Walnut Wedges of Decadence

Walnut Wedge of Decadence

Walnut Wedge of Decadence

This is what one of our friends at our international Thanksgiving Dinner called these. Let me tell you, they really are decadent. There is nothing healthy or low-cal or low-fat in these. But tastewise, they are one of the best desserts I had in some time.

The walnut wedges came about because of my laziness and incapacity, I might say. See, I am pastry dough-handicapped. I fear pastry dough, I fear the mixing (under-mixed? crumbly! over-mixed? stone-hard!), the rolling out (it will stick, no matter how much flour I use) and the transferring to the pie dish (it will tear no matter which method – drape over the rolling pin or fold loosely in quarters)… No matter which lovely blogger takes me through it with a magical recipe, step-by-step, sometimes even in person and live, I am afraid of the pastry dough (actually any dough that I have to roll out, including pasta though, which I guess makes me a failure among all foodies – and I live in Italy, of all places!).

Imagine my joy then, when years ago I came by a pate brisee /sucree (short crust pastry) recipe – I think it was on Clotilde’s blog – where I read the words “no need to roll out, just press the dough/crumbs with your fingertips into the pie dish”. Since then, whenever I can (actually even when I can’t) I go back to that kind of dough when I want to make a pie. For this recipe I used brown sugar instead of regular sugar and changed the proportions a bit – usually I use a bit less butter and sugar for that amount of flour.

And the filling? Years ago, for another thanksgiving party (in Germany, mind you), I had researched the perfect pecan pie. The 10 or so recipes that sounded best to me I threw together and came up with mine. And this year, since pecans were hard to find and very expensive I wanted to substitute them. And since I have about 2 kilos of shelled organic walnuts from my father’s very own plantation in Turkey, I didn’t think too long! But go ahead, if pecans are cheaper in your neck of the woods, or any other nuts (I imagine almonds would be good, too), use them. They will still be Wedges of Decadence.

Walnut Wedges of Decadence
own creation
serves 12 (at least!)

prep: 20 mins
bake: 45 mins

for the crust:

all purpose flour, 180 g
brown sugar, 110 g
butter, 110 g (very cold and cut into pieces/cubes)
salt, pinch

for the filling:

walnuts, 200 g (toasted and coarsely chopped)
cream, 250 g
sugar, 100 g
brown sugar, 60 g
honey, 3 tbsp
butter, 3 tbsp
bourbon whiskey, 2 tbsp
orange peel, 3 tsp
caraway seeds, 1 tsp
aniseed, 1 tsp
salt, 1 tsp

for the topping:

dark chocolate (70%), 100 g (broken into little pieces, or use chips)

Heat the oven to 180°C.

Mix all ingredients for the crust. You can do this with a food processor, a pastry cutter or with your hands (as I did). Knead till you have a crumbly dough that doesn’t hold well together. You can add just a sip of milk or water if you think it doesn’t come together at all. Dump the dough into a 28cm pie dish and press with your fingers into the dish. Try to press it to a uniform thickness. It will run up the sides, for this recipe you don’t need this, whatever goes up the sides, patch it back on the bottom of the dish/form. Put the form on an oven tray (this is a precaution against possible spillage later on) and put in the oven (middle rack) and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, till golden, but not dark. If it has puffed up, push it gently down after you take it out of the oven. Keep the oven temperature.

While the crust bakes, prepare the filling. Mix all the ingredients for the filling except the walnuts in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat (it will bubble up considerably). Let boil for ca. 5 minutes, stirring every once in a while. You want everything to dissolve and thicken together.The mixture will be very hot, be careful!

Take the oven tray with the form on it out of the oven. Distribute the walnuts evenly on the crust. Pour the cream/sugar mixture evenly over it, paying attention to cover every area while pouring – you don’t want to be forced to correct later on, since then the walnuts will come to the top. Put the tray with the pie form on it in the oven again. Bake for 25 minutes. The filling will bubble up and may (doesn’t always do it with me) spill, that is why you want the pie form on an oven tray! After 25 minutes, the filling should be thick and dark golden-brownish. Take it out of the oven with the tray, as it will be unstable and soft till it cools down.

Right after you take the pie out of the oven, distribute the chocolate pieces evenly over the pie, paying attention to not touch the filling with your fingers (hot!). Let sit for a minute or two, till you see that they are melting down. Take a fork and plow through the chocolate (try to keep to the surface only, not the whole filling!) to create a thin layer of chocolate all over the pie. Run a knife along the circumference. Transfer pie-dish first to a cooling rack, later to the fridge (cover with foil) to allow the whole pie to get stable and hard.

Serve very slim wedges, at room temperature. Go to heaven.

Walnut Wedge of Decadence - the profile

Walnut Wedge of Decadence - the profile

Chocolate-Orange Marmalade or Use Everything Twice

Chocolate-Orange Marmalade

After weeks of studying for an important exam and being sick, yesterday I finally made the candied orange peel strips I had seen over at Jen’s lovely blog use real butter (which I can recommend without hesitation; the blog as well as the statement). After simmering the strips for 40 minutes to “translucent” stage and lining them up on the rack, I was left with a big problem which Jen hadn’t mentioned: Around 600 ml of syrup full of orange flavor.

I don’t know if I wasn’t supposed to have this much leftover syrup, or if Jen considered it just too un-noteworthy, but I was smashed: The syrup tasted so orange-y, with such great bitter aromas, just a tad too sweet, I just couldn’t throw it away. Standing in front of the stove, looking at the pot with the remnants of the orange peel, I had an idea: I was going to dip the candied orange strips in chocolate after they had dried, I loved the combination, so why not add chocolate to the orange-syrup as well ?

Candied Orange Peel Strips

Well, I tell you (and T. can confirm), it was one of the best ideas I had lately. The final concoction, a perfect balance of orange and chocolate, bitter and sweet, is to die for. You can smear it on a slice of good white bread, you can fill little tartlets with it or just spoon it out of the jar as is. There is nothing in there that could spoil but I popped my jars into the fridge just to be on the safe side. I don’t expect them to go through a long test-period, though!

Chocolate-Orange Marmalade
own creation
makes about 4 cups

prep: 10 mins

leftover orange syrup from candied orange peel strips, ca. 600 ml
chocolate, 80% or more cacao, 250g

While the orange syrup is still warm, add the chocolate, broken into small pieces. Stir thoroughly, until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated with the syrup. Fill into little jars and keep in the refrigerator. Use as a bread spread or filling for tartlets, crepes, etc.

Note: Use very high percent bitter chocolate even though you may not like it on its own. Since the syrup is very sugary, the bitterness from the chocolate/cacao is most welcome in this combination.

Easy Chocolate Truffles

Easy Chocolate Truffles 1

easy chocolate truffles

A few months ago I was complaining about the care, work and time making your own chocolate truffles takes, although it is rewarding. In a week full of computer related stress (one hard drive dead, taking a lot of data with itself – I know, I am the only one to blame – one new hard drive infested with a virus within 60 seconds of going online and one whole new computer with the brand new pre-installed Vista on it not wanting to communicate with any other software I need and denying me every little step on my own PC of which I am the administrator) I definitely needed some comfort food, whipped up in a breeze and choc-full-of goodness while being as low carb as possible without sacrificing the taste… So I started daydreaming about ways to simplify my good old truffles. Installing Windows lets you enough time to do that!

I came up with this new technique and presentation of my tried and true recipe. They take only 10 minutes of active “cooking” time and maybe an hour of initial settling in the fridge before they are ready to be devoured. Admittedly, they don’t look as shiny and good as their properly-made cousins and I am afraid they won’t hold for a long time outside of the fridge, but hey, it is the inner-values that count, isn’t it?

easy chocolate truffles
adapted from various resources
makes around 60 truffles
prep & cool: 1 h 15 min

70% chocolate, 400g (the best you can afford)
heavy cream, 200 ml
butter, 40g
flavors to your liking; red or white wine, aged good vinegars like a real balsamico, etc. I used my smoky Turkish pepper for one half and a sauternes vinegar for the other.

In a heavy buttoned pan melt the chocolate (broken or cut into little pieces), the cream and the butter together, on very low heat, stirring occasionally. When completely melted and combined, stir in one or two tbsp of your “flavoring”. Line a shallow and wide container with cling film, pour the chocolate mass in and smooth the surface. Cover with more cling film (it should touch the surface of the chocolate) and put in the fridge or even freezer, for at least half an hour, until the mass is completely set and solid.

Invert the block of truffle mass on a cutting board and cut it into cubes with a heavy and long knife. Dip the knife into lukewarm water between cuts if you have difficulties with sticking chocolate. In a bowl, toss the cubes with some cacao (this will hide the imperfections) and voila, here you have easy but heavenly chocolate truffles. Keep them in the fridge and eat up in a couple of days. But that won’t be a problem, I promise!

Easy Chocolate Truffles 2

How 2 Weeks of Low-Carb Eating Bestows Upon You an Unsound Mind

chocolate-peanutbutter

1. Make your own peanut butter so that it is without sugar. Eat it with celery sticks. Yummy. Really. It is only the second day, you are not insane yet. Great mouthfeel and instant satisfaction. You love your handheld one-legged mixer/blender with the cutter attachment.

2. Eat this as a snack or any time you like for a couple of days. Eat a lot of vegetables, fish and poultry. Avoid any starches. As you, on a Sunday noon, eat a perfect 500g piece of grilled meat, your husband stares at you with a strange look (he only has a 300g chunk in front of him – and a baked potato and garlic bread, none of which you have) and says “you are to pity, my poor wife, that is one hard diet you are going through there”. “Why,” you think, “of course it is. I want some carbs!”

3. Think you can improve your peanut butter with a variety of nuts. Make a peanut-cashew-macademia butter. Eeeewww, not good. But you still love your handheld one-legged mixer/blender with the cutter attachment.

4. You crave something sweet. Specifically chocolate. Does it have anything to do with the death-by-chocolate cake from Sarah Wiener? No! Does Sebastian’s post about his version of it and the following discussion have anything to do with the craving? No!

5. Didn’t you read about a chocolate-peanut butter sometime ago? Where was it?

6. Ah, here.

7. Hmm, Clotilde used real chocolate. You don’t want to use chocolate because it has sugar in it, although this is 72% chocolate.

8. Oh, but wait, doesn’t she say she initially wanted to do it with cacao? Yes! You have cacao at home, so give it a try. Cacao doesn’t have any sugar.

9. You are so secure of your not-following-the-recipe-but-still-creating-something-yummy qualities that you give 200g of peanuts along with a generous shake of cacao and some spices. You are so good, this is going to be yummy. Don’t you adore your handheld one-legged mixer/blender with the cutter attachment?

10. Yuck! Never, ever, have I concocted something this terrible in my whole life. This smells like… I don’t know. Yuck.

11. You exercise yourself in humility. You dump the first batch. You start again. You measure the stated amount of peanuts, do some research on the net as to how much cacao would give the effect of 40g of 72% chocolate. You are real careful this time. You wait with the spices. Let’s first see how this goes.

12. Oh my god, this is terrible. How can Clotilde be putting such a recipe on her blog? Hasn’t anyone tried it yet? This smells like kerosene.

13. Actually, maybe there is a reason Clotilde didn’t do this with cacao after all. Maybe I should try it with chocolate after all.

14. You dump the second batch. You start yet again. These days you have an infinite supply of peanuts at home, as they are allowed on your diet.

15. Now follow the recipe real careful. Peanuts, 125g, check. Chocolate, 72%, 40g, check. Just a touch of Piment d’Espelette, check. Start grinding.

16. This takes some time. I just love my handheld one-legged mixer/blender with the cutter attachment. It feels so good in your hand. So sleek but powerful. And so warm. Almost hot. Is this supposed to be so hot? Wait, what is this smell again?

17. Stop grinding. The chocolate-peanut butter looks divine, if still a bit grainy. But this same smell again, as in the earlier tries. Take a spoonful. Do the math as to how much sugar you are eating with that spoonful.

18. The 0,4g sugar works wonders: In the same instance as you are thinking “this tastes sooo good!” you realize it is not the chocolate-peanut butter that smells like yuck. You sniff the piece of your lovely handheld one-legged mixer/blender with the cutter attachment that holds the engine. There! It smells like burned plastic! That was what smelled so yucky all the time, not the batches and batches of kakao-peanut butter!

19. You decide that to function properly, you have to eat some sugar every once in a while. This chocolate-peanut butter is divine. Tomorrow you will buy a new handheld one-legged mixer/blender with the cutter attachment. It won’t be the same brand this time.

Chocolate Truffles – SHF #25

Chocolate chili truffles

chili truffles

It is already the 25th edition of Sugar High Friday and this is the very first time I am participating. And I get a prompt accusation of being an over-achiever! The very industrious Johanna over at the passionate cook is organizing this month’s theme of “chocolate truffles” (here is the round up, be ready for a massive chocolate overdosis and great new ideas!) and what better reason to play with a kilo of chocolate at your hearts content?

Chocolate apple balsamico truffles

apple balsamico truffles

From the moment Johanna announced the theme, I knew I wanted to try three new flavors along with my long time staple, the chili truffle. After the chocolate and wine seminar I attended two weeks ago, I decided to experiment with combining sweet and acidic ingredients with high cacao percentage chocolates. After all, this was the main lesson I learned in that seminar: High cacao content chocolates have very little sweetness and sometimes a not to be ignored level of acidity. When drinking wine with such a chocolate, you should either try to top the sweetness or try to go along with, and balance, the acidity. This is why some not too dry reds, like a Blaufränkisch, or an acidic but full bodied Sauvignon Blanc go extremely well with chocolate.

Chocolate Barbera truffles

barbera d’asti truffles

So I made truffles with a rather light Barbera d’Asti, a Sauternes vinegar, an apple balsamic vinegar and, as a twist on my usual chili truffles, some Turkish smoky red pepper truffles.

three sorts chocolate truffles

Sauternes vinegar truffles

They all turned out delicious! The smoky and deeply flavored red pepper flakes from my father’s hometown Gaziantep in the southeast of Turkey are not as hot as regular chilis or peperoncini but rather sweetly hot. Eating one of the truffles reminds me rather of eating something savory with a lot of depth, like eating mole, for which I am sure Johanna will have a great recipe (hint!).

various chocolate truffles

The Barbera flavored centers make the truffles taste like a high-end mon cherí, these little pralines with a cherry and some kirsch in the middle. The sauternes vinegar comes out very delicate; eating one of these you suddenly have an unexplicable desire to drink some Sauternes because something reminds you of it, you can’t exactly put it why (if you don’t know what is in the truffle) but it definetely is delicious. The apple balsamic ones leave a fine sweet apple taste in your mouth.

One word of caution: I find making truffles not an easy task. I often have to hassle with the consistency of the truffle mass and tempering chocolate (to dip the centers in) is not easy either. The chocolate books out there are full of well-meant advice, but you and I rarely have the same conditions in our kitchens (controlled air temperature, big refrigerators where whole trays fit in, no ringing phones or doorbells when you are covered upto your elbows in chocolate etc…). So don’t think you can just whip up a batch of truffles after a hard day’s work. Plan to be involved (although not actively working all the time) for a whole day or two consecutive half days. Involve your partner in the process and assign him with banal duties like answering the phone, changing the cd on the stereo etc. After a day or two of this, you will reward him (or her) with heavenly truffles!

chocolate truffles
adapted from various resources
makes around 80 truffles
prep & cool: a day

70% chocolate, 600g (the best you can afford)
heavy cream, 300 ml
butter, 60g
flavors to your liking; red or white wine, aged good vinegars like a real balsamico, etc.

70% chocolate, 400g, for dipping (the best you can afford)
unsweetened cacao, 200g, optional, for rolling the truffles in

Melt the chocolate in an absolutely dry and big bowl over, not touching, simmering water. Heat the cream, but do not boil. Remove the bowl, add the cream, stir until completely combined. Add the butter, stir again until all is mixed well. Divide the truffle mass into equal portions according to the number of different flavors you want to make (I wouldn’t advice more than 4 portions for this amount, but the recipe is easily scalable). To each portion add 2-3 tsp of wine or balsamic vinegar, taste as you go. If possible pour each truffle mass into shallow and wide containers, this will make the consistency more uniform and easier to work with later; but it is ok if you leave them in bowls. Put the containers in the fridge, covered with foil, for around 30 minutes.

You want to achieve a consistency that will lend itself to be scooped out but will hold its form when spooned onto a tray. I find that piping the mass causes too much “loss” and have never used this technique after my first try. Stir the mass every once in a while so that the butter and the liquid do not form a seperate layer on top. When you think you have reached the desired consistency, line a small tray or cutting board with parchment paper and using two teaspoons drop little mounds of the mass on the sheet. These are the truffle centers. Place the tray(s) in the fridge again until the truffle centers get real firm. You may even want to place them in the freezer, but keep an eye on them!

When the centers are really firm, roll them in the palms of your hands to nice and uniform-looking little balls. Place them back on the tray and once again, let them get firm.

Melt the chocolate for dipping over simmering water. If using, put the cacao in a deep plate. You want the chocolate to be melted but not too warm. Remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat. Using two forks with long and thin tines, drop the truffle centers into the chocolate one by one and remove them right away and place on the lined tray again. If you want to roll them in cacao do so directly after removing from the chocolate. Drop them into the cacao, wait a couple of seconds and then turn once over. Remove and place on the tray. Put the trays again into the fridge or in a cool place until the chocolate is completely hardened. Be patient.

Because they have cream and butter, the truffles won’t hold for very long, a week most. Keeping in the fridge helps. Keep them in an airtight container. You will need to eat the cacao covered ones sooner or they might get soggy.

Chocolate chili truffles, protected

protected in a bell-jar