Thursday, March 11, 2010

I Hate Chocolate

No, not in that way. Would any woman really turn her nose up at a tasty piece of cadbury fruit and nut? Maybe Posh Spice, but certainly not me. But I did hate this challenge and I assume from your equally tardy post that you did too.

I did make two attempts to make some handmade chocolates and I even conscripted the IE to help, which was a rather lovely couple-y experience, but the whole process of making chocolates was kind of blah for me.

Give me cake, give me cookies, give me a pavlova with lemon cream and blueberries, give me anything but a handmade chocolate.

And now, because it's lunch time and I'm pregnant, I'm going to eat some chocolate.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Challenge Remorse

Oh Gumdrop, what have I done? I’ve been searching for chocolate recipes and all this talk of tempering and such has lead to a severe case of challenge remorse. I’m completely intimidated by own challenge. Scratch that, I’m completely petrified by own challenge! I envision some catastrophic chocolate debacle that’s half I Love Lucy and half Armageddon. This isn’t going to be the romantic Chocolat experience I envisioned.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Roses Are Red

Sweet Gumdrop-

Oh, how I look forward to the days of trying to whip up dessert for a crowd at 2am after wrangling two toddlers into bed, high on sugar and holiday excitement. Only four more months to go until I turn into a midnight baker like you. With our similar schedules and complementary baking skills, perhaps we should open a bakery?

Since I’m trying to follow unsolicited advice to make the last few childless months special for the IE (in between my unpredictable mood swings where he’s briefly the most maddening individual on earth, at least to a hormonal mess like me) and since a little extra gesture for Mr. Salty might not be amiss following your holiday lovers quarrel, I’m going to issue the next challenge a little early so we can spend some serious time on this one: handmade valentine’s chocolates. These can’t just be run of the mill caramels and truffles: these must be the most romantic chocolates ever. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I’ll just consider that part of the challenge!

Sweet dreams,

Merry - But I'm Not So Bright

Dear Pickle -

Wait a minute, though, weren't you that perfect, put-together girl in high school? All appearances suggest that you must have been. Indeed, I think you still are - now with added meal-making skills. It wasn't hard for me to be convinced that Dorie's peppermint cream puff ring was the right choice! Maybe it was just me buckling under your perfect and put-together air...

It's funny, though, we seem to have had exactly opposite experiences with the recipe. I got one of my baking highs from the way the pate-a-choux came together. Piping warm dough blew my mind, and the fact that it made such a patisserie-perfect ring so very easily for me made me feel like a sorceress of flour! My family will bow before my desserty prowess!

But, um, making this late on Christmas night after the chaos of a Two Toddler Holiday may have been beyond my sorcery stamina. It came time to steep the mint leaves in the warm cream - and I realized that it was midnight and I was too freaking exhausted to set the alarm for three a.m. to take the mint leaves out of the cream. A few years ago, pre-kids, I would've done that. But, exhausted as I was, I knew I'd be up at six anyway so I figured that three more hours of cold time in the fridge wouldn't intensify the mint flavour TOO much. Right? Most of the flavour comes when the cream is warm anyway. Like making tea. Right? RIGHT?

At six a.m. when I tasted the mint cream, I realized immediately that I was WRONG. And that I probably wouldn't need to brush my teeth. For a week. This mint cream did not 'whisper' of fresh, refreshing mint leaves. This mint cream SCREAMED and beat you about the head. It was like chewing an entire bunch of fresh mint. Unless you are a goat, I am not certain that this is a good idea.

So. You may have noticed that in the photo above (featuring my nephew), the cream is not the snow-white one might have expected. That's because the kitchen sorceress took over again and decided to make a 'quick' version of Dorie's Chocolate Pastry Cream to fold into the mint cream. It'd be like having a candy cane in your hot chocolate! Never mind that there was a car to pack for the three hour drive north (presents, children, snacks, Xanax - PLUS a three hour drive, PLUS a family Christmas, PLUS a three hour drive home), I told myself I could do it and 'whipped it up'. While having a dreadful fight with my husband about my culinary brinksmanship and my inability to just let things be. Very festive, right? I folded the new chocolate pastry cream into the mint cream - delicious! I piped it onto the ring, topped it with the luscious glaze and sighed in relief. As an olive branch, I magnanimously offered the spoon to the hubby to lick, doffed my apron and began to pack.

His face, however, immediately told me that my solution hadn't been as successful as I thought. He asked if I had really intended for dessert to taste like a chocolate mojito. Off came the top of the ring, on went the apron, I whipped up a huge quantity of plain whipped cream, folded in this now-annoying-chocolate-candy-cane combo, re-piped. Exhausted, the ring and I collapsed into the car.

But the ring traveled well. Better than I did, actually. It did gather a few oooohs and awwwwwwwwws and the mint flavour was toned-down enough to qualify as 'interesting' rather than 'INTENSE and possibly INSANE'.

So it was that I was neither perfect nor put-together. But I survived, we ate, my husband forgave me and it was indeed kinda merry and bright. I guess that is all you can ask for from a family holiday, sorceress or not.

What's next? What's the 2010 dessert?
Desperate to know,

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Dessert Knock-Off

Dear Gumdrop-

My relief at coming to a peaceful compromise of Dorie Greenspan's Peppermint Cream Puff Cream for our Boxing Day dessert didn't last long once it came time to make it.

You know in high school there was always that girl who was effortlessly perfect? She was pretty and smart and everyone liked her? And no matter how hard you tried to emulate her style, her easy, breezy way of flirting with the brawny hockey player and the alt-rock poet, you could just never be like her? I have woefully concluded that Dorie Greenspan is her culinary equivalent.

Ravenous to be like her, I flip through Dorie’s books, I devour her blog and yet my attempts at replicating her recipes never quite come out as gorgeous, as effortlessly chic, as hers. At best, my Peppermint Cream Puff Ring was like a knock-off Calvin Klein dress your mom made you for a semi-formal (or maybe that was just me): pretty enough, but a little misshapen and more homemade than handmade.

My first attempt at the cream puff ring fell flat. A perpetual fear of over-baking was the culprit. Sometimes ‘golden brown’ really does need to be deep golden brown to come out right. So, on the second attempt I baked that thing until it was the colour of unpolished brass just before it turns green. And hurrah, a ring that stayed puffed.

The steeped mint leaves and cream was a lovely silky surprise. The mint was vibrant yet not obnoxious. Peppermint whipped cream may become one of my hostess tricks for 2010. Of course, I failed to whip it to a stiff enough peak, so it fell a bit when I placed the top on. But it was the day after Christmas, so did anyone really care?

And while the chocolate topping was delicious (so that’s the secret of bakery ├ęclair tops – corn syrup!), it did end up looking a little homely, which meant my toasted almond skepticism quickly turned into appreciation. They were the pearls that transformed a basic black dress into something worthy of Coco Chanel (or at least her premiere d’atelier de couture).

Even though my little cream puff ring didn’t quite match the lavishly styled one in Dorie’s book, it was a terrific success with both sets of parents. With just the right post-Christmas light touch of chocolate, pastry and cream, it was a chic dessert to follow the heavy comfort of copious amount of holiday sweets.

Here's to a whole new year of challenges, culinary or otherwise!


P.S. Sorry about the lack of picture. My mother hasn't figured out how to download the pictures from her digital camera yet and my current state of baby brain prevented me from doing it for her this weekend.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Rumble in the Kitchen

Oh, Gumdrop, I think we're in for a bit of a rumble on this one, which isn't exactly in the holiday spirit of things. You've been too kind to let me participate in this decision. And more importantly, you've given me these options after I was grilled by my maman about precisely what I was bringing for Boxing Day dinner. Have you faced the wrath of a mother entertaining her daughter's in-laws for Box Day? I dithered, I waffled, I crumbled. I ran to Dorie too and came up with three options: the cranberry shortbread cake, the chocolate armagnac cake or the peppermint cream puff ring. Using your exact rationale, I settled on the cream puff ring (I do adore a pate a choux). My mother could sleep easy now that her menu was complete (although I suspect she tossed and turned a little about the table decor).

However, since I graciously told my mother that I would get the ingredients so she wouldn't have to, I do have some mom-free time to change my mind. So I propose the current contenders are: pavlova (although those upside-down Australians celebrate Christmas during their summer), a chocolate cream tart or the peppermint cream puff ring.

Round #2...

merry, merry,

P.S. At least your childhood barf-fest was the result of a boozey dessert. Mine was a 4 year old's adventure drinking the dregs from beer bottles during a cottage afternoon. I've hated beer ever since. Don't both those stories tell you everything you need to know about growing up in the 70s?