Friday, 30 January 2009

a box of treats...

Hmmm.... what have we here, then? Looks like a box, smells like a box...

Abel and Cole box 1

I have to get into it. I just have to. Maybe if I tackle it from the other side... Maybe it won't see me coming...

Abel and Cole box 2

A-ha! Take THAT, you infernal swede!

And so an otherwise ordinary Friday morning has been transformed into something rather more, well, interesting for both feline and non-feline members of my household.

The good people of Abel and Cole have delivered to my door a rather lovely mixed organic fruit and veg box for me to try, together with a plump fella of a free-range chicken. Needless to say, I'm happy to oblige... ;-)

Initial impressions are good. The fruit - bananas, apples, and blood oranges (a particular treat) are positively bountiful. The veg - mushrooms, swede, potatoes, red cabbage, parsnips, carrots, and onions - are also looking good, if a tad on the earthy side. A no-holds-barred roast dinner at the weekend seems like a shoo-in. I'll keep you posted.

I just have to get the cat out of the box first.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

taking control of my temper... another Rococo workshop

Yes, that's right. I'm an utterly uncontrollable red mist loon. The sort to bite your head off at the slightest thing. Or to throw plates around when my cakes don't rise.

Nah, only kidding. My cakes ALWAYS rise. And I don't have a temper. Well, hardly at all, anyway. Once every 10 years or so, I rise to just a tad above simmering point. And then that's it for another 10 years. I just don't see the point, and I don't have the energy.

No, the temper I'm talking about is to do with CHOCOLATE. Mmmm.... CHOCOLATE.

I've already told you about the Rococo ganache workshop, but I never got round to posting about the tempering workshop.

Well, here it is.

I came. I saw. I tempered. And it was good. Laurent, the master chocolatier, said so, so it must be true. The fact that I paid him £100 for the privilege of his tutoring had nothing to do with it, I'm certain of that.

Actually, there was a bit more to the tempering than that. But it wasn't as tricky as I'd imagined. And I managed not to get the molten chocolate all over the floor.

The aim of the day was to take lots of these:

Valrhona lozenges

... i.e. untempered dark chocolate couverture 'lozenges' or 'beans', and to turn them into sheeny-shiny tempered chocolate shapes.

Why do you need to temper chocolate? Well, for a start, 'beans' don't sell. Pretty moulded or piped shapes do. Second, tempered chocolate takes on a lovely attractive shine. It also has a crisp 'snap' to it when broken or bitten into. Anything untempered won't give you that. Properly tempered, good quality chocolate won't 'bloom' either.

So we took our 'beans', melted them to an exact temperature, and then poured most of the result all over a big marble slap. Then, taking a 'cranked' palette knife (that's the shape, not a reference to its mood), and something akin to a plasterer's scraping blade, we chased the molten pool all around the slab for a short while before scooping it back into a bowl again. (This is the point at which it was most at risk from schlepping onto the floor, but the chocolate angels were smiling on me that day, and for once I was spared the embarrassment.)

To that bowl of tempered chocolate, we then added a small amount of 'seed' chocolate (whatever we didn't originally temper), mixed it all together quickly, and bingo - tempered chocolate.

Only that wasn't quite it.

No, my friends. Then we had to pipe the glossy warm liquid stuff into moulds. Which is not as easy as you might think. Or if it is, then you've obviously piped before. I hadn't.

But you know what? Thanks to the patience of Laurent again, it went ok. Really, it did. And not long after, I had sheeny shiny chocolate fish:

rococo fish and box

See how they shine... (go on, humour me, please)

rococo fish close-up

Well, I was quite chuffed, anyway.

And the best bit? We got to take all our shapes home. In gorgeous Rococo boxes. Which Chantal Coady (the owner of Rococo) showed us how to dress with sumptuous ribbon. Like so:

rococo box with ribbon

And all just in time for Christmas. Perfect.

Monday, 12 January 2009

OMG! I almost missed my first birthday!

It's true.

Yet again, I've been so insanely busy with work stuff that I almost missed my first birthday. This pesky work/life balance could definitely do with a re-jig of the weighing scales...

So, anyway. Oh, yes - chocolate...

There's going to be lots of it here this year. Lots. And then some more.

So as the lovely, sharp-as-your-granny's-back-teeth Heather of Gild the Voodoo Lily suggested to me the other day, I might just have to ring the changes around here and change the name of this blog. I dunno. What do you think?

In the meantime, to get you in the chocolate mood, here's some suggested reading for you. Don't blame me if you end up with a pool of dribble in your lap. For that reason, I really don't recommend these for bedtime. It just gets messy is all.

chocolate books

Oh hey - and Happy New Year!