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Sugar High Friday #25: Truffles! November 23, 2006

Posted by Sarah in Candy/Snacks.
5 comments

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This will be the first, and not the last, time that I participate in a Sugar High Friday. I was pretty excited when I read that the challenge was to make truffles. I’ve made truffles before, but it had been a long time.

I was quite eager to try a recipe used at the hotel where we got married. They had the absolute best truffles I have ever had. A long time back they shared the recipe online and I copied it and saved it for another day. Saturday, November 19th was that day! I decided to make them for my best friend’s birthday, as well as for Sugar High Friday.

However, making these only reinforced my idea that sometimes it is best not to follow the recipe. The original recipe tells you to let the filling refrigerate overnight. However, when I got the filling out the next morning to shape and dip my truffles, it was entirely too hard to shape! I knew I should have trusted my instincts when I checked the filling after a couple hours of it being in the fridge. I thought that it was probably firm enough to shape and dip at that time, but I decided to follow the recipe!

I had also been reading in the Joy of Cooking about chocolate dipping and truffles. They offered several tips about dipping truffles, and all of them were correct. I will share them in my version of the recipe below.

These truffles are rich and super chocolate-y. They have a distinct dark chocolate flavor and are definitely good with cup of coffee. All the ingredients meld together and complement the chocolate nicely. There is not a distinctive maple or Kahlua taste. Just rich chocolate-y goodness!

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Dark Chocolate Truffles

Adapted from a recipe from the Gateway Hotel

1 c. heavy cream
2/3 c. maple syrup
1/3 c. unsalted butter
1/3 c. Kahlua (or your favorite liqueur)*
*if you don’t user liqueur, substitute with 2 tbsp. extract & additional 2 tbsp. cream
2 lbs. bitter or semi sweet chocolate (I used a mix of bittersweet and semisweet)
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup powdered sugar

Dipping ingredients:
1 lb. semi-sweet chocolate

8 oz. milk chocolate

Filling Procedure
In heavy saucepan, heat cream, butter syrup and Kahlua. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and set aside. In a glass bowl, microwave 2 lbs. chocolate until melted, about 2 minutes. Add the cream mixture and stir until well blended. Pour into metal pan and chill until firm and scoop-able (2-4 hours). Mix the cocoa and powdered sugar.  Using a 1-oz scoop, scoop truffle mix and release into a bowl of powdered sugar/cocoa powder mix. Roll between palms of your hands to make a smooth round ball.

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Dipping Procedures Melt 3/4 lb. semisweet chocolate in the microwave for 1 minute. Stir. Microwave for 20 seconds longer. Stir until smooth and then check the temperature. You want the chocolate to be around 87 degrees (definitely no higher than 90 degrees). If the chocolate is too hot, add the reserved chocolate and stir. When the chocolate is at the correct temperature, remove the remaining chunks. The chocolate is now tempered and ready to use.

The Joy of Cooking offered this way of dipping truffles that I was quite skeptical of at first. They suggested that you smear tempered chocolate on your hands and roll the filling around in the chocolate to coat the truffle. Then place it on a rack to dry.

After trying to dip the chocolates unsuccessfully with a fork, I decided to try it. It worked beautifully. It gave the truffles the perfect amount of chocolate and it went quickly.

They also suggested that the chocolates be dipped a second time, but I was happy with just one coating of chocolate.

Then, I melted some milk chocolate using the same method as above (however for milk chocolate, the temperature should be no higher than 88 degrees) and drizzled it onto the truffles after the first chocolate layer set up.

Another important tip that the Joy of Cooking offered was to let the filling reach room temperature (or at least not to dip cold truffles) because as the center warms it expands and will crack the chocolate. I let my centers sit for quite awhile before I dipped them. They were still a little cool, but it still happened a tiny bit. If I dipped them straight from the fridge they would have cracked a lot, I’m sure.

All in all, I was quite pleased with my amateur truffles (as were many of my friends and family… it made about 60 truffles!) They did not taste amateur at all, even though they kind of looked that way. I’m sure with more practice working with chocolate candy making, they will begin to look better. The more truffles I make, the better!

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Slashfood’s Nut Day: Nut Burgers November 18, 2006

Posted by Sarah in Dinner.
1 comment so far

I just couldn’t decide between the pecan pie bars (which I was craving) or the nut burgers (which I thought sounded interesting and have been wanting to try for some time). So, I went with both!

These burgers are pretty good. I wouldn’t make them unless I had a vegetarian friend coming over to a cookout, but maybe that is because I don’t really eat burgers very much. Actually, there was a period of maybe 10 years or more in which I didn’t eat hamburgers period. I didn’t like them that much anyway and I suppose I was a little scared of getting mad cow disease (I was a kid, and the news and Oprah talked it up a lot). However, those fears have pretty much dissipated, but my general dislike for burgers still remains… I will try burgers from places the my husband gets them and I usually just find them unimpressive. This is crazy, but the only place I will order a hamburger and eat it with abandon is B-Bops. Weird. I’m sure there are great burgers out there besides B-Bops, and maybe even better than B-Bops, but I haven’t found them yet.

So, back to the nut burgers… they were really easy to make and the texture was pretty meaty. The recipe claims you can make them into sloppy Joes or meatballs, and I believe it. So, for all you vegetarians out there, this could be a recipe to try. Next time around, I would probably season it a little more to give it a little more flavor. The other problem I encountered was that the cottage cheese in the burgers burns during cooking and they appear to be burned and inedible. However, they really are okay and they don’t really taste that burned. When I read the recipe I wondered how there could be cheese in it that did not burn during cooking, but I guess maybe it was supposed to happen. I have changed the recipe a little from the original recipe to give it a little more flavor and to try to avoid the burning cheese factor.

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Nut Burgers

 

Adapted from Paulette Mitchell’s book The 15 Minute Gourmet: Vegetarian

Ingredients

1 cup finely chopped walnuts, toasted

1/2 cup wheat germ, toasted

1/4 cup 2% cottage cheese

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 tablespoon minced onion

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Directions

Stir together everything but the oil in a large bowl. Shape into 4 patties. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the patties 2-3 minutes per side until browned. Watch to make sure you don’t overcook them…

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Slashfood’s Nut Day: Chocolate-Pecan Pie Bars November 18, 2006

Posted by Sarah in Desserts.
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As a kid, I never really liked pecan pie. When I became a teenage and started working as a dietary aide in a nursing home we had pecan pie too. But I still hated it because it always seemed to stick to the pie plates. They were so awful to clean. Once you have to clean 10-12 stuck on pecan pie plates, it makes you not want to eat pecan pie.

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It wasn’t until later in life that I decided to give pecan pie another try. Now, I love it (as long as it isn’t too sweet). So, I decided to combine my new-found love for pecan pie with my old love of chocolate. I have had chocolate-pecan pie bars before and sometimes they can be too sweet for my tastes. So, I decided to take The New Best Recipe’s pecan pie bar recipe and tweak it a little bit. It turned out great. These bars are not too sweet and even have a slight salty-caramel-y kick. When I took them into work the next day, I put them in the lounge and they were gone within the hour. Of course, as I have said before, teachers will eat anything, but these were really good! I used bittersweet chocolate in these bars but I think semisweet would work well in them too. Enjoy!

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Chocolate-Pecan Pie Bars

 

Adapted from a recipe from The New Best Recipe

Crust Ingredients

1 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Filling

4 tablespoons unsalted butter melted

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup light corn syrup

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon bourbon (they also suggest trying dark rum)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 3/4 cups pecans, toasted, chopped coarse

4-6 oz. coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate (or you could use semisweet)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×9 square baking pan with foil making sure there is some overhang (so you can lift out the bars to cut them). Spray the foil with cooking spray.

Put the flour, baking powder, salt, brown sugar, and pecans in a blender or food processor. Process the mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal, then add the butter and pulse until combined. Pat the mixture into the pan and bake the crust for 20 minutes, until golden.

While the crust is baking, mix up the filling. Whisk together everything but the eggs, pecans and chocolate. Add the egg and whisk until combined.

When the crust is done, pour the filling over the hot crust. Sprinkle the pecans and chocolate evenly over the top. Gently push the topping down into the filling. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool the bars in the pan on a wire rack or trivet for 1 hour. Lift the bars out of the pan and cut into bars.

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Cinnamon Rolls November 16, 2006

Posted by Sarah in Baking.
5 comments

This weekend was the first one in a long time that I have had two days off in a row. Lately, the weekends have been busy with my second job. I am happy to say that there are no more retreats at the camp that I work with until spring. That means that I don’t have to cook for anyone else other than me, unless I want to. It isn’t that I don’t like cooking for 100-150 middle school aged children (heh!), it can just be tiring after teaching all week long.

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I took this opportunity to make cinnamon rolls for my sweet husband. They are one of his very favorite things (besides cookies and those awful, yet addictive, Hostess chocolate covered Donettes). A couple years ago I was watching the food network and they were featuring favorite family recipes, or something like that. There was a family that reminisced about Grandma’s Cinnamon Rolls and they even had her make them on the show. I must admit, they looked like the most delicious cinnamon rolls ever, so I printed off the recipe and gave it a try.

The first time I made it, I wasn’t disappointed. They were delicious! However, some of the filling slid down to the bottom of the cinnamon roll and made a very, very caramelized cinnamon goo at the bottom. So they were kind of like caramel cinnamon rolls, which was different than the show and different than I imagined. So, I played around with the recipe and tried several different ways of making them. This is what I came up with. They are pretty sweet, so make sure you have a lot of cold milk on hand!

 

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Cinnamon Rolls

 

Adapted from a recipe by Laura Jeffries

2 packages rapid rise yeast

1/2 cup warm water (between 105 F and 110 F)

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 cup butter

3/4 cup milk (warmed, but not hot)

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

4 1/2 cups flour

Filling

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 1/4 cups brown sugar

1/4 cup granular sugar

2-3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Icing

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon milk

1 tablespoon butter flavor extract

Dissolve 2 packages of yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water (not too hot or the yeast can die), and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let sit.

Melt the 1/2 cup butter and combine with 3/4 cups of warm milk. Using an electric mixer with a dough hook or a food processor with a dough blade, mix the dissolved yeast and butter/milk mixture on low. Slowly add 1/2 cup of sugar, then 1 egg. Add salt and 2 cups of flour on low, blend until smooth. Slowly add 1/2 cup at a time, the other 2 – 2 1/2 cups of flour until it pulls away cleanly from the sides of the bowl and makes a ball on the dough hook. .

If using the dough hook, you can knead the dough in the mixer for 1 -2 minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray. Place in a draft free place and let it rise until it is doubled in size, about 45 minutes. (I like to use my unheated oven)

While the dough is rising, cream together the filling ingredients until just blended.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a floured counter. Roll out into a 12 x 24 inch rectangle (not too thin). Spread the filling over the dough all the way out to the edges. Roll the dough up tightly and cut into thumb width slices or 1 1/2 inch slices (or whatever size you like).

Place the rolls in a 4 cake pans. Cover with more greased plastic wrap and return them to their draft free rising environment. Let them rise until at least doubled in height, or a height that you prefer. Remove them from the oven, if that is where they were rising.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake them on the center rack for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes check them for doneness. They should be golden brown on top. If they are under-baked the filling will be grainy, so be sure they are done.

While they are cooling, mix up the glaze ingredients. Add more or less milk to get the desired consistency. Drizzle the glaze over the rolls and serve warm with a glass of cold milk!

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Thick Rice Noodles in Garlic Sauce November 10, 2006

Posted by Sarah in Dinner.
4 comments

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For the first time on this blog, I am going to talk about a recipe that I developed that failed. I will not be posting this recipe because it is my fault that the meal was gross. Sure, it may look pretty good, but it was so salty I couldn’t stand it. I have this bad habit of being kind of a perfectionist (don’t worry, I’ve been to therapy!) and whenever I make something that I find is less than what I wanted it to be, I feel quite unhappy.

My husband is great and always waits for me to say whatever is wrong with the meal first, since he knows I can sometimes be a little sensitive about stuff like that. So, the meal came out of the wok looking great and I had tasted it before serving and it seemed okay. A little salty, but do-able. After a couple bites however, I was well aware that this meal was too salty to be good. So, I said, “Hmm, it’s a little salty” And he said, “Uh, yeah. But I have a lot of water.” However, we were both hungry and kept eating. I could not finish it, but my sweet man ate it all. Obviously, it wasn’t that gross… but I was pretty disappointed (see above). I have really been excited about eating something made with thick rice noodles and I messed it up.

The only problem was that I kind of forgot how much sodium was in soy sauce, shaoxing wine, and oyster sauce. So … next time, instead of using 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup shaoxing wine and 2 T oyster sauce, I will use much less. I’m thinking something like 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons shaoxing wine and maybe 1 tablespoon oyster sauce. Then, I’ll move up from there. It is always easier to make something saltier that it is to make it less salty.

I suppose I could have thrown in a potato to absorb the salt, but that sort of thing doesn’t really go well for wok cooking since it is such high heat and the food cooks so quickly. I probably would have just ended up with seared or burned raw potato in my noodles.
Because I am so determined and because I love rice noodles so much, I am going to make this again some time soon. I won’t mess it up and it will be fantastic. Then, and only then, will I post the recipe!

If the fault had been in the recipe or if I didn’t know why the recipe failed, I would not be so critical of myself. However, I know exactly what I did wrong (but I also know how to fix it!) and I have made “Chinese” food enough to know better. So, I will triumph over the saltiness!

In other news, I’m pretty excited about all the upcoming food blogging events. I already have some things picked out that I want to make for Slashfood’s Nut Day on the 21st (the day before Thanksgiving break for me). I also have some ideas for the Truffle Challenge being hosted by The Passionate Cook for November’s Sugar High Friday. I’m really glad that I decided to make a food blog and find this community of people that love food as much as I do. My little blog is now about a month and a half old. Oh! My blog and I will share a birthday. It will be 2 months old and I will be … well … I’ll be a lot older! I could be its mother …

Product Review: Reese’s Crispy Crunchy Bar November 3, 2006

Posted by Sarah in Product Review.
3 comments

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When I was at the gas station this weekend, I saw this bar sitting on the counter. When I first saw it I thought, Reese’s Peanut Butter cup meets a Butterfinger! How exciting!

Well, I still haven’t decided how I feel about his bar. The interior of the bar is crunchy and reminiscent of a Butterfinger. Then comes a layer of Reese’s peanut butter that kind of just blends in with the chocolate layer on the outside. This makes it seem like there is too much coating, at least to me. I was expecting more crunch, than I got. Studded in the chocolate coating are some fairly large peanuts for more “crunch”, but they really weren’t that crunchy. Lastly, for some reason I can’t explain, the first thought in my mind when I tasted it (before I ever looked at the ingredients and nutritional information) was “greasy”. For some reason, it is just greasy throughout.

I suppose the candy bar is okay, but I really wouldn’t buy it again. I finished the pieces of candy bar that I broke off, but that is where it ends. If you are really looking for something Reese’s and something Butterfinger, I would say you are better off just buying a Reese’s and buying a Butterfinger and eating both.

The Reese’s website has the “nutritional” stats on the candy bar. Not really worth it, in my opinion…

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