Saturday, December 22, 2001
some quick news on the coffee front:
the religion of illy is spreading everywhere, it seems: first the new york times, then my office, now the economist. where the heck next? honorable mention will appear here to the first person to send me a brand new mention of illy in the press, one dated anytime after today!
second, a new full-featured website devoted to coffee has taken off on its beta test voyage. check it out! coffee geek features articles, how-tos, contests for coffee and equipment, plus in-depth product reviews.
Friday, December 21, 2001
as promised, the chocolate truffle recipe.
these are so simple to make, it's practically a crime. don't skimp on the ingredients tho'. fancy butter with quality chocolate and cocoa turns this simple candy into stunning decadence. expect 20 medium or 30 small:
1 cup heavy cream
10 oz. 55-85% valrhona or other luxury chocolate, depending on how dark or sweet you want it, chopped
3 tablespoons european double-butter of your choice (president, for example) or plugra/keller's european-style butter
3 tablespoons brandy, whiskey, or liqueur of your choice (optional)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
1/2 cup and extra cocoa powder for dusting (scharffenberger or valrhona)
bring the cream to the barest boil in a small saucepan. be careful: cream scorches easily and scorched cream will ruin everything. so don't scorch the cream!
immediately remove pan from heat and stir in the chopped chocolate all at once. mix gently until the chocolate is melted smoothly and combined evenly. then stir in the brandy or vanilla, if using.
some people strain this mixture, but you shouldn't have to. let cool to room temperature and chill for 4 hours or overnight.
line a cookie sheet with baking parchment. get out your melon-baller or mini ice cream scoop if you like perfect truffles; for knobbier, hand-formed ones (which i prefer) use a smallish teaspoon.
dipping the spoon or scoop into ice water every now & then to help prevent the truffle mixture from sticking, scoop out your 20 or 30 truffles. place each one on the cookie sheet.
take your cocoa powder and using a little hand strainer, sifter, or sugar shaker, dust the truffles with cocoa. roll 'em around to coat evenly. chill on the sheet until firm; bring to room temperature before serving for best flavor.
these barely cooked truffles will keep in plastic wrap in the fridge for about a week, although their flavor and texture will decline towards the end. you can freeze them, well wrapped, for about 1 month.
if you're more ambitious, you can skip dusting them with cocoa. freeze the shaped truffles on the cookie sheet for 1 hour. and in the meantime melt up:
14 oz. chocolate, milk or 55-65% percent
you can melt the chocolate in the microwave on medium-high heat for 1-1/2 mins or so, then stir until it's smooth. or put it in a glass bowl over a pan of boiling water and stir gently. whatever works for you.
stick the frozen truffles with a fork and dip them in the melted chocolate to quickly coat. shake off excess gently. place the truffles back on the baking sheet. cool until firm. because we're not tempering this chocolate, the dipped truffles won't have a picture-perfect sheen. don't worry about it, trust me. . .they'll still look great.
still ambitious? after you've dipped the truffles, let them cool until they're just still slightly sticky. then roll 'em in coconut flakes or some nuts you've pulverized in the food processor. then cool some more.
the basic recipe for dusted cocoa truffles take about 20 minutes work total, not counting the chilling/cooling time. frankly, the basic recipe is my favorite, esp. if you make 'em all banged up and rustically knobby-looking, like real black truffles. that's when they're the most elegant, i think. too perfect or fussy and they just look machine-made, to my mind.
the ambitious dipping goes very quickly: no more than 5 or 7 minutes. if the dipping chocolate hardens up, just toss it in the microwave for 30 seconds or so at medium-high heat to re-melt. don't scorch the dipping chocolate tho! that would be bad!
so if you have any last minute gifts you need, any stray relatives or neighbors you've forgotten, make your life easy. . .give 'em handmade truffles. they'll be awe. yes, they will.
Thursday, December 20, 2001
great news today!
after having a long and pleasant chat with a co-worker in my office about chocolate, (she's fond of neuhaus), i received an email from a long-time reader noting that according to alexa, this is the 392,325th most popular home page on the internet. this factoid totally cracks me up. doubtless i'll have to stay awake all night, scheming how to get into the top 100,000.
really, all this ranking of pages on search engines and by popularity seems so silly to me unless you're selling cars or something. imagine: you go to a party, where a very eloquent, intelligent and well-dressed person of whatever gender would work for you slips into the conversation: "my web page is the number home page on the internet." yuck -- considering the general taste of the mass public as revealed by the internet, don't you think that the top 250,000 sites are run by disgusting porno-kings?
i have read some other blogs whose esteemed writers discuss how their number one ranking on google gives them a sense of power. with all due respect to my fellow netizens: please, get a life! i agree with mike sanders on this one.
all we bloggers are doing is mumbling to ourselves from a small corner bench on the vast subway of the internet. untold strangers wander by and stare before slinking off with a sad shake of their weary heads. i swear, if i have to read another article about how keeping a web blog will change the course of civilization, i'm going to lock myself in the bathroom and wash my long blonde hair.
but seriously, that's all i'll be doing for a couple of days, since i seem to have tweaked my sacro-iliac during an overly ambitious seated spinal twist or ardha matsyendrasana yesterday. it's my first mild injury in two years of doing yoga. i'm trekking to the massage therapist this afternoon. . .oh, and thanks for your support, which has actually put me in the top 400,000!
Wednesday, December 19, 2001
those less fortunate among you may recall my recent rant against food writing.
if not, suffer it here. anyway, today i am pleased to see that i'm not alone. certainly one of the most dismal aspects of contemporary food writing is the modern recipe, and i specifically cited elizabeth david in my rant as a goddess. she certainly was the best recipe-writer i could imagine. of course, she had a real life; she wasn't some clog-footed graduate of the modern hotel school eager to get a tv show and slap her name on a brand of cookware. she was an artist and her recipes are literature.
so naturally i was pleased to see that the normally too-hip-for-its-own-good salon agrees with me. about time, i say!
you may recall i've been buying coffee for my little workgroup at the office. for the most part, they like illy. one person however is fond of flavored coffees, particularly french vanilla. many coffee snobs completely disdain flavored coffee, and i must say i can't disagree with them. most flavored coffees are inferior. however, i try to offer something for everyone on occasion, and i snooped around looking for recommendations for flavored coffee. i found barry jarret's riley's coffee.
so the french vanilla came. we made a pot this morning. mr. french vanilla pronounced himself satisifed; but honestly, it just doesn't do it for me at all. to my mind, if you want flavor in your coffee, use syrups. but not everyone wants such sweet coffee. . .
Tuesday, December 18, 2001
weather's finally turning cooler here, so i should seriously start thinking about baking some more bread. . .
i also will soon post a recipe for your own home-made chocolate truffles. look for it this weekend.
on the coffee front, my husband, mr. right, caught a small piece on the network i love to hate, food tv. in a freakish moment, he saw a little bit on philadelphia's la colombe cafe and roasters on a show. what was peculiar was that he had just had a cup of la colombe's nizza himself; i had bought some of their beans to try recently. not that i like them! but others do. . .still, it's a small, small world.