Thursday, January 27, 2011

16) Truffles (Dessert Diary, Part 4)

I) Part 4. Truffles. Originally they were supposed to be modeled after the mushrooms of the same name. Essentially they are supposed to look like clods of dirt. For some reason they have gotten a rap for being hard to make. And while they are a bit troublesome, they are not hard to make. Here is a simple recipe using ganache as the base and finishing with a coat of chocolate and nuts.

II) Truffles (taken directly from Alton Brown)


  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder, finely chopped nuts, and/or toasted coconut, for coating truffles
  • 8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine


Place the 10 ounces of chocolate and butter in a medium size glass mixing bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Remove and stir, and repeat this process 1 more time. Set aside.

Heat the heavy cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture over the melted chocolate mixture; let stand for 2 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, stir gently, starting in the middle of bowl and working in concentric circles until all chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth and creamy. Gently stir in the brandy. Pour the mixture into an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Using a melon baller, scoop chocolate onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and return to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Place the cocoa powder, nuts, and/or toasted coconut each in its own pie pan and set aside.

In the meantime, place the 8 ounces of chocolate into a medium mixing bowl which is sitting on top of a heating pad lined bowl, with the heating pad set to medium. Depending on the heating pad, you may need to adjust the heat up or down. Stirring the chocolate occasionally, test the temperature of the chocolate and continue heating until it reaches 90 to 92 degrees F; do not allow the chocolate to go above 94 degrees F. If you do, the coating will not have a nice snap to it when you bite into the chocolate. Once you have reached the optimal temperature, adjust the heat to maintain it.

Remove the truffles from the refrigerator and shape into balls by rolling between the palms of your hands. Use powder-free vinyl or latex gloves, if desired.

Dip an ice cream scoop into the chocolate and turn upside down to remove excess chocolate. Place truffles 1 at time into the scoop and roll around until coated. Then place the truffle into the dish with either the cocoa powder, nuts or coconut. Move the truffle around to coat; leave truffle in the coating for 10 to 15 seconds before removing. In the meantime, continue placing the chocolate-coated truffles in the cocoa or other secondary coating. After 10 to 15 seconds, remove the truffle to a parchment lined sheet pan. Repeat until all truffles are coated. Allow to set in a cool dry place for at least 1 hour; or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Truffles are best when served at room temperature.

III) Results and Discussion:

These were really easy to make, if messy. I left out the brandy, so the truffles were a bit less smooth. Next time I’ll either add the brandy or some other form of liquid to compensate. Overall really easy and really good. My first foray into chocolate!

IV) Sources:

"Chocolate Truffles Recipe : Alton Brown : Food Network." Food Network - Easy Recipes, Healthy Eating Ideas and Chef Recipe Videos. Web. 27 Jan. 2011.

V) Pictures!

15) Earl Grey Panna Cotta (Dessert Diary, Part 3)

I) Panna Cotta, literally means “cooked cream” in Italian. Although the cream is barely cooked, Panna cotta is best described as a cream gelatin. Which is better than it sounds. Here I take the basic recipe from Alton Brown, and flavor it with Earl Grey tea.

II) Earl Grey Panna Cotta


· 3 12-ounce cans of evaporated milk

· 1 ounce of unflavored gelatin

· 1.5 cups heavy cream

· 5 ounces of sugar

· 1 tsp salt

· ¼ cup loose leaf earl grey tea (or 4 tea bags)


1) Bloom the gelatin in 1 can of evaporated milk for 5 minutes.

2) Combine the rest of the ingredients and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and allow the tea to steep in the mixture.

3) While the mixture is still warm, pour over gelatin mixture and mix thoroughly. Cool to room temperature, then pour into ramekins or other molds.

4) Chill overnight. Serve with a spoonful of whipped cream and a few dry tea leaves for garnish.

III) Results and Discussion

The flavor came out great. The tea was pronounced without being bitter (thanks to the sugar and cream tempering the flavor of bitter). However, I think Alton Brown’s recipe either uses too much gelatin or not enough cream. I like panna cotta to have a smoother texture, and this was more gelatinous. However, the result isn't bad, it could just be better.

IV) Sources:

Brown, Alton. Good Eats: the Early Years. New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2009. 259. Print.

V) Pictures!

14) Lemon Sherbet (Dessert Diary, Part 2)

I) Dessert with lemons part 2. Lemon Sherbet. I love Ice Cream. I can’t afford an ice cream maker. Ah, first world problems. Here’s a way to make a frozen dessert, while no substitute for real ice cream, is tasty in its own right. Sherbet is basically a sorbet with a touch of cream. Since you don’t have the constant agitation of an ice cream machine, this method requires a bit more sugar than necessary. The sugar helps to keep the ice crystals small, enhancing the texture of the sherbet.

II) Lemon Sherbet


· 1 cup sugar

· 1 cup water

· 1 cup lemon juice

· Zest of 1 lemon

· ¼ cup cream


1) Pre-freeze a shallow baking dish. Melt sugar and water together. Cool to room temperature

2) Add lemon juice, zest, and cream. Pour mix into the frozen baking dish. Place the dish in the freezer.

3) Scrape the ice crystals every hour for the next 4 hours, fluffing up the crystals. Serve

III) Results and Discussion

I read this recipe in a Jamie Oliver cookbook. And although I liked some of his old cooking shows, this recipe doesn’t seem to make “Sherbet.” It turns out more like a cross between a granita and a sorbet (a granita is basically shaved ice). Although he adds mascarpone cheese instead of cream, he only adds one tablespoon, hardly enough to make much of a difference in my mind, but maybe that’s why mine came out more icy. I’ll be sure to try this again with mascarpone.

IV) Sources

Oliver, Jamie, David Loftus, and Chris Terry. Jamie's Italy. New York: Hyperion, 2006. 299. Print.

V) Pictures!

13) Lemon Bars (Dessert Diary, Part 1)

I) Here we chronicle my adventures in dessert making (the blueberry cobbler should be in this series…but I forgot to put it there…so we’ll just call that pre-dessert period). I have a lemon tree in my backyard. So I decided to try and make lemon bars. Here’s Thomas Keller’s version, it seems lighter and creamier than other versions. It’s also frozen, which is an interesting departure.

II) Lemon Bars



· 10.5 tablespoons of butter

· ¼ plus 1 tablespoon sugar

· ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

· 1 ¾ cups all purpose flour


· 1 cup lemon juice

· 6 large eggs

· 6 egg yolks

· 1 ¼ cups sugar

· 9 tablespoons butter broken into pieces at room temperature


1) Cream sugar and butter. Combine vanilla and flour. The dough should be crumbly. Wrap in parchment paper and chill in fridge for at least half an hour or a day in advance.

2) Combine lemon juice, eggs, yolks, and sugar in a double boiler. Whisk until thickened (about 5 minutes). Take off heat and whisk in butter piece by piece.

3) Push crust into baking dish. And bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, rotating halfway through. Cool to room temperature.

4) Strain filling into crust and freeze for at least an hour. Slice and serve.

III) Results and Discussion

I haven’t eaten many lemon bars, but I found these ones enjoyable. They seem to be creamier and softer than most other ones I’ve had.

IV) Sources:

Keller, Thomas, Dave Cruz, Susie Heller, Michael Ruhlman, and Amy Vogler. Ad Hoc at Home. New York: Artisan, 2009. 304. Print.

V) Pictures!

12) White Chicken Stock (An Easy Investment)

I) This may be boring. Although I find it unbelievably interesting and complex, I will be the first to admit that it doesn’t seem like the most interesting thing in the world. What are we talking about? Stocks. No not those stocks. Chicken, beef, veal, vegetable, fish. The building blocks of western cuisine (not to mention the base of many noodle soups). What is a stock? It’s basically water flavored with bones and aromatics. The water acts as a solvent, drawing out all the molecules from the bones and vegetables. It also breaks down the proteins, such as collagen, which give the water a richer consistency. Stocks are the building blocks of many sauces and not to mention the core of my favorite soup, Pho.

II) White Chicken Stock


· Bones

· Vegetables (celery, onion, and carrots is traditional)

· Enough cold water to cover

· Time


1) Add bones and chopped vegetables to a pot. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and lower to bare simmer. Simmer for 4-5 hours for maximum extraction. Skim any foam that forms and discard. Strain and use within 2 days or freeze into ice cubes.

III) Results and Discussion

The stock came out perfectly. I’ve never actually made a stock for the sake of stock making. I have made a stock but always in the process to make a soup (Vietnamese soups), but never as a standalone process.

IV) Sources:


V) Pictures!