Sunday, September 30, 2007

Orange Marmalade

Ahh, the lovely taste of Orange marmalade...

I have never made orange marmalade, and since I didn't make any jam earlier this summer (I'm blaming the whole moving thing) I had to figure out some sort of homemade spread to make for my toast and sandwiches and such. But buying lots of frozen berries isn't exactly cost effective.

I actually love the taste of orange marmalade, even with the peels in, so that was a plus too.

I still had to buy oranges and lemons but I think that is a bit cheaper than the frozen berries. Next I had to peel the zest off of all those fruits. Fun! The lemons were considerably more cranky about being peeled than the oranges.

Next was peeling off all the yucky white pith and cutting the fruit into slices. Tip - remove the white stuff inside the fruit too. I forgot. D'oh! I was fishing it out later which was totally not effective.

Next, mix up the fruit and pectin and set aside. Boil the peels in water (or juice) until they are soft. Then add the fruit and heat up and add the sugar. Bring to a hard boil for atleast a minute and then put into jars for canning.

It went marvelously, but never set up completely. Marmalades are harder to set, and maybe I should have used extra pectin. Though some recipes use pectin from the seeds only, and not commercial pectin!

Marmalades can take up to 2 weeks to set. Mine never completely did, guess I needed more pectin. It works fine though as a sauce/loose jam. Tastes great. I plan to make another batch once oranges are really in season, maybe that will help!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ultimate Flourless Chocolate Cake

Continuing our challenge of new recipes we want to try, my friend and I tried recipe #2 of the flourless chocolate cake.

So I seem to benefit from doing the recipes after my friend at Create Cakes. I finally made this recipe and it was AMAZING. I loved it so much.

I made it with a blueberry coulis that was also amazing and made this dessert awesome.

The flavor was wonderful, not too rich and sweet, as the Chocolate Nemesis was sometimes for me, but a smooth, creamy, clean chocolate flavor. The coulis added a tangy complementary flavor when consuming the dessert that was simple and wonderful.

I had my doubts, since my dear friend didn't love it, but I love chocolate truffles much more than puddings, and the flavor of the chocolate really comes through in this recipe.

I did use the Hersheys Special Dark, just like I did in the Chocolate Nemesis recipe, and I think that was key. The flavor of the chocolate used is what you will get. Cooks Illustrated rated the Hersheys Special Dark highly in use for cakes, plus there is the cheap cost, so that's why I used it. :)

I was obedient and followed the recipe, checking the temperature with my little thermometer and even waiting until the next day to eat it. It was hard to not taste it right after it came out, especially since it was so soupy, but worth the wait. The blueberry coulis was tangy and fruity and complemented the chocolate really well.

The other thing I liked about this recipe is the quantity made. It makes one cake. It doesn't make so much that I'm trying to figure out what to do with the leftovers. Gone in a day, like a good dessert.

Without further commentary, here are the recipes:

The Ultimate Flourless Chocolate Cake
Serves 12 to 16

8 large eggs, cold
1 pound bittersweet chocolate or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 pound unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into 1/2-inch chunks

1. Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line bottom of 8-inch springform pan with parchment and grease pan sides. Cover pan underneath and along sides with sheet of heavy-duty foil and set in large roasting pan. Bring kettle of water to boil.

2. Beat eggs with hand-held mixer at high speed until volume doubles to approximately 1 quart, about 5 minutes. Alternately, beat in bowl of electric mixer fitted with wire whip attachment at medium speed (speed 6 on a KitchenAid) to achieve same result, about 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, melt chocolate and butter (adding coffee or liqueur, if using) in large heat-proof bowl set over pan of almost simmering water, until smooth and very warm (about 115 degrees on an instant-read thermometer), stirring once or twice. (For the microwave, melt chocolate and butter together at 50 percent power until smooth and warm, 4 to 6 minutes, stirring once or twice.) Fold 1/3 of egg foam into chocolate mixture using large rubber spatula until only a few streaks of egg are visible; fold in half of remaining foam, then last of remaining foam, until mixture is totally homogenous.

4. Scrape batter into prepared springform pan and smooth surface with rubber spatula. Set roasting pan on oven rack and pour enough boiling water to come about halfway up side of springform pan. Bake until cake has risen slightly, edges are just beginning to set, a thin glazed crust (like a brownie) has formed on surface, and an instant read thermometer inserted halfway through center of cake registers 140 degrees, 22 to 25 minutes. Remove cake pan from water bath and set on wire rack; cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight to mellow (can be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days).

5. About 30 minutes before serving, remove springform pan sides, invert cake on sheet of waxed paper, peel off parchment pan liner, and turn cake right side up on serving platter. Sieve light sprinkling of Confectioners’ sugar or unsweetened cocoa powder over cake to decorate, if desired.

Berry Coulis
Makes 1 1/2 cups

12 ounces fresh raspberries (or thawed if frozen), or blueberries, blackberries, or strawberries (fresh strawberries hulled and sliced, if using)
tablespoons granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice

1. In medium saucepan, bring berries, 1/4 cup water, 5 tablespoons sugar, and salt to bare simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally; cook until sugar is dissolved and berries are heated through, about 1 minute longer.

2. Transfer mixture to blender or food processor; puree until smooth, about 20 seconds. Strain through fine-mesh strainer into small bowl, pressing and stirring puree with rubber spatula to extract as much seedless puree as possible. Stir in lemon juice and additional sugar, if desired. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour. Stir to recombine before serving. (If too thick after chilling, add 1 to 2 teaspoons water.) Can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 4 days.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Chocolate Nemesis

The challenge for September between my friend at Create Cakes and I is flourless chocolate cakes. The first recipe we decided to try was a popular one from the River Cafe in London called the Chocolate Nemesis.

If you have read my other blog, you may know that I do not usually make cakes. I prefer cookies & brownies, which I almost always succeed at. It's not that I can't make cakes, but until recently, I couldn't frost them at all.

Then there is the extravagance of the ingredients in this cake. I probably would have attempted it sooner, but the amount of chocolate alone is staggering! Luckily in a taste test at Cooks illustrated, Hershey's Special dark came out in the top three and is the cheapest, so I decided to go with that from a cost perspective. It was given high marks in cake by them too.

Here is the recipe adjusted for American measuring, with the directions re-ordered a bit.

Chocolate Nemesis
Serves 10-12

24 oz bitter-sweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
10 whole eggs
2 3/4 C + 2 Tbs sugar
2 C unsalted butter, softened
1 C water

1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Pick your pan sizes and line the bottom with parchment paper and the sides with pam. You can use a 12 inch, or 2 8 inch pans.

2. Heat 2 cups of the sugar in a small pan with the water until the sugar has completely dissolved to a syrup.

3. Place the chocolate and butter in the hot syrup and stir to combine until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

4. Beat the eggs with the rest of the sugar until the volume quadruples-this will take at least 10 minutes in an electric mixer.

5. Add warm chocolate mixture to the eggs and continue to beat, more gently, until completely combined- about 20 seconds.

6. Pour into the cake tin and place in a water bath. It is vital for even baking. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until set. Let it cool in the tin before turning out.

There is a lot of detail missing in these directions. Questions that came to mind while I was baking: How long do you let the sugar syrup boil when it becomes clear? How do you best add the chocolate & butter to the sugar syrup to prevent separation of the chocolate (or worse - burning)? Can you over cook this mixture in trying to get it smooth? How do you best mix the chocolate mixture and egg mixture without causing the egg to curdle? How do you know if the cake is set? Because the top is set, or by toothpick or what? How long do you let them cool before trying to invert them? How do you keep from spilling the water bath all over the place? Why did I try to do this while my kids were awake?

I chose to keep the mixer running on low and slowly add the chocolate mixture to it to try and help prevent curdling and cause better incorporation. Unfortunately my pan didn't want to cooperate and I spilled chocolate mixture on my counter. I tried a funnel but it didn't help much. Putting the lip of the pan on the mixer and pouring carefully was the best I could do and then salvage the rest off of my (thankfully) clean countertop. (This is part of what I consider a major design flaw on kitchen aid mixers that is only remedied by buying a pouring shield to help add mixtures that I do not own.)

I was warned that it would take more than 30 minutes for the cakes to set, and I'm grateful for those warnings because the top was set at 30 minutes, even though under the top it was totally liquid. At 45 minutes the tops had risen up higher but it was still a bit jiggly, so 10 more minutes. At 55 minutes they were ready to come out. (The smaller square one came out at 40 minutes.)

Oh, I had way more batter than would fit in my 2 8-inch pans. So I quickly pammed an 8 in square pyrex pan and started it with the rest. I didn't take the time to cut a parchment square, figuring I'd just claw it out like brownies if it wouldn't come out easily.

My lack of cake baking also translates into a lack of cake pans. The two tiny 8 inch pans, the 8" square and 9x13 rectangle pyrex pans are all I've got. If I'm going to be making many more cakes in the future, I think new pans are going to be necessary. :) Yay, a shopping excuse!

The photos: First is a slice of the finished cake and then the sliced cake. Next is the sugar syrup boiling and my prepared work surface. Following is the egg/sugar mixing up, and then the chocolate butter mixture. Next is the pans going into the oven, followed by how they rose coming out of the oven. Then a slice from the thin 8" square pan and finally the finished cake before being sliced.

Taste: Amazing. Smooth and creamy. Like a firm pudding or a chocolate custard. Rich chocolate flavor, but not bitter or intense. Tastes similar to the chocolate bar. I'm happy that I used the Hershey's Special Dark because it will appeal to more people flavor wise. A Lindt 70% cacao bar flavor might be enjoyed by my DH & I, but not many others like intense chocolate bite. Maybe something to try one day.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Apple Butter Canning

Hee hee. Did you catch my corny joke in the title? :P

It is Apple season again and that means applesauce and apple butter in our house. I did try apple jelly this year which was interesting, but not my favorite. I don't think I will ever do it again. That would probably be a better topic for another post.

So my favorite Apple Butter recipe actually comes from a random Crockpot cookbook I got one year for Christmas from brother in law. The book can be found here: Slow Cooker Recipes.

I checked out the copyright in the front of the book and it says that I can't quote anything in the book without written permission so I can't write the recipe here. Boo.

But I googled the title and found it published somewhere else so here is a link to the recipe: Chunky Sweet Spiced Apple Butter.

Note - mine isn't chunky ever, at least in my opinion. But the flavor is awesome. We love it in our oatmeal for homemade apple cinnamon oatmeal.

The beauty of this recipe is how easy it is. Peel apples. Pile stuff in crockpot, leave for 8 hours on low and then mash up a little more before canning it.

I always double the recipe, I'm going to try quadrupling it next week, as the original recipe just makes enough to fill one regular mason jar. I use the larger jars because we use it so quickly and because they are cheaper.


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