Monday, January 31, 2011

Dulce De Leche Chocolates - Chocolate School Update

Doesn't every cliche state.....give chocolates to someone you love? Luckily, I can give them to myself in the comfort of my own kitchen. These past several weeks there has been a lot of heartbreak at my house... and a lot of chocolate. Tempering chocolate can be heartbreaking, if it doesn't go the way you planned it. Life can be heartbreaking too when it doesn't go the way you planned it. When heartbreak mouth.... insert chocolate.

Tempering chocolate is an art form and a science. When one watches any professional chocolatier whipping it up in the kitchen, all one can think of is - years of practice. If your room temperature is off or your bowls are too chilly, if you chocolate is too hot or cold, if your chunks are too big, if their is too much moisture in the air.... heartbreak ensues and your chocolate tempering  runs a muck. You will have to begin again, from square one. Chocolate is not forgiving, you can't erase your mistakes or paint over them with another color. Chocolate is temperamental, moody, sexy, and delicious.  If you don't treat her right, she won't give you what you need. Sounds like a woman to me! ♥♥♥

All I have been doing for the past several weeks is tempering, tempering and more tempering.  (And eating lots of chocolate of course) Those of you who have been fortunate to have had the chance to work with a high quality couverture, count yourselves lucky. There is nothing like melting pounds of delicious creamy chocolate into melted submission. Cooling the chocolate, seeding the chocolate, running it through your hands... mmm chocolate tempering is a lesson in patience and perfection. When your mind and body are still, you can put yourself fully into the task at hand. When your kitchen is cluttered, and your mind is full of clutter, I can guarantee that your tempered chocolate might end up being a bit temper-mental.

Ecole Chocolate - my chocolate school, does such a fantastic job at creating such an interesting class.  My class is packed with so much information, there is way too much to remember. I thought I would pass along a few fun facts that I have learned.  I only wish I could also pass along the amazing new tastes I have discovered.... like this Single Origin Dark Chocolate With Candied Orange Rind from famed French Chcocolatier Michel Cluizel.

1) The idea of the Hershey Kiss.....was a borrowed idea. It really wasn't Milton Hershey's - His idea was wrapping it in foil!
2) Green & Black Chocolates are now owned by Cadbury who is now owned by Kraft!
3) Dagoba Chocolates are owned by by Hersheys. Hmmmmm.....

Yesterday, as  I was playing with chocolate, I decided upon a dulce de leche caramel ganache. This was then enrobed in fine Callebaut chocolate and immediately topped with fine grey sea salt. Delicious. I thought the recipe was too sweet for my taste, but the children loved it and I think my husband would have loved it too had he been  at home.  I ate a few more today and decided that I may enjoy this new flavor after all. 

Chocolate Centers waiting to be enrobed.....

Chocolates waiting to be consumed.....

It has been some time since my last post as I have been busy with chocolates...and will continue to be busy. Hope to keep you all up to date on my chocolate making adventures!

All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt!
Lucy Van Pelt
In Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz.

xoxo and chocolate love - Megan

Monday, January 17, 2011

Six Layer Chocolate Whip Cream Cake... and a humble pecan pie!

A birthday is always better with chocolate!

A dear friend celebrated number (ahem.....53) this past Saturday and we joined him for an evening of delicious food, good wine and a Greenbay Packer victory! Go Pack! Let's just say, watching a football game is much more bearable if one is surrounded by friends, surrounded by women, and surrounded by delicious food. It was like I was actually enjoying myself for once. Shhh, don't tell my husband. He will be jealous. He always wants me to plop down next to him and "enjoy the show". I can't do it alone! I need those distractions of food in the oven, mixing drinks, hanging with my kids, and ladies to gossip with. If only every game day my house could fill up with beautiful people, stellar food and good beer and wine. When my husband reads this post, he will be planning the next big game day at our house, brimming with joy that I actually admitted to enjoying  myself. There will be one caveat though, (he will insist upon a larger T.V.). I told him before, bring the party to our house, if our screen is too small, have them bring their binoculars!

Wavy Gravy Pie Crust - waiting for the fresh pecans

I was asked to make a pie, a pecan pie for the birthday boy! Happy Birthday Carl! No problem, I have never made one before but that wasn't going to stop me. I love a challenge! But there were going to be about 16 of us at the party. How was a little pie going to serve everybody? A second dessert was definitely in order - a mile high chocolate layer cake with dark chocolate pudding and whip cream! The perfect companion dessert for the humble pecan pie!

Chocolate Liquor Tablets... waiting to be melted into chocolate pudding submission

The party was beautiful. Barb and Cal live out in the country on a secluded dead end road in a beautifully remodeled farm house. Every time I visit, I leave feeling refreshed and healed.  The quite of winter surrounded their house with its beauty. The wood stove was burning, the house was cozy and warm and the hosts were so loving and kind.♥♥♥

Sweet Orange Pecan Pie

Sweet Orange Pecan Pie Recipe

Pate Brise - 1 recipe
3/4 stick of unsalted butter
1 & 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups fresh pecan halves - If you can source fresh pecans... do it. They make a big difference
High Quality Grey Sea Salt -

1) Oven to 350. Roll out chilled pastry dough to about 12" round. Fit into a 9" pie plate. Design the edge of your crust as you wish. Prick bottom of crust with fork. Chill for 10 minutes in the freezer. Take pie shell out, use pie weights over crust and bake for about 15 minutes, no longer. Take out, remove pie weights and let cool again, set the pie shell outside if you live somewhere with cold temperatures. Another option is to let pie plate and crust cool a bit by placing on a cooling rack.
2) While the crust is chilling, melt butter in a saucepan on the stove. Add the brown sugar and vanilla and whisk until smooth and creamy. Take off the heat and add in orange zest, salt, lightly beaten eggs and corn syrup. 
3) Place pecans into the pie shell. Pour syrupy filling over the pecans, being mindful that you do not pour the filling over the edge. If it seems that you have too much filling. Reserve this liquid for later. Place in oven for about 45-50 minutes or until the filling is set. Sprinkle hot pie with grey sea salt, about 1 tsp for the top of the pie. Let cool and serve with fresh whip cream.
4) If you are lucky enough to have extra filling left over, bring this liquid to a simmer on the stove and let cook until it becomes aromatic and delicious. About 5 minutes would do the trick, depending on how much liquid  you had leftover. This can be used to drizzle over the top of the pie and whip cream when being served. It will be extra decadent.

Six layer chocolate pudding whip cream cake

Six Layer Chocolate Pudding Whip Cream Cake - This is a take off of the Blackout Cake. I have made the Blackout Cake recipe before with additions. Here is the cake, again with some variances.Cooks Illustrated 2010... God I love that magazine!

Ingredients for Pudding
1 & 1/4 cup organic sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon (mounded) salt (use a good salt)
2 cups half and half
1 cup heavy whipping cream
6 oz of dark, unsweetened chocolate (chopped into small pieces)
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Ingredients for Cake
8 oz unsalted organic butter
1 & 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1 C. coffee. I use 1 Tbs of Megdalia D.Oro Instant Espresso to 1 cup hot water
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 Pint Heavy Whipping Cream
Sugar to taste

Making the Pudding
1) Whisk sugar, cornstarch, salt, half and half and cream in a large saucepan. Place over medium heat. Add chocolate and whisk continuously until the chocolate has melted completely and the mixture begins to bubble. Stir in vanilla at that point and whisk vigorously. Pour pudding into large bowl and cover with plastic wrap directly on the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Chill for several hours until cool. Can be made the night before.
Making the Cake
2) Oven to 325. Butter and flour two 9" cake pans. Place parchment over the buttered surface. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
3) Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in cocoa and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Take off the heat, whisk in coffee, buttermilk and sugars until dissolved. Whisk in eggs and vanilla and slowly add flour mixture.
4) Divide batter equally between pans and cook until a toothpick comes out clean. About 35 minutes. Cool cakes for 15 minutes in pan, slide knife around the edge and then flip onto the cooking racks and let cool for at least 1 hour.
5) Make the whip cream. Add sugar to taste. Take pudding out of fridge.
6) Slice each cake into thirds. Begin layering cake with chocolate pudding, then adding another cake layer and then whip cream. Finish with whip cream. Put in wooden skewers to hold the cake in place. Believe me... this cake will slide.  Top the cake with chocolate shavings. Refrigerate cake until you are ready to eat.

Even the dog enjoyed the night!

Note: I even dressed in Packer colors for the party.... Green and Gold! There is a first for everything!

Loads of foodie love, birthday wishes and football fantasies! xoxo Megan

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

candied bacon and an announcement!

The sound of a cold night echoing with the crack and smack of a round hard hockey puck that is being hurdled towards it's goal sounds amazing. It breaks the night silence. Tonight on my night walk I stopped by the local hockey rink and watched the young and old players crisscross their way across the ice. The flood lights shadowed their faces and bodies so they became gray outlines moving swiftly like floating ships with a strong wind in their sails. The night quiet can so easily be broken with the crunch of snow or crackle of ice underneath our feet. The steel blades cutting into the frozen ice makes sound waves so strong they beg me to stop and listen. I love these sounds, do you?

I have an announcement. Chocolatier School. I am embarking on a 4 month journey into the world of chocolate making. A year ago, when my life looked so differently, I would have never expected to find myself blogging let alone pursuing a class in chocolate making?! Sometimes, the voice we often ignore, speaks loud enough for us to hear, listen to and even respond to with an appropriate action. I am thrilled that I can be challenged into trying new things.... especially when it comes to chocolate!

Now.... Candied Bacon.... It tastes delicious. Do it right and you may never go back to pan fried bacon again.

Candied Bacon Recipe

Bacon of choice - I used Willow Creek  Bacon - Amazing bacon. The best if you ask me. If you live in Madison must try it out!
Brown Sugar

Oven to 300. Line a large rimmed jelly roll pan or baking sheet with parchment paper. Take two cooling racks and steady them in the pan. Lay bacon on the cooling racks. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake for 30 minutes. Make sure your racks are over the pan. You do not want bacon grease dripping on the floor of your oven. Check after 30 minutes. Bacon should be nice and brown and flat and you should  be able to smell the bacon and burnt sugars. Let cool and enjoy.

Loads of foodie love with a side of candied bacon..... xoxoxo Megan

Monday, January 3, 2011

the windy city.... Chicago!

We just returned from a well needed 'mini-vacation'! Instead of gifts under the tree, we decided to take the kids to Chicago for four days.  We left right after Christmas. Of course the kids were tired out because of all of their Christmas 'hopping' with the different families. However, that did not stop us from having a fantastic time in the Windy City. We ate ourselves silly, found new restaurants and spent two days inside the Museum of Science and Industry.  I just wanted to give my readers a peak at some of the wonderful things we did and even a few glimpses of fantastic food....specifically Xoco..... Rick Bayless' terriffic and affordable restaurant. I did die and go to heaven! We also made a quick stop to Devon Street and ate delicious South Indian fare. We shopped a bit at one of the local stores that was head to toe chocked full of amazing wares from India. We also received a fat $60.00 parking ticket. That was the down side to the Indian meal.  Bummer. We hid it in the glove compartment as we didn't want to be reminded of it the rest of the trip. I better grab it out now so the city of Chicago doesn't take any more of our hard earned cash! An expensive lesson, read the parking signs twice!

I think this will be the last year that we share a single hotel room with our every growing family of four. It was tight quarters at the hotel... I vote for adjoining rooms next time! The kids loved the elevator and our hotel... a great deal from The hotel was situated right on Lakeshore Drive, across from Navy Pier. The gentleman at the front desk gave us a room on the top floor. This made for dizzying rides up the elevator but fantastic views once we were at the top.

My good friend Jenny has always told me that she wants to retire in Chicago. Most people think warm. places for returement... Florida, Mexico or Arizona, but not Jenny. She and her family adore the city and after our latest trip, I can see why. You could just spend hours on one city block. The city has so many wonderful things to offer. We barely brushed the surface with our four day trip. One could spend months in the city just visiting all of the amazing museums. I unfortunately did not get to venture into the Art Institute this time. I was voted down. boo hoo. Science won over art.... There is always next time.

Enjoy the pictures of our mini holiday! 
Sleeping Beauty!
Vim was happy and finally awake...
Mysore Woodlands.. Devon Street
Mysore Coffee... this was soooo strong! I could not sleep that evening. It could have been the partying hotel neighbors that kept me awake. I could hear their champagne bottles pop and the loud cheers let out by the girls!
Masala Dosai.... larger than my son!
The daily Thali offering!
Navy Pier out our window - beautiful at night!
The kids going crazy in the hotel room!
Cool Ice out our window

Navy Pier in the morning -

A tight squeeze for our museum parking!  We thought we would never get out!

My daughters Hitchhiker's thumb!
New born chicks!
How tall am I?
Newton's Cradle
Fun with colored lights
Watching the train exhibit
Amazing interactive shadow play... the more you hold still, the more butterflies that will land on you!
Fun house mirrors
Water Tower

my son... posing with a lion
Salute Wine Bar... our dinner one evening... very cozy and good!

Entering Xoxo.... a delicious entrance
Fresh cocoa.... being chopped, waiting to be made into the best warm drinks you will ever taste!

Pork.... slow cooking in a huge copper vat.... I am sure the witch from Hansel and Gretel would have appreciated this!
The wood burning oven cooking my chilaquiles.
Enjoying  un "champurrado"
Delicious wood-fired french toast with bacon and pecans
Can you guess?
My chilaquiles... the best I have had since Mexico!

 Back to the museum... day 2- Check out these lines for the museum! CRAZY!!!

Museum Gift Shops have it all!

Another cool light display at the MS&I
A Segway tour.... this cracked us all up for one reason or another! I think it was the attractive yellow vests,,,, as if we did not see 15 people on wheels!
There you have it folks! A quick inside view into our mini - vaycay to Chitown! 

loads of foodie love! Megan