge or freezer overnight.

Melt chocolate, add vegetable oil, and stir to combine. Dip cake balls into chocolate, covering them completely. Let excess chocolate run off, and put them in the fridge or freezer to set the chocolate coating.

Orange Creamsicle Cake Balls

  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 1 1/4 c. orange juice
  • 1 tsp. orange extract, divided
  • Red food coloring
  • Yellow food coloring
  • 1/2 container vanilla frosting
  • 12 oz. white chocolate
  • 2 Tbl. vegetable oil
Prepare and bake cake mix as directed on package, EXCEPT substitute orange juice for the water (use however much the package calls for--varies by brand) and add 1/2 tsp orange extract. Cool completely. Pulse in a food processor to crumble cake.

Put frosting in a large bowl. Add 1/2 tsp orange extract, 4 drops red food coloring, and 6 drops orange food coloring (or until you get the desired color of orange). Stir to combine. Add cake crumbs, and stir until thoroughly combined. Roll into ~1" balls. Put balls in fridge or freezer overnight.

Melt white chocolate, add vegetable oil, and stir to combine. Dip cake balls into white chocolate, covering them completely. Let excess white chocolate run off, and put them in the fridge or freezer to set the white chocolate coating.

I used a little two-pronged dipping fork to dip these, and it unfortunately left holes in the coating then I went to remove them from said fork. Presumably, if I had the time or inclination, I could re-dip just the area with the hole to cover it. But, I had neither the time nor the inclination. Be forewarned...these are pretty foolproof in terms of ease of preparation (everything's out of a box!), but they take a LOT of time. Each batch makes about 70 cake balls.