December, 2006

Change Your Life

What am I doing this month that I’m home in LeRoy, you ask?  Well, on a normal day I get up at four in the morning and run 20 to 25 miles before breakfast.  Then I go windsurf or bike.

I had you there for a minute, didn’t I?? 😉

 I’m reading the January version of Outside and that is Dean Karnazes’ description of a normal day.  I mean, go dean!, but what the heck?!

I like Thoreau’s idea that “superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only.”  New goal: throw or give five things away every week–old junk that you never use/clothes that you never wear, etc.  Simplify!

Chef Jorin’s Super Secret Milk Chocolate Caramels

As you can see from the title of this article, I should not even be posting this recipe online.  I promised Chef that I would not publish all of the CIA’s top secret recipes, and I intend to keep that promise.  This recipe, however, was one of his personal recipes, and I am duly giving him credit for his ingeniousness, so hopefully he won’t come track me down with a pot of boiling sugar to dump over my head.  I have actually changed the recipe slightly, but the basic proportions are his, so let us all bow down and thank the Great Jorin for these scrumdidilyumpsciuous chocolates; one of my all-time favorite truffle recipes.

Milk Chocolate Caramels

Yield: Enough for a Small Village  (Seriously, this makes a ton of truffles, if you want less, I would recommend using the same amount of sugar to make the caramel , half all the rest of the ingredients, and throwing half of the caramel away–very carefully–before adding the cream.  Making a smaller dose of caramel can get tricky as the sugar crystallizes more easily.)

Ingredients

4.5 oz. Sugar

Juice from 1/2 a lemon

1 cup Heavy Cream, very warm

18oz. Superior Quality Milk Chocolate (I like Lindt)

2 Tbsp. Butter, room temperature, chopped

A dash of liquor (hazelnut or almond flavored is nice) 

Chocolate for finishing, see Step #8

Method

1.  Chop the chocolate with a serrated knife and place in a large bowl.  Make sure your butter is at room temp and chopped into pieces–throw it into the bowl with the chocolate.  Get a cup of water and a pastry brush out to wipe the sides of the pot while you make the caramel.  If you have a pastry bag, get that out and put in a 1/4-1/2 inch round tip.  Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Put the heavy cream in the microwave for a minute to warm it up–it should be hot, but you don’t want a skin.

2.Place the sugar and lemon juice in a medium sized saucepan over low heat and mix.  Let the sugar melt slowly, if it seems like there are little pieces of sugar on the sides of the saucepan that are starting to burn, brush the sides down with a little bit of water.  When the sugar has barely turned to liquid, stir with a whisk so that the sugar cooks evenly (there will probably be hot spots in your pan; you don’t want one part to burn black and the other to not cook at all: stir to combine).  When the sugar starts to really bubble, you can stop using your whisk.  Watching all the time, allow the sugar to cook until it’s one shade lighter than you want your caramel.  Use your best judgement; if the sugar is too dark, it’s going to taste burnt, if it’s too light, it’s not going to taste like anything (remember you still have to add all that chocolate and the cream, so that will dilute the caramel flavor a bit).  I usually let it go until it’s a deep amber brown.  In some boutique chocolate shops, Burnt Sugar is a very popular flavor, so don’t despair too much if your caramel is a little darker than you anticipated.  If it’s black however, you’re better off starting again.

3.When the sugar is one shade lighter than you want your caramel to be, carefully add the hot cream (BE CAREFUL, the sugar will bubble up drastically when you add the cream!!), whisking constantly over medium heat until you have a uniform consistency.

4.  Quickly pour the caramel sauce over the prepared chocolate and butter.  Let sit for a minute (so that the chocolate has time to absorb the heat of the caramel) and then stir briskly with a whisk; add liquor. 

5.  When you’ve got a uniform consistency, and the chocolate and butter have completely melted, cover with plastic wrap and put into fridge until your ganache is cool enough to pipe.  Put ganache into your pastry bag and pipe small domes (about the size of your thumbnail).  Pipe your domes close together to save space and don’t worry if they’re not perfect domes; we’re going to roll them between our hands later to even out the major imperfections. 

If you don’t have a pastry bag you can spread the ganache in a 9×13 baking dish lined with parchment (so that the parchment comes up the sides as well, you want excess to make it easy to pull it out of the pan later).  Cover with plastic wrap and put into fridge to cool.  Later when the ganache has hardened you’ll be able to slice little squares and then roll them to make globes.

6.  Let the ganache sit in a cool dark place until hardened, or if you want to speed up the process put it in the fridge.

7.  When the ganache has cooled, put on a pair (or if you have really hot hands, put on two pair) of plastic, single-use gloves and gently roll your chocolates until they’re round.  Remember, they’re called truffles for a reason–real truffles, the mushrooms that are hunted in northern Italy and France by dogs and pigs, are FAR from perfectly round.  Your truffles don’t need to be perfectly round either.

8.  Now you’re ready to finish the truffles in tempered chocolate. (Or if you don’t want to bother with tempering, you could roll them in cocoa, powdered sugar, ground nuts, or something like that).  Here is a good article on how to go about tempering your chocolate (use whichever you like, white, milk, dark….).

9.  When your tempered chocolate is ready, prepare a baking sheet or two with clean parchment, put on a clean pair of single-use gloves, smear some of your tempered chocolate on your left hand, pick up one or two trufflesand roll them into the chocolate on your hand and over your fingers, making sure the truffle is completely covered.  You don’t want there to be a lot of excess chocolate on your truffle, because it will make a “foot” or a flat bottom on your truffle.  (A major no-no amoung professional chocolatiers).  Place on the parchement paper in nice neat rows and keep going!!

Home Sweet Home

It is so good to be home in good ol’ Le Roy. 

Not that I don’t love Italy and all, but there’s something about sitting next to the Christmas tree in my favorite over-stuffed red chair and reading books in my mother language all day long that just warms my belly.

Living in the lap of luxury!

Unfortunately, I’ve got this constant nagging stress of applying for dual citizenship–What a pain in the A**!!!!  I’m not even going to go into the gory details of this torturous process.  All I have to say is that if they don’t accept me, I’m going to be moving back to the US in a hot one-two.

On the positive side of the dual citizenship application process are all of the exciting things I’ve learned about my family history.  I don’t know why geneology buffs ever earned the Dork-o-rama stigma that they have.  It has been absolutely fascinating researching the lives of my great grandparents.  I’ve met a whole other side of my family that I didn’t even know existed!  (Holla Simoni’s!!!)

Plus I discovered NARA.  As Americans we are very lucky to have resources like the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.  I had no idea that this  gigantic government library-of-sorts even existed until six months ago.  You’ve got to go check it out!  And the highly qualified people that work there are fabulously efficient and knowledgable.  I think I missed my calling, I should have become a librarian, I would be a great librarian.  If I ever become a millionairess, which at this point in my life seems veramente dubioso, I would consider donating money to them.  (In the end I would probably have to give the money to women or children in Africa or the Middle East, but I want to emphasize how much I appreciate their help in the last few months).

Okay, well I just spoke with the Italian consulate again–to make an appointment for submitting my application.  It turns out it’s harder to get an appointment at the Consulate than it is to get a dinner reservation at The French Laundry!  The first appointment they have available is in the middle of MAY!!!  Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.  Oh Help.

I can’t believe there’s no snow here yet!!!!  Hellow!  All I have to say is that it better freaking snow before Christmas.

 

Home For The Holidays

I’m back in the States until January 13th!  Celebrating the holidays with the fam.  Luca’s holding down the fort in Verduno until I get back (hopefully with dual citizenship!).