In The Beginning…

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It all started with a post-wedding cake in aBatteredOldSuitcase. Daniel and Frances were married in Sacramento, then honeymooned in Egypt. Upon returning to the States they stopped by South Florida for a second reception for our friends and family who couldn’t travel to California. I made my first “wedding” cake for the party.

Once safely ensconced in retirement I expanded both my baking and short story writing. I recently joined an online forum which provides writing help for amateurs like me and am currently revising everything I wrote over the past few years, including my first book “Ruth,” several short-stories basked on our rescued Havanese/Poodle, Rosalita. I also wrote a political thriller, ”The Star Alliance”, and science fiction with “The Quantum Butterfly Effect,” all of which should be considered proofs until they have been revised—ToAHotelSomeplace.

GhostsThatSell Memories is my sporadically updated travel blog. I wrote it primarily for friends and family we visited during our 2018 cross country road trip.

Header photo of my hometown, Middlebury, Vermont by my life long friend David Griggs. Please visit his website  www.djgriggsphoto.com.

 

There’s Chocolate, Then There’s Chocolate

Sigh, there are many, many varieties of chocolate, and so little time.

I am a fan of dark chocolate, (not intense 85%+ cacoa but a nice 52-70%.) I find the flavor more intense than milk chocolate (34%) and of course there are the currently purported health benefits of dark chocolate. Not only do I have to contend with percent cacao but also many different manufacturers. I should probably create a spreadsheet for them all.

I am also experimenting with fillings for chocolate candies, a tough job, but someone really should do it. Last month I made two new fillings, buttercream and fresh raspberry/chocolate ganache. Both were excellent, but I wanted some candies with a soft gooey filling.

This morning I made a batch with some Guittard 46% semi-sweet baking chips I picked up at the grocery story a couple of weeks ago. I thought these might be a good compromise between the dark that I like and the milk chocolate that Fran prefers.

I tempered the chocolate, coated the inside of a heart shaped silicone mold and let it cure. This morning I made a batch of cream filling and divided it into two. One was flavored with peppermint to make some gooey peppermint patties, the other with vanilla for plain vanilla chocolates.

I want to make this same recipe but flavor with fresh strawberry or raspberry or orange ganache. I am experimenting with fillings as much as I am with different chocolates.

Homemade Peppermint or Vanilla Patties

INGREDIENTS

• ½ – ¾ cup sweetened condensed milk (amount depends on desired consistency)

• 1 ½ teaspoons peppermint extract (optional)

• 339g (3 cups) powdered sugar

Optional Dipping Chocolate or use tempered chocolate in mold

• 8 ounces dark chocolate chopped

• 2 teaspoons oil

METHOD

1. In a medium size bowl mix the sweetened condensed milk, peppermint extract, and powdered sugar together. Add more sweetened condensed milk until mixed to viscosity desired.

2. Divide dough into number of flavors desired and place each portion in a small bowl

3. Add flavorings and mix well.

4. Pipe filling to fill each chocolate well to within 1/8” of the top of the well

5. Let set for 10 minutes

6. Add enough tempered chocolate to each well to seal the filling inside.

7. Scape bottom of mold to remove excess chocolate

8. Store the peppermint patties in the fridge until ready to be served! Enjoy!

Yes, Need Bread

While traveling last week I saw a recipe for no-knead bread and today was my first chance to try it. Actually, I started it last night and finished it in time for a sandwich for lunch today. That seemed appropriate as the recipe described it as sandwich bread.

Rather than kneading the dough, once mixed into a wet sticky mess, it is rested, covered, in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning shape it into an 8” long log and place into a lightly greased bread pan. Allow the dough to warm to room temperature and rise under a clean, flour dusted kitchen towel for two hours.

This recipe makes an enriched Pullman loaf, although I don’t actually have a Pullman Loaf Pan (a square bread pan with lid.) While the shape was off, the buttery flavor was excellent and it had the fine crumb a Pullman Loaf should exhibit. It made a wonderful turkey, tomato and home grown lettuce sandwich.

Bake at 375 deg F for about 40 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 200 deg F. Place on a cooling rack and coat the top with butter. Make your sandwich and sit back to watch the Tennessee vs Kansas City playoff game.

No Knead Sandwich Bread

INGREDIENTS
• 31⁄3 cups bread flour, plus more for work surface
• 11⁄2 cups whole milk, at room temperature
• 21⁄2 tablespoons granulated sugar
• 11⁄2 teaspoons active dry yeast (from 1 1⁄4-oz. envelope)
• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided
• 13⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
• Cooking spray

METHOD
Stir together flour, milk, sugar, yeast, and 5 tablespoons of the melted butter in a large bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until no dry spots remain. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and let stand 20 minutes. Add salt and stir until dough is sticky and elastic, about 2 minutes. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator; chill for 8 hours or overnight.

Lightly coat an 81⁄2-by-41⁄2-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Turn chilled dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Using lightly floured hands, shape dough into a rough oval. (Dough may be difficult to shape.) Fold short ends of oval in toward the center, pressing gently to seal. Working in the same direction as the previous fold, fold dough in half over itself, pressing gently to seal and form an 8-inch-long log.

Transfer dough, seam side down, to prepared loaf pan, gently encouraging it into the pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap that has been lightly coated with cooking spray. Let rest in a warm place (like the top of the refrigerator) until dough has risen just over the lip of the pan, about 2 hours. During the final 30 minutes of resting, preheat oven to 375°F with oven rack in lower third.

Bake until bread is golden brown and a thermometer inserted in center of loaf registers 200°F, 40 to 45 minutes, tenting with aluminum foil after 30 minutes if bread is browning too quickly. Invert loaf onto a wire rack; turn right-side up and brush top with remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter. Let cool completely before slicing.

A Truffle Trifle

After I finished the caramels and before the chocolate lost its temper (and had a hissy fit) I coated the inside of a silicone candy mold with the leftover chocolate. I left it in the fridge until today. (I should have taken a picture before filling. Dang!)

Beyond what I used to coat the mold I had some chocolate left over from making the chocolate coated caramels and thought, “Hmmm… I also have some raspberries in the fridge that I need to use soon.” Well, one thing led to another so I made some chocolate covered raspberry/chocolate truffles.

I made the raspberry ganache using the recipe below, filled each well of the mold leaving some room at the top to cover with more chocolate. I didn’t bother re-tempering the tops of the chocolates and they seem fine. Actually, the tops become the bottoms of the chocolates once they are removed from the mold.

The ganache stays nice and soft and the raspberry/chocolate flavor was excellent. I may try less chocolate in the ganache next time to make the flavor a bit more raspberry forward.

I also want a nice chocolate covered vanilla cream center, and maybe a nice peppermint filling too.

Chocolate Raspberry Truffles Recipe
INGREDIENTS
• 1 package (10 oz.) fresh raspberries
• 1/4 cup powdered sugar
• 1 lb. semisweet chocolate chips – try with 1⁄2 lb. chocolate chips
• 3/4 cup cream
• 2 tbsp. light corn syrup
• One candy mold coated with tempered chocolate
OR Alternatively
• 1 lb. chocolate candy coating (for dipping)


METHOD

  1. Blend or food process the raspberries until they are liquid. Sieve the raspberry puree into a small saucepan.
  2. Add the powdered sugar to the raspberry puree and heat it over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it is thick and syrupy and reduced by about half. Remove the puree from heat and set aside.
  3. Place the chocolate chips in a large bowl and heat the cream (I microwave in 30 sec intervals) until bubbles start to form around the edges, but do not allow it to come to a full boil. Once simmering, pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and allow it to sit for a minute or two to soften and melt the chocolate before whisking the chocolate and cream together gently, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth and homogenous.
  4. Add the corn syrup and raspberry puree to the chocolate mixture, and whisk it all together. Cover the surface of the raspberry ganache with cling wrap, and refrigerate until it is thickened.
  5. Add enough raspberry ganache to each tempered chocolate coated mold to within 1/8” of the top. Cover the top of each mold well with melted chocolate. It doesn’t appear to need to be tempered at this point. Chill and when nearly softened scape the bottom of the mold to remove excess chocolate.
    If you are going to dip the raspberry ganache in chocolate chill until it can be formed in small balls (1” or less diameter) and placed on a lined cookie sheet
  6. Alternative coating method:
  7. Using dipping tools or a fork, dip a truffle into the chocolate. Bring it out of the chocolate and allow the excess to drip back into the bowl. Place the coated truffle back onto the baking sheet and repeat with remaining truffles and chocolate.
  8. Place the truffles in the refrigerator to set the candy coating for about 30 minutes. If desired, you can melt red candy coating (or tint white coating with red candy coloring) and drizzle a small amount over the truffles decoratively.
  9. Place the candy coating in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in one-minute increments until melted, stirring after every minute to prevent overheating. Stir until the coating is completely smooth. Allow the coating to cool until it is barely warm. Do not let it start setting up, but let it cool down so that it does not melt the truffle fillings.
  10. Chocolate raspberry truffles can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Chewy Caramel Center

I love the holiday season! It’s one of the times of the year I can bake and experiment—nearly guilt free. Of course, I will pay for it starting after  the New Year.

2A39C5BC-5D6C-4215-B679-9A18FB58A700Last week I made hard caramels and embedded them them in tempered dark chocolate. They were fine, but what I really wanted were the soft caramel center and chocolate that melts in your mouth. I ticked all the boxes this morning.

 

I actually made the caramels last night and left them out to firm up overnight. This morning, they were pliable but firm enough to to hold their shape when cut. I ended up with about 80 one inch square, 1/4” thick squares of caramel.

Be sure to only cook the caramel to 237 degrees F, not 235 or 239, otherwise they will be too soft and not hold their shape, or to hard and chewy.

I used 67% cacao dark chocolate. I am going to try 52% semi sweet next time.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Cups Sugar
  • 1 Stick (½ cup) Butter
  • 1 Cup (288g) White Corn Syrup
  • ½ Tsp Kosher Salt
  • 12 oz can Evaporated Milk

METHOD

  1. Put the ingredients into a thick bottomed pot and heat, stirring constantly, until it reaches 237 deg.
  2. Pour the molten caramel into a parchment paper lined 8”x8” pan. (Smaller pan for thicker caramels) DO NOT use waxed paper. Hot caramel sticks to waxed paper.
  3. There is some discussion about adding the evaporated milk. Some people say add slowly (I did) and others say it doesn’t matter. I added about an oz every minute for 12 minutes. It required about 30 min for the caramel to reach the 237 deg.

Santa Bread Baby!

I saw a recipe and tutorial on Food.net last week and thought it would be fun to make and take to a Christmas party we are going to. This bread recipe is a little sweeter than my usual making it taste a little like a Danish pastry. Plus two eggs in 4 cups or 500g AP flour yields a Challah sort of flavor.

The Food.net video tutorial was a great help in cutting and arranging Santas parts. (Search for Food.net Santa Bread.

The instructions they provided were spot on. Follow them and you will have no problems.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • Two packages active dry yeast (4 1/2 tsp)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for greasing and serving
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting (see Cook’s Note)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream or whole milk
  • 20 drops red gel food coloring
  • 2 large chocolate chips
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

METHOD

 

  1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it just begins to simmer, then remove from the heat and let cool to 115 degrees F. Stir in the yeast and let stand until the mixture is foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. Pour the yeast mixture into the bowl of stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the sugar, butter and 2 of the eggs and stir until smooth. Add the flour and salt and mix on medium-low speed until the dough comes together. Increase the speed to medium high and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let stand until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a rimless baking sheet with parchment.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Pinch off 1 golf ball-size piece of dough and roll it into a ball for the pompom of Santa’s hat. Pinch off 1 ping pong ball-size piece of dough and roll it into a ball for Santa’s nose. Cut off a 1-inch-wide, 9-inch-long, 1/4-inch-thick strip and roll it into a smooth log for the brim of Santa’s hat. Cut another piece of dough into a roughly 2-inch-wide, 5-inch-long, 1/4-inch-thick strip of dough. Snip evenly from the bottom (but not all the way up) and spread the strips out slightly to form a mustache.
  5. Roll out the remaining dough into an elongated diamond with the top triangle of the diamond double the length of the bottom triangle. Position the diamond on the prepared baking sheet with the top of the longer triangle hanging over the edge. Working on the shorter triangle, use scissors or a knife to cut 1/2-inch-wide strips of dough up toward the middle, stopping at the imaginary line where the top and bottom triangles meet. Pick up each strip of the beard and twist it, if you like, lying the twists down next to each other naturally so they look like a beard.
  6. Fold over the overhanging corner of dough so that it fits back within the edge of the baking sheet and position it slightly to the right to form the tip of Santa’s hat. Position the dough log across the top triangle where the tip of Santa’s hat ends and tuck the ends under the sides of the triangle; this is the brim of Santa’s hat. Position the golf ball-size ball of dough over the tip and against the brim and press lightly to adhere for the pompom of Santa’s hat. Arrange the mustache at the top of the beard, then position the ping pong ball-size ball of dough above the mustache to make Santa’s nose.
  7. Beat the remaining egg with the cream in a bowl to make an egg wash. Using a pastry brush, brush the entire surface of the dough, including the pompom and brim of the hat but not the body of the hat, with the plain egg wash, making sure to get into all the crevices of the shapes. Add the food coloring to the egg wash, stir to combine, then carefully brush the body of the hat with the red egg wash, being careful not to let it stain the pompom or brim.
  8. Bake until the bread is golden brown and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately set the chocolate chips proportionally on either side and slightly above Santa’s nose to form his eyes. Let the bread cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet, and then transfer to a wire rack. Using cut pieces of parchment paper or foil to shield Santa’s nose, face and the body of his hat, dust the beard, brim and pompom with confectioners’ sugar. Remove the paper and serve the bread while still warm with butter.

Caramel on the Bay

It’s that time of year again. No, not a trip to Carmel, it’s time for chocolate covered caramel candies. I made a single recipe and formed it into a block 8”x8”x0.75”.

The block was cut into strips, about 1”x4” and those in turn were cut into small pieces for incorporation into the tempered chocolate. I have several silicone molds that require different sized caramels.

Each well of the mold was filled (about 4 at a time) and a piece of caramel was pushed into the well and covered. Once the chocolate hardened the excess was scraped off.

The extra caramel was cut into small pieces, wrapped in wax paper to be eaten, or given away.

CARAMELS

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 pound brown sugar (2 cups)
  • dash salt
  • 1 cup (288g) light corn syrup
  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

METHOD

  1. Melt the butter in 3 quart or larger saucepan.
  2. Add the brown sugar and salt and combine. Stir in the corn syrup, mix well.
  3. Gradually add the sweetened condensed milk, stirring constantly.
  4. Cook and stir over medium heat to firm ball stage (245°F) for harder caramels, 240°F for softer.
  5. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla. Pour into 9×9″ parchment-lined pan.
  6. Cool, cut into pieces and wrap in wax paper.

Tempering Chocolate

Stir constantly during the steps and avoid having moisture from coming in direct contact with the chocolate:

  1. Melt chocolate, in a double boiler, to the following temperatures as measured with a chocolate thermometer: Dark 120°F, Milk 115°F, White 110°F.
  2. Cool chocolate to the following temperatures: Dark 82°F, Milk 80°F, White 78°F.
  3. Reheat chocolate to the following temperatures: Dark 90°F, Milk 86°F, White 82°F.

It is now tempered.

KEEP CHOCOLATE IN TEMPER: Ideal temperatures are: Dark 88-90°F, Milk 86-88 degrees F, and white 82-84°F. If the chocolate hardens, you must start the tempering process again.

WHEAT Blew the Referee’s Whistle

So, as I know everyone does, I was browsing YouTube bread baking video tutorials yesterday while watching college football. As often happens as I spun down the YouTube rabbit hole I did a google search for “light, airy, whole wheat bread” and I found MelsKitchenCafe.com.

Having a few hours before the NFL games start today I decided to give it a try. No surprise, I had all the ingredients in my baking supplies, including vital wheat gluten.

Finished loaf – note low rise and tight crumb.
I followed all Mel’s directions and was pleased when my results very closely matched her pictures. I did find that setting 1 or 2 on my KitchenAid mixer was too slow to efficiently mix or knead the dough, so I used 3. (For my white bread I usually knead at 4 or 6. Oddly, there are only even numbers on the speed scale.) Perhaps I knocked some air out of the dough by using a more aggressive knead.
Shaped loaf in bread pan
I left the dough a little slack hoping the extra hydration would increase the size of the holes and crumb would yields the light, airy bread I hoped for. (It didn’t.) The flavor is excellent and this recipe is worth trying again. Now, if you will excuse me I need to check that the cooled bread is every bit as good as the warm.