Monday, January 31, 2011

Chocolate!!! and some recipes......

It's hard to believe but I'm in my very last class at Le Cordon Bleu. I've certainly packed in a lot of learning over the past year and am pretty ready to be done with school.
Anywho, we are making a lot of chocolate treats in our Chocolate & Confections class (duh, I guess). Pictured above are my dark chocolate truffles topped with a little candied ginger.

Here is a pic of something we made that is called Knackerli. It's a strange name for a simple treat - tempered chocolate topped with a dried cherry, apricot, and a pistachio.

Directly above are the other truffles I made - raspberry dark chocolate, rolled in raspberry powder (freeze-dried raspberries that have been crushed into a powder). Aren't they pretty?
And last, but not least, these cute little dollops are chocolate-dipped Carioca. Carioca is a delicious, buttery chocolate ganache.
Below is a basic recipe for the truffles. People always say this, but it is definitely true - the quality of the chocolate you use for truffles is going to determine the deliciousness of your final result. Personally, I like the Pound Plus bars from Trader Joes; use whatever you like.
You don't necessarily have to know how to temper chocolate to make these, if you are planning to roll them in cocoa powder or nuts. If you want to dip them (as mine are) then you do need to learn how to temper chocolate AND you'll need a pretty accurate thermometer. Also, if you don't have a scale, take note of the ratios of chocolate to cream to butter and should still be able to make these just fine.
Chocolate Truffles
  • 7 oz heavy cream
  • 16 oz Dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2 oz Unsalted butter
  • Extract (vanilla or whatever you'd like!), To Taste
  • Salt, To Taste
  • Cocoa Powder, for coating (optional)


1. Heat cream to a simmer over low heat.

2. Pour cream over chocolate and stir until chocolate is completely melted.

3. Stir in butter until melted.

4. Stir in extract and salt.

5. Let mixture stand in bowl until it starts to thicken a little.

6. At that point, you can transfer to a piping bag or keep it in the bowl while working with it. You shouldn't need to chill in the fridge unless your kitchen is pretty warm.

7. If you decide to pipe out your ganache, pipe small (2 tsp-ish) mounds onto a sheet of parchment or onto a sheet pan. If you want to scoop from the bowl, use a small spoon and do the same.

8. Once ganache sets pretty firm (doesn't stick to your hands and you can pick it up off your sheet tray, basically), roll each one into a smooth ball between your palms. Wearing plastic gloves is expecially helpful if you have warm hands like I do!

9. Once they are rounded to your satisfaction, coat with cocoa powder by dropping into a bowl of cocoa powder and shaking off excess. Or you can roll them in chopped nuts or whatever you'd like. They keep fine at room temperature, but you can refrigerate them, as well.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Gingerbread House and Recipe

Our first assignment in our Confections class was to make a gingerbread house. Here's mine above. What do you think? I had decorated a small house over Christmas break and it was pretty much completely covered in candy and frosting. I decided to go a little more upscale with this one since I had a whole week to work on it.

It's hard to determine scale in this picture but this is a pretty big house - about two feet tall! The roof shingles are made from Frosted Mini-Wheats. The windows are melted Jolly Ranchers. The chimney is covered in VERY thick royal icing (I could roll a bit up in my hand and stick it on like putty) so that the candy rocks stick on and don't just plop off. You could make the stones from brown jelly beans instead.

The house itself is glued together with Isomalt, which is a more stable form of sugar. You could use caramel but remember it is SUPER hot!!! I got a few blisters during construction. The benefit of the sugar over royal icing is that you don't have to wait so long for it to dry. If you do use royal icing then make sure to make it pretty thick and prop your walls against cans or other items while they dry (unless you have a couple hours to kill)

Here's a shot of the inside. I wanted to make it look like a dollhouse, where you can see all the furniture and everything. The couch is sculpted from rice krispie treats and covered in blue fondant.

Here's a shot of the Christmas tree (an ice cream cone covered in green royal icing) with all of the presents underneath (starburst). The rug is made of fondant that I stamped with a little design.

Here's a photo my house, all lit up, with the yard covered in "snow" (polyfill...or Stuffy Stuff, as I like to call it)
Below is the recipe we used in class and some tips. I'll see if I can find out where the recipe is from so I can give proper credit. For my house, I made a triple batch of the recipe below, but it should be plenty for your average-size house or cookies. Note that this gingerbread has a nice amount of heat/spiciness to it - which I enjoy. If you want something a little more kid-friendly, dial back on the ginger and clove and maybe omit the pepper.
Gingerbread Recipe:
  • 2 Sticks unsalted butter (8 oz)
  • 1 cup (packed) brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 6 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp ground ginger
  • 4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground clove
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1. Cream together butter and sugar, in stand mixer or by hand.
2. Add eggs, one at a time.
3. Add in molasses.
4. Sift all dry ingredients together and add to wet mixture.
5. Roll out to no less than 1/4 inch thick for gingerbread house or cut out cookies. For drop cookies, make 1-2 inch balls and squish down with fork or bottom of cup.
6. Bake at 350F until firm and darker brown.

Royal Icing Recipe
  • 3 oz egg whites (basically 3 egg whites)
  • 1 lb powdered sugar
1. Combine in stand mixer (or you can use a hand mixer for this one) and whip on high for about 3-5 minutes. Whipping it gives it a nice, fluffy texture so really go for it.
2. Add more or less powdered sugar, depending on what you are using it for (pretty thick for gluing things together, medium for piping icicles, thick for coating things).
3. When not using, cover royal icing with plastic touching the surface or a damp cloth over the bowl. Otherwise, royal icing dries out pretty fast and will form a crust (ick).
Some Tips:
For Houses:
  • It helps to roll out the dough to the desired thickness and then freeze it for 15 minutes or so to make it nice and firm. This helps create clean edges when you cut it.
  • Bake the gingerbread until pretty dark to make sure it is sturdy enough for building. You basically want to get a lot of the moisture out.
  • If you have a microplane grater, they are awesome for "sanding" the edges of your house to get nice clean lines.
  • For candy windows, bake the gingerbread pieces with the window holes cut out. After they are almost fully baked (maybe a little lighter than you ultimately want them), place the pieces on a sheet tray covered in either a Silpat mat or foil sprayed with Pam. Place crushed pieces of hard candy (Jolly Ranchers and Lifesavers work well) in the window holes and bake just until the candy is completed melted. Remove from oven and let cool completely before handling.
For Cookies:
  • To smoosh mine, I used a glass with a design carved into the bottom and the cookies kept the shape of the design while baking.
  • Orange pairs really well with ginger! I made a glaze for my cookies by combining water, orange zest, vanilla, and powdered sugar. I dipped the tops of the cooled cookies in the glaze and let them dry. The orange flavor intensified even more over the next day or so.
  • It's tricky to figure out when these are fully baked. I guessed, to tell you the truth. I think it depends on soft you want them to be. Mine were crunchy on the outside and softer in the middle. I cooked them for about 12-15 minutes.

Friday, January 14, 2011

My Wedding Cake

Nope - I haven't gotten married! This is my wedding cake from our Advanced Cake Techniques class. We had to do a mock cake (styrofoam covered in fondant and decorated) of at least three tiers and then an 8 inch tasting cake. I decided to do a winter nature theme. The birds and flowers above were on the top tier. Birds, flowers, and leaves are all made from gumpaste and painted.
Above is a detail that shows the embossing I did (using clear plastic, flexy stamps I got from Michaels) and the brushed embroidery piping I did on the bottom tier.

Here is the "tasting cake" - I did a coconut cake with vanilla bean pastry cream and tangerine curd between the layers. The frosting underneath the fondant is just vanilla buttercream. The sparkle on the edges is a product called edible glitter - it's basically a type of gum or gelatin and has no flavor.

Here's a photo of the whole cake. The silver birch branches are made out of pastillage (basically a play dough type substance made from sugar, cornstarch, gelatin, and sugar) that was formed, dried and then painted with a cocoa butter paint.
It was fun (and nerve-wracking to work on such a big product). The most time-consuming part was making all the flowers and painting them with silver.