Sunday, January 4, 2009

post-holiday food blogging - truffles!

I'm one of those people that makes a ridiculous amount of delicious food over the holidays. Aside from the previously mentioned apple butter, I also attempted fudge (which failed as fudge but succeeded as fudge sauce on ice cream) and caramels (which just failed), and made three different kinds of truffles. Considering that the truffles were the only ones that succeeded, really, here they are.

Truffles are kind of ridiculously easy to make considering their decadence. I mean, you can make them super fancy but even then it doesn't require that much effort. Chocolate truffles are balls chilled ganache coated in cocoa powder and/or other delicious things like nuts, sugar or more melted chocolate. Ganache itself is cream and melted chocolate. The three kinds I made were dark chocolate, white chocolate with lemon, and milk chocolate Nutella.

For the dark chocolate ones, I used Green & Black's 72% cook's chocolate. It's pricey but for truffles you need to get the good stuff - so use any good dark chocolate. These ones were originally supposed to be Earl Grey tea flavoured, hence the tea bags in the corner of this picture. Lastly, you need heavy/whipping cream. The ratio is generally one cup of cream to 8 oz of chocolate. 

Chop up the chocolate well and put it in a heat-safe bowl (like my Pyrex one). In a small saucepan bring the cream to just under a boil, then remove from heat. For the Earl Grey flavouring, steep a few tea bags in the hot cream for 30 minutes, then reheat (I did this but for some reason the tea flavour didn't catch - alas, still yummy). 

Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate, cover the bowl and let stand for 10 minutes.

Stir until smooth and creamy - no lumps!

Pour into a flat shallow dish, like this glass pie plate, cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for at least an hour. 

When you take it out, it should be nice and solid. Then it's time to roll and coat. 

I chose cocoa powder, a classic. Dump some into a shallow container and get yourself a small spoon or a melon baller.

Scoop out small amounts of ganache and, after coating your hands with cocoa powder so they don't stick, form them into small, rough balls (not perfectly smooth ones).

Roll the balls in your coating until covered. 

If you like, you can put them in an attractive box and give as a gifts, like I did!

Next up are the lemon ones. I got the recipe from Technicolor Kitchen and I must say these are AWESOME. The lemon and white chocolate go so well together. Oh geez. Yum. 

Again, the same basic ingredients - about 1/3 cup cream and 500 g of white chocolate - this time with the addition of a lemon!

Grated zest from one lemon is called for. I hate grating zest so I did this first to get it out of the way, and did it right into the saucepan.

Next I chopped up the white chocolate to get that out of the way. 

Then, same principle - heat the cream until just bubbling, not boiling, then mix with chocolate. This time I put the chocolate into the saucepan and stirred right away.

Again, pour into pie plate, cover, chill, roll and coat. I chose to roll these in icing sugar instead of cocoa powder like in the original recipe, but it would appear that I forgot to take pictures of that!

Next up, Nutella. I knew there were some Nutella truffle recipes out there but I decided to create my own!

The ingredients for this are 200 g milk chocolate, 1/4 cup cream and 1/4 cup Nutella. 

Heat the cream, add the Nutella and stir. 

Mmmm, nice and smooth. 

Pour over the chopped chocolate in a heatsafe bowl, cover and let stand for ten minutes. Then stir until smooth, cover and chill. 

I chose to coat the Nutella ones in melted chocolate and sprinkles. Above is regular baker's chocolate melted with butter and a big spoonful of Nutella. I dipped the rolled balls of Nutella ganache into this.
Some of these I rolled in chocolate sprinkles after dipping, but not just any sprinkles - puur (dark) chocoladehagel!

After dipping/rolling, put them on a foil- or waxed paper-lined tray and pop them in the fridge. 

I found the Nutella ones to be a little tricky to work with because of the oil in the Nutella - it made them kind of slimy and they didn't roll very well. Once they were done they were fine, though. In the future I might use less Nutella, or maybe forgo it altogether and just add in some hazelnut extract. 

You can, of course, play around with these recipes to your heart's content, since they're so simple. A popular option is adding flavoured liquers (such as orange, raspberry, coffee, etc) when mixing the cream and chocolate together. Regardless it'll probably turn out yummy!!

A trio of truffles in a gift box!

Friday, December 12, 2008

apple butter... mmmm.....

This was a two-day affair. A delicious, aromatic, two-day affair that had my housemates and I drooling every time we went into the kitchen. Apple butter. Oh man. It is fantastically simple to make, especially if you have a crock pot. I used this recipe and intend to give out small jars of the stuff as Christmas gifts. 

I started Thursday morning peeling apples. I forgot to take a picture of the apples before I started but I think you all know what apples look like. So here they are naked. 

How many apples do you need? As many as is necessary to fill your crock pot. The recipe calls for about 4 pounds. I just had a big bag of 'em from the Allins' orchard (thanks!) and I used them all. Remember that when cooking them they will reduce down a lot

You need to peel, core and chop the apples up and throw them into the crock pot with sugar and spices. Regular sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, and a little salt. You can really put in any spices that go well with apples - I've seen a number of recipes and they all have something different in them. I went with this for simplicity. 

I kept part of the chopped apples back until I had put in the sugar and spices so that I would have an easier time mixing everything. This way I didn't have sugar and apples and the like flying all over the place. I stirred everything together and then gradually added and stirred in more apples with the crock pot on low.

Once it's all in there, pop the lid on and cook on high for three hours. At first it will look kinda like apple pie filling.

But eventually it turns into applesauce, and it makes the whole house smell fantastic. After three hours on high, turn it down to low for another 6-8 hours. Give it a stir every now and then. Make sure you leave the lid open a crack so that the steam can escape and the apples will reduce. 

I, unfortunately, forgot about this part and so by the time I went to bed they were still quite soupy. So I left the lid open a bit and put it on 'keep warm' overnight, and this is what I got on Friday morning. 

The apples have reduced by half. Before it gets too thick, you need to blend it. If you have a hand blender, rock on, you can do it right in the crock pot. I don't so I had to scoop everything into the blender and then put it back.

 I think I probably should have blended it before I went to bed because the blender seemed a little perturbed at me, but all was well. Then I put it back in the crock pot on low to let more liquid come off it while I studied and went to my (last!) exam.

You'll know it's done when you put a little bit on a plate and no liquid separates from the butter part. If you wanted, you could throw it in jars and put it in the fridge right from this point. But since I'm giving this away, I wanted to properly can it.

Canning is pretty easy but you need to do it properly unless you want to give someone botulism. The important part is to make sure everything is clean and that you boil everything for long enough. First, wash the jars and lids with hot soapy water. Then boil them for at least ten minutes to sterilize. Or you can just run them through a very hot dishwasher cycle. I did the jars and lids in separate pots so I could leave the lids in hot water while I filled the jars, which I turned upside down on a towel after taking them out of the boiling water. Use tongs for everything because it's HOT. You want to fill the jars with the butter while both are still hot, leaving about 1/4 inch of room at the top. Carefully place the lids on top and screw the rings on almost all the way, then put them back in the boiling water for at least five minutes. 

Carefully remove them from the water. I put a towel on a tray and put them all on that. I got ten jars of apple butter from that one crock pot.

Then you need to leave them to cool somewhere without drafts for 24 hours. So tomorrow evening I will check the seals by pressing on the tops - if they don't pop, they're good. If they do pop, they aren't sealed right and need to be kept in the fridge and used within about a month. I guess this is really a three-day affair that I'm in the midst of, then.

A really good guide, if you're new to canning and food preservation like I am, is the US Department of Agriculture's National Centre for Home Food Preservation. Their Complete Guide to Home Canning was really helpful.

Ta-da! Add a label and a ribbon once it's cool and you've got a great gift. Even though it takes a long time, it's really simple and most of it is just waiting for the stuff to cook. So good! I saved a jar for myself, now I need to make bread to put it on!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


I am a bad, bad food blogger. Since I posted about that delicious roasted acorn squash I have made - and forgotten to photograph - cheesecake brownies, a few loaves of bread, and carrot muffins. For shame, as all were delicious.

Anyway, I did remember to take pictures of the piparkoogid that I made. This recipe for Estonian gingersnaps was in the Toronto Star last week and looked mighty tasty. 

Something I must complain about, though: I really fucking hate  it when recipes assume that you have a stand mixer. I would love a stand mixer, I really would. But there's no way in hell I can afford one right now, and neither can a lot of other people who love to bake. So when I see a recipe that states "In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment..." or something similar, I want to smack the writer of that recipe upside the head. HELLO, YOUR PRIVILEGE IS SHOWING. Geez. This is one such recipe. I made it without a stand mixer and it turned out just fine, thankyouverymuch, so I don't know why recipe writers insist on explicitly referencing stand mixers. Sure they're useful, but not entirely necessary. End rant.

So here are your ingredients: 
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room  temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2/3 cup fancy grade molasses

First you mix together the flour, baking powder, and all the spices in a bowl. Set that bowl aside.

In a different bowl (or a stand mixer if you have one), beat together the sugar and butter. Add the egg and beat that in too. 

Then you add the molasses. I just thought the molasses looked really cool so I took this next picture. 

Slowly pour it into the sugar/egg/butter mixture and beat it together. 

Once that's all mixed together, slowly add the flour mixture to it. Be careful not to overshoot the bowl and make a mess like I did. 

See that! A hand mixer! Hah! 


Anyway. Then you will have dough. 

Separate the dough into four portions and wrap them up in plastic wrap.

Then put them in the fridge for at least two hours before you begin the next part.

After that agonizing wait, take the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Preheat the oven to 350F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Roll it out to about 1 cm thick. The original recipe says to do like, 1/8 of an inch, but I felt that was rather thin. Then cut shapes out of it! The classic is rounds, but the only cookie cutter I own is a heart, so that is what I did.

Also, thank goodness that there were four portions of dough because I forgot to take pictures three times! Gah! But here we are anyway.

Carefully transfer the cookies to the baking sheet with a spatula. Bake for 10 minutes, switching racks halfway through. Again, I deviated from the recipe here - it said 14 minutes but I felt that was too long - especially with how thin it said to roll the dough. And I like chewier rather than crispier cookies anyway. So there you go.

And then they will be done! 

Remove to a rack and let cool. Yummyness. 

This recipe makes a lot of cookies, so unless you plan on giving lots away, halve the recipe or freeze some of the dough. I have no idea what I'm going to do with all of these - I already gave half of what I made to my mom and there are still so many left!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Roasted Acorn Squash


Acorn squash. This showed up in the Good Food Box like a month ago and I'm only now getting around to using it. That's the great thing about winter squash - stored properly, they will keep up to six months. Hence their popularity once it gets cold.

Two weeks after the acorn squash showed up we got a butternut squash and made soup out of that. The poor acorn squash sat green and lonely (aside from a few dried-out ears of corn we forgot about, oops) on our windowsill until I decided to roast it for my dinner tonight. It was a welcome distraction (among many other distractions) from the essay I have to write for tomorrow.

For this recipe all you need is a squash, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. If I had it I would have also used maple syrup, alas all I have is the sugary table syrup crap and that is no good. In terms of equipment you need a big sharp knife, a spoon, and a baking pan. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and get going!

The hardest parts of roasting squash are a) cutting the squash, and b) waiting for it to be done. The squash needs to be cut in half. Be very, very careful doing this because otherwise you will chop something off yourself and end up waiting even longer for the squash while you're in the ER. Knives are sharp and squashes have hard rinds.

So you chop the thing in half. Then you have to scoop out all the guts and seeds. If you like you can toast the seeds and eat them. I am not a fan of squash seeds so I did not.

Next you cut lines all along the insides in a criss-crossing formation. It's all pretty and stuff and lets the liquids get right inside the squash. Then you start putting the tasty stuff in.

Put the squash into the baking pan and throw a few spoonfuls of butter and a few spoonfuls of brown sugar into the cavity of the squash.

Sprinkle the halves with cinnamon and nutmeg. If you had maple syrup this would be where you drizzle it all over.

Pour a few cups of water into the pan, then put it in the oven for an hour and a half. This is the annoying waiting bit. But soon your house will start to smell really, really good.

When it is done you will have some extremely hot squash that look kinda like this.

Oh baby. Take spoonfuls of the melted butter in the middle and drizzle them over the rest of the squash.

Carefully remove the squash from the pan onto a plate (I used a spatula underneath and tongs on the sides to stabilise each half). Let cool a bit, then devour straight from the shell. Dip any bits that didn't get butter on them into the middle because oh goodness does it ever taste better that way.

When it is all over you will have something like this.