Friday, December 15, 2006

Nearest Book Meme

From Jack's new blog. . .jacksnonblog

take the book nearest you (my left toe was resting on it, touching is about as near as you can get i figure)

Go to page 123, type the fifth sentence.

"-----cruising along innocent as any pleasure craft, till you assaulted her, with your infernal rays."

Against The Day Thomas Pynchon

so far, it's a damned good read.

Friday Random Ten (good to be back home edition)

Now, life seems a bit more normal.

Everyday I Write the Book - - - Alison Brown (bluegrass version of Elvis Costello)
Gaabatiti Zamundaniya - - - Master Drummers of Dahgbon
Take This Waltz - - - Leonard Cohen (Cohen does Lorca, beautiful stuff)
Smoke Along the Track - - - Emmylou
Goodnight Irene - - - Leadbelly
Candy Man - - - the Reverend Gary Davis
Mary Lou - - - Delbert McClinton
Aqua Boogie - - - Parliament/Funkadelic
Vaseline Machine Gun - - - Leo Kottke
Glory Days - - - The Boss


Pass the Dutchy - - - Musical Youth (jah love!)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

On the Road Home

While driving home along I-8 today, I was about ten miles east of Gila Bend. I saw the sunset in my rear view mirror. An Arizona sunset. In all its crimson, gold, purple, and every other color, always changing and shifting as the day ends. Beautiful and glorious.

I had to stop. Get out of the car. Stand there in thrilled awe at its wild beauty. I saw stately sagauro cactus reaching their arms up to the firey sky show. I reached up mine also. Then it was over. The day was done. I drove the rest of the way in darkness. No streetlights. No megawat cities to blot out the stars. Flickering remainders of the Persied meteor shower flared and swooped, brilliant seconds of flashing light, then gone. Into the driveway, the dogs running out to greet me with slobbering enthusiasm.

Home. I love it.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Rolling, Tempering, Dipping

You can find some alternatives to the tempering process in my initial truffle post. Unless you're willing to fork out big bucks on a tempering machine I would suggest that you use them if you make these yourself. Otherwise you're doomed to a lifetime of sucking up to assholes like me who obtain the technology. The machine I'm using here is a small (1.5 lb batch) version of the 18lb monster Hilliard I use when the shop is open.
The first thing to do is to take an eight by twelve baking pan and line the top half of it with plastic wrap. You'll want plenty of overlap on the sides.

Take the ganache that has been setting overnight out of the refrigerator and unwrap it. Snatch out enough ganache to make a decent size ball. Your goal is to roll six fairly even sized balls that will fit evenly across eight inches of pan. This will produce truffles that average about eight to a pound.

You will need to work quickly. Fine chocolate is a liquid at 8° below body temperature. The cream and the butter don't help either. When I have the right amount of ganache in my hand I form it with my fingers into a cubish, rounding thing. Then I try to bring it into a ball with my closed palms.

Have I mentioned that you need to work fast? As soon as something in my palms resembles a sphere I open my hands, forming a "V" shape to finish off

A perfect ball of ganache which goes immediately into the pan with the others. Blogger is being a bitch about the photos. Althogh it's probably my fault. When I upload a photo it always is placed at the top of the post. You'd think it wasn't that hard to put it where the cursor is but I guess that only shows how little I fucking know. I'll soldier on with text for a while.

I roll in lots of twelve. Like most of my customers, I tend to think in dozens. The other thing is that as you roll there is a slick film of melted ganche that forms on your hands. If this gets too thick you'll end up melting the ganache faster than you can form it. Part of this is the way I make the ganache. I don't boil the cream or do things that will keep it from liquifying quickly. This makes it harder to work with, but I think it's worth it. After I drop in twelve balls I wash my hands, using warm water, then finish off with cold water (because these things hate heat) and dry with at least two towels to ensure that my hands are scupulously dry before I wrap up the dozen balls and put them into the fridge. The wrapped dozens need to be in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before you attempt dipping them.

Since the problem is most likely something I did inadvertently I'm going to close this post and immediately start the post about the dipping. That way we will have pictures.


Dipping continued. . .

Here's the picture we didn't get at the end of the last post. Showing how the balls of ganache are lined up in two rows of six. You also get a good visual on why I wash my hands every dozen.

Right before I dip I put the balls into the freezer for about half an hour. This gives them a little extra firmness to stand up to the dipping process. The idea is to have things very cold, but not frozen. I keep a dry, clean towel nearby in case there's any condensation that forms when I take them out of the freezer. From now on in the process, water of any kind is our mortal enemy. A single drop can sieze up and ruin a pound and a half batch of chocolate we just spent the last half hour tempering. I keep a stack of towels handy. Every time I wash my hands I finish the drying with a brand new towel.

After the truffle has been dipped and spun around in the tempered chocolate I put it on to a cutting board covered with butcher paper. When there are a dozen it's time to decorate. This is not only a cosmetic thing. There are two solid reasons for decoration. The first being that I use the decoration to identify which flavor of truffle it is. The second reason is even more practical. When the truffles have hardened and go through the trimming and boxing the decoration will protect the surface of the truffle from fingerprints. Some folks wear plastic gloves when they handle the truffles. I have tried and can't get behind that. By stringing colored chocolate melted in the microwave.

Ok blogger's at it again with the lagging on the photos.

I'm going to close this one and start all over with the stringing and trimming.



Stringing, Trimming and Boxing

This is what the stringing looks like

And I'll just keep going until blogger stops me again. Now it's time to trim the truffles and put them into 2oz souffle cups. I have a wicked, curved cleaver that I use for this. I also put the trimmings into a ziplock
bag. I call it "truffle stuffle" and it is pretty cool crumbled over oatmeal, or waffles, or ice cream or. . .

Now they go a dozen into a 9" octagonal plastic thing I found at Smart & Final. When I first opened my shop in Palm Springs I went through about a year of tracking down leads on box makers trying to find a box that would accomodate my truffles. I finally found a custom place that would make boxes to my specs for a horridly expensive price.

I was all set to fork over the money and was talking with my republican uncle. He's a very astute businessman, and a talented enough tax attorney that he has kept my ass out of jail, he asked me a very pointed question: "Are you selling truffles or boxes?"

I went with the fucking plastic.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

White Chocolate Truffles

Just so you know, this isn't chocolate. White stuff was invented by Albert Nestlé to deal with the surplus cocoa butter that was left over from his dry process cocoa recipe. He tried face cream first. There are some who wax all poetic about the qualities and better "mouth feel" that comes from using a white block of stuff that contains a higher cocoa butter ratio, although I've never been able to either sense a difference or really found anyone who could reliably tell the difference between high end expensive stuff and the stuff you buy at a cake decorating store.

For the ganache of the white chocolate truffles I bought white chocolate chips, house brand, on sale. For the shells I used Mercken white dots which I got from the cake decorating store.


3 pounds white chocolate chips
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped.
3/4 pound of sweet butter
6 egg yolks
1/3 cup water

variation (which is the process pictured)

instead of the vanilla bean and the water use

1/3 cup good bourbon vanilla extract
1 pint raspberries (fresh or frozen doesn't matter)

In the mixing bowl of a high power stand mixer melt the white chocolate, butter and vanilla bean (put the hulls in, you can remove them later) over simmering water, take care not to allow any splashing, even white chocolate hates water. If doing the raspberry version forget the bean.

When the white chips and the butter are completely melted bring it over to the stand mixer and begin to stir with the paddle on the lowest setting. Add the egg yolks one at a time. At this stage it will look like everything's gone to hell. First it will curdle with an oily goop surrounding the curds, but don't despair. Soon it will begin to form a liason that will be quite a bit smoother.

At this time you add the vanilla extract, and things will tighten right up. Add in the raspberries and whip on the highest setting for a minimum of ten minutes.

Pour into a plastic wrap (I adore Press'n'Seal for this stuff) lined pan. Cover closely, and refrigerate overnight. Roll them into balls that will fit five across in an eight inch pan. Put some white chocolate chips or chopped up bits in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for thirty seconds. Stir. Thirty seconds again. Stir. Then give it 10 seconds at a time until completely melted. (you can stop the process when it's down to small chunks, just keep stirring until it's smooth and totally melted) You don't want the chocolate too hot, it should be thick and liquid.

Dunk the truffle balls into the melted chocolate, cover well with the coating. Put onto a cutting board covered with butcher paper and let the shell harden slowly. Stripe with extra white chocolate (or any other color of stuff that suits you) I'll explain the reason for the striping in the next post about dipping and stuff. There really is a reason beyond decoration.


Just A Couple of Little Nagging Thoughts

Before I dive back into readying the truffles for shipment. Then I am planning to post the White Chocolate Truffle recipe, with pictures. Followed closely by another post showing the rolling and dipping process with the dark truffles.

Regarding the Iraq Study Group. Something has been nagging me every time I hear it cited. They continually speak about "The Iraqi Government" like it is something to be reckoned with. Calling what they have there, a group of mostly former exiles who are holed up inside an American fort a government is an insult to governments anywhere. It's like calling a class that teaches Intelligent Design "science." Same goes for the Iraqi "army."

There has been a lot of Reagan nostalgia flying about, usually using a pretext of writing a couple of sentences about Jean Kirkpatrick, and ending up with a tribute to ol' Ronnie who "won the Cold War without firing a shot. Please. Please. Please. There are shitloads people who got shot in Lebanon, Angola, El Salvador, Nicaraugua, Guatemala, Venezuela, Argentina, Chile, Cambodia, Afghanistan, and many places all over the world who got shot by American guns, either in American hands or in the hands of people trained by Americans. Without firing a shot my half-breed ass.


Monday, December 11, 2006

And It Even Works!

The "make a donation" button is for those of you are getting truffles for shipping costs. (preliminary estimates for this are around $400). It goes straight to my truffle account. I loves me some PayPal.

I'll take it down once the stuff's all shipped. I might even be in the mood to batch up a few for New Year's celebrations and the like.

I'll post the shipping costs tomorrow evening.

I am very proud of being able to get this up without destroying the Dark Wraith's beautiful code.

Truffle Blogging (or, why I missed the overnight cutoff time for shipping today)

Let's see, I took eight dozen to San Diego yesterday, my sister took four dozen (pilferage is brutal when I'm in production mode) so that makes thirty dozen sitting on the table to be sorted and boxed.

Shipping tomorrow. I promise.

Kishmesh jooni* ya'll.


*Beautiful Christmas in Western Apache