Saturday, July 25, 2009

Grilleration! Pork loin and Mexican corn on the cob...Yummy!

Today was a grilleration day and with hubby's help we had a terrific grilled dinner tonight of brined & dry rubbed pork tenderloin, grilled corn on the cob - Mexican style, and white jasmine rice. Today's recipes come from two of our grill cookbooks, one by the Cook's Illustrated Magazine group and the other by grill experts, the Jamisons. For those interested in adding these great cookbooks to their collection, here is a link to them on

Both of these books are great and full of lots of recipes we are looking forward to trying, but tonight we used the recipe and directions for Charcoal-Grilled Pork Tenderloin from pg 86 of the first book, The Best Recipe: Grilling & Barbecue along with the recipe for Flame-Seared Corn on the Cob from The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking & Entertaining. The pork recipe calls for a 1 hour brine followed by either a dry or wet rub before grilling and we chose to use the dry Curry Rub for Pork from pg 77. Both the pork and the corn were fantastic and hubby did a superb job as grillmaster for the evening. Here are the recipes and my results:

The Recipes:

Charcoal-Grilled Pork Tenderloin

Serves 6 to 8

Pork tenderloin are often sold two to a package, each piece usually weighing 12-16 oz. The cooking times below are for two average 12 oz. tenderloins; if necessary, adjust the cooking times to suit the size of the cuts you are cooking. For maximum efficiency, make the flavor rub and then light the fire while the pork is brining. If you opt not to brine, bypass step 1 in the recipe below and sprinkle the tenderloins generously with salt before grilling. Use a spice rub whether or not the pork has been brined -- it adds extra flavor and forms a nice crust on the meat. If rubbing tenderloins with dry spices, consider serving with a salsa (see pg 75) for added moisture and flavor.
  • 3 tbsp kosher salt or 1.5 tbsp table salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 pork tenderloins, 1 1/2 - 2 lbs total, trimmed of silverskin
  • 1 recipe of wet spice rub or 2 tbsp of olive oil and 1 recipe dry spice rub (posted below)
  • disposable aluminum roasting pan
  1. Dissolve salt and sugar in 2 cups hot water in a medium bowl. Stir in 2 cups cold water; cool the mixture to room temperature. Add the tenderloins, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until fully seasoned, about 1 hr. Remove the tenderloins from the brine, rinse well, and dry throughly with paper towels. Set aside.
  2. Light a large chimney starter filled with hardwood charcoal (about 2.5 lbs) and allow to burn until all the charcoal is covered with a layer of fine gray ash. Build a modified 2-level fire by spreading the coals evenly over half the grill bottom. Set the cooking rack in place, cover the grill with the lid, and let the rack heat up, about 5 minutes. Use a wire brush to scrape clean the cooking rack. The grill is ready when the coals are hot.
  3. If using wet spice rub, rub the tenderloins with the mixture. If using a dry spice rub, coat the tenderloin with oil and then rub with the spice mixture.
  4. Cook the tenderloins, uncovered, over the hottest part of the grill until browned on all four sides, about 2.5 min on each side. Move the tenderloins to the cooler part of the grill, and cover with a disposable aluminum roasting pan. Grill, turning once, until an instant-read thermometer, inserted into the thickest part of the tenderloin, registers 145F, or until the meat is slightly pink at the center when cut with a paring knife, 2-3 minutes longer. Transfer the tenderloins to a cutting board, cover with the disposable aluminum pan, and let rest about 5 minutes. Slice crosswise into 1" thick pieces and serve.

Curry Rub for Pork

Enough for 4 chops or 2 tenderloins. This rub works especially well with the Pineapple Salsa

  • 4 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  1. Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Rub the mixture over oiled but unseasoned pork (do not sprinkle pork with pepper) before grilling.

Flame-Seared Corn on the Cob

If you cook ears of corn on the grill in their husks, as many people do, you steam the kernels instead of searing them. By stripping the husk first and exposing the corn directly to the fire, you get a much deeper taste. The kernels shrink up slightly, condensing the flavor of each bite.

Cooking method: Grilling
Serves 6 as a side dish

  • 6 large ears corn, husks and silk removed
  • about 8 tbsp (1 stick) butter, preferably unsalted, melted
  • flaky salt, such as Maldon or French Fleur de Sel
  1. Fire up the grill, bringing the temperature to medium (4-5 seconds with the hand test).
  2. Brush the corn lightly, using a couple of tbsp of the butter.
  3. Grill the corn uncovered on medium heat for 20-22 minutes, turning on all sides to cook evenly and brushing with more butter after about 10 minutes. This cooking time is longer than technically necessary to cook the corn, but it concentrates the flavor of the kernels, contributing to the deeper taste.
  4. Brush the corn again with butter, sprinkle with salt, and serve right away.
Esquites - Ears of corn Mexican style
Dress the grilled corn with the rich mayonnaise (recipe follows) slathered over each ear. Sprinkle with ground dried red chile, cotija cheese, or queso fresco and offer lime wedges to squeeze over as well. It's much better than it may sound to the uninitiated.

Rich Mayonnaise:
Start with 1 cup of mayonnaise. Mix in 1-2 tsp olive oil and a pinch of coarse salt, either kosher or sea salt. Use it like regular mayo or for something different smear it on corn-on-the-cob and then sprinkle the top with Mexican style cotija cheese.

My Results:

I began following the directions for making the dry spice rub. As mentioned in previous recipes, I buy curry powder in bulk and store it, with a few extra bay leaves, in my freezer in mason jars, which you can see in the photo below. I mixed the ingredients up into a small prep bowl and set aside as shown in the second photo.

The spice rub smelled fantastic from the start so I was really looking forward to the end results. After mixing up the spices, I created the brine for the tenderloins and placed them in a large plastic bowl in the refrigerator to brine. Here are the ingredients I used:

While the pork was brining, hubby lit the charcoal for the grill and I whipped up the rich mayonnaise and prepped the corn for roasting. Here are the corn ingredients:

I purchased pre-prepped corn from our local grocery which had been mostly de-silked and had part of the husk and base removed, so all I had to do was remove the remaining husk and silk. Makes it very nice for quick prep with a little one underfoot. The husks and silks went into our composter out back...

After an hour, when the coals were nice and hot,I drained, rinse and dried the pork loins, rubbed them generously with olive oil and then rubbed them down with the curry rub. Boy did these smell amazing!

Hubby took them out to the grill and followed the instructions for grilling them, turning to ensure even browning. He also added the corn at that time, although in hindsight realized we should have started the corn a bit earlier since the pork was done quite a bit before the corn.

Here is a photo of the finished tenderloins, ready for slicing:

I didn't make any sauce or salsa to go over the meat, which, in hindsight I would probably do next time. The meat was perfectly cooked and very delicious (thanks to hubby's expert grilling!) and was neither over nor underdone. I think that a nice orange marmalade sauce (just some melted marmalade with a little soy sauce and ginger added) would be perfect on this meat as would the pineapple salsa mentioned in the recipe. Next time...

And here is the grilled corn in all it's Mexican splendor:

If you have never tried corn this way, please, please do! It is absolutely fabulous! I have had it this way at carnivals and fairs in the area but never made it at home. My husband and brother-in-law had neither one had it this way and both loved it, each eating at least two ears! We couldn't locate cotija cheese on our shopping trip but instead used a local queso fresco which was fantastic with a salty bite that was perfect with the rich mayo slather. Yum yum!

All in all this was a fabulous meal. Even little E, our 10 month old, enjoyed the roasted corn (sans the Mexican topping) and she has always refused corn in the past. I did serve some white jasmine rice with this to cut the heat of the curry rub, but it was probably not necessary as the curry was hot, but not overbearingly so. We will definitely do this again, perhaps with one of the other rubs in the book, or maybe just as we did this time. I hope you'll give this a try yourself and let me know how it works for you. For tonight, we have four very happy tummies in this house! Be sure to check back tomorrow for a "company" dish we're taking to a family meal...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Today's trial a flop...

SO today I was working on some gifts in a jar for a wedding shower present (Jen if you're reading this, DON'T!) and the first recipe I tried was a complete flop in the sense that it did not work as described... I'll post the recipe, but explain what I did in the end so as not to waste ingredients :) This recipe, along with three others that I will post about in future blog entries, comes from the Ultimate Gifts for the Cookie Jar by Cookbook Resources LLC. All the recipes in this book are meant to be mixes which you layer in mason jars and then give as gifts. This particular recipe is for Rum Balls. Here's a link to the book on Amazon if you'd like a copy (there is no image of the book on the site so forgive the text only link...):

Ultimate Gifts for the Cookie Jar

Now, let me preface this by saying that the other three recipes from the book that I have tried did NOT suffer from the particular problem that this recipe did, so don't let it dissuade you from trying the others, but I think there may have been either a misprint or some other issue with this particular recipe which caused the problem I'll explain below. Here's the recipe as printed in the book:

The Recipe:

Rum Balls

Consider this spirit-filled recipe for the holidays! For a truly unique gift that's sure to be a hit, combine the jar of cookie mix in a decorative holiday basket with a small bottle of rum.

Ingredients for jar:

  • 3 cups crushed vanilla wafer cookies
  • 1 1/4 cups cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts
Instructions for jar:
  • Put crushed vanilla wafers in 1 quart (1 L) jar.
  • Layer cocoa powder and then powdered sugar over crushed cookies.
  • Top with chopped pecans.
Instructions for making cookies:
  • 3 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup rum (or bourbon)
  • Powdered or granulated sugar
  • Empty contents of jar into large mixing bowl. Stir to mix dry ingredients.
  • Stir in corn syrup and rum. Blend until dry ingredients are moist.
  • Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll in powdered sugar or granulated sugar.

My Results:

Ok, first, let me see if you can figure out why this recipe didn't work out... It is meant for a 1 quart canning jar. 1 quart=4 cups right? And how many cups of ingredients do you see in the recipe? 5 1/2!!! So, no, this WON'T fit into a quart jar, no matter how hard you tamp the ingredients down! Had I thought to look at the math BEFORE beginning the recipe, it might have prevented the unfortunate result, which was that when I got to the adding the cocoa powder step, well, it just did NOT fit! The only thing I can figure is that either, a) it should be three cups of vanilla wafers BEFORE crushing (meaning fewer wafers and therefore less crumbs) or one of the other amounts is off. Either way, because I was doing two of this jar and started with just a single, I was able to simply dump the first jar and the remaining ingredients into a bowl and go ahead and make them up (adding a bit of water and a bit of extra corn syrup since there was not enough moisture to moisten the entire mass). The flavor of these is great, but they are not practical as an "in the jar" gift mix. So if you want to just make up a batch of the mix ingredients in a ziplock baggy for later use or even just make the cookies from the entire recipe, they are worth it, but don't rely on it as a "gift in a jar" recipe...

I did find another rum ball recipe on the Internet that I used for the SECOND jar I made up, and I'm happy to post a link for that one here as well. That recipe DOES fit into the jar quite nicely and should be a hit with the recipient. The Internet recipe is for Mocha Rum Balls Mix in a Jar.

All of these recipes in this book come with photocopy-able tags to put on the jars when giving with the directions for making the cookies from the jarred mix. These make a great gift and I have actually sold jars of similar mixes at craft fairs for $8-10 per jar. Not bad for something that only cost $1-2 to make! Anyway, the other three recipes that I am using from this book for this particular gift worked out much better and I hope you'll check back in to see how they worked out. I'll have to wait a few more days before posting though so that the recipient doesn't accidentally see her gift on the blog before she gets it! Be sure to check back this weekend for more fun recipe play and for a few (hopefully!) great grilling trials with my hubby's help!

Jello Fudge?

Ok, so I'm late in posting this, but yesterday I made a recipe out of the most recent addition to my cookbook shelves, Jell-o Brand's Fun and Fabulous Recipes. I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out but it was such an interesting idea that I had to give it a try. This is a recipe for fudge using Jell-o brand pudding in the microwave! Here's a link to the book on, but you'll have to find it used since it's no longer in print:

Now, here's today's recipe:

The Recipe:

Microwave Fast Fudge

  • 3 tbsp butter or margarine
  • 1 pkg (4-serving size) Jell-O Vanilla Flavor Pudding and Pie Filling
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup BAKER'S Real Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Microwave:* Heat butter in 1 1/2-quart microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 35 seconds or until melted. Stir in pudding mix and milk. Cook 2 minutes longer or until mixture begins to boil, stirring every 30 seconds. Stir in vanilla and salt. With electric mixer at low speed, beat in sugar, 1 cup at a time, until smooth. (Mixture will be stiff.) Fold in nuts and chocolate. Press fudge evenly into 8x4-inch loaf pan that has been lined with waxed paper. Cover and chill until firm. Cut into squares.

Microwave Chocolate Mallow Fudge: Prepare Microwave Fast Fudge as directed, substituting chocolate flavor pudding and pie filling and 1/3 cup miniature marshmallows for the vanilla flavor pudding and the walnuts.

Microwave S'Mores Fudge: Prepare Microwave Fast Fudge as directed, substituting 1/3 cup each crushed graham crackers, miniature marshmallows and chunks of BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate for the walnuts and chocolate chips.

Microwave Coconut Macaroon Fudge: Prepare Microwave Fast Fudge as directed, substituting almond extract and 1/3 cup BAKER'S ANGEL FLAKE Coconut for the vanilla and walnuts. Omit chocolate chips.

*Ovens vary. Cooking time is approximate.

My results:

This was a fun recipe to attempt. I decided to cut the sugar a bit by using sugar-free pudding instead of regular and it worked just fine. I also decided in advance that I wanted to do the s'more's version of the fudge since I LOVE s'mores. Additionally, instead of using a regular loaf pan and waxed paper, I used a disposable loaf pan and sprayed it with PAM spray before putting the mix in to cool. Worked perfectly for me... Now onto the recipe trial. Here's my ingredients:

My first observation is that in my microwave, it took more like 45 seconds to melt the butter :) That done, I added the pudding powder and milk and was amazed at how dense the result was. It was the color of and texture of cooked egg yolks! I did cook it the additional 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, but it was like stirring something solid around in the bowl rather than anything liquid-y. I added the vanilla and salt and beat with my hand mixer, adding the powdered sugar slowly. At this point it was very stiff, almost like play-dough in consistency. I folded in the chocolate (pieces of a Toll House Chocolatier Dark Chocolate [53% cacao] bar), graham cracker crumbs and mini marshmallows and then pushed it down into the pan. It wasn't very thick, but did look yummy. Here's the results before refrigeration:

Once it had chilled for an hour or so, I pushed it out of the pan and cut it into chunks. I'll be honest and say it wasn't 21 pieces like the recipe says it makes, more like 15, but who's counting :) And here's what the finished product looks like:

The marshmallows give it a kind of taffy-like texture, more like a nougat than fudge, but the flavor is really pretty good. Not a substitute for real creamy fudge like grandma makes, but a good quick fix when you don't have time or the inclination to make the "real thing". Definitely would make this again, perhaps trying the other variations and/or coming up with my own (Mounds fudge anyone?)... Hope you'll give this one a try and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hot days - Salad lunches

Today was take two on The Habanero Cookbook. We decided to give it another shot with the Crab and Cantaloupe Salad with Habanero Yogurt and boy was it worth it! Now, this was a good salad! Here's another link to the cookbook on Amazon if you're interested:

And here's...

The Recipe:

Crab and Cantaloupe Salad with Habanero Yogurt

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/3 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 habaneros, seeds and stems removed, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • pinch of white pepper
  • 1 lb cooked crab meat
  • 1 small cantaloupe, diced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 small purple onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and allow to sit at room temperature for 1 hour to blend flavors.
Toss crab, cantaloupe and avocado with dressing. Top with the onion rings and serve.
Yield: 4-6 servings

My results:

YUM! This salad was really really good...I was a little unsure how the flavors of crab, avocado and cantaloupe would blend with the dressing, but it was very good. I think next time I would add an additional avocado since there was quite a bit more crab and cantaloupe than avocado, but other than that, it was a great hit. Hubby and brother-in-law both enjoyed it as well. Here is a picture of my starting ingredients:

You'll notice I didn't use "fresh" lime juice as I didn't have any limes on hand (used them for the Yoda Soda the other night!) and we used pre-picked crab (called "special" crab meat in the fish area of the market). The notes on this recipe said you might choose to only use one pepper, however I had my fire-mouth husband taste the pepper and since he said they weren't super hot, we went with two. Your peppers may vary, so either taste them beforehand or try one and add an additional if you think you can handle it. Ours was just right with a little heat but nothing super spicy and a nice rounded flavor.

Here is a photo of the finished dressing as it was "sitting" for an hour to meld:

I chose to combine some of the dressing with the crab meat to "loosen" it up (as it had been packed in it's little plastic container) and then placed the cantaloupe and avocado mixture onto the plates, topped with the crab and dressing mixture and then drizzled a little more dressing over all. This made for a pretty presentation as well as a good way to keep the ripe avocado from breaking up too much from tossing. There was a bit of the dressing left over which would probably be good on regular green salad, or perhaps on a grilled chicken breast. It was a very good dressing with hints of cilantro popping out and the heat from the habanero there but not overwhelming. Here are the completed plates, ready to be served. Because this was our full meal, we only got three servings out of it, but if you were serving this as a side or even as a light lunch with rolls, etc. it would definitely feed 4-6.

All in all this was a big hit and one we'll definitely do again. It was perfect for a hot day in South Texas (our 30th day of breaking 100F!) Please let me know if you try this dish and what you think of it and be sure to check in tomorrow for another cookbook adventure!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hot Cold Pate

So anyone who knows my husband knows his affinity for hot foods, as in spicy, not heat hot. While we were perusing the local used bookstore the other day, we came across a cookbook that was right up his spice-loving alley called The Habanero Cookbook by Dave DeWitt and Nancy Gerlach. He has a pretty good collection of spicy cookbooks, but this one even had a few recipes in it that appealed to me, including today's trial recipe, Salmon-Habanero Pâté. For those interested in locating a copy of the cookbook, here's a link to it on

The Recipe:

Salmon-Habanero Pâté

Serve this pâté as a spread with crusty bread or crackers and garnished with hard-cooked egg wedges, tomatoes and olives.

  • 1 habanero, seeds and stem removed, minced
  • 2 tbsp Dijon-style mustard
  • 1/2 lb cooked salmon, either canned or fillets
  • 3 tbsp light rum
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tbsp minced onion
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • salt, to taste
Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

My results:

Let me first say that my initial review of this recipe isn't great. It calls for 8 oz (1/2 lb) cooked salmon and a can of salmon is only 6 oz., so I started with just that much in my experiment and found that the spread was way too loose and really lacked any of the wow factor we had been hoping for. There was no true salmon flavor nor really any other flavor standout and it left us all feeling a bit underwhelmed. So we (hubby and I) decided to up the salmon quotient by adding an additional can of salmon, bringing the salmon total to 12 oz (4 oz more than the recipe calls for). This helped the consistency a good deal, although it was still too liquid-y to be considered a "spread" in my opinion, more of a "dip". The flavor was also improved by the additional salmon, although I still didn't get a strong taste of salmon or any other flavor. All in all I would say this recipe is just "ok" and definitely not something I would waste ingredients on again. It wasn't "bad", but when there are so many "good" recipes out there, why waste time, ingredients and energy (not to mention calories!) on something that is just "ok"... Here are photos of the finished dip, both with and without flash:

Here's hoping that the other recipes we try from this cookbook will more than make up for this lack-luster beginning! Be sure and check back tomorrow to see what we decide to bring on from the cookbook collection!

Edited to add:

After setting for 24 hours the flavors had a chance to meld and this dip was much better. Hubby said he liked it and while it still wasn't a favorite of mine, it was much better the second day...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Crafty Chocolates

Mmmm...lavender... I just love the calming fragrance of lavender. I have read several recipes in the past using lavender and never tried them, but when I was roaming the aisles at the CostPlus World Market a few days ago looking for some ground coriander (for an Indian salmon dish), I found lavender for cooking in the spice area and decided it was high time I tried something using it. Then, while perusing my cookbooks, I came across a recipe for Dark Chocolate and Lavender Truffles in the Outstanding in the Field cookbook by Jim Denevan.

This is a new cookbook on my shelves that I got after watching an episode of Alter Eco on Planet Green. The premise behind the cookbook and the restaurant is using fresh local ingredients to make better food and to reduce our carbon footprint. It is a very interesting cookbook and one I hope to spend more time reading in the future, but for now I was pleased to just be able to try this wonderful recipe. Here is a link to the book on Amazon for anyone interested in perusing it yourself...

So, this recipe isn't for the "faint of heart" when it comes to mess and time. It does take time and is definitely on the messy side with rolling the chocolate, dipping it and sugaring the lavender, but the end results are beautiful as well as delicious, so I hope you'll attempt it :) Here's the recipe from the book:

The Recipe

Dark Chocolate and Lavender Truffles

  • 26 oz. dark chocolate
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 6 fresh lavender flower sprigs or 2 tsp dried flower buds
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup superfine granulated sugar
Makes about 40 truffles.

  1. Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Put 8 ounces of the chopped chocolate in a stainless-steel bowl and put 16 ounces in a second stainless-steel bowl. Set the remaining 2 ounces aside.
  2. Combine the cream and 3 of the fresh lavender flowers or 1 teaspoon of the dried flowers in a small saucepan and heat just until it bubbles. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand to infuse, covered, for 5 minutes.
  3. Return the cream to the heat and bring to a boil. Strain the hot cream mixture over the 8 ounces of chopped chocolate. Let set for 30 seconds and then whisk gently to incorporate and make a smooth ganache. Strain in the remaining cream and mix well. The ganache should be smooth, not grainy. If there are still bits of unmelted chocolate in the mixture, place the bowl over a pot of hot - but not boiling - water and mix constantly until the remaining chocolate has melted. Be careful not to overheat the mixture or let any water get into the bowl of chocolate or you may break the emulsion. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
  4. Cut the butter into small pieces. When the chocolate mixture has cooled to warm room temperature, add a few pieces of butter at a time, stirring after each addition, until well incorporated. Cover the ganache with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator until firm, 15 to 30 minutes.
  5. In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of the sugar with 1/2 cup water. Heat over medium heat until the sugar is melted. Remove the individual buds from the remaining lavender flowers and stir them or the remaining 1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers into the sugar syrup. Simmer gently for about 5 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer placed over a bowl (reserve the sugar syrup for another use) and dry the buds on a towel. Put the buds in the remaining sugar and stir to coat. Drop the coated lavender flowers into a fine mesh strainer and shake to sift away the excess sugar. Place the candied buds on a plate to dry and harden while you roll the truffles.
  6. Line a large tray or rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the bowl of ganache from the refrigerator. Roll small spoonfuls of the ganache into 3/4 to 1-inch balls with your hands. When all the ganache has been rolled, put the tray in the refrigerator while you temper the chocolate for coating.
  7. Bring a saucepan filled with 2 inches of water to a boil. Place the bowl of 16 ounces of chocolate over the hot water and melt slowly until the temperature of the chocolate reads 122F to 125F on a thermometer. Be careful not to overheat it and make sure no water gets into the bowl of chocolate or it will not harden properly later. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and cool the chocolate, gently stirring in the remaining 2 ounces chopped chocolate a small pinch at a time until the temperature reaches 85F.
  8. When the temperature reaches 85F, place the bowl back over the saucepan of hot water and gently raise the temperature of the chocolate t between 87F and 88F. This should take 1 to 3 minutes. Check to see the chocolate has been properly tempered by placing a drop on a piece of parchment paper and refrigerating it. The drop should harden evenly and have a nice gloss.
  9. Remove the ganache balls from the refrigerator. Using a fork (one with long fine tines works best), dip the balls one by one into the tempered chocolate to coat. Hold the fork over the bowl briefly to allow any excess chocolate to drip off the truffle. Place the coated truffle back on the tray lined with parchment. Quickly place 2 or 3 of the candied lavender buds on top of each truffle, pressing down gently so they stick. Repeat with all of the remaining balls of ganache. Let the truffles harden at room temperature for about 1 hour.
  10. If the tempered chocolate cools too much and begins to thicken, set the bowl over the saucepan of hot water, stirring occasionally, just until it returns to between 87F and 88F.
  11. When the chocolate coating has set, remove the truffles from the sheet of parchment paper and gently trim off any excess chocolate at the base with a paring knife, if desired. The truffles will keep at room temperature for 2 weeks, stored in an airtight container.

My Results:

First the complaints: The recipe results were fantastic, HOWEVER, the directions were a little off... Using a 1 inch disher, I was able to make about 20 truffles, not the 40 it says it makes. Also, in step 3 it says to strain the cream into the chocolate and then says to strain the remaining cream...what remaining cream? So disregard that unless you want to strain only part of the cream in and then the remainder later. It also says "cool to room temperature" and then in the next step says "warm room temperature", so go with your best guess here. I cooled the mixture until it was cool, enough not to melt the butter but still warm enough to incorporate it well. Step 4 says that the balls take 15 to 30 minutes to firm up in the fridge. Mine took closer to 2 hours to get to a consistency where they could be rolled.

Now for my ingredients:

You'll see that I chose to use Guittard's extra dark chocolate chips (63% cacao mass) which were a new product at our grocery. Basically any dark chocolate with a cacao % of 60-70 should work fine. I chose the chips to avoid having to chop the chocolate and it worked very well. Heating the cream with the lavender flowers worked just fine and smelled divine. After waiting the 30 seconds, I whisked the chocolate until smooth. Here it is just before refrigeration:

See that it is glossy and smooth. Makes you just want to dive into it :) After chilling for about 2 hours, it was ready to roll. While it was chilling I went ahead with making the candied lavender buds. After steeping the lavender in the sugar syrup and straining, I poured them out onto a paper towel to dry. I think a tea towel would be a better choice in this instance since the little buds kind of fell into the cracks and dips of the paper towel and made them a little difficult to remove. Here they are on the paper towel:

I poured about 1/4 of a cup of the superfine sugar into a shallow walled plate and dumped the buds on top, then shook them around to coat. I sifted them with another fine strainer and reserved the sugar for later use, since it was now lavender flavored as well, then dumped the candied buds onto a plate to dry out. The lavender sugar syrup makes a great addition to iced tea, by the way, which was a nice little side venture to cool off while waiting on the chocolate to chill.

Once the chocolate had chilled enough to handle, I donned a pair of latex (non powdered please!) gloves and began the process of making the balls. Using a 1" cookie scoop, I scraped the chocolate into balls and then gently rolls them between my palms to round them out before dropping them onto the parchment. Remember that truffles are supposed to look like clods of dirt, so a little irregularity is just fine! Here are my truffle centers, ready for refrigeration:

Now, tempering the chocolate is a pain in the rear...I'll warn you of that in advance. If you don't have a good candy thermometer, you can just forget it and roll the centers in cocoa powder or in powdered sugar, but if you have a good candy thermometer and a little patience, the resulting hard candy shell on the truffles IS worth the effort. *(Side note: Alton Brown of the Food Network uses a hot pad for tempering his chocolate... might have to try it sometime to see if works because it would be SO much easier!)* I had some trouble with my candy thermometer, but still managed to temper the chocolate pretty well. Here are the truffles all ready for setting aside to harden:

Now, just a note, my kitchen was pretty hot and after waiting an hour and having the chocolate still be a little sticky, I stuck them into the fridge to finish hardening. Worked just fine and gave me the hard shell I was looking for. So if you find your chocolate isn't setting up for you, pop it in the fridge for a few minutes and see if that fixes it. Now, because there was quite a bit of leftover tempered chocolate in the bowl, and never wanting to be wasteful, I made a little side trip into fun land to use up the chocolate. Anyone ever had muddy buddies? Or "monkey munch"? Usually it's made with Chex cereal and peanut butter and chocolate, but I didn't want to go to that trouble and also didn't have any Chex on hand, so I grabbed the Cheerios instead (have baby, have Cheerios!). I dumped about 2 cups of Cheerios into the bowl with the chocolate and gave them a turn with the spatula, then poured some powdered sugar in a ziptop bag and dumped it all in. Shake it up and you have some great dark chocolate covered Cheerios to snack on!

Now, on to the fun part...looking at these little beauties, I began thinking of how nice these would be as special party favors or treats and tried to think of a presentation which would be fitting of them. Not having any little jewel boxes around, but having a bit of origami paper, I thought of making little candy boxes out of origami paper. Following the directions here and using some regular origami paper, I made three little candy boxes to put my beautiful truffles in. They were just the perfect size for these truffles (and for the Cheerios mentioned above!) and would make a wonderful party favor for a tea party or something. Here's the finished product:

And a picture of the chocolate dipped Cheerios snack:

Cute don't ya think? Anyway, I had a great time making these and they turned out not only delicious, but beautiful as well. They have a slightly flowery taste, but not overwhelmingly so and are definitely something I would make again for a special occasion. Hope you enjoy and try them yourself... Make sure to let me know if you do! And check back tomorrow for another adventure in cookbook land!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Yoda Soda!

So tonight was movie theme night in our house and we had Yoda Soda for dessert. This frothy drink was very refreshing and comes from one of three Star Wars cookbooks we own, the original one of the series titled The Star Wars Cookbook: Wookiee Cookies and other Galactic Recipes by Robin Davis. This cookbook series is aimed mainly at children but since my husband is such a big Star Wars fan, I had to get these books for him. This is actually the first recipe we've tried out of the books and we've had them on the shelves for several years now, so it's a good thing I'm doing this year-long cookbook recipe roundup and finally put them to use! Here's a link to the book on Amazon for anyone interested:

This recipe is in the beverages section of the book along with drinks like Hoth Chocolate and Jawa Jive Milkshakes (which we'll have to try later!). We had a lot of fun making this one. Here is the recipe:

The Recipe:

Yoda Soda

  • 3 limes
  • 3 tbsp sugar, or more to taste
  • 1 cup sparkling water
  • 1 scoop lime sherbet or sorbet
1. Place 1 lime on the cutting board and cut it in half. Squeeze the juice from each half into a measuring cup. Repeat with the remaining limes until you have 1/4 cup of juice.
2. Put the lime juice and 3 tbsp sugar in a small pitcher. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolves. Add the sparkling water and stir until mixed. Taste and add more sugar, if desired.
3. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop up the sherbet and drop it into a tall glass. Pour in the lime water. Serve immediately.
Makes 1 serving.

Variation: You can substitute rainbow sherbet or lemon sorbet for the lime sherbet.

My results:

Ok, here are the ingredients before I started working on the drinks. You can see the book in the background there with the Yoda figurine from our childhood :)

I'm guessing that the testers of this recipe either used smaller limes or their limes weren't very juicy because my three limes yielded 1/2 cup of juice which was perfect for two drinks which I had planned to make. There are a couple of tricks to getting the most juice out of limes. The first one is for rock hard limes and that is to prick the lime a couple of times with the point of a sharp knife then pop it, whole, into the microwave for 10-15 seconds. This warms up the lime and starts the juices flowing. The second trick works with hard or softer limes and that is simply to roll the limes on your cutting board before cutting them. This breaks down the cell walls inside the lime and allows for easier juicing.

Anyway, with 1/2 cup of juice from my 3 limes, I added 6 tbsp of sugar and stirred to combine. Then poured in two cups of sparkling water and made sure the sugar was throughly dissolved. I then took two very tall glasses and plopped in two scoops of lime sherbet and the poured the lime juice mixture over top. Stirred up a little bit and it was like a lime float.

YUMMY! It was very refreshing and not overly sweet but sweet enough that even my little daughter loved the couple of sips she got from my straw (after noticing the fun looking green fizzy thing that Mommy was drinking...)

This is definitely something we'll do again! I loved the twist on a traditional float and it was very twangy and perfect for a hot summer night. I'd highly recommend this one, especially for the kid in all of us! Be sure and come back tomorrow when I'll be making another treat from my cookbook library and let me know if you decide to give this or any of the other recipes a try...