Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Daring Bakers August 2011

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

My first Daring Baker's Challenge. I had been crossing off the days on the calendar, with a mix of excitement and trepidation. I've seen what kind of things show up in these Challenges. But when you don't actually have to produce one of these delicious treats, you think "oh, I could totally do that!". Until you see your first challenge. And it is TEMPERED CHOCOLATES. Now, I live in a world where chocolate is a food group. At the biggest part of the food pyramid. But I'd never attempted to make truffles. I have to admit that I was scared beyond belief to do this challenge. Then I sat down, read through it again and told myself it would all turn out okay, and even if it came out looking ugly it would still taste good. It did all turn out okay, even though my Chocolate Caramel Fleur de Sel Truffles didn't come out just how I wanted, and I was hopeless at tempering. Can't do everything perfectly the first time, I guess. Tempering is now on my list of things to practice (yum!), but I didn't tackle it right away since we are having the family over to celebrate our birthdays and I have quite a menu to execute. I'm telling you, though, I WILL get this tempering down. I'm too excited about giving beautiful, shiny truffles to all my new co-workers at the school for Christmas this year. 

This being my first challenge, I decided to take it easy (and since I was so darn scared) and do two of the recipes verbatim from the challenge posting. Then I would branch out (and try the whole frightening tempering thing). So I made Strawberry Paté de Fruits, Milk Chocolate and Hazelnut Praline Truffles, and Chocolate Caramel Fleur de Sel Truffles.

Strawberry Paté de Fruits

Recipe by Elizabeth LaBau, Guide
Makes about 40-64 squares depending on size cut, recipe easily doubled or halved
3 cups (16 oz/450 gm) Strawberries, fresh or defrosted from frozen
1 tablespoon (15 ml) Lemon juice, fresh
2 cups (16 oz/ 450 gm) Granulated White Sugar
2½ tablespoons (38 ml) Liquid Pectin

1. Prepare an 8”x8” (20cmx20xm) pan by lining it with aluminium foil or parchment paper and spraying it with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Place the strawberries in a blender or food processor and process until very well pureed.

3. Pour them through a mesh strainer into a medium saucepan, discarding any remaining fruit chunks. Stir in the lemon juice and 1/2 cup of the sugar, place the pan over medium-high heat, and insert a candy thermometer.
4. Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until it is hot, around 140°F/60°C. Add the remaining 1.5 cups of sugar and the liquid pectin, and lower the heat to medium.

5. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture registers 200°F/93°C. At this point, turn the heat to low and hold it at 200°F/93°C for 2-3 minutes. After this, return the heat to medium and bring it up to 225°F/107°C. This process will take some time, especially with the heat on medium, so have patience and be diligent in stirring frequently so the bottom doesn't scorch.
6. Once the fruit paste reaches 225°F/107°C, turn the heat to low and keep it at that temperature for an additional 2-minutes.
7. Remove the pan from the heat and scrape (Note from Lisa: I poured it in, it should still be quite liquid) the strawberry pate de fruit mixture into the prepared pan, smoothing it into an even layer.

8. Allow the pate de fruit mixture to set at room temperature for several hours, until completely cool and firm. Use a sharp knife to cut it into very small squares, and roll the individual pieces in granulated sugar.
9. The strawberry pate de fruits can be served immediately, or refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week. If refrigerated, the pieces may need to be re-rolled in granulated sugar before serving.
"Some paté de fruits take quite a long time to cook. If you think about what's happening, you're cooking all of the liquid out of the fruit puree and reducing it to a very thick paste. The exact amount of time depends on a lot of factors, like how much water was in your puree to begin with, the capabilities of your stove, and the quality of the pan you use. But you can expect the process to take at least 30 minutes and sometimes up to an hour. I do want to add that this is easier on a gas range, but can absolutely be done on an electric stove - in fact, I use a very old electric stove at home and it works fine." - Elizabeth LaBau

Milk Chocolate & Hazelnut Praline Truffles

Servings: Makes +- 30 truffles, recipe easily doubled or halved
Adapted from the Cook’s Academy Curriculum, Dublin
Active Time: 1 - 2hrs
Ganache Setting Time: 2 - 4hrs or Overnight
Praline Ingredients:
½ cup (2 oz/60 gm) hazelnuts, shelled & skinned
½ cup (4 oz/115 gm) granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) water

1. Preheat oven to moderate 180°C / 160°C Fan Assisted (convection oven); 350°F / 320°F convection / Gas Mark 4
2. Place whole hazelnut on a non-stick baking tray and dry roast for 10mins
3. Allow to cool
4. Place hazelnuts in a clean dry kitchen towel and rub to remove the skins
5. Line a baking tray with parchment paper or a silicon mat
6. Place the skinned hazelnuts onto the prepared tray
7. Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved
8. Turn the heat up and bring to the boil (do not stir), brushing down the sides of the pot with a pastry brush dipped in water to remove any sugar crystals
9. Boil until the mixture turns amber (160°C - 170°C / 320°F- 340°F on a candy thermometer)
10. Remove from heat immediately and pour the syrup over the hazelnuts
11. Allow to cool completely
12. Break into small pieces
13. Transfer pieces to a food processor and process until desired texture, either fine or rough
14. Set aside
½ - 1 cup Crushed or Ground Roasted Hazelnuts for coating

Ganache Ingredients
1¾ cup (9 oz. / 255 g) Milk chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup (4 oz. / 125 ml) Double/Heavy Cream (36% - 46% butterfat content)
2-3 Tablespoons (1-1 ½ oz. / 30ml – 45 ml) Frangelico Liqueur, optional
1. Finely chop the milk chocolate
This looks like heaven. Little pieces of chocolate heaven.

2. Place into a heatproof medium sized bowl
3. Heat cream in a saucepan until just about to boil
4. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir gently until smooth and melted
5. Allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes
6. Stir in the praline and (optional) liqueur

7. Leave to cool and set overnight or for a few hours in the fridge
8. Bring to room temperature to use
Forming the truffles:
1. Using teaspoons or a melon baller, scoop round balls of ganache
2. Roll them between the palms of your hands to round them off
Tip: Handle them as little as possible to avoid melting
Tip: I suggest wearing food safe latex gloves, less messy and slightly less heat from your hands
3. Finish off by rolling the truffle in the crushed roasted hazelnuts
This is how I crush nuts in lieu of a food processor. Also good for stressful days. 

Tip: You can also roll them in hazelnut praline
4. Place on parchment paper and leave to set
Tip: They look great when put into small petit four cases and boxed up as a gift!
I have to agree, they do look great. And they are delicious!

Last, but not least, The One That Got Away, so to speak. I had all sorts of trouble with this one. From the caramel not cooking right (all the caramel's fault, not mine of course) to struggling with keeping my chocolate at the right temperature. These are still decadent, the balance between the salt and sweet just makes them perfect (if you keep your eyes closed when choosing one). 

Chocolate Caramel Fleur de Sel Truffles

Only shiny because they are still wet- not because they are tempered.

Total time: 12 hours (active time is 1 hour)
Makes: approx 35-40 truffles

8 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
12 oz same quality chocolate, chopped into larger pieces
⅓ cup sugar
⅔ cup half and half
2 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon Fleur de Sel (you can use Sea Salt, but I saw this at Penzey's and needed to buy it. You know how that goes)
¾- 1 cup cocoa powder (for dusting)

1. Create a double boiler- or if you have lots of cabinet space, just use your handy dandy ready made one- by placing a mixing bowl (glass or metal) on top of a saucepan with about an inch of water inside. Add the 8 oz of chopped chocolate. Do not turn on the heat yet. 
2. In another saucepan, mix together the sugar and water. Pour cream in a bowl and place nearby. 
Ganache looks so pudding-y delicious.
3. Heat the sugar and water mixture over medium heat. Look but don't touch! Heat the chocolate while the caramel is cooking, stirring constantly to encourage even melting. Remove chocolate from heat when it is all melted. 
4. When the caramel mixture is a dark amber color (320-340℉) remove from heat. Wait a few moments then stir in the cream until it is well mixed and smooth. Pour the caramel mixture into the warm, melted chocolate. Stir in the Fleur de Sel. Cover ganache with plastic wrap and refrigerate 3 hours. 
5. Remove ganache from fridge. Using a melon baller or spoon, create small balls (about ¾") from the ganache. Roll each ball in your hands to shape and roll in the cocoa powder. Place on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

6. Temper your remaining 12 oz of chocolate. I used the "seeding method" outlined here:

• Finely chop chocolate if in bar/slab form (about the size of almonds).
• Place about ⅔ of the chocolate in a heatproof bowl
• Set aside ⅓ of the chocolate pieces
• Place bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure the bowl does not touch the water)
Tip: Make sure that your bowl fits snuggly into the saucepan so that there’s no chance of steam forming droplets that may fall into your chocolate. If water gets into your chocolate it will seize!
• Using a rubber spatula, gently stir the chocolate so that it melts evenly
• Once it’s melted, keep an eye on the thermometer, as soon as it reaches 45°C / 113°F remove from heat (between 45°C-50°C / 113°F-122°F for dark chocolate)
• Add small amounts of the remaining ⅓ un-melted chocolate (seeds) and stir in to melt
• Continue to add small additions of chocolate until you’ve brought the chocolate down to 27°C/80.6°F (You can bring the dark chocolate down to between 80°F and 82°F)
• Put it back on the double boiler and bring the temperature back up until it reaches its working temperature of the chocolate (milk, dark or white) as seen in the above chart. (32°C/89.6°F for dark, 30°C/86°F for milk and 29°C/84.2°F for white)
• If you still have a few un-melted bits of chocolate, put the bowl back over the simmering water, stirring gently and watching the thermometer constantly.
IMPORTANT: You really need to keep an eye on the temperature so that it doesn’t go over its working temperature
It’s now tempered and ready to use

7. Drop cocoa dusted chocolates into the tempered chocolate. Gently pick up with a fork, tap on the edge of the bowl to remove excess chocolate. Place onto baking pan lined with wax paper. Sprinkle a few granules of Fleur de Sel on top and allow to set.