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Friday, October 31, 2008

Lemon Loaf to the Rescue

Since I didn't feel like I could take my messy truffles to the General Consul's party, I needed a backup plan. And yet again, without learning my lesson with the truffles, I decided to try a recipe I'd never made before. Luckily, this Lemony Lemon Loaf turned out nicely. The flavor is reminiscent of a mild frozen lemonade. It's very moist, and if you like the taste of lemons, this is your loaf!

Lemony Lemon Loaf

1/2 cup butter (but you could sub margarine if you'd like)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup 2% milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Zest of one lemon

Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, cream the sugar and butter. Add the eggs one egg at a time. Stir in the milk. Combine the dry ingredients and lemon zest in a small bowl. Stir in bit by bit to the wet ingredients. Pour into a greased (or ungreased non-stick) loaf pan. (I used an 8"x4", I think, which is a common size in France--longer and narrower--but a normal 9"x5" would work too.)

Bake for 55-60 minutes. Check the loaf at about 45 minutes by inserting a wooden toothpick in the center. If it comes out clean, it's done! (I made two loaves yesterday. The first one took 45 minutes, and the second one took 55 minutes. I don't know why that is, so check on your loaf to make sure it doesn't burn.)

When the loaf is done, remove and let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan and heat while stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the loaf from the pan and set on a wire rack over something to catch the glaze drippings. Poke a lot of holes in the top of the loaf with a toothpick and spoon the glaze over the top of the loaf, letting it soak in. Let it cool and enjoy!


Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Kitchen Failure Just in Time to Blog About--Orange Chocolate Truffles

We have a party to go to this week at our local General Consul's house after Trick or Treating. They've invited all Americans in Strasbourg to a Halloween party and asked everyone to bring a finger food to share. I'm terrible at this! I hate potlucks. I can whip up a meal for everyone at home that looks and tastes great, but everything I make for potlucks wilts, melts, or just tastes terrible. At potlucks for work, we're always assigned a course by last name (which rotates on a regular basis). I love getting dessert because although I'm not really a baker, I can make a mean batch of chocolate chip cookies or bake a simple sweet bread. But give me veggies, and I turn out sad-looking green beans. I've taken to bringing my dishes in throw-away containers so that I don't have to claim my uneaten dish at the end.

But I never learn my lesson. I always want to experiment, push the envelope, so instead of falling on one of my standard dessert dishes, I decided to get fancy and try to make truffles. All of the recipes I read made it sound so easy. Except that I live in France, and the names of chocolates differ a little.

So I made this recipe I found at Make Life Sweeter. I had seen versions of it in other places, and everyone seemed to be able to make them, so I thought I could too!

Orange Chocolate Truffles

Orange ganache

250 g bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
30 g butter
1 tbs honey
250 ml whipping cream
zest of 1 orange

Place the chocolate, butter and honey in a heat-proof bowl.
Heat the cream with the orange until just simmering. Let it steep for 30 minutes. Strain through a fine meshed sieve into a measuring cup. Press onto the orange with the back of a spoon to get more flavour out of it.
Fill up the measuring cup until you have 250 (1 cup) again. Reheat the cream. Pour the cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for a few minutes. Stir until smooth. Allow to come to room temperature for a several hours until firm enough to roll. Chill for some time if necessary.

Making truffles

cocoa powder, sifted
orange ganache
400 g (14 oz) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Put a piece of baking paper on your working surface to put the truffles on.
Put the cocoa powder in a bowl.
Scoop out balls with a melon baller. Roll between your hands to make a smoother ball. Place on the baking paper.
Melt the chocolate au bain marie (or in the microwave). Allow it to cool down (if necessary) to 40°C (104°F). Place a ganache ball on a fork, submerge the ball in the chocolate. Use a spoon to cover the top with chocolate. Tap the fork a few times on the bowl and slide the bottom of the fork over the lip of the bowl to remove excess chocolate. Tip the truffle in the cocoa powder and use your hand to move it around covering it completely with cocoa powder. Place the truffle onto the baking paper. Repeat with all the truffles.


I think I made two mistakes. 1) I used dark chocolate instead of "bittersweet" since I was crunched for time and I could only find dark chocolate in the local grocery store. 2) I added a little orange juice (just a tiny squeeze!) to the ganache because I wanted a more orangey flavor.

The result? A not very firm ganache, even after refrigerating it overnight.

My second problem was that the chocolate coating kept seizing up on me and turning into a dry mass of chocolate in the middle of dipping my little ganache balls.

So, although they're edible (and I will be serving them to some college students coming over to our house for dessert tomorrow afternoon), and don't look half-bad, they are definitely not up to snuff for the General Consul's house.

The upshot is that I learned how to make candied orange peel (which my two-year-old is now addicted to). I thought that it would look nice atop the lovely little truffles. It was a good idea in theory, when my truffles didn't look like little turds!

I got this recipe from the Food Network, and it worked out great!


A Food Blog?!

Why would I want to start a blog about food? Well, I've kept up blogs before (and still do a very personal one about my daughter and life in general, mostly for our not-so-close family and friends). I've tried to keep up other, more secretive blogs, but I never had a focus, so they always petered out. Why would anyone want to hear about the boring details of my life (and why would I want to rehash those very boring details)?

Then I moved to France earlier this year with my husband and daughter. We'll be here for a year, and during that time I've taken a sort-of leave of absence (which means I work a few hours a week virtually). I've found that I have a lot of time on my hands, even with a two year old under my feet. Strasbourg can be a very rainy place, which means that we're stuck inside a lot. I've always loved to cook, and love to try new recipes at home, but I've been inspired, both by the rich availability of food and recipes here in France, but also by the time on my hands.

Strasbourg is a small city, and I'm learning to take advantage of the accessibility of fresh produce and meat. I'm also learning that there are just some fruits and vegetables that shouldn't be eaten out of season...the French help you out with this by just not selling off-season produce. At first, I was annoyed when I couldn't get any peaches when it turned cold, but then when I finally got my hands on one, I found out why they are so hard to find in the late fall--they are mushy and mealy and flavorless. This means that I'm always on the look out for in-season produce, and I'm experimenting with produce that I've never bought or cooked before. (I just bought my first beets today!)

In addition to cooking more and experimenting more, I've found other people in the same shoes who I've been swapping recipes with. I even started a Facebook group for a few friends who wanted to share recipes, but it turned out that I was the only one posting recipes! I figured if it was going to be a one-pony show that I should have a forum where I could comment more and add more photos. Where could I do that? A blog!

So here's to my new adventure in cooking...saluté!

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