Friday, February 24, 2012

Hello, Spring? Is That You?

If I can hear the rain in my house, I know it must be torrential, and I've been listening to it gust and thunder since 1:00 a.m.  The weird thing is that it's 69 degrees at 5:00 a.m.!  In February!
  The chocolate machine is feeling under the weather today.  It's heating coil is out, and won't be replaced until Monday.  Fortunately, Liz and I made about 1200 bonbons before it went out, and we can make it through the weekend.  Sad, though!  Poor little faithful machine!
Cashew bark.  Woof!
 
 I've been tempering chocolate by hand, then, and I'm not all that great at it.  But using the machine has actually made me better at it, knowing when it's ready and when it's not.  Here's some cashew bark with tempered milk chocolate for last night's take away.  I used one of my favorite recipes to make the toffee, one I usually use for caramel corn but lately have been using for a lot more.  It makes great peanut brittle, yummy almond toffee and is good plain on its own, too.

Caramel Corn & More:
In a saucepan, combine:
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
Bring to a boil and cook until it begins to caramelize.  Remove from heat and add:
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Stir well to combine and pour over:
4 cups popped corn (or 2 cups nuts)
Pour onto a silicone mat-lined sheet pan and place in a 225F degree oven for 15 minutes.  Stir at the end of the 15 minutes and return to the oven for 15 more minutes.  Stir and let cool at room temperature.  Store in an air-tight container.

Healthy?  Dessert?
 Yesterday we had a photo shoot with Heather Ann, who makes all our stuff look wonderful.  I had to make a Healthy Dessert (I've heard of those and they make me laugh), an Herb Dessert and strawberry shortcake.
  I poached a pear in honey and white wine, and made some Meyer lemon yogurt sherbet for "healthy."  It still has plenty of sugar and fat, but I did as I was told!  I mean, seriously, if I want a "healthy" dessert, I say, "No, thanks! Not today!"  Or I bite off a hunk of dark chocolate.


The strawberry shortcake was the one that kept me awake two nights in a row, believe it or not.  I didn't want it to be like every other strawberry shortcake on the planet.  So, I made a homestyle version and gave it to Joseph and Andy, our two James Beard Award semi-finalists--yay!-- to try and give me some guidance.  Joseph said to crumble the biscuits, or at least make them much smaller than expected.  Andy said to pipe the ice cream into a cylinder and re-freeze it.  I made some biscuit batons and split one to lie under the ice cream and strawberries to soak up the "gravy."  That's strawberry jam underneath it all, the jam I made last week.

As for the herbs, I made a syrup with thyme and lemon, and used that to melt the gelatin in a cold-set cheesecake, using our cheese maker's fromage blanc.  It's on a bed of graham cracker crumbs, and I found Florida blueberries at Kroger.  In its premier, it'll have candied thyme sitting on top, but this shows a sprig of fresh.  I forgot to candy the thyme until I put the plate down!  The graham crackers are fresh, from a recipe by Carole Walter in her book, "Great Cookies."  It's full of great cookie recipes, as you might guess!

Time to get back at it!  Today, the two "unhealthy" desserts make their debut at dinner, and we've got a full house.  It's Jessica's turn to learn the art of dinner dessert production, so I'll be teacher, too.  Stay dry and try to enjoy our short burst of spring!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tea

After four hours of watching Downton Abbey last night, it put me in the mood for tea, but that's not why we made this spread.  I apologize for the quality of the picture, but I only had my iphone, not famous for its photo quality.
  A little girl staying at the farm is horse crazy, so the taller stand is full of horse-shaped cookies, and the rest is just standard tea fare, except for the dishes in the foreground.  She brought four adults, two teddy bears, one stuffed dog and one stuffed cat.  There are dishes of honey, milk and dog biscuits.  It was a lot of fun putting it all together, a nice way to spend a soggy, cold Sunday.
  

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Valentine's Day Preview

 Some of you asked for a preview of the dessert I was making for Valentine's Day, since I mentioned making it for a photo shoot today.  Here it is!  A duo of chocolate desserts, featuring a lot of the elements from the Symphony dessert from Saturday.  The sauce is passion fruit puree, and the Violas are from a little herb garden right out the back door of the kitchen.
  Joseph made a roulade of something--sorry!  not paying attention!--wrapped in avocado slices and garnished with flowers and herbs from the garden.  Notice how he's using tweezers to put the herbs on.  He uses those long tweezers to put things on plates all the time, things that will bruise easily or are hard to handle individually.  It makes for some very precise plates!
  By the way, Blackberry Farm is having a special deal for outside diners on Valentine's Day!  You should check it out and bring your sweetie!
http://www.blackberryfarm.com/reservations/valentines-day
See you there!