Saturday, August 27, 2011

Not-Baking JDs

Just a minute on the soapbox, and then I'll resume to normal posting: tempering chocolate is NOT baking. It might be fun and challenging, and the results might be delicious, but we didn't turn the oven on once this month. We feared when Daring Cooks started up (a spin-off of Daring Bakers), this group would quick spiral into Daring Desserts. A quick look back proves our fears were well-placed - the last savory daring bakers challenge was the suet pie in April of 2010 (never mind that we didn't actually make the suet pie . . . ). And a number of the projects in the last year have only tangentially involved the oven, if at all - the Marquise, the Panna Cotta, and the Donuts all come to mind. Bring back the baking challenges, particularly the savory ones, or else we're going to be forced to go renegade (on an already renegade group!).

Stepping off the soapbox now.

This month, we made two chocolate challenges. The first was truffles, something Erica and I have both made many times before. So we mixed it up a bit, taking a cue from a recent trip to Laughing Moon Chocolates in Stowe, VT. To celebrate summer, we took a bunch of basil, added black pepper, and seeped both in the cream base.

Once the cream was flavored, we stirred in the dark chocolate to melt.

Once the mixture cooled, Erica braved the process of rolling it into evenly sized, evenly shaped little balls. Chocolate melts quickly, so you have to work fast. Cocoa powder helps.

We were more excited about our second treat. We decided to make honeycomb (also called sponge or sea foam candy), a confection that neither of us had really heard of before. The basic idea is similar to caramel or toffee - it's a burned sugar base - but you add baking soda once it's warm. The addition causes the hot sugar to bubble and foam, eventually creating something crunchy, light, and delicious.

We started with heating the sugar mixture.

Next we added the baking soda. For your viewing pleasure, we videoed the addition - thinking that it would be much like childhood science fair volcanoes. Not quite as dramatic, but still fun. For those careful viewers, note the use of the kitchen knife. Perhaps not the best stirring utensil.

Then we poured the entire thing into a springform pan (yes, we bought a new one - no more missing bottom) . . .

And let it harden. Eventually, we cut it into pieces with a large knife. It pretty much shatters everywhere, but we did end up with some nice chunks.

Finally, we tempered the chocolate. We chose the "seeding method," in part because we made a royal mess of Erica's granite counter top.

It was tricky to get the chocolate to follow the exact 113 degrees to 80.6 degrees to 89 degree curve, despite the use of TJ's instant read thermometer, but our lack of precision didn't really seem to matter.

Proof positive? These beautiful truffles.

Another success - but hoping for a real baking challenge next month!

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!