Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Miniatures: Pumpkins

I started making these one fall in the hopes of putting them on Etsy before Halloween.  Fail.  Anyway, here are my mini-pumpkins. They are about 3/4" in diameter, and the bottom right one is sitting on a quarter. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Miniatures: Donuts, Cake & Pie

Before you get excited, these are inedible.  Sometimes I like to play with Sculpey and then I make miniatures with it.  However, I don't know what to do with these once I'm done.  I was thinking of trying to sell them on Etsy, since there are lots of miniatures for sale there, but it seems like a lot of work.  Does anybody want these for a few bucks? :)

Six mini-glazed donuts and a super-mini glazed donut.  Yes, that's a quarter and the big ones measure about 3/4" in diameter, and the tiny one is 1/2".
Mini apple pie and cake with a slice cut out. Both are a little less than an inch in diameter.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Strawberry Cream Crunchies

I wanted to make something easy, new, and a little different.  I recently bought some freeze dried strawberries from Trader Joe's so I opted for trying a new experiment.

Stacey's Strawberry Cream Crunchies Ingredients:
0.5 oz freeze dried strawberries
11.5 oz Chocolates El Rey White Chocolate Discos
2 c crisped rice cereal (I get the kind without high-fructose corn syrup from Trader Joe's or Whole Foods)

Mortar and pestle
Baking sheet lined with plastic wrap

First I started tempering the white chocolate - working temperature is usually 86F, but since I'd be adding the strawberries and the cereal, I started using it at 90F.
While tempering the chocolate, I used the mortar and pestle to crush the freeze dried strawberries into a powder.
Boyfriend, the scientist, demonstrates the proper way to use a mortar and pestle.
All ground up!
I added the strawberry powder and the cereal to the melted white chocolate.
Then I stirred everything up with my silicone spatula.  
Once everything was mixed, I used two teaspoons to put blobs of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet.  
Mmm... strawberry-y.
They ended up nice and crunchy, but not too much strawberry flavor - some, but not as much as I would have liked.  It was pretty light.  I might add a bit more strawberry next time - maybe 0.7 oz and see what happens.  In any case, I brought them to a friend's place and the five of us demolished it by the end of the day.  I think there were only like 3 or 4 pieces left by the time I went home.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ocean Rain Soap

I still remember when I knew nothing about making soap and didn't know where to even find the ingredients to do it.  Now I've successfully had to run from my kitchen to escape lye solution fumes countless times, made stinky soap trying to mix my own essential oils, created such wretched soap colors that you feel dirtier when you use the bars, yet created some soaps that are so creamy that friends can't believe it was home-made (myself included), so I think I can consider myself an amateur soaper.

I prefer cold process because it doesn't require babysitting, but hot process definitely is better if you have less patience and want your soap now, NOW, NOW! (now, NOW, NOW in soap time = 6 to 8 hours)  Cold process takes a month of agonizing waiting... unless you forget about your soap, like I often do, and then find it again in your garage where it's curing as a pleasant surprise a month or two later. 

This is my most recent recipe to try out my new Ocean Rain fragrance oil from Brambleberry.com. I always use Soapcalc.net to create my soap recipes and make sure that they are within all the tolerances.  And, yes, I render my own tallow.  You can get tallow for free from any butcher.  Just call them in the morning before they start cutting all the meat and ask them to save the fat for you since they just throw it out anyway. I always get mine from Whole Foods since I imagine their beef is either local, organic, or in some way more environmentally conscious than other butchers.

Stacey's Soap Recipe #B1 (b for blog) with Ocean Rain scent:
(soapcalc.net results)
Solid Oils
0.84 lbs Beef Tallow
0.12 lbs Palm Oil (I used shortening from Whole Foods)
0.23 lbs Palm Kernel Oil
0.11 lbs Coconut Oil, 76 deg.
Liquid Oils
0.35 lbs Castor Oil
0.35 lbs Olive Oil, organic

0.76 lbs distilled water
0.275 lbs Lye (NaOH)

2 oz Ocean Rain fragrance oil
Pinch of powdered water-soluble blue food coloring in a few drops of water
Glossy Tray Mold

I will not pretend that I pull out all the safety stops when I'm making my lye solution.  But, you definitely should.  This is where I learned how to make a lye solution and they have all the safety instructions:
And here's where I got my lye:

I have found though, that putting your lye mixing container in an ice bath definitely helps it to cool faster.  And just a reminder, ALWAYS add the lye granules to water, and not the other way around.  It takes a while to cool, so I made the lye solution first.
Then, I put all my solid oils in a pot to melt.  This pot is dedicated to soaping and is not used for food anymore.  It is advised that all your soaping tools are used specifically for soaping.

After the liquid oils were melted (try to watch the temperature and don't let it get too hot - there will still be some solid chunks around 135F, but you should let them melt by the heat of the rest of the oil), I turned off the stove and added the liquid oils. And of course, all my temperature checking is done with my handy-dandy temp gun.

Once the lye solution and oil mixture got down to around 100F, I added the lye solution to the pot of oil and used my soap-dedicated immersion blender to get the soap to trace. 
Because of the green of the olive oil, the soap ended up a bit greener than I was hoping for. Also, I've read that colors tend to get mutated in cold process soaps because of the saponification.  In any case, it looked like this when I poured it into my mold.  Not very blue at all... :(  I may have to give up on this coloring and suck it up and buy the oil soluble pigments. 
A week later, I cut up the block into bars.  Here is one of the bars. Now I just have to wait another 3 weeks to use it...

Soap has been curing for a month now and is ready to use. Can't really tell from the picture, but it's hard at this point.  When I cut it 3 weeks ago, it was easy to cut and a little mushy still. 
Corners are a bit rough - you might want to shave them a bit.  The lather is nice and the smell isn't overpowering.  I always enjoy a good handmade soap. :)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Almond Mochi Cake

I had a little get-together to go to on Saturday, so this was my contribution. This was sort of an experiment to see how many almond-type things I could get into a single cake.  I thought about making a whip cream with some amaretto in it too, but I got lazy.

Stacey's Almond Mochi Cake Ingredients:
1c brown rice flour
1c almond meal
3 oz marzipan, chopped

1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/3c agave nectar
1/3c honey
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 egg, organic
1/2c heavy cream, organic
1/3c water
1 tsp almond extract

8x8" glass baking dish

First I preheated the oven to 350F.  Then I mixed all the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl.  I chopped up the marzipan into little cubes and then added that to the dry ingredients.
I added all the wet ingredients on top and mixed everything up.   
I poured everything into the baking dish,
and then baked it for 15 minutes on the second from the top rack.  Then I rotated the dish 180 degrees and baked it for 10 more minutes.  The top seemed like it was browning fairly quickly (probably due to the almond meal), so I moved it to the lower rack for the last 5 minutes.

The kitchen smelled delicious and the cake turned out like this.
Cut slice...

Cake was pretty good.  There were 5 people and we ended up eating most of it through out the day.  It might have been a touch sweet - maybe I'd cut back on the honey or agave nectar to 1/4 cup next time to see how that does.  It was a very tender cake - falls apart in your finger tips, so probably best to serve on plates with forks.  Very almond-y. :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Guinness Truffles

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  It's amazing, even though work has been crazy, I was able to dedicate a bit of time to making my second St. Patty's Day treat.  In addition to the Bailey's truffles, I opted for Guinness truffles. I'd been wanting to make these two truffles for St. Patrick's Day for a couple years now, and this is the first time I actually achieved my goal.

Stacey's Guinness Truffle Ingredients:

6.5 oz heavy cream, organic
2 oz glucose
3 oz Guinness Draught
5 oz Guittard 38% milk chocolate couverture
25 oz Guittard 64% dark chocolate couverture
1 oz (2 tbs) butter, salted, organic (softened, not melted)

For rolling and dipping:
Cacao Nibs (maybe 1 cup?)
2.7 oz Guittard 38% milk chocolate couverture
1.5-2 lbs (~32 oz) Guittard 64% dark chocolate couverture
Baking sheet lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper

I always start tempering the chocolate first, because that takes the longest.  I put the milk and dark chocolate in my Pyrex bowl and started microwaving it at 30 second intervals.

Then I put the glucose in the cream and microwaved that at 30 second intervals until it reached about 110F (checking with my temp gun), since I would be adding the cold Guinness to it later.
 Then I measured out the Guinness into a small cup,
and poured it into the cream mixture.
Once my chocolate was tempered, 
I poured the cream / glucose / Guinness mixture on top, and began stirring in small circles until it was combined.
Once thoroughly combined, I put the softened butter on top, 
and used my hand blender with the whisk attachment to blend in the butter.  Once combined, I put some plastic wrap on top and let it sit overnight until it set.

To start, I began tempering some more chocolate - I used a mixture of milk and dark just because I had some milk leftover from the Bailey's Irish Cream truffles. You can just use dark if you wanted.  Also, depending on how big the truffles end up, you may need more or less chocolate for enrobing.  Since this takes time for heating / stirring, I always start tempering first so that I can do other things while it's coming to the right temperature. I also prepared my baking sheet by lining it with plastic wrap, so I could put my dipped chocolates on it.

Then, I removed the plastic wrap and used my 1-1/8" scooper to scoop out truffles.  I rolled these and then put them into a bowl of a mixture of cacao nibs.  I used Guittard cacao nibs & organic cacao nibs from Nuts Online.
Scooped on the left, rolled and nibbed on the right...
After that, when the tempered chocolate was ready, I dunked the nibbed truffles into the tempered chocolate 
and fished them out with my spiral dipping utensil
Then I placed them on the prepared baking sheet.
Once they were all set, I boxed some for my mom with the Bailey's truffles, some for my boyfriend for his work, and the rest into a box for my work.
Boyfriend didn't think these tasted much like Guinness, but I thought I could taste it.  These are definitely in a standoff against the Bailey's truffles though.  I'm not going to lie... the dark chocolate shell, the nibs, the creamy center with a hint of Guinness... the taste and texture of these truffles pretty much make my eyes roll back in my head when I eat them.  Boyfriend thinks the Bailey's truffles win for overall taste, but I'm going to have to go with the Guinness ones.  In any case, I'd have to say being a judge at the contest > winning.

Boxed with the Bailey's truffles:

Here are some artsy fartsy shots I took of the process.

Although, I think I have to agree with Homer: "Less artsy, more fartsy."

You'd think that since I got my BA in Literature, I'd be more prone to quoting the Odyssey's Homer.  Well, unfortunately, you'd be wrong.
Nib closeup... 

Truffle Standoff Series 
Silliness (only two of these made it into the recipe). I was just going to post the pictures, but then I felt like I couldn't without the little commentary that was in my head.

"Look at these naked bitches - 
poor things don't have nibs!"

"Why don't you say that to my face?! You think you're
better than us 'cause of your stupid nibs?"

"No, I KNOW we're better than you because we have nibs..."

"Oh it's go time, sluts... You won't think you're so hot when your nibs are covered!"

"Bring it, whores!"


And... Scene...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bailey's Irish Cream Truffles

Wow... there were a LOT of pictures for this post.  I hope you enjoy them. :)

I haven't made slabbed chocolate truffles in a while, but I thought I'd try again in honor of St. Patty's Day.  When I used to do this commercially, I'd use a 12x12" frame, but this time I'm making a smaller batch and using my 10x10" cake pan.

Stacey's Bailey's Irish Cream Truffle Ingredients:
6.25 oz heavy cream, organic
3 oz glucose
30 oz Guittard 38% milk chocolate couverture
3 oz Bailey's Irish Cream

Pyrex measuring cup
Pyrex mixing bowl
Parchment paper
10x10" cake pan
Dipping fork
Additional Guittard 38% milk chocolate couverture for slabbing and dipping (maybe 2 lbs?)

First I measured out my chocolate and started putting it in the microwave at 30 second intervals to temper it.
While my chocolate was heating, I measured out my cream and added the glucose to it.
I thought it looked really neat on the bottom so I took a picture.
I started heating the cream/glucose mixture in the microwave as well at 30 second intervals until it reached 100F and made sure it was well-stirred.  Then I added the Bailey's to it and stirred that up.
Once my chocolate was tempered,
I poured the cream mixture on top of it.
I stirred in small circles, slowly, until everything was combined.
Then I cut a piece of parchment paper, also cutting slits for the corners, and folded it so it would fit into my pan.
I poured the truffle mixture into the prepared pan,
and covered it with another piece of parchment paper, smoothing it down with the scraper.
There was a little bit exposed so I put plastic wrap over it as well.
I waited overnight for it to set.  Once it had set, I removed the plastic wrap and used the outer edges of the bottom piece of parchment paper to remove the slab from the pan.  Then, I pulled the top piece of parchment paper off.
I tempered some more milk chocolate, and then poured some on the exposed side.  This is to make it easier for dipping.  If there is already a hard chocolate side, the truffles can't stick to the dipping fork. Sorry it's blurry, I had to work quickly.  
I used my scraper again to smooth the chocolate out, to create a thin layer of chocolate on what would be the bottom of my truffles.
I let this sit for a little while to harden, maybe 20 minutes just to be safe.  Then, as gently as possible, I placed the piece of parchment back on the side that I'd just put chocolate on, placed another cutting board on top of it, and flipped it over. Then I was able to peel off the back side of the parchment paper.
I used a big knife to cut these into 3/4" to 1" squares.  Sometimes it's easier to use a small knife and cut squares out one at a time, as opposed to cutting a whole strip and then trying to cut it into squares afterward.
I would soon be dipping these squares with my dipping fork.
I tempered more milk chocolate to use for dipping and prepared a baking sheet by placing a layer of plastic wrap over it.  I'll be placing the dipped chocolates on this sheet.

I only dip one at a time, because sometimes it just makes everything messier and stuck together if I try to dip more than one.
Once it's covered, I fished it out with the fork (making sure the side that has the layer of hardened chocolate on it is the side touching the fork).
I tapped the fork gently to release some of the excess chocolate, and then scraped it along the side of the bowl.
Then I carefully placed the truffle on my prepared baking sheet.  After it's been sitting for a bit, maybe 20-30 seconds, I use one side of the dipping fork to make a line decoration across the diagonal. Sorry this picture is kind of dark - again, hurrying.
Once all the truffles have been cut, dipped, and set, they look like this. If you do it well, there aren't as many bubbles, nor what the pros call "feet," which describes the excess chocolate that drips down the sides and pools at the bottom, making "feet" on the chocolates.  But, but they still taste good. :)
So, boyfriend ate a few too many of these and made himself sick (with too much chocolate, not booze) and then I ate one and figured out why.  These are awesome.  Creamy, smooth, soft in the middle with the awesome flavor of Bailey's... a perfectly delectable St. Patty's Day treat.  Stay tuned for Guinness Truffles.  I don't imagine they'll be as good as these, since Guiness doesn't have as distinctive of a flavor (in fact, I'd say it's chocolatey), but you never know.