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).

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