Saturday, December 10, 2011

And That's Why You Never Bake After Finals

Hello friends! My next baking adventure (and I really do mean adventure) is a multi-part affair. I am making Ebony and Ivory Truffles from the Death By Chocolate cookbook. There's been far too little chocolate in my life and I seek to amend that. The Ebony and Ivory truffles involve making essentially one semisweet chocolate and one white chocolate ganache, rolling them together (after a complicated process of stirring and chilling that I'll tell you about in a minute), and coating them in cocoa. But wait! There's more! The note from the author suggests getting creative rather than just rolling the truffles in cocoa. He suggests nuts or coconut or the Ultimate Ganache or crumbled up Deep Dark Cookies. Well, I'm super creative so I decided to do all of those! I'm officially nuts. And I mean the crazy kind, not the kind I'm about to roll truffles in.

::groans at own bad joke::

That was Exhibit A for why one shouldn't bake immediately following finals. For those of you not privy to my special kind of hell this week, Thursday I had two final exams practically back to back in two extremely difficult subjects. Additionally, I had other work to do like homework assignments and group papers and other nonsense. Needless to say, there was stress. And how do I relieve stress? Apparently by baking because I'm crazy. After coming home on Thursday and deciding this would be a good idea, I started with banging out the Ultimate Ganache and the Deep Dark Cookies. I figured, "I've made both of these before! In fact, I've made the cookies twice so this should be a cakewalk!" Yeah, no.

On the bright side of life, I had an epiphany. I realized that baking chocolate is the same thing as chocolate chips and the latter is cheaper and on sale because it's Christmastime. Yay! Anyway, on to the cookies. I won't describe the details here because as I've said, I've made these twice. There were, however, a few stumbling blocks. For example, the chocolate just wouldn't freakin' melt. Seriously, 45 minutes and I still had chunky chocolate. I need a designated chocolate melter because I so don't have that sort of patience. My good old water bath method didn't work well for some reason (perhaps because my house was cold?) and it was just really really frustrating. So while I was staring at chocolate, waiting for it to melt (which is not unlike watching a pot waiting for it to boil), I decided to at least measure out the chocolate for the Ultimate Ganache. Multitasking! I'm legitimately shocked I got any measurements right because baking after two finals is something akin to baking while drunk. Which I haven't done. Yet.

Anyway, I got kinda lazy and didn't break the unsweetened chocolate chunks in half like I was supposed to. Exhibit B. Big mistake. After checking the progress of my melting chocolate and finding it still unmelted, I decided to just go ahead and finish up the ganache. Maybe it's that I'm scared of boiling heavy cream and I don't let it boil enough but for some reason, it didn't melt the chocolate in the pretty way it did the last time. I don't get it. Most notably, the unsweetened chocolate was particularly resistant to melting. I should be good at melting chocolate by now dammit! Anyway, after whisking the hell out of the ganache, I eventually got it to smooth out but let me assure you, it was a process. After finishing that, I went back to my cookies to find my chocolate still. not. melted. After 45 minutes. Insane. Clearly frustrated, I just chucked the mostly melted chocolate into the mixing bowl and declared that the remaining chunks would be chocolate chips. Told you I'm crazy. Exhibit C, folks.

My mixer did not like this decision. It tried to jump off the counter again and it did not enjoy trying to mix with those chocolate chunks in there. I can't say I blame it. I wouldn't take that kind of abuse if I were the mixer either. Anyway, after adding the chocolate, I had to add the flour and cocoa and I don't know why but when I turned on the mixer to blend them, it was like Hiroshima. Mushroom cloud of cocoa and flour. Pieces of batter were literally flying out of the mixer. It was puzzling. And annoying. And messy. And I so didn't care because I took 2 finals that day. Those were the major hurdles and after that, I just baked the cookies and contemplated writing the presentation I had to give the next day. In case you were wondering, I only contemplated and did not in fact do it that night.

Fast forward to Friday evening. Another long day and the last official day of classes. In a fit of crazy, I decided to make the truffles Friday night and do all of the dipping in stuff on Saturday. Cool. So, again, I had to boil heavy cream and pour it over chocolate. Let me put this in perspective for you. 15 oz of white chocolate in one bowl. 16 oz of semisweet chocolate in another bowl. 1.5 cups of boiled heavy cream. That's it. And, only 1/3 of that heavy cream is designated for the white chocolate. Seems odd, right? Anyway, I boiled the heavy cream and then kind of eyeballed how much had to go in each bowl. I know, I know, not scientific. But what was I supposed to do? Pour the boiling cream into a measuring cup? Seriously, I'm not sure how I should have handled this.

Let stand for 4-5 minutes. Stir with separate whisks until smooth. I only have one whisk. Used a spoon for the other. Alas. The semisweet chocolate was perfection. It got nice and smooth and it was awesome. But the white chocolate. Oh, the white chocolate. The chocolate refused to melt. The whole thing was just way too thick and the chips weren't even close to melting, even after vigorous stirring. So I think to myself, "Maybe you eyeballed the cream all wrong and there's not enough cream." Then I agreed with myself so I boiled another 1/8 cup of cream or so. Basically just enough to cover the bottom of my saucepan. Poured that over the chocolate and let that stand for a few minutes. Returned to stir again and still, the white chocolate wasn't even close to being melted.


My chocolate may not be melting but my brain sure is. Think, think, think. Ok, I cannot microwave the chocolate because it's in a metal bowl. That would be bad. Then again, it's in a metal bowl...I have a saucepan...I'll make a makeshift double boiler! Awesome. So, I set the bowl on top of my saucepan (being careful to not let the bowl touch the water), boiled the water, stirred my chocolate and voila! It almost entirely melted! There's no way in hell that a recipe with 3 ingredients should have been this difficult. Maybe I just don't have the baking techniques yet to play with the big dogs. Or maybe it's bad luck. Or poor judgement. Next direction: let stand for an hour at room temperature. Good judgement: time for a glass of wine.

After an hour of sitting, I had to refrigerate for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Ok. Easy. Nope, not easy. Remember how delightful that semisweet chocolate was being for me before? Not anymore. I don't know what the hell I was supposed to stir it with (possibly a jackhammer) because that stuff was pretty hard. I broke my whisk trying to stir it. Seriously. I'm just as shocked as you. It's not fair, I followed the ridiculous timings to the letter and even set a timer so I wouldn't screw it up. Sad panda. Anyway, I abandoned my whisk and stirred with great difficulty with a spoon. The white chocolate, however, was stir-able. Figures. Then I was supposed to put a heaping tablespoon of the semisweet chocolate on parchment paper and top it with a flat tablespoon of the white chocolate. Way easier said than done. The white chocolate was really sticky. I had much trouble rolling the combined chocolates into balls. They were kinda deformed and I had to rechill the white chocolate several times and it was messy. And frustrating.

And here's the reason why: I should not have been using white chocolate chips. This has been an extremely valuable lesson for me. In frustration, I flipped through the Death By Chocolate cookbook and right there in the first few pages, it informs me to only use certain types of white chocolate and particularly to avoid those with vegetable or other oils in the ingredients. Oh. This now explains the somewhat oily nature of my white chocolate ganache. I know this blog post is getting long but it's an important point to get across. When working with white chocolate (and particularly when making candy), just suck it up and get the good stuff.

Let's fast forward again to Saturday now. Time to put the coatings on the candies. I decided on cocoa, cocoa with cinnamon added, Ultimate Ganache, crumbled Deep Dark Cookies, coconut, and walnuts. Cocoa, no problem. Ganache, no problem. The rest though...blergh. The stuff wouldn't stick to the semisweet chocolate parts of the truffles. So I guess that's the good thing about the crappy white chocolate. It was difficult, there was a lot of molding and shaping of the truffles, but it got done in the end. Then, I realized that I had about a quarter cup of heavy cream left and decided to make more because I'm crazy! I didn't want to use the white chocolate again so I consulted Joy of Cooking for a recipe. I found one that included adding liquor to the truffles. Score! So I made another two types with rum added and decided to coat them in Ultimate Ganache and powdered sugar. This post is too long so I won't further elaborate but here they are, my post-finals crazy truffles:

Frustrating as they were, at least they're beautiful. Now, I only tasted one (the Ultimate Ganache one, obviously) and it was really delicious. So so so so chocolatey. I think you have to be a chocolate fiend to enjoy these though because they really are a hefty dose of chocolate. I may have made the ganache coating too thick. Oh well. By the way, my whole kitchen is just a mess of chocolate. In this project, I used almost all the bowls I own and there is chocolate everywhere from my floor to my counters to my refrigerator door. Looks like Sunday will be a good scrub-down of my kitchen. Like I said, I'm a little nuts.

Critical Reception:
People flipped for the coconut snowmen. At first the consumers weren't entirely sure what they were but once I instructed them to turn them so that the hat was on top, they got it. They were described as "sinfully sweet" and "dangerously good because it's hard to have only one". One person commented that this was their favorite thing that I had made so far. One of my officemates declared me Queen of the Sweets after having two coconut snowmen. Man, I guess those mind control drugs I put in the snowmen really worked!

A Disney Moment: Melody Time
The last of the dark times Disney films! And it's about time. I'm ready for some full length stuff again. This is another film that is comprised of seven shorts loosely held together by...a paintbrush? That's just weak, Disney. By the time I got to watching this one, I just didn't care anymore. All of these movies kind of blended together in my mind. The most famous short in this film is Johnny Appleseed which I thought was actually really boring and heavy handedly religious. Honestly, I don't even remember much about it except that I didn't like it.

The highlight for me was a short called "Little Toot". Once again, one of my favorite shorts has the vocals performed by the Andrews sisters. This short features a little tugboat who wants to be just like his father, Big Toot. However, Little Toot is kind of an idiot and causes an ocean liner to crash into what I assume is New York City. Wait, what? No one addresses this obvious disaster except to exile Little Toot in chains to a buoy far out in the ocean and relegate his father to towing the garbage barges and getting covered in seagull crap. Really, folks? A ship has crashed into the city! There are buildings that are literally toppled over! It's like 9/11 times a hundred! Yes, 91,100! You're not even going to address that? The very next scene though, has Little Toot alone in the ocean with terrifying buoys (think of the trees in the forest in Snow White) chanting "Shame! Shame!"

Of course, then Little Toot finds a ship in distress during a storm and redeems himself (with the requisite scene where we think our protagonist has died) by towing the ship to safety. So anyway, I can't get past that ship crashing into the city but at least it's a short that stuck with me. You can find it on YouTube if you want to take a look. This movie gets a 4/5 and I'm glad to be done with these compilation shorts films. Good riddance. Next up, we have a group of 5 films that include some real classics and I cannot wait!

No comments:

Post a Comment