Saturday, August 27, 2011

Truffles. No pig needed.

Milk chocolate, framboise, and fresh mint ganache enrobed in tempered dark chocolate 

For this month's daring baker challenge, we were asked to temper chocolate and make two kinds of candy. I've never done either, and there were so many options, so I was feeling a little overwhelmed.  As you'll remember, my parents came to town for a weekend, and I enlisted their help. My father was hesitant, but he definitely ate his share of melted chocolate along the way.

Can you tell what temperature we're at? No? Me neither.

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

Tempering chocolate involves heating it to a certain temperature, cooling it, and heating it again. There's definitely some science involved about changing the structure of something...crystals or proteins or what have you...that I don't understand.  What I do understand is that it prevents blooming (which is the prettiest name for the ugly white streaks on your chocolate bar from being left in the car to melt and reharden) and it makes the chocolate shiny and snappy. Most everyone likes shine, but all people love snap.

If you read the directions provided by the daring bakers this month, you'll see that you can also temper chocolate on a marble slab. I, for one, don't have a marble slab. And frankly, the melt, stir, and stir some more method was very simple and straightforward. Except, as you'll see above, for when I got chocolate on my candy thermometer and couldn't see the temperature.

They may not be pretty, but they are scrumptious.

Also, apparently I have the wrong thermometer yet again. We were waiting and waiting and stirring and stirring trying to get the temperature to lower under 25 degrees Celsius, until my father said:

Wait. Maybe it doesn't register any lower.

He tested it under cold water, and he was right. Now I own a meat thermometer and a candy thermometer already. Is there a chocolate thermometer I'm supposed to own too?  Too many things.

Milk chocolate ganache enrobed in crushed almonds

Lessons learned along the way:

1. Refrigerate your ganache. The colder it is, the easier it is to work with.  Don't be afraid to put the bowl of ganache in an ice bath while you work with it. 

2. Don't temper your chocolate until you're ready to use it. It gets cold and then it gets hard to work with and you're back and forth over the double boiler trying to keep it that great slippery consistency. This is not mandatory, but it makes things easier.

3. These are really good. Plan to give some away so you don't eat them all yourself.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

And then we were 10!

Sending out a Happy Anniversary to my sweet partner, to whom I said "I do" ten years ago today.

I'd do it again. No question.

Monday, August 15, 2011

B turns 4

And for this fourth birthday, even though I think I might have said I was going to stop knitting him sweaters, I lied. I couldn't help myself. He's still small enough that you can kind of tell him what to wear. And he's so little and cute. And so his sweaters are little and cute.

How many more trucks that light up and make annoying noises does he need?  (Or, how many more can his mother stand?)

Luckily for me, he's in love with construction equipment, and when I saw this sweater I knew it might be the best compromise out there. Knitting for me, no more loud toys for his mom, and cool trucks for him.

This was also my first foray into colorwork, and let me tell you. It's hard. So hard.  Getting the tension right, and weaving the ends through, and working a color chart--it's a full brain job. There's no watching a movie while you work. In fact, I was stooped over the chart with a ruler, counting, plotting, and unraveling all the way.

A lot of frogging occurred.  A lot of putting it down and counting to ten so I didn't start cutting it up into triangles of wrath with shears.

But once I got the trucks done, the rest was a breeze and a delight to knit. Sewing zippers into sweaters is my new skill, but even after two successes, I hate it.

Can you find the dog hair in this photo?
Anyway, happy fourth birthday sweet Brendan!! I hope you get cupcakes and candles and enough joy from the day to make getting a sweater from your crazy Aunt Heather all worth it.

Friday, August 12, 2011


photo by Dr. Wendy Ellis, and her phone. Sorry for the grainy-ness.

My parents come to town this weekend, and I think I'm going to make them help me with this month's daring bakers challenge. (They don't know this yet.)

Also, we're going to eat well. (Like we did in the photo above, when Joe rubbed a chicken down with adobo, stuffed it with limes, and roasted it. YUM.)

Also on the agenda is SAM Remix, a live-art, live-music extravaganza at the Olympic Sculpture Park, which ends with an outdoor showing and sing-along to Grease the movie. Yes it does. First 50 wearing gingham get in free, in case you missed ticket sales.

How about you? What's on the tap for the weekend?

I know what Roody will be up to...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I heart (public) art some more.

There's an installation in Carkeek Park this summer, and it's filled with site-specific (mostly) natural-element sculptures, integrating themselves into the landscape of the park.

There's a horrible map with no scale and too much information that doesn't tell you how to get to see any of them, so you must pretend you're on a scavenger hunt or you'll get frustrated and give up.

Nevertheless. When it's sunny and you feel like a wander in the city, this is the place.  

My favorites are these here cardboard shelf fungi. They're so innocuous, so small, so perfectly placed around the fence line, you almost walk right by them. 

Aren't they fantastic?