Saturday, September 12, 2015

Pop Rocks (pop music)

Let's start off with some pop music.

Among the first concepts to successful cooking is "Mise en Place" which is the French way of saying "Get your shit together."
That's all the tools and ingredients I am going to use. That cast iron hammer is one of my favorites. You have to love a recipe that calls for a cast iron hammer. It's not as fun as a blowtorch, but it's close.
2 cups white sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup citric acid crystals (+1 tsp for later)
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup light karo (or other corn syrup)
1 tsp lime flavoring oil (this is a specialty item used in making hard candy)
2 drops leaf green coloring gel
powdered sugar for dusting
cornstarch for dusting
First lightly dust a standard baking sheet (I like one with a slight lip) with powdered sugar and cornstarch.
Combine the sugar, water, and karo in a medium sauce pan over high heat. stir just enough to dissolve the sugar (the sign that this has happened is when it goes clear). Big time kitchen hack. You can measure the karo and the water together, but before you do that, spritz the measuring cup down with cooking spray (I used a spray of olive oil, but canola, peanut, or anything else will do). This allows for a much easier pour that is closer to your desired amount. It also makes for an easier wash.
Then cover tightly and wait five minutes. Uncover, use a pastry brush to brush down the sides of the pan to prevent any crytals of sugar from forming, and insert your candy thermometer (this is NOT negotiable, you need this) and allow to continue at a full boil until the temperature reaches 300 degrees F, or, as candy chefs will say "Hard Crack."

Now, leave the syrup alone, to cool to 175 and then add in the 1/4 cup citric acid, baking soda, flavoring and color agent. Turn that out onto your baking sheet.
Dust again with cornstarch and powdered sugar.
Cool for a half hour, while you're waiting do the dishes now. The pot, the spatula, everything that touched the syrup. Do. Not. Wait. Do. It. Now.
I'm not kidding. If you slack off at this point you'll never get your pan and your tools clean. Ever.
After a half hour, while the candy is at a pliable taffy consistency, use a stout wooden spatula to take it off of the baking sheet. The better your dusting job was at the very beginning, the easier it will be.
Cool this on a rack until hard.
Then take the cast iron hammer, bust it up into little bitty pieces, seal that with the vacuum sealer (or punk out and use a zip lock bag, but I love my FoodSaver and use it a lot)

When they make PopRocks they send in CO2 at 700 psi into the syrup, since that isn't something that can be duplicated at home, the introduction of the citric acid and the baking soda, will, instead of a pop, produce a nice little fizz. Since this is going to be a grace note to the larger chord, a nice little fizz will suffice.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

One Flavor to Rule Them

I'm currently in the process of developing a new flavor for my truffle business. It's not something I go looking to do, but, the same as it works with musical insights and inspirations, sometimes the idea of a something I haven't tasted before can become as all consuming as something I haven't heard.

Creativity can suck. It can take over your life. I've told a lot of friends that there are levels of musical performance that you simply cannot attain while keeping good mental health. Normal people wouldn't put up with the hours of solitary practice alone, much less the endless indignities and nearly constant job search involved with making a living from music.

Then again, this isn't about music, even though there are many parallels. It's about truffles. If it were up to me, I would concentrate on my personal favorite truffle which is a bittersweet chocolate ganache (that's a French word which means "goddamn that's good!") that is then dipped into tempered chocolate. I would tell people that want another flavor introduced "Look, if you like the idea of a liqueur flavored truffle, get a truffle, pour a glass of your favorite liqueur and enjoy yourself."

There are some things I don't mind adding into the chocolate at all. Things like fresh raspberries, different combinations of spices, and, those liqueurs I was just dissing in the paragraph above.

Chocolate is funny stuff. Say you were thinking about combining the flavor of chocolate with apples. You can find out the same way I did that nothing good happens when you put fresh apple into a ganache, or you can trust me when I tell you that you won't like it. Calvados though, even a very small amount, like around 1/3 cup of it to flavor the ganache to make six dozen truffles will give you a subtle, yet present apple flavor.

I also spent a lot of time developing my recipe for white chocolate truffles. I don't even like white chocolate very much, but, the people that love the stuff love it dearly. I developed my recipe for that because there were people I'm very close to that were finding themselves totally left out of the whole truffle experience.

Around last Christmas, which is when I normally ramp up production at home because if I gave anything but truffles for gifts everybody would be mad at me, a friend on facebook showed me a recipe for eggnog truffles. I looked it over and thought that the recipe he showed me sucked. What I did see was how to adapt my basic white chocolate ganache into something that tastes like eggnog.

So, here we are at the business end of summer, and while I'm making vanilla extract (split and halve a dozen vanilla beans and put them into a litre of good rum, cap it, and wait a couple months) I get this flash, that is suspiciously like a flash I'd get around music (what to play in a song, what instrument to use, that kind of flash) of what it might taste like if at the same time I was infusing the rum with the vanilla flavor I also put in mint, and lime zest.

That was a couple months ago that I started it, and right now the rum infusion is tasting pretty good. I can see clearly how a Mojito flavored truffle might be pretty delightful.

Then, the obsession thing starts. I start to fixate on the fizz, which in a Mojito comes from carbonated water. How can I get that fizz into a truffle? Somebody asked me why the fizz had become so important to me.

I said, "Because without the fizz it's a fucking julep."

Then, finally, another flash. Pop Rocks. Lime flavored Pop Rocks.

Tomorrow or the next day, I'll be writing, and showing with pictures, about making lime flavored pop rocks.

You couldn't expect someone obsessive enough to make his own vanilla extract to settle for stuff off a shelf now could you?