This is so easy I figured it'd be a waste not to post. It's a simple chocolate ganache you can use for a variety of purposes--frosting cakes, filling macarons, filling creampuffs, or using as a binding for some other product. Coincidentally, the below recipe will be just enough to frost one rollcake recipe's worth of sheet cake. I know, it's so convenient--I guess I'm just cool like that.
- 300g dark chocolate
- 250g heavy cream
- 70g butter
- Put the dark chocolate in a mixing bowl of some sort. If you're using slabs, cut it into small pieces.
- Heat the cream until it's JUST boiling (it will start foaming and rising in the pot), and pour the hot cream into the bowl of chocolate.
- Whisk until the mixture thickens and all the chocolate is melted and evenly distributed.
- Add the butter into the mixture in small pieces, stirring until the butter melts completely into the mixture. I generally add it 1/2 at a time in small pieces, but if you're not as confident in your whisking prowess you can try 1/3 or even 1/4 at a time.
- As with every chocolate recipe, always always always use good quality chocolate. If I catch you using Hershey's, I will come strangle you myself. Not to mention the chocolate will split and you'll end up with a pile of crap, since Hershey's is just a bar of whipped hydrogenated oil. :)
- Personally my favorite baking chocolate is valrhona. You can get plenty of supplies online, as well as in whole foods, especially the cocoa powder. For chocolate, I'd aim for 60%-70%; any lower and it becomes too sweet, any higher and it's too powerful. I personally favor the 64% manjari feves. Not only is it a good cocoa content and of high quality, the feves come in convenient 3g pieces--perfect for baking, and saving me a LOT of chocolate-chopping.
- While the mixture is ready immediately after it's contiguous, in a lot of cases you'll probably want to let it cool to room temperature before working with it--for example, when frosting cakes, or filling macarons.
- There really isn't much to screw here, unless you're overly impatient and try to combine things too quickly before the mixture stabilizes properly, or whisking slowly enough to have boiling cream cool down enough to not be able to melt chocolate or butter (in which case I have to congratulate you, it's quite an accomplishment).
I think tea eggs are just one of those foods that are iconic to the Chinese, but never really took off in the West as opposed to foods that are "Chinese" but never really found in China... You know who you are. There really is no equivalent for this snack as far as I've found, but it's one of the easiest to make and the most convenient for anyone who needs something to chomp on the go. Not to mention the soy sauce in combination with the tea and the anise shoot the flavor (I believe it's commonly referred to as "umami" nowadays) of the egg up to absolutely unholy levels that border on the addictive.
The name comes from the lovely marbling pattern that results from cracking the shells of the eggs to allow them to absorb flavors while steeping, and the spice-infused "tea" that the eggs steep in. The basic version that I was taught as a child was tea, star anise, soy sauce, and sichuan peppercorns, also known most commonly as huajiao in Mandarin; but honestly, this formula can be distilled to just tea, star anise, and soy sauce. Other common ingredients I've heard of are cassia bark (an asian variety of cinnamon) and fennel seed. I've also seen people use Chinese fivespice powder in replacement for all of the above; it's not something I like to do personally, but it doesn't turn out terribly. The best tea to use is some variety of black tea, usually pu erh or something similar. I like using Lipton Orange Pekoe, it's cheap and actually goes fairly well in this case; in fact, I keep a giant box around for just this purpose. ... Well, this and bubble tea, but that's another day.
Regardless, the preparation for this is exceedingly simple, and requires barely more effort than hard-boiling some eggs. In fact, the only part that can be construed as even remotely challenging is the cracking of the shells after boiling, but even that can be done by schoolchildren. Technically, that part can be skipped and the eggs can infuse as-is in the tea liquid, but to anyone considering skipping it I'd like to say... Really? Come on now. Get your head out of your ass.
- 1 dozen eggs
- 3/4 cup soy sauce
- 6 star anise
- 4 tea bags
- Optional: cassia, sichuan peppercorns, fennel seed
- Cover eggs with water in a large pot and bring it to a boil. Remove the pot, put a lid on it, and let it rest for 20 minutes, then rinse the eggs and cover with cold water to cool.
- Crack each egg gently by rapping on it with the back of a spoon. Try to keep the shells in one piece, but have the cracks still be visible; they should resemble something like a spiderweb.
- Put the eggs along with the soy sauce, star anise, and the teabags (along with any of the optional flavorings) into a pot. Add water until the eggs are just covered. Put a lid on the pot and simmer the eggs for about 1.5 - 2 hours.
- Let the pot sit on the stove for about an hour, then put it in the fridge to steep overnight, preferably longer; I'd say somewhere around a day is ideal, but they're technically edible after about 8 hours. You can skip the first step, but be aware that putting an extremely warm pot in the fridge WILL cause a change on the overall temperature in there, so if there is anything sensitive in there, don't.
- They can be kept in the fridge for up to a week in the tea liquid, two weeks if you're feeling daring. Drained and peeled, I'd say they'll last a bit more than half a week.
This is probably the simplest summer Italian dish one can prepare. It combines all the flavors of Italy into an appetizer. It consists of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil; and very coincidentally those three ingredients display the colors of the Italian flag.
Find some cherry tomatoes, they are perfect because of their bite size but mostly because of the powerful acidic flavor they provide, which contrasts with the mozzarella.
Don't buy mini mozzarella balls, they seem like a good choice but usually are of low quality. Go for a full fresh mozzarella lump, it should feel soft to the touch and should be kept refrigerated.
Choose a large plate with a flat bottom and sprinkle some olive oil on it, this will add flavor and prevent the bites from sticking to the plate.
- Cut the mozzarella into small cubes.
- Place a fresh leaf (or half leaf) of basil on top of each cube.
- Finally place a cherry tomato on top of the basil and pierce through with a tooth pick.
Keeping the mozzarella at the bottom makes sure that the little bites stay up straight. You may squeeze a lemon over the plate in order to provide some more zing and eventually add a pinch of salt.
This is probably the quickest improvized dessert we have come up with, it is simply fried and flambée banana.
- Unsalted butter
- Vanilla extract (optionnal)
- 100mL Dark rum and lighter/matches (optionnal)
- Whipped cream/Vanilla ice cream (optionnal)
- Start heating a pan on medium heat if electric, maximum heat if gas. While the pan heats up, start pealing the banana. Cut it in the middle on the width, then cut each piece on its length.
- Drop a small piece of butter on the pan (half a thumb). When the butter melts and starts making bubbles, it means the pan is warm enough. Make sure the butter is spread evenly on the pan.
- Now place all the banana pieces on the pan.
- After about 30 seconds, flip the bananas. If you have liquid vanilla extract, you can now pour it on the bananas. Add the sugar on top of the bananas, how much you pour is just your choice, I advise a small amount, if you cannot see the banana under the sugar anymore then its a lot too much. The goal of this is just to give a little help for the caramel to form, remember the bananas already contain sugar naturally and will caramelize even if you don't put any sugar.
- Wait an additionnal 30 seconds or so and flip them again. Now the side with the sugar is touching the pan, you can now add sugar on the other side (the one facing up).
- How much you cook the bananas is also your choice, when they take a golden color it usually means they are done.
- If you have any Dark Rum (or white, but its not as good for cooking), now is the time to take it out. This must be done really quick so read the whole paragraph before you do anything! If you are using a gas stove, be very careful not to create a cocktail molotov and set fire to your kitchen, thus make sure you turn the gas off. If you use an electric stove, you may turn it off as well. Don't let the pan go cold though! Pour a small amount of Rum on the pan (between 50mL and 100mL), covering the bananas. Put the bottle far away or close it and as quick as you can, set fire to the Rum in the pan. Let it burn until it extinguishes by istelf.
- You can now serve the bananas with whipped cream and/or vanilla ice cream. If you need more taste, you can add a few drops of Rum on the banana. They should be a tiny little cripsy outside and soft inside. See the troubleshooting section if you have doubts or didn't achieve this result.
- My bananas are black
- My bananas are not crispy outside
- I couldn't light my Rum on fire
This probably means the pan was too hot or that you overcooked the bananas. The more sugar you add, the easier it is to overcook the bananas. The black color you see is due to the caramel burning.
You might want to add a tiny bit more sugar next time and let the bananas fry a bit longer.
Either you didn't pour enough Rum on the pan or the pan was not warm enough, be sure not to let it cool down after you turn off your stove.
And here's the followup from the post about Tiramisu: The entry for what I suspect I will be using as the cement, duct tape, and superglue for a LOT of cake-related products I will make. Except you know... More appetizing. I present... Savoiardi.
- 160g flour (approx 1.33 cups)
- 130g sugar (approx .65 cups)
- 6 eggs (6 yolks, 4 whites)
- Pinch of salt
- Vanilla extract
(The above makes enough to fill one shallow 8x13 tray; for a better idea, refer to pictures in the Tiramisu article.)
- Separate the eggs in two bowls: One bowl with six yolks, the other with four whites. No, I don't like wasting two whites either; if you do desserts and stuff like that a lot, save it... But not for too long, since you don't want to serve someone a salmonella pastry just to prevent the wasteage of two egg whites.
- Throw the sugar in with the yolks and a dash of vanilla extract and whisk until you get a creamy light color again. (Refer to the post on Tiramisu for a reference picture.)
- Toss in a pinch of salt and whip the egg whites until there are stiff white peaks; again, refer to the Tiramisu post for reference.
- Slowly combine the sugar-yolk mixture with the whites, a few spatulafuls at a time. Remember that throwing all of it into the whites at once would likely cause them to collapse, which would be very bad.
- Now sift (or just gradually add, if a sifter is not available) flour while whisking at a moderate speed.
- Here's the fun part. There are multiple options (woohoo!). The typical one is to get one of those pastry dough bag things (You know, the ones you can frost with!) and use that to make the ladyfinger shape we all know and love (if I had to guess, I'd say it's about 1/2inx3in, or 1cmx5cm). For the cheap, there's always just cutting the corner out of a ziploc back. Another possibility is to draw funny shapes with it, instead of the traditional finger shape. The last and most effortless option is to just dump the whole lot into a tray and bake it. Then the shape of the tray can decide what it looks like, and you end up with what's essentially a giant cake; and probably a better one than you can find at Stop and Shop, too. Anyway, after the shape is formed, dust the top with sugar.
- Bake it. A temperature of about 360F (180C; yes, I know I rounded) should be sufficient. Baking times, however, vary according to shape. A standard ladyfinger sort of shape takes about 10-15min to be ready; a large tray full of a slab of the stuff might take anywhere from half an hour to forty-five minutes. Use proper judgement; if it tastes raw, it probably is. There's the standard poke-it-with-a-fork-and-see-if-it-comes-out-clean test, but I think any tests involving poking holes in your food is vulgar; you can also touch it with your hand (protected by a towel or something, of course!); if it gives just a bit and feels like a firm spongecake, it's ready. And don't be afraid to take it out of the oven a bit early, either; remember, the thing is still hot when you take it out. Hence, it continues cooking even after it's out of the oven. It's not going to do the equivalent of half an hour at 300+, but it should still be taken into account.
Sorry I don't have pictures, but I forgot. The tiramisu pictures are pretty good reference anyhow.