Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Chocolate Truffles Trio / Trio de Truffes en Chocolat

Praline truffles

I like to celebrate the month of December with flour dust on my hair and melted chocolate on my upper lips.

There has not been a single day since the beginning of the month where my oven has had a day off. There have been biscotti, meringues, coconut macaroons, breads, granola, jam cookies, dried fruits bars, a decadent brownie and some out of this world chewy chocolate chip cookies (that I’m enjoying right now with a glass of milk).
December has this baking bulimia effect on me.

I pretend some excuses just so I can wear my chocolate-stained apron, turn on the oven and start playing with the flour. I’ve already had some pretty good motives like the traditional “neighbor’s gift baskets”, the “friend’s package Friday”, the “snowy Sunday”, the “chilly Saturday”, the “grumpy Monday”, the “oh-I’m-craving-chocolate-chip-cookies-Wednesday” and the “I-like-to-eat-brownies-while-watching-TheGodfather-Thursday”.

You understand now how crucial it was to keep my oven active on December. Especially how watching The Godfather without having a square (or two) of brownies is a sin on itself.
But the most sinful act of all would have been not to bake when I know that in two days we are off to Florida to spend the holidays with my in-laws.
Traveling and family have this baking bulimia effect on me too.

I believe the only day where I didn’t have to use my oven was the day I made this fantastic chocolate truffle trio. I’ve made chocolate truffles before, but when I made these I knew the previous one were pathetic. I owe this great success to Jacques Pépin and his easy to follow recipe. The method he uses is different from the usual chocolate and heavy cream truffle method. Instead he uses chocolate, egg yolks and butter.
The recipe might seem long, but once you read it you will notice that it’s only precious advises from the chef himself to help you achieve a remarkable result.
I followed his suggestions, divided the basic truffle recipe and flavored it with praline (hope you’re reading June!), orange and coffee. If like me you don’t use alcohol in your cooking, you can always replace it by water as mentioned in the recipe. This won’t affect the texture of the truffles.

You should really try these truffles. They are luscious and very addictive.
Perfect to serve for guests, to give as a gift or just to treat your self on a chilly December.

Happy Holiday Baking everyone.

PS: Please don’t forget to make a donation to this year’s Menu for hope. There are prizes for every taste bud and it’s for a good cause. So go donate, right here.

Coffee truffles

Chocolate Truffles Trio

Recipe: adapted from here
Basic Mixture:
- 12 oz bittersweet chocolate
- 4 egg yolks
- 2/3 stick (2 2/3 oz) unsalted butter, softened
Coffee truffles:
- 1 tbsp rum (or water)
- 1 tbsp coffee extract (these are the first drops from a drip coffee maker)
Praline truffles:
- ½ cup praline
- 2 tbsp cognac (or water)
Orange truffles:
-Rind of 1 orange (about 1 ½ tsp)
1 ½ tsp Grand Marnier (or water)

To make the basic mixture, melt the chocolate in double boiler (Bain Marie) until the chocolate is melted and lukewarm. Remove from the simmering water and add the egg yolks. Stir with a whisk for a few seconds. It will probably tighten and lose its shine.
Add the butter in small pieces and whisk well. The mixture may become smooth or it may remain somewhat separated. Do not worry about it. Divide the basic mixture equally into three small bowls.
For the coffee chocolate truffles: Add the coffee extract and rum and whisk.
For the praline chocolate truffles: Add the praline and cognac and whisk.
For the orange chocolate truffles: Add the orange rind and Grand Marnier and whisk.

At this point the mixture should become smooth. If it doesn’t, add 1 tsp of hot water to each bowl and whisk until it does. It should not require more than 1 tbsp of water at most. Cover each bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Get the truffles out of the fridge at least 15 minutes before starting shaping them. This way it will be easier to shape them.
- With a small spoon, divide each mixture; in its own plate, into little balls the size of extra-large olives or smaller.
Roll in the palm of your hands to smooth. Keep each flavor separate.
For the orange truffles, secure a toothpick in each ball and freeze the orange truffles for 15 minutes or until hard. Continue working with the two other flavors (that don’t need to be refrigerated before being coated)
- For the coffee chocolate truffles, roll the balls in unsweetened cocoa powder. Shake the pan so the balls roll around and get coated.
- For the praline truffles, roll the balls in roughly ground pistachios or silvered almond.
- For the orange truffles, once firm dip each one into melted chocolate. As you lift the ball out, roll it slightly on the side of the bowl to eliminate the excess. Secure the toothpicks in a piece of foam rubber or Styrofoam, or just a cardboard box so the chocolate drips along the toothpick. Let set until very hard, and then remove the toothpick.
Arrange each truffle variety in a box. They will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. Serve at room temperature.

Orange truffles

Trio de Truffes en Chocolat

In francais please: adaptée d'ici
Pour La recette de base:
- 340g chocolat noir (64%)
- 4 jaunes d’oeuf
- 70g beurre mou
Pour les truffes au café:
- 1 c.s de rhum (ou eau)
- 1 c.s d’extrait de café (ceci représente les premières gouttes de café d’une cafetière)
Pour les truffes au pralin:
- 125 ml de pralin
- 2 c.s de Cognac (ou eau)
Pour les truffes à l’orange:
- le zeste râpé d’une orange (environ 1 ½ c.c )
- 1 ½ c.s de Grand Marnier (ou eau)

Pour la recette de base, faites fondre le chocolat au bain marie. Hors du feu ajouter les jaunes d’oeuf et fouetter à l’aide d’un fouet jusqu’à ce que tout soit bien incorporé.
Ajouter le beurre coupé en petits morceaux et fouetter encore une fois. Le mélange va redevenir brillant ou rester un peu granuleux. Ne vous inquietter pas. Diviser le mélange de chocolat équitablement entre trois petits bols.
- Pour les truffes au café, ajouter l’extrait de café et le rhum au premier bol. Mélanger avec un fouet.
- Pour les truffes au pralin, ajouter le pralin et le Cognac au deuxieme bol. Mélanger avec un fouet.
- Pour les truffes à l’orange, ajouter le zeste et le Grand Marnier. Mélanger avec un fouet.

A ce stade, chaque mélange devrait redevenir brillant. Si ce n’est pas le cas ajouter 1 c.c d’eau chaude au mélange qui en a besoin. Mais pas plus d’une c.s d’eau chaude.
Couvrir chaque bol de film plastique et mettre au frais pendant 2 heures ou jusqu’a ce qu’il soit ferme.
Sortir les bols au moins 15 min avant de les travailler.
Avec une cuil a café, faire des petits tas des differents mélange de la taille d’une grosse olive ou plus petit. Mettre chaque differentes truffes (café, orange et pralin) sur leur propre assiette.
Rouler les differents truffes en boules. Mettre des cure-dents dans les truffes à l’orange et mettre au congélateur pendant 15 min ou jusqu’a ce qu’elle deviennent fermes.
Pour les truffes au café, rouler-les dans du cacao amer.
Pour les truffes au pralin, rouler-les dans des pistaches grossierement hachées ou des amandes effilées.
Pour les truffes à l’orange, tremper chaque truffe dans du chocolate fondu, et remonter les truffes en les rouler llegerement sur le bord de la casserole afin d’enlever l’exces de chocolat. Sécuriser-les sur du polystyrene ou une boite en carton afin que le chocolat coule le long des cure-dents. Laisser de côté jusqu’à ce qu’il devienne ferme et enlever les cure-dents.
Mettre les differentes truffes dans des boites et les conserver au frigo pendant des semaines. Servir à temperature ambiante.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Praline / Pralin


I like the idea of making something that can last for months in my fridge, and that I can use it later on to flavor my desserts and sweet cravings.

It has been quite a while since my last “Basics” post. And I know we are not even Friday, but I wanted to share with you this basic recipe that will add a nutty, rich touch to your custards, ice creams, cakes or butter creams.

Praline is a nougatine (caramelized sugar and nuts) ground to a paste. The nuts are usually almonds or hazelnuts, or a mix of both. In Louisiana and Texas, pecans are almost always used.
Praline is obtained by using a special machine that crushes and reduces the cold nougatine mixture, in the process of which some of the essential oils from the almonds are extracted. A food processor doesn’t achieve the exact effect but creates good enough reproduction.

The word praline can vary from a country to another. It can refer to the praline candy that is most popular in New Orleans (made with nuts sugar and cream) or to the praline paste (pictured above) or to the praline coated nuts that are served to my father on every New Year’s Eve.

Praline Paste

Recipe: Adapted from here
- ¾ cup sugar
- 3 tbsp water
- ½ cup oven-browned hazelnuts with skin
- ½ cup oven-browned almonds with skins
- 1 ½ tsp almond or peanut oil

Place the nuts on a tray and roast in a preheated 350F oven until golden brown. Place the sugar in a heavy saucepan and mix in the water. Stir this just once then place on the stove. Cook on medium-high heat until it turns into a nice golden caramel color. Oil a cookie sheet lightly and set aside. Add the nuts to the caramel, carefully remove from the stove and shake gently to mix well. Pour the mixture on top of the oiled cookie sheet. Let cool until hard and brittle. At this point with call it nougatine (brittle) and you can break it and store it in an airtight container in the fridge for and kept for months, using to decorate custards and ice cream.
To continue with the praline recipe (you’re not lost, aren’t you?) break the brittle in a mortar into large crumbs. Place them in the food processor and powder for 1 minute. It should begin to look crumbly and soft and slightly sticks to the sides of the food processor. Add the oil and blend for another 2 to 3 minutes, stopping the machine every 20 or 30 seconds until it looks pasty and slightly wet. Place in a jar in the refrigerator and keep for months, using it to flavor ice creams, chocolate truffles, custards and butter creams.


In francais please: Adaptée d’ici
- 175 ml sucre
- 3 c.s d’eau
- 100 ml noisettes avec leur peau, grillées
- 100 ml amandes avec leur peau, grillées
- 1 ½ c.c d’huile d’amande ou d’arachide

Préchauffer le four à 180C. Mettre noisettes et amandes dans une plaque de cuisson et faites griller jusqu’à ce qu’elles deviennent dorées. Mettre le sucre et l’eau dans une casserole à fond épais. Mélanger une fois et faites cuire sur feu moyen jusqu’à une belle caramélisation. Ajouter les noisettes et amandes grillées au caramel et mélanger doucement afin que le mélange soit homogene. Verser sur une plaque de cuisson huilée et laisser refroidir et durcir. A ce stage, on l’apelle nougatine, et vous pouvez la briser et la mettre dans un bocal à fermeture hérmétique au frigo. Elle peut se garder pendant des mois, et l’utiliser pour décorer crème glacée au pralin et flans.
Pour continuer avec la recette du pralin (vous me suivez toujours?) mettre la nougatine dans un mortier et réduire en une poudre grossiere. Verser la poudre dans un robot ménager et réduire en une poudre fine et réguliere. Ajouter l’huile d’amande ou d’arachide et continuer a mixer pendant 2 a 3 minutes, en arrétant le robot chaque 20 ou 30 secondes jusqu’à ce que le mélange ressemble à une pâte souple. Le pralin se garde au frigo dans un bocal à fermeture hermetique pendant des mois. Vous pouvez l’utiliser pour parfumer vos crème glacées, flans, crème au beurre et truffes au chocolat.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Chocolate Kisses / Baisers au Chocolat

Give me a Kiss!

It was in my early teen that I decided I didn’t like meringue. I don’t recall the day it happened, or why it did happen. It was just one of those days. Like one of those days where I decided to wear my mother’s 70’s jumper dresses to school, the day I asked my cousin to shave off her eye browse just to see how she would look like (which she did), or the day I truly believed that my sister’s and my bedroom was under the government security surveillance, or even worse under our parents surveillance.

But if you would have asked me at that time why I dislike meringue so much, I would have given you the exact and same answer I gave to my sister two days ago. I don’t like meringue because it has a though and dry shell, a molar-sticky interior, an artificial looking coloring, it doesn’t melt in your mouth as it’s supposed to do and it’s sweet. Too sweet!

The reason why I share this controversial relation with meringue is because of the funny looking meringue I encountered browsing the candy section in supermarkets. The commercial meringues remind me of the syrup my mother used to give us when we had a stomachache. It was like Pepto-Bismol but with two times the tongue coating texture for two times the: “Ewwww! Ewwww! That’s gross”.
I had this image of meringue for over 15 years now and no one has ever been able to change it.


No one but a man, his book and five leftover egg whites in my fridge.

Jacques Pépin’s “complete techniques” is a real treasure to have in the kitchen. It has more than 1000 cooking methods and recipes, all demonstrated in step-by-step recipes. It has some precious tips and tricks from the master him self, and when a man gives you a basic meringue recipe and start raving about how delicate and tender it is, and how with one basic recipe you can make Vacherin, Dacquoise, Ladyfingers and Oeufs a la neige, you’d better roll up your sleeves, swallow your nose-wrinkling pride and start making some meringue and enjoying it.

Oh! And how I did enjoy it. It doesn’t matter what I said before about molar-sticky whatever meringue because yesterday I’ve fallen head over for my angel kisses meringues. And as if it wasn’t enough I added some bittersweet chocolate ganache filling to cut down on the sweetness a bit and because any reason is a good reason to smear some chocolate.

When you bite into the meringue kiss you have a slightly crunchy shell with fluffy spots and then it starts to melt on your tongue leaving the chocolate behind as the finishing touch.

I have about one hundred and fifty five meringue kisses in my cookie jar right now. And being the cuddling person that I am, I can never have enough kisses in a day.

Angel Kiss

Meringue and chocolate Kisses

Recipe: adapted from here
- 3 egg whites, at room temperature
- ¾ cup superfine sugar
- A few drops of lemon juice, or a small dash of salt
- Chocolate ganache

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whip the whites, adding a few drops of lemon juice or a small dash of salt before you start t whip. Whip on medium to high speed. When the whites are holding a nice shape, gradually add ½ cup of sugar and keep beating for 1 minute. The mixture should be stiff and shiny. Fold in the remaining sugar using a spatula. Folding in a part of the sugar at the end makes for tender meringue.
Coat a cookie sheet with butter and flour, and remove the excess flour. Fill up a pastry bag and pipe out plain or fluted meringues kisses. Lift the tip of the bag in quick, swift motion to avoid a long tail.
Bake them in preaheated 190F oven for 1¾ hours, or until they are dried. You can prepare the meringue in the evening, preheat your oven to 375F, put your meringues in the oven and turn it off. Leave them in there all night to dry out.
Stored dry (without the filling) in a covered container, meringues will keep for months.
Spread some of the chocolate ganache on some meringue kisses, and seal with the remaining plain kisses to from a macaroon. Let the chocolate set a bit and serve.

Angel Kisses

Baisers de Meringues au Chocolat

In francais please: Adaptée d’ici

- 3 blancs d’oeufs, temperature ambiante
- 175ml de sucre trés fin
- Quelques gouttes de sucre ou une petite pincée de sel
- Ganache de chocolat

Dans un mixer Kitchen-Aid munis d’un fouet, battre les blancs, en ajoutant les gouttes de citron ou le sel avant de battre. Battre à une vitesse moyenne à haute. Quand les blancs commencent à prendre du volume et une bonne consistence, ajouter la moitié du sucre petit à petit. Continuer à battre pendant 1 minute. Les blancs doivent etre volumineux et brilliants. Incorporer délicatement à l’aide d’une spatule le sucre restant. Ce process est coseillé pour avoir des meringues tendres.
Beurrer et fariner une ou deux plaques de cuisson et enlever l’excès de farine. A l’aide d’une poche à douille, faites des petits tas d’1 centimetre de diametre. Retirer la poche à douille rapidement pour qu’un fil de meringue ne se développe.
Cuire dans un four préchauffé a 90C pendant 1¾ heures, ou jusqu’a ce que les meringues soient seches. Autre alternative serait de préparer les meringues le soir, préchauffer votre four à 180C, mettre les plaques de meringues au four et etteindre ce dernier. Laisser sécher pendant toute une nuit.
Les meringues peuvent se conserver, sans leur ganache, dans une boite hérmétique pendant des mois.
Répartisser un peu du ganache sur une coque de meringue et coller la deuxième coque.

Monday, December 3, 2007

A Snowy day / Un jour Enneigé


Snowy, chilly Sundays have a baffling effect on me. I spend endless minutes starring at the window, thinking about today’s schedule, how I hate my new haircut (and the woman who did this to my hair), how I’m craving dark chocolate right now and when I should start baking cookies and coconut domes for the gift baskets. Thoughts crowded in my head in such confusion and excitement that I end up getting up of bed all dizzy and wobbly.

Still in my pajamas and my Pooh the bear slippers, I go to the kitchen to find my dear and sweet hubby already lining up the breakfast on the table, and my daughter holding her bottle of milk and playing with her soccer ball.
I eat my granola and wonder how my hubby finds all this energy to talk in the morning. He takes advantage of my still-in-the-moon state of mind to talk politics and ask me some mathematic equations. I am all wobbly again.

By the time we get up of the table, it’s already eleven. My daughter takes her nap and I am back to the kitchen to start, or at least try to start my day. I look at the window and it’s snowing. I look at my fruit basket and find my ripe and ready to be eaten plantains pushed to the wall by apples and tangerines. They look so sad. I am so cold. We need each other. And since it’s Sunday and cooking easy meals on Sundays is my motto, fried plantains with a mix of spices were going to be our appetizer.

The mix of spices that I used here is called Zahtar (which means in Arabic Thyme). Zahtar is popular in The Middle East (especially Lebanon and Turkey) and in North Africa. It has a woody, warm and slightly bitter taste. It’s basically a mix of lightly toasted white sesame seeds, dried thyme and fennel seeds. Some might add chili flakes for the heat, sumac, dried oregano and cumin. You can also add some olive oil to the spice mixture to form a paste, spread on a pita bread, and toast until crisp. Zahtar is also a magnificent spice mixture for chicken and fish. Just rub and grill.
I can only imagine how wonderful it might be as a gift in your Christmas gift basket.

My hubby said it was the best plantains he has ever had. Oh! He knows how to melt my heart. The dish was supposed to be served as an appetizer, but we gulped it all down for our snack because it was a snowy and chilly Sunday.


Zahtar Plantains

- 2 ripe plantains
- Canola oil for deep-frying
For the zahtar:
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- ½ tsp fennel seeds
- ½ tsp sumac
- ¼ tsp chili flakes (or more to suite your taste)
- Kosher salt

In a shallow bowl, mix all the ingredients of the zahtar (excluding the salt) and set aside. Peel the plantains and cut them into fairly thick slices (1/2 inch). Heat the oil for deep-frying in a deep pan to 350F, or until a cube of bread browns in 30-40 seconds.
Fry the plantains slices in batches, without crowding the pan and stirring so that they don’t stick together until golden brown. Drain on a double layer of kitchen paper.
While still warm, season them lightly with salt and place them in the zahtar bowl. Toss them thoroughly and serve immediately.

Fried Plantains

Bananes Plantains au Zahtar

In francais please:
- 2 banane plantain, bien mûres
- Huile végétale pour la friture
Pour le zahtar:
- 1 c.s graines de sésames, légerement grilles
- 1 c.s thym séché
- ½ c.c graines de fenouil
- ½ c.c sumac
- ¼ de flocon de chili (ou plus selon le goût
- Sel

Dans un bol peu profound, mélanger tous les ingredients (sauf le sel) et mettre de côté.
Eplucher les bananes plantains et les couper en tranches relativement épaisses (1 cm). Faites chauffer l’huile de la friture dans une poêle assez profonde, jusqu’à ce qu’elle atteigne 180C, ou jusqu’à ce qu’un crouton, jeté dedans soit doré en 30-40 secondes.
Frire les bananas plantains par petites quantités a la fois, tout en mélangeant pour qu’elles ne collent pas les unes aux autres. Jusqu’a devenir bien dorées.
Faites bien égoutter les plantains sur du papier absorbant double. Continuer avec le reste des plantains
Alors que les plantains sont encore chaude, assaisonner légerement de sel et mettre dans le bol de zahtar. Mélanger le tout pour bien répartir les épices. Servir tout de suite.