Monday, February 28, 2011

Lemon Cream Truffles

After I coated the marshmallows in white chocolate couverture, I had some extra white chocolate leftover and I decided to be brave and try making some white chocolate truffles.  I've tried and failed many times to make these.  Because of the high fat content in white chocolate, it tends to seize up and come out of emulsion fairly easily.  There are many painful memories mulling about in my mind of pounds of premium white chocolate couverture turning into a gloppy, oily mess.

I started with a recipe from Chocolates & Confections.

However, I didn't have any mint, I fear butter because it's even more fat in the recipe (and we just discussed what fat does), and I was afraid of making the whole batch.  So... without further ado...

Stacey's Lemon Cream Truffle Ingredients:

2.5 oz heavy cream, organic
Lemon zest from 1/2 a lemon (make sure peels are big, without getting the pith)
1 oz glucose syrup
17 oz white chocolate couverture (El Rey), tempered and at 86F
2 oz lemon juice

64% dark chocolate couverture (Guittard), tempered for dipping
Spiral Chocolate Dipping tool
Baking sheet with a layer of plastic wrap laid down on the surface
Medical / food safety gloves

Since tempering chocolate takes the longest, I did that first.  Then, I put the lemon peel in the cream with the glucose and set it on the stove to boil.  I made sure the lemon peel pieces were big so that I could pick them out - normally I'd use a rasp, but if I did that I'd have to use a strainer instead of the chopsticks. 
Then I used my juicer to prepare the lemon juice and set it aside in a glass bowl.
Once the cream came to a boil, I turned off the flame and put a lid on the pot. I let it steep for 5 minutes before removing the lemon peel, and then waited for it to cool to 105F.  Then I microwaved the lemon juice for about 20 seconds until it was 105F.  I rechecked the temperature of the chocolate and had to reheat it a bit - you have to make sure not to reheat it too much because it will come out of temper and you will have to reseed it. Once it was back at 86F, I poured both the lemon juice and the cream on top.

Here's the scary part.  If you don't stir it correctly, you'll end up with the gloppy mess.  I tried to stir small circles on the surface of the chocolate (maybe only penetrating 1-2 inches into the chocolate), rotating around the bowl.  Halfway through it looks like this:
And once it's all mixed in, it looks like this.
I put plastic wrap over it, covering the surface of the mixture, and then left it overnight to set.

Once it was set, I removed the plastic and used my 1-1/8" scooper to scoop out truffle balls.
Then I rolled them in my hands until they look like this.
It's best to do this and then leave them while you temper the enrobing chocolate so they can dry a bit and not stick to the dipping utensil so much.  I tempered the dark chocolate and then began the dipping process.  I only dip one at a time.
Then I fish it out with my spiral dipping tool fork and place it on the plastic wrap on the baking sheet. The book describes dipping twice, probably because of this problem - this is the bottom of the dipped truffle.
The dark chocolate contracts as it sets and then squishes a little of the soft truffle out of the bottom at the weakest point.  But, I don't like dipping twice because it's too hard to re-find the bottom, and then I think the shell is too thick.  So, once all the truffles are dipped, I go back with gloved hands and re-dip the bottoms in the remainder of the dipping chocolate - just a little chocolate so that the bottom is sealed.   

And the finished product is shiny and sealed and looks like these:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Water Chestnut Pudding (Ma Tai Go)

My mom and I decided to try and make water chestnut pudding.  I really didn't do much thinking and was really just helping do grunt work.  My favorite part about making this recipe with my mom was learning about how her mom's water chestnut pudding was the best, and that she was sad that she never learned her mom's recipe.  I think she also got her love of cooking / baking / entertaining with food from her mom.  Sadly, I never got to know my grandmother on my mom's side because she died before I was born. All these years, my mom's been trying to make water chestnut puddings and it took me 31 years to figure out why. 

We used this recipe:

And we used fresh water chestnuts. 

My mom's notes, in the margin:

8.8 oz water chestnut flour (this is the box size, so no measuring here)
33.5 oz water
10.6 oz fresh water chestnuts
7.7 oz sugar
4 tbs vegetable oil

First she had me peel the water chestnuts.

It was funny, she insisted that she cut the tops and bottoms off first because she was worried I was going to cut myself.  And, I was worried she was going to cut herself.  My parents' knives are getting pretty dull.  I told them they needed to sharpen them - sharper knives are safer because you have more control.
And then you know what happened?  She was pulling a little knife out of the drawer and accidentally poked my hand with it.  "Sorry!" she said, with much guilt.  Then she smiled and said, "See, isn't it good that my knives aren't that sharp?"

I chopped the chestnuts into little pieces while she pulsed the water chestnut flour in the food processor - the recipe said to sift.  I guess this was just as good?
We then boiled the water chestnuts and the sugar in half of the water.
And we made a flour / water mixture with the other half of the water.
Then once the water chestnuts were boiling, we poured in half of the flour mixture and stirred it.  My mom added the oil, and then we poured in the rest of the flour mixture.
Then we poured the mixture into a cake pan over a metal frame in a pot over simmering water and put the lid on.
After steaming it for about 40 minutes (I think the original recipe said 30 minutes, but there was a girl scout cookie purchase interruption) and then we took it out and let it cool.  It ended up being kind of gooey after we tried to cut pieces and fry it, but it tasted pretty good and the fried parts had that yummy crunch.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Olive Oil Lotion

Same friend that wanted plain lip balm also wanted plain lotion.

Stacey's Olive Oil Lotion Ingredients:
1/4c olive oil, organic
1/4c emulsifying wax
1c distilled water
1/4c glycerin

First I mixed the olive oil and the wax in a pyrex measuring cup.
Then I microwaved this at 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until all the wax was melted.  In the meantime, I mixed the water and glycerin together.
I microwaved this a little bit (for about 30 seconds) later, just so it would be warm when I poured it into the wax / oil mixture.

As I poured the water / glycerin mixture into the wax / oil mixture, I stirred with a small wire whisk.
Once the mixture cooled, I poured it into a bottle.
It separated a bit as it cooled, but I was able to mix it back up just by swirling it around in the bottle. Once it was cooled to room temperature, it did not separate again.

Because this has no preservatives, it should either be used fairly soon or kept refrigerated.  I've seen my preservative-free lotions go moldy before. Ta-dah, easy lotion. :) If I'm not being boring about it, I love to use this Blood Orange Olive Oil that I got from Sigona's Market in Palo Alto - it smells really awesome.

Plain Lip Balm

I have a friend that was looking for a lip balm that she could use with no chemicals or fragrances.  I thought I'd help her out.

Stacey's Plain Lip Balm Ingredients:

1/4c jojoba oil
2 tbs beeswax pellets
Lip balm tubes

Making lip balm is super easy.  You just put all the ingredients into a pyrex measuring cup and then microwave on 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until all the wax is melted.

Beeswax pellets

Microwaved with the oil, stirring with a chopstick until wax is melted.
The only tricky part is not pouring into the lip balm tubes when the mixture is too hot.  I heated until the wax was melted, and then had to let it cool.  These are supposed to be only tolerant to 120F, but I poured around 130F.
Of course, I didn't want plain, so I made 3 of these tubes, and then with the remainder, I added two 99% unsweetened Guittard dark chocolate disks and a few drops of peppermint oil.  Then I poured into a couple more tubes and some of these lip balm pots.

Mmm... chocolate mint lip balm. Resulting lip balm was smooth and smelled quite nice, not too overpowering.  :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Vanilla Marshmallows

Marshmallows have a special place in my heart because my boyfriend and I made these together on our third date.  He's a chemist and I remember commenting on how precise he was with measuring everything.  Nothing sexier than a guy who can cook... and who wants to help make candy. :)

Unfortunately, he's on a business trip this week, so I made a half batch by myself from my favorite book, Chocolates & Confections.

And in doing a search I see they have an At Home version!!! Wow.  If only they had this when I started trying to make candy in 2008.  Oh well, the harder path only makes you stronger... right?


Stacey's Half Batch Vanilla Marshmallow Ingredients:
0.8 oz gelatin (powdered)
4 oz water (for hydration)

12 oz sugar, organic
6 oz glucose syrup
2 oz local honey
2 oz invert sugar
3 oz water
2 tsp vanilla bean paste

Parchment paper
9"x9" cake pan
Canola oil, organic

1:1 ratio powdered sugar to cornstarch

I've found that sprinkling the gelatin on top of the water with a spoon works best for avoiding clumps and allowing it to bloom
Then I placed the gelatin in another pot filled with hot water (not quite boiling, otherwise you may damage the gelatin - you just want it to melt). Here it is bloomed, but not melted yet.
In another pot, I put in the rest of the ingredients, minus the vanilla bean paste.
I heated over medium flame and put in a candy thermometer.  

Then I turned the heat off when the thermometer reached about 251.5F and continued stirring.  It reached 252F shortly afterward. Candy continues to heat a bit after the flame is turned off.

I poured the liquid into my standing mixer bowl.  
Then I let it sit until it reached 212F before pouring in the melted gelatin.  This prevents the gelatin from being damaged by the heat of the sugars. Once I poured in the gelatin, I started the mixer on a medium setting for the first minute, then to the highest setting.
I used to be terrified of making marshmallows so it was fairly long into my candymaking quest that I decided to finally bite the bullet.  My worst fear was that 200+F degree sugar was going to be flying all over the place from the mixer.  I thought I'd take a little video proving otherwise - just in case anyone else had this same fear, perhaps this will allay it.

While waiting for the mixture to get fluffy (recipe calls for 8 minutes, but since it's a half batch and a different mixer, I just try to watch it and see when it looks fluffy enough), I cut some parchment to fit a 9"x9" cake pan and poured about 1.5 tsp of the oil on the paper and brushed it around with a pastry brush. Then I oiled a silicone mat in the same fashion.

Once the marshmallow mixture turned white, I poured in the vanilla bean paste and let it continue to whip until the correct fluffiness.

Then I used an oiled silicone scraper and scraped the mixture into the prepared pan, on top of the parchment paper.  I put the oiled silicone mat on top and pressed it down so the top was flat.

It leaves a big mess, but it's easy cleanup because it's water soluble.  
 Just soak in some warm water.

Then I waited a few hours before I started cutting it up.  I peeled back the silicone mat and using the parchment paper as handles, took the marshmallow slab out and placed the paper on a cutting board.
I took an oiled knife and cut strips, and then cubes so I had about 1.5" square cubes.  These cubes were then dredged in the powdered sugar / cornstarch mixture.
After being rolled, I put the marshmallows in a colander to shake off the extra powder.
Once the whole block was cut up, I had a nice bucket of marshmallows.  Yes, I keep my marshmallows in an old glucose bucket. :) Handy dandy marshmallow carrier.

Also, coated in white chocolate...