What do you do?

What do you do when you have a statewide burn ban and homemade marshmallows?

You get a kitchen torch.

In today’s economy, good investments can be the smallest things.

Mmmmm, toasty.

Happy Baking!
Clara

Chocolate is Temperamental


Let’s consider chocolate here. Yes, it may be a simple food. Yes it tastes delicious (don’t get me started). Yes…I’m getting started.

Chocolate is a byproduct of the cacao tree. Or, excuse me, the cacao pod, and then the cacao bean. When put in the most basic terms, it is a complex collection of solids and fats, and all of the sweetness that we know of is completely added by people for human consumption.

Dark chocolate is my favorite. Or, to be exact, a cocoa percentage of 60-70 percent is my favorite range. What does this mean? The higher percentage is basically a higher amount of chocolate liquor, which is a byproduct of processing the bean. Chocolate liquor (cocoa solids and cocoa butter combined) is the LIQUIFIED form of the mashed up cocao beans after they have been processed to cocoa. Now, 100% is mind-numbingly bitter, however, it is good for chocolate melted into baked goods. Like using unsalted butter in baking (for sodium control), unsweetened chocolate allows for a greater control of the amount of sweetness that your final product will contain.

Dark chocolate is anything above 50% cocao with little to no milk added, and sugar
Milk chocolate is always up to 50% cocao, with milk and sugar added
White chocolate is typically 35% cocao, with milk, sugar, and cocoa butter. The difference here is that there are NO cocoa solids in white chocolate, just the butter. So, in actuality, white chocolate isn’t really chocolate.

Melting chocolate seems like a simple process, but here’s the thing, it really isn’t. Here’s my temperature chart:

81-92 (or even 93) degrees fahrenheit is where you need to keep the chocolate in order to ‘temper’ it. Tempering is when all of the small crystals that make up the structure of chocolate are broken down into itty bitty teeny tiny pieces, so that they can be aligned and stacked up into a nice, sturdy final structure when cooled down. When you heat chocolate too cool, the crystals simply haven’t gotten the chance to break up. The resulting chocolate will be soft and “gooshy”, you know…goopy and squishy, when you bite into it. It will also be dull, not shiny. When you bring it up to 89-93 degrees and HOLD IT THERE while you form and play with different shapes, it should and will get a nice classic chocolate bar type finish. Shiny, snappy, and not as melty. You are in danger of scorching the chocolate when you get to a higher temperature. With dark chocolate, you have a higher range of temperatures before you burn it. With milk, its a bit lower than that. With white chocolate…well, I usually burn it, if that answers your question. That leads to a gritty texture and burned taste. But you already knew that.

When I temper chocolate, I like to microwave it. I know this is unorthodox, and gives you less control over the temperature. However, when chocolatiers temper chocolate, they melt the chocolate to around 121 degrees and either spoon some out onto a marble slab and fold it, spread it, etc, then put it back with the melted chocolate in order to cool it (over and over again) down into that temperature range. Another method they use is they melt SOME of the chocolate to 121 degrees, then add the solid chocolate to the melted, and stir to incorporate, and that usually gives some good solid crystals as well. I kind of play with the latter method.

I like to take about 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips (preferably 60-70%) and microwave it for about a minute to a minute and a half. Usually, at this point, the chocolate is melty, and when I stir it, a lot of the chips are still solid. This is good. I don’t put it back in the microwave, but I continue to stir it until the chocolate chips are melted. This results in the right consistency for tempered chocolate. In MY experience (I’m only saying this, because even when I traditionally tempered the chocolate, it was this way), the tempered chocolate isn’t that liquid. Its actually a bit thicker than you would think it to be. Its a little bit hard to work with, as it isn’t as easily pourable as, say, candy melts. If you add any sort of oil to the chocolate, it could mess with the composition and final product. If you want a shiny bar, just temper it correctly, it will end up that way. You don’t need oil.

I made the caramel today that I made in the post before. I thought it would be fun to wrap them up like the classic caramels, despite the redundant factor of cutting out parchment squares, wrapping them up, etc.

But that was when I got the IDEA to once again, try my hand at tempering chocolate! Caramel truffles are my favorites!

But it got redundant too. That’s waht I get for cutting out 106 individual squares of soft caramels. But either way, dipping in chocolate is still fun!

Just tap the fork over and over again, gently, the excess comes off easily.

Another secret I learned is to NOT put the chocolate in the fridge! Refrigerator air is very wet, and it can stick to the chocolate, creating condensation, which doesn’t help the final product. Be patient, it takes about an hour or so for the chocolate to correctly set up.

Give tempering a go! If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Happy Baking!
Clara

Millionaire Bars


I had heard about Millionaire Bars once before. I was watching a show on Food Network, and one of the chefs made the treat because she went on a trip to Scotland or Ireland, and those were the most popular thing that they had at one bakery there.

I don’t know exactly who or when it was, but she made a weird statement saying that she reserved one suitcase for them for the flight back. Interesting. But either way, these have stayed in my head ever since then. I’ve always wanted to make them! It gives me a chance to make three of my favorite things: Shortbread, Caramel, and Chocolate Ganache.

First, just make the shortbread by combining a 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour, 1/2 tsp. of sea salt, and 1 stick of unsalted butter (cold). Cutting it up with the pastry cutter until it looks crumbly.

Then cut in about 2-3 tablespoons of milk, or until the dough forms a crumbly ball. Then you just pat it out onto a 9″x9″ square baking pan lined with some parchment paper, then dock the dough with a fork! Then bake it for about 20 minutes, or until its golden on the edges and slightly firm in the center.

Let it cool completely while you work on your caramel!

Don’t post pictures of making the caramel. Its against my religion.

Just kidding, I forgot to.

But make it…and pour it on top.

I sprinkled some sea salt on top to give it that extra bite of saltiness to offset the sweetness of the caramel. Makes for a neat picture!

I waited for about an hour before I made the ganache. I stuck the caramel and shortbread in the freezer so it would firm up a bit. Soften the chocolate a bit in the microwave, just to help it along. No stirring required while you work on your cream.

Its an ocean of cream! Let’s get a boat! I’M ON A BOAT.

No I’m not.

Let it sit for about two minutes, then whisk or stir with a fork until the ganache becomes smooth and combined. Add vanilla and espresso powder to the concoction…

Then pour it on top of the caramel. After this, just let it set for a few hours in the fridge and cut up the bars at the end of it all!

And there you have it! Now you can feel affluent with these millionaire bars! Give em a go!

Millionaire Bars
Ingredients
FOR THE SHORTBREAD
1/2 C. Powdered Sugar
1/2 C. All-Purpose Flour
1 Stick Unsalted Butter, cold, cut into cubes
2-3 scant T. Milk
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
1/2 tsp. Almond Extract
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

FOR THE CARAMEL
From Land O’ Lakes: Aunt Emily’s Soft Caramels CLICK HERE
1 C. Granualted Sugar
1/2 C. Firmly Packed Brown Sugar
1/2 C. Unsalted Butter
1/2 C. Milk
1/2 C. Heavy Cream
1/2 C. Light Corn Syrup
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

FOR THE GANACHE
1 C. 70% Cacao Chocolate Chips
1/2 C. Heavy Cream
1/2 C. Milk
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extact
1/4 tsp. Espresso Powder

Method
MAKE SHORTBREAD – Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9″x9″ baking pan with nonstick spray and parchment paper.
1. Using a pastry cutter, cut cubes of butter with powdered sugar, salt, and flour. Combine until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Cut in scant tablespoons of milk and extracts, or until the mixture can be formed into a loose ball.
2. Press mixture into prepared pan, making the layer even as possible. Use a fork to pierce small holes over the entire surface of the dough.
3. Bake until edges are golden and the center is lightly firm, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

MAKE CARAMEL –
1. Combine all ingredients except vanilla in heavy 2-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted and mixture comes to a boil (15 to 20 minutes). (Once the mixture comes to a boil, whisk consistently, as the fat tries to separate, and it has a higher chance of burning! I’m speaking from experience)

Continue cooking, until candy thermometer reaches 244°F. or small amount of mixture dropped into ice water forms a firm ball (about 25 to 30 minutes).

Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.

->Pour caramel over cooled shortbread and top with sea salt. Allow to cool in freezer for about an hour before continuing.

MAKE GANACHE-
1. In a large bowl, pour in chocolate chips and soften in the microwave for about a minute. Don’t stir.
2. Combine cream and milk in a measuring cup, heat until lightly scalding in the microwave. Don’t let the cream burn! About 2 minutes.
3. Pour cream over chocolate and allow to sit for a few minutes before stirring. Whisk or stir with a fork until smooth. Pour in vanilla and espresso powder, whisk until smooth.
4. Pour over caramel. Allow to set in refrigerator for at least 4 hours before cutting.

Enjoy!

Happy Baking!
Clara

Hi, I’m Home


It’s Spring Break! You know, that time of year where students typically go to Cabo San Lucas, Playa, Tampa, Miami. You know, all those fancy-dancy ‘spring break’ type places. Where do I go? Home. I am perfectly content with it, too. To be reunited with my mixer, my oven, my plethora of ingredients. Heaven on Earth, this place. What did I make first thing back here? I made Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cooked Frosting. But of course! I made a few minor changes, just to adjust the fluffiness and consistency of the cupcakes. They stayed about the same, but they were a little more fluffy thanks to the mixture of cake and all purpose flour in the batter.

Another substitute I made in the recipe was oil in the place of the solid shortening. To kind of play on with the moisture of the cupcake. It turned out fine, if not a little more moist. You can’t do much when it comes to red velvet, the buttermilk makes them already pretty moist. Anything more than that, you’ll get mush. But the final batter was looser and more fluid. It was ideal for cupcakes!

My favorite part of making the batter is just putting together the paste for the food coloring and the cocoa powder. You can certainly put them together separately, adding each directly to the batter; however, I think that this is a little less risky. If you added the red food coloring directly to the batter, you run the risk of it splashing out and ruining your Gap blazer. That never happened, but seeing as I wore it while baking, it could have been.

It just makes me think of Dexter or True Blood whenever I make this cake.

I used about 1 1/2 cups of All-Purpose Flour and 1 cup of Cake Flour in the batter, it certainly did yield a softer cake. I’ll experiment again and see how they hold up to all cake flour. Red velvet is a pretty heavy cake.

Oh, also a DASH of cinnamon :).

But oh, is it a pretty batter.

The chemical reaction from combining the vinegar and baking soda helps leaven the cake in a more gentle manner, not only that, but it has been said (in ancient times) that it makes the cake redder.

But you didn’t hear anything from me.

Pretty cakes too! Such even crumb structure! The cake flour contributed to that.

So yeah! Give the recipe a try with the slight modifications! Tell me what YOU think!

Dump some cooked frosting on top (my favorite frosting to make! Its a fun process!)

Give it a go! make the slight modifications!

Happy Baking!
Clara

AHH FOOD?


Finally finished this darned thing! Now to start on the OTHER 3D assignment!

I’m still alive!! I love you all!

March 12, I will be returning for two weeks of Spring Break! Baking madly in that timeframe.

Happy Baking!
Clara

Check It Out!

Since I can’t post recipes on here for as long as I’m here at school, I have a daily blog that you can follow and I will post on it at least five times a week!

Hope to see you there!

Happy Baking!
Clara

Back at School. D’oh!

No new recipes for a while, oh well. But I have this one thing that was my first exercise/project for my advanced computer art applications class. I hope it goes over well! I had to use Adobe Illustrator for the first time ever and I’m going cuh-rayzay!

Happy Baking!
Clara