Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Chocolate Pavarotti with Wicked good Ganache

Well, I guess better late than never would apply to this post, although I really thought I would only be fashionably late.  The best intentions are sometimes just that!  Life has been snowballing lately….Not literally like so many people are experiencing in the east, as I sit outside in the beautiful Northern California weather.  But…the construction going on in our house seems like a never ending storm, or the proverbial can of worms.  One problem begets another!

Thank goodness I thought ahead, and had enough time to bake the Chocolate Pavarotti with Wicked Good Ganache.  And wickedly good it was!  Obviously this title has come from someone in Massachusetts, as that’s the only place I’ve ever heard “wicked” used as an adjective, adverb, verb, noun, you name it.  J

Since it was the week of love, I thought it appropriate to go with a Valentine theme.    This cake is relatively easy to make and if you plan to do it all in the same day, make the ganache first as it needs a few hours to firm up.  

Rose often recommends a food processor for making ganache, but I prefer to use an immersion blender as it's much smaller and easier to clean.  Just pour the heated cream over the broken up chocolate or chocolate pistoles and blend.  (Make sure the blender is completely immersed, otherwise you'll have a very large mess!)

Not only is the flavor wicked good, but the ganache is wicked because it calls for a fair amount of cayenne pepper.  Now, I would enjoy this tremendously, but I really wanted my 7 year old to eat this cake, so I had to forego the heat this time….

Mixing the cake is fairly easy, but one ingredient that was a bit surprising for a chocolate cake was “white chocolate” contained cocoa butter.  Many discussions among my fellow bakers ensued about the variety of white chocolate brands used the importance of using one with cocoa butter and the types of cocoa powders and their respective fat content.

Want to know more about cocoa?  David Lebovitz wrote a nice article on cocoa FAQs

I loved decorating this cake!  I had to double the ganache recipe, but hey that made it twice as wicked good.  :)

Working from the outside in using the dot method, I made certain to have an even number of dots so that I could pull one diagonally over the other to form the heart shapes.  (I used a small wilton offset spatula) As I piped, the ganache would heat up and cause the dots to be less defined.  To avoid this as much as possible, I kept a second piping bag in the fridge and would switch them out as needed. 

To create the red sprinkle heart in the center, place a heart cookie cutter in the center, pressing just lightly to prevent the sprinkles from leaking around the bottom.  Poor the sprinkles on and press them lightly into the ganache before removing the cutter. 

I'm sorry I forgot to take a picture of this step.

While doing the heart sprinkles, the outside rim of the cake will begin to soften, making it possible for the colored jimmies to cling to the ganache.

We’re prohibited from sharing recipes from the Baking Bible, but this week’s recipe can be found here!

Each week one of the Alpha Bakers photos will be featured in Marie’s weekly round up highlighting the thoughts of all 20 some of us.  I was completely shocked and honored to see my picture at the top of her blog!

If you’d like to see everyone else’s beautiful cakes, go here.

BTW, we’ve decided to bake through Rose’s Bread Bible, so look for more bread pictures beginning in March.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Swedish Apricot Walnut Bread

Geez Louis, I'm behind with my posts!  My tardiness has nothing to do with this absolutely delicious bread!  Right on the tail end of finishing this bread, our kitchen renovation started, so things have been "slightly" hectic.  Actually, that's putting it mildly.  My kitchen changed drastically in just 5 short hours...

Nonetheless, we had some great comfort bread to help us through the stress.  ;)  I have only one regret about this bread... I wish it were twice as big!!  Mental note for next time, double the recipe.

A little extra planning is required because a Biga is used to enhance the flavor.  Rose recommends making it 1-3 days ahead.  Instead of using Gold Medal bread flour, I chose to use the recommendation for alternate flour brands and combined equal parts bread and all-purpose flour in addition to the pumpernickel.  I couldn't find any flour specifically labeled as pumpernickel, but I used rye flour, which I believe is the same, or at least very close...

My first go around with this method seemed to be very dry, but I put it in the fridge anyway, crossed my fingers, rubbed a four leaf clover, and waited, and waited...two days,,,, it didn't do anything, but look like a dry lump of dough...  What could have gone wrong?  Is it my dry climate, the flour I chose, or the guestimate I made for 1/16th teaspoon of yeast?  Of all the tools I have, a 1/16th teaspoon isn't one of them!!

So, back to the drawing board.  With only enough time to allow the Biga to sit for 1 day, I started over again with the same alternate flours and yeast.  The only difference this time, I added extra water, about 1/8 cup more.  It still wasn't all bubbly and pretty like some of the other baker's, but it also wasn't a dry lump so, with a deadline over my head and remodel waiting, I trudged ahead, hoping for the best.

Mixing the dough is pretty straightforward.  Using our local walnuts, I toasted and removed the skins using the same towel method I use when toasting hazelnuts for my homemade Nutella.

I'm trying very hard to follow the rules and not change the recipes, but my raisin hating family would not stand for the golden raisins called for.  So....it was a tough decision, but I added chocolate!!  Guittard white chocolate chips to be exact.  Tough decision right?!  In our house, chocolate goes with anything, especially Guittard chips.  Have you ever tried them mixed with hot popcorn??

After shaping and allowing to rise 3 times, baking the bread was quite simple.


Unfortunately, when I scored the top, deflation occurred.  :(  It didn't recover with oven spring, so the loaf was a little flat and not pretty, but I didn't notice because it tasted soooooo good.  No kidding.  The chips on top caramelized and created a wonderful and unexpected crunch.

This recipe is definitely a keeper!  While we can't share the recipes, you can certainly run out and by the Baking Bible, or find it on Amazon.