Saturday, November 15, 2014

Dark Chocolate Ginger Truffles

I am back to truffle making after quite a long break! I am excited to try so many truffle recipes and I just need to fit in the time to try them all. I made these dark chocolate ginger truffles about a month ago and I was quite happy with they way they turned out. I am a lover of ginger. I think that ginger is one of those things that people either love or hate. So, if you're not a ginger lover than perhaps this truffle is not for you. But, if you enjoy its warm and subtly spicy flavor then I do believe you will absolutely love this truffle. I was first introduced to the combination of ginger and chocolate at a chocolate shop in San Francisco several years back. My husband and I visited my sister in Noe Valley and we  happened to walk into the store. It was the first time that I realized that chocolate could be combined with spices and it opened up a whole new world for me. I ordered a bunch of the chocolate and then later chocolate by Vosges started popping up and I was able to  buy exotic chocolates at the grocery stores! And, I have tried the bacon and chocolate bar and I've got to be honest, I'm not a fan. There are many members of my family who do like it, though!

The filling of this dark chocolate ginger truffle is made of a dark chocolate ganache with freshly grated ginger and then it is coated with an even darker chocolate and topped with a piece of crystallized (candied) ginger. The ginger truffle is perfect for this time of year since ginger is usually associated with "fall spices." Another fun fall truffle that I tried out has a chocolate ganache filling with pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, and cloves. It is then coated in a mixture of milk and semisweet chocolate and topped with pecans, chunky sugar, and cinnamon. I hope to post those soon!

Back to the ginger truffles. They are so good that someone who sampled them came to me weeks later and asked me to make them for her so she could give them to someone as a gift. That is the thing with truffles. They are very special and if you take the time to make them, they make perfect gifts during the holiday season. Once you learn how to make them, they are really easy to do and even though they take time because of the steps, each step can be done in 15 minutes or less. I'm happy I learned to make truffles a few years ago and it is definitely a bit of an obsession. Enough rambling for now. Here is the recipe for the dark chocolate ginger truffles. Enjoy!

Recipe for Dark Chocolate Ginger Truffles

For the ganache filling
4 1/2 ounces of heavy whipping cream
3/4 - 1 tsp. of grated fresh ginger (use a microplane to grate)
5 1/2 ounces of semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped
For rolling, dipping and topping
Dutch-processed cocoa powder (for rolling)
8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (for coating)
Several pieces of crystallized ginger, cut into thin and small pieces (for topping)
decorative sugar, if desired (for topping)

Heat the cream and ginger in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When it comes to a simmer, immediately pour the very finely chopped semisweet chocolate it and remove from heat. Cover the pan with a lid and allow it to sit for five minutes. After five minutes, use a spoon to stir gently until the mixture is smooth and all the cream is mixed in to the chocolate. Pour the chocolate into a shallow container, cover tightly, and set in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
Take the mixture out of the fridge and open container. Dust hands with cocoa powder and have a bowl of cocoa powder and paper towels very close by. You may want to roll up your sleeves, too! Use a cookie dough scoop to scoop some of the mixture and gently shape into a ball. Drop onto a foil lined container. Continue to scoop and shape and drop until the mixture is gone. Then cover the container tightly and put in the freezer for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
Prepare a double boiler with about one inch of water. Once the water begins to steam, put the pan with the bittersweet chocolate on top and stir until it is thin and smooth. Take the ganache filling balls out of the freezer. Line a baking tray with foil. Drop a ball into the chocolate, use a spoon to coat, and then drop on the foil lined tray. Top with a piece of crystallized ginger and sprinkle on some decorative sugar, if desired. Put the tray in the fridge until they harden, then store in an airtight container in the fridge. Store in the fridge but when they are served, serve at room temperature.

Recipe makes approximately 2 dozen truffles.

Recipe Adapted from: Truffles, by Dede Wilson

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Best Cream of Crab Soup

I have been wanting to make cream of crab soup for a couple years now, and I finally did it on Saturday. It was possibly the best cream of crab soup I have ever had, and I have had a lot of cream of crab soup in my day, because I live in Maryland! I found the recipe in a cookbook called "The Chesapeake Bay Crabbiest Cookbook," and it was one of 22 crab soup recipes. I thought the cookbook was the right place to look for my cream of crab soup recipe, especially since I loved the crab cake recipe I used from the book. The soup was easy to make and it tasted amazing. Greg exclaimed how much he liked it, and then after eating it for awhile, he turns to me and says "um, so how unhealthy is this soup, because it seems really rich." And I was like, "um, well it is CREAM of crab soup, and why do you have to take the fun out of everything?" I then explained to him that although it did have heavy cream, that is was thickened because a flour roux was added to the soup. It is the roux that makes this soup so nice and thick (but of course it's the cream that makes it so deliciously, um, creamy).  I ended up using crab claw meat for the soup and it worked out well. You can choose to add the sherry, but I don't think it is necessary. I do recommend sprinkling it with some extra black pepper and Old Bay Seasoning before serving. Oh, and make sure you have some toasty bread or crackers for dipping. Enjoy.

Recipe for The Best Cream of Crab Soup 
4 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
1 small to medium yellow onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
3 Tbsp. of all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. of Old Bay Seasoning
1 1/4 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. of ground yellow mustard
A pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. of salt
16 ounces of heavy cream
16 ounces of half and half
1 pound of crabmeat (I used crab claw meat)
3 Tbsp. of sherry, optional
Parsley leaves for garnish, optional

Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a large stockpot. Add in the diced onions and pressed garlic and stir. Stir frequently and cook until the onions come to a light golden color.
While the onions are cooking, put the flour, Old Bay Seasoning, black pepper, yellow mustard, cayenne pepper and salt into a smallish bowl and mix.
Once onions are light golden in color, adjust the heat to medium and then make a roux. Add the flour mixture in, and stir continuously to make a blond roux (until the mixture is light golden in color), about 3 - 4 minutes.  After the roux is made, pour in the cream and half and half. Bring it to a boil, and then stir in the crabmeat. Bring the soup back to a boil, and then immediately stir in the sherry, if using.
Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle each with some extra black pepper and Old Bay Seasoning, and garnish with some parsley leaves, if desired.

Recipe makes approximately 6 servings. 

Recipe Adapted from: The Chesapeake Bay Crabbiest Cookbook, by Whitey Schmidt 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"Not So Sloppy" Turkey Sloppy Joes

There were only a few meals that I did not like to eat when I was a kid. I was never fond of meatloaf or Sloppy Joes. Luckily, both these meals weren't something that were served frequently in my parent's home. I didn't mind singing about Sloppy Joes after Adam Sandler sang his Lunch Lady song on Saturday Night Live, but I still wasn't interested in eating them. It had been at least 25 years since I thought about eating a Sloppy Joe sandwich until I saw this Sloppy Joe recipe a couple months ago on a blog that I like. I read the author's writeup and apparently she wasn't crazy about the idea of  Sloppy Joes EITHER until trying them again with this recipe. So I thought I'd give it a try and  I'm glad I did. I don't like to cook with meat much, but this meal was so easy to make and helped me to overcome some of my meat preparation fears.

Greg is also not a Sloppy Joe person and he was really happy with these not so sloppy Sloppy Joes!
I call them "not so sloppy" because they aren't too saucy and the sandwich pretty much stays in tact. I omitted the tomato sauce from the recipe and used ketchup instead. This recipe uses ground turkey and the sauce combines things like root beer and apple cider vinegar. I will definitely be making this recipe again. Enjoy!

Recipe for "Not So Sloppy" Sloppy Joes

1 Tbsp. of olive oil
2 Tbsp. of dried onion flakes
1 pound of ground turkey meat
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tsp. dried mustard powder
1/4 tsp. cumin powder
2 Tbsp. of ketchup
1 Tbsp. of apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. of Tabasco sauce
3 ounces of root beer
3/4 Tbsp. of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 hamburger buns, lightly toasted
Ketchup or other sauce, for serving

Put the olive oil in a large (nonstick) skillet over medium heat. Add in the dried onion flakes, stir, and cook for about 45 seconds. Add in the ground turkey and break the meat up as it cooks. Cook for about 4 - 5 minutes, or until it starts to brown. Stir in the pressed garlic, mustard powder, cumin, ketchup, and salt. Cook and stir until the mixture is fragrant, about 1 minute. Then stir in the apple cider vinegar, Tabasco sauce, root beer, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for about 7 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season with some ground pepper.

Divide the meat amongst the 4 buns and serve. Serve with extra ketchup or other sauce (I used extra Tabasco on mine), if desired. Serve with your favorite sides. We had some tasty barbecue potato chips and a spinach salad!

Recipe Adapted from: Pink Parsley, originally from Cooking Light, September 2014

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Nutella Cupcakes with Creamy Nutella Frosting & Nutella Ganache

Remember how just the other day I said I really wasn't craving things like cake these days, and that I was totally cool with healthy sweet fixes? Well, it's still true, but I certainly enjoyed these cupcakes after making them on Saturday. Our neighborhood had a crab feast/cookout and everyone in the neighborhood got to sign up to bring a dish. I chose a dessert because I figured if I had a hard time getting out the door that it wouldn't matter if I was a little late, and because I think baking is way more fun then preparing a potato salad. I was having a hard time deciding what to make and when I finally decided on cupcakes, I knew they had to be these Nutella ones. I put Nutella in the cupcake itself, in the frosting, AND in the ganache topping. If you're a Nutella fan, this cupcake is definitely for you! I didnt' get a chance to take a picture before the cookout so I was secretly hoping there wouldn't be any left so I had an excuse to make them again, but Greg came back with two of them in hand. They were a hit in my house and a hit with the neighbors, and I definitely might have to make them again very soon! Enjoy.

Recipe for Nutella Cupcakes with Creamy Nutella Frosting & Nutella Ganache

For the cupcake
2 cups of water
2 cups of unsweetened cocoa powder
2 2/3 cups of flour
4 tsp. of baking powder
1/2 tsp. of salt
2 sticks unsalted butter (16 Tbsp.), softened at room temperature
2 cups of granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup of Nutella
4 eggs

For the frosting
2 sticks unsalted butter (16 Tbsp.), softened at room temperature
1 cup Nutella
2 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. of heavy whipping cream

For the ganache topping
7 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (or 5 ounces chocolate chips - I used Ghiradelli)
2 Tbsp. Nutella
1/2 tsp. of coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners. Bring the water to a boil and then add in the cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat, let rest for a minute, then put in fridge to cool.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, use an electric hand mixer to beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the Nutella and vanilla and mix until well incorporated. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Slowly add in the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Remove cocoa mixture from fridge and with the mixer running, add it in a steady stream and beat on low. Scoop batter into cupcake liners (I filled them almost to the top of the liner, but you can fill just 3/4 full if you want). Put in oven and bake for about 16 - 19 minutes (I baked mine for 17:30). Remove from oven and then transfer cupcakes to wire rack to cool.

Once cooled, make the frosting. Use an electric hand mixer to beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Then add in the Nutella and mix until well incorporated. Add in 1 cup of the powdered sugar and mix and then add in the other cup and beat until smooth. Pour in the 3 tablespoons of cream and beat until well incorporated. Frost the cupcakes.

Once cupcakes are frosted, make the ganache topping. Put the chocolate or chocolate chips into a bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. While the cream is heating, put the Nutella and coconut oil in a small microwave safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Then stir, and microwave for another 30 seconds. Continue as needed until the mixture is thin and pourable. Once the cream comes to a very slight boil and is hot to the touch, pour it over the chocolate or chocolate chips. Stir until smooth and creamy and then add in the Nutella mixture and stir. Use a spoon or fork to put over the frosting in a fun design or just globs, it still will taste the same! Put cupcakes in fridge so the ganache topping can harden before serving.

Store cupcakes in an airtight container in the fridge. They taste amazing the first day they are made and pretty amazing the second day too. Store in fridge for up to 5 days.

Recipe makes approximately 22 cupcakes. You should have enough frosting for all the cupcakes - unless you like TONS of frosting - then you might want to double the frosting recipe!

Recipe Adapted from: Sally's Baking Addiction