A Passion for Chocolate

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Chocolate Filled Macarons

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by Heather Harris Brady

This is my second macaron post! While the French method recipe is fine for a climate-controlled environment if you’re without air-conditioning and it’s humid, it can be unreliable.  So after finding lots of recipes agreeing on the proportions below I gave the Italian method a go. I’ve made this recipe many times, in all types of weather, and it’s close to invincible.

Macarons, Italian Method, Makes about 36

200 g almond flour

200 g powdered sugar

[Variation: Add 3 T. Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder for chocolate macarons]

200 g granulated sugar

50 g water

1/2 t. vinegar

150 g egg whites, divided into two 75 g portions

1/2 recipe chocolate ganache, or other filling of your choice

It’s easier if you pre-measure everything and have it ready. Combine the almond flour [cocoa if you’re using it] and powdered sugar in a bowl. Mix well, I use an immersion blender. Add 75 g of egg whites and stir it into a thick paste.

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Combine the water, vinegar and granulated sugar in saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir to make sure all of the sugar dissolves. Let it boil while you put the other 75 g of egg whites in a mixer bowl.

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Beat the whites until they hold stiff peaks. Turn the mixer down to stir if your sugar syrup is not quite at the soft ball stage. When the syrup comes to temperature, turn the mixer to high and pour the sugar syrup in a steady stream. Try to avoid the whisk if you can.

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Continue beating on high until the mixer bowl is no longer hot. The resulting italian meringue will be very stiff. Fold the almond paste into the meringue.

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Take some strong strokes at first to knock a little air out and then keep folding for about another 20 strokes. It’s perfect when you can drop some of the macaronage back into the bowl and it will hold its shape for 15 seconds before starting to slump back in. When you get close to 20 strokes just evaluate it one stroke at a time until you’re there.

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Grease your cookie sheets and line them with parchment paper, or use a silpat. Pipe 1-1/2″ mounds. They won’t spread a lot so you can keep them fairly close. Drop each pan onto the counter three times to get any air bubbles out.

Preheat the oven to 300 and let the sheets sit out for about 15 minutes. The macarons will form a bit of skin on top.

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Bake for 15 minutes. Depending on your oven, you may want to change racks halfway through the baking time.

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Let the cookies cool completely on the sheets and then remove them with thin spatula. Sandwich two halves with ganache and store them in the refrigerator. Take them out 10 minutes or so before serving.

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The chocolate variation:

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Heart’s Desire Cake

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by Heather Harris-Brady

Once upon a time I read a short story about a young career woman who received a package in the mail from her grandmother. It had a cake recipe, a heart-shaped cake pan and a note that she was to bake the cake on Valentine’s Day because it would bring her true love. With reservations she made the cake as instructed. It was raining really hard and since she was convinced no one would show up she cut a piece of cake. You can guess what happens here – there’s a knock at the door, a handsome stranger who needs to use her phone and he just happens to end up her true love.

Now I can’t guarantee that if you are looking for true love this cake will call them to your door. But even if it doesn’t you’re home with a chocolate cake, so either way – win, win!

Heart’s Desire Cake Recipe, Makes one 9″ cake (about 12 servings)

Mix in a bowl:

1-3/4 c. flour

3/4 c. dark cocoa (It’s a lot, I know)

1 c. sugar

1 t. baking soda

1/4 t. salt

Optional:

1 T. instant coffee

1/3 c. ground almonds

1/3 c. ground hazelnuts

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Add 1 c. buttermilk, 1/2 c. olive oil and 2 t. vanilla.

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Pour into a greased 9″ pan and bake – 20-25 minutes if you want a soft center, 30 minutes if you want a cakey center.

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You can serve it as is, with raspberries and whipped cream or drizzle it with kahlua. But, because every now and then one should pull out all the stops – I covered it in chocolate ganache.

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Basic Chocolate Ganache

Chocolate Ganache, Little House by the Dunes

I’m starting this blog off right with one of the secrets of the Universe.  At lukewarm, this ganache makes terrific hot fudge. Cooled to spreadable, it’s a beautiful frosting. Once it’s hardened, truffle centers.

Chocolate Ganache, Basic Recipe

12 oz. chopped chocolate (any kind, obvs, the better the chocolate the better the ganache)

1/2 pint heavy cream

1 T. butter

1 t. vanilla

Put everything but the vanilla in a pan and slowly warm it, whisking as the chocolate melts. At first it will look like a disaster, but keep going.

Keep going, and you will end up here:

Whisk in the vanilla. You can speed up the cooling by sticking it in the fridge but keep an eye on it. If it’s too cold it will get too hard to spread.

I iced 30 regular size cupcakes and 42 mini cupcakes with this recipe. I have used everything from Hershey’s (for class parties) to Valrhona (for weddings) and it comes out perfect every time.