Thursday, December 20, 2007

Notes While Dipping the Whites

I am a hard core, dark, bittersweet chocolate loving man. I have always pooh-poohed the whole white chocolate thing. I only developed this recipe because the people who are into white chocolate are so into it. Usually people who claim milk chocolate can be shamed into trying the real thing and they get hooked right away.

The difference in this batch to all the others is the Tahitian Vanilla. The flavor literally explodes into your mouth. But, listen to this from the man who made the vanilla possible Maheanuu Tane:

The Vanilla comes from the Island of Raiatea, and was grown, harvested, and dried by my daughter's father in law. For those out there who do not know about vanilla, it is the seed pod of an Orchid (V. tahitensis). The work is very intensive as each flower must be married (hand pollenated). Absolutely no insecticides, or chemicals of any kind are used in the growing and care of the plants. When the beans are ripe, they have changed from a dark green to a lighter lime green with black blotches on the skin. At this time the beans are picked and wrapped in muslin to be laid out in the sun during the day and watched constantly. Each evening every bean is massaged to break down the walls of the pod and allow the oil to mix well in the bean pod. They are kept dry and warm during the ripening and drying process and the air is heavy with the wonderful smell of vanilla. When I said that it was work intensive, I mean it. The vines flower over the period of a couple of weeks and during that time they must be hand pollenated individually within the first 5 days or you will not have a set from that flower. All of the older Tahitians where I live are very capable of pollenating several thousand flowers a day, while I kill more flowers than I pollenate.

Here's what happens in your mouth when you eat these. First with the straight whites you simply get a big jump of flavor that will even radiate up into your sinuses with the orchid's redolent and voluptuous aroma. It's the same sensation as when you are eating a perfectly made horseradish sauce, except without the pain. It's a big, huge, beautiful flavor.

Moving to the white gingers, you get the very same explosive vanilla shot, but it is followed by first a hint, then a whisper, then a statement of the ginger. The ginger eases into the flavor experience and then finishes it decisively.

If you thought that both strength and complexity were enough for one mouth to experience, you were wrong. The way that the raspberry whites work is the same but reversed. Here, the first flavor that jumps is the delicate twinge of the raspberry. Softened, as if in a bowl of clotted irish cream. Then, subtly building the vanilla comes on. The vanilla is the final taste, and aftertaste here.



White Chocolate Stuff and Contest Announcement

The production of three flavors of white chocolate truffles was almost derailed last night too. I'm working all in a tizzy of disappointment from the multiple roadblocks to finishing up the dark truffle production and while working while distracted (something no responsible cook should ever do) manage to slice about a half inch gash in my right little finger. Blood ensues. No problem. Your correspondent is tough. I get the blood slowed down, flush the gash out well with lots and lots of clean water, take a tube of super glue and, as Emeril would say, BAM! No blood. Toss a rubber glove over the bandaids and off we go.


3 lbs white chocolate (I use Guittard buttons)
3/4 lb sweet butter
4 pods Tahitian Vanilla, halved and split lengthwise
(this stuff makes something that was merely good astonishing)
6 egg yolks
1/3 cup of water

You'll need a heavy duty stand mixer for this. I have a big, burly white Kitchenaid that I treasure. It comes with me much like my two favorite guitars. (OK, I don't take it on vacations and stuff but you get the idea)

In the bowl of the stand mixer put the white chocolate, the butter, and the vanilla pods. Place this into a larger pot, containing simmering water, over a medium flame. Stirring occaisionally, until all the butter and chocolate bits are melted and smooth. Transfer to the stand mixer using the paddle attachment and begin to stir on lowest speed. Add in the egg yolks one at a time. Keep a very close watch, because once the egg yolks are in there will be a separation of the butter as the egg yolks bind to the white chocolate, it will take on a curdled look. Do not be alarmed, alchemy will commence shortly. Just watch the mixture closely and keep your hand on the speed control to avoid any slopping over. While the mixture is at the curd stage is the best time to remove the vanilla pods and scrape out any residual little flecks of vanilla caviar. The pod husks can then be discarded. They have too much butter fat in them to be dried and used for vanilla sugar. When that is done add in the 1/3 cup of water. This will tighten and smooth out the mixture, when there is no further danger of sloppage (if that's not a word it should be) increase the speed to the highest setting and whip for at least ten minutes. Transfer to a pan lined with plastic wrap (I use Press 'n' Seal® that stuff rocks) and cover closely. Refrigerate overnight.

Next day, roll the ganache into balls that are slightly larger than the balls used for the dark chocolate truffles.

To melt white chocolate I use the microwave method. A good amount of white chocolate chips into a big mixing bowl and in the microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir, 30 seconds more, stir, then increments of 20 seconds three times stirring in between, then 10 seconds at a time until smooth. You want it melted and smooth but not hot. Dip the ganache balls.

Variations can be made by substituting any favorite liqueur for the water or adding in such flavors as move you like this time I made

Raspberry Cremes: Substitute 1/3 cup Chambord liqueur for the water and add 1 cup of frozen raspberries.

Crystallized Ginger Whites: Add in 1 cup of diced crystallized ginger.

That's the white chocolate recipe. Since it doesn't require any tempering it is something anybody with a stand mixer can accomplish.


Because of his deep and abiding love for the white chocolate truffles, and also because of this little gem, the winner with a vote here and there and a vigorous, if somewhat tawdry defense of his life and lifestyle, the winner of the dozen truffles is

The Dark Wraith.

There are some who might figure that since he publishes the Big Brass Blog where I am a contributor that there was some collusion going on. Not so, says I. I have no problem at all exposing corruption and collusion when it occurs. Christ I am a jingle whore and have no illusions about my reputation. I've already been bought and sold more times than cheap beads at a swap meet. Really, and truly, if there had been any decent attempts at bribery, if there had been any offers of corruption I would have taken them and gleefully succumbed.

I will be packing what truffles I can get off today. As soon as the replacement parts come in I will remake what needs to be made and get truffles off to everybody who so graciously ordered them.

Thank you for your indulgence and understanding. I guess my lesson is that this particular holiday is going to be about a beautiful little girl who has found her way into our family, to the exclusion of other, more trivial subjects. Everything else was a sideshow and a distraction. People and the message of the season, which ever season you celebrate, are what is important.

Enjoy your holidays. Enjoy your families, the ones you were born into, and the ones you created around you.

Kishmesh Jooni.

Big Brass Blog

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hooley Saintid Muthera Sweet Swettin Jayzus

As me da used to say. I get my little 1 1/2 lb tempering machine, dutifully expressed by my son. Except it's missing one little tiny part. One. Little. Plastic. Part. That is totally crucial. So I'm going to double up on the white chocolates (for those of your who are haters sorry but there's simply no choice) and I'm going to start from the top of the list and work down. Anybody who wants a refund can get one. I've ordered the little part, and I've ordered the big gear thingie part for the big ass machine. I'm going to make what I can to go with the stuff I have already made. Ship what can be shipped and call it a fucking holiday.

This one's been cursed as far as my production has been. I refuse to try to force the issues. I'm going to do what I can and call it a night.

For anyone who gets stiffed I apologise. Like I said I will refund to anyone who doesn't get their stuff in a timely manner. Or, refund to anybody who says "Give me my money back."


The Day So Far

I promised myself downtime. The dampness of the morning gave it to me. I went out and finished getting together all my shipping supplies. Now we're settling in to a marathon Firefly session.


Announcement In Truffle Contest

Sherry and some of the others have mentioned my haattaallii friend Silas, in the truffle contest comments. I originally intended this to be a response comment but right as I was finishing it I realized that there needed to be an announcement at the end of a prize award. No, don't worry, nobody's lost anything yet. It's just that among the comments was one by a new reader, Krista, who was talking about the care-givers for her son. Anyway, Krista ends up winning in her very own category.

Everything else is up for grabs.

silas is one of my favorite people to give truffles. the first delight is the way he eats them. very slowly, savoring each little bite. he studies them before he bites because he wants to get a perfect mouth mix of ganache and shell. he really involves himself in the whole process. what he does next is fun too. because the trailer he lives in has no electricity there food cooling is only done by a root cellar and the occaisional ice chest. when folks bring him game meat it's always in an ice chest, which he never returns. there is a veritable mountain of them out back of his trailer. since he knows that the truffles are perishable he will take his box of a dozen around to different folks. he'll hold out the box and say "look what the singing snake gave to me. let's share one." he'll do that until they are gone and then go home a very happy man.

in that spirit i would like to announce that Krista has gotten her own little side prize. she's already ordered a box of eight. that order is now doubled. and the shipping's on me. congratulations krista!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Still Behind But Still Hopeful

Turning the bowl of the big machine by hand has taken its toll. That won't work for me tomorrow. I'll just have to wait for the little machine. Rest tomorrow is the order of the day. And ice.

I'll keep everybody posted.


Turns out that this morning wouldn't have done anything with the chocolate anyway. There is too much moisture in the air. Tempering chocolate won't happen when the humidity is above 50%.

A Disturbance In The Force

has occured. I was talking about my new tempering machine with the manufacturer's rep and it appears that I need a new part called a drive gear motor. I've ordered it, but they don't have them in stock and they close for Christmas on the 22nd. My son has dispatched the tiny pound and a half machine from Arizona on overnight. I will then go into round the clock production until it's done. I'm going to try and limp through another eight or so dozen today (2 doz done so far, but it's slow and tedious). We'll see what transpires. I will get them shipped as soon as I can.


Truffle Contest

I thought it over. Couldn't come up with anything dramatic or snarky so I thought that I'd simply turn things over to you.

There are two prizes up for grabs. First prize is a dozen truffles, free shipping included.

Second prize a dozen truffles free, you pay the shipping.

Third prize, you're fired. (sorry just channeling alec baldwin)

So here's the deal. You guys nominate the one you feel is deserving.

Since everybody will see what's going on with it there won't even be a chance for bribery. Damn. I was kind of counting on some decent bribes this time around.


Since this is a make it up as we go along contest I thought it might be time for a small clarification. The nominations are for people. If there are nominations for somebody who has already ordered and paid it might work as a vote for a second place (where I won't email them with the shipping costs). Then, it might help to subsidise somebody who wasn't nominated but is still deserving. I count that as a pretty cool way of bribery. Anyway, we'll work it out as we go. I will expose all cases of corruption with shameless glee.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Production Report Day 3

Whew. I'm getting used to the new, larger tempering machine and I think I've gotten some ideas on how to work with it better. I don't know about you, but when I'm working with new equipment, no matter how closely I follow the manual it always comes down to me making mistakes and learning from them.

The good news is that I dipped eight dozen beautful truffles and have high hopes of having even more success tomorrow. I lost about five hours to panic and redoing stuff I had already done right. Still, eight dozen beauties is a respectable day's work.

Tomorrow will be even better.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Truffle Production Day 2

All the dark chocolate flavors have been rolled. They are ready for dipping which will begin tomorrow. I'm going to sign off and try to download the pictures from the camera. If that works there will be pictures from the mixing procedure. The rolling pictures from last year will have to suffice. The process really doesn't change all that much.

(Soundtrack: Dropkick Murphy's: When Paddy Murphy Died

raucous, rude, loud and beautiful)