Friday, January 8, 2010

Of Mice and Pastries

A little mouse died outside today, while I was warm and cozy inside and playing with chocolate and pastries. I followed his tracks in the fresh snow as he scurried from one old log to a decaying stump hollow. Blood dropped alongside the minuscule paw prints, dripping profusely at the entrance to the mousy den. I'm not positive that he died, but a fair amount of blood was lost from such a small critter. Let's hope he made a fox or coon happy (and full)! Poor mouse.

Today was an exceedingly easy day in Baking. I finished some chocolate raspberry tarts that were made yesterday. The shortbread crust was already filled with a raspberry and dark chocolate filling, and left to set up overnight in the fridge. I thinned some chocolate glaze out with raspberry liqueur and lacquered the tarts. Soft ganache was whipped (like cream) until it was airy and delightful. I placed a quenelle of this on each tart - and decorated the top of each with a chocolate spiral, a white/dark chocolate marbled square (from yesterday's demo) and a raspberry. They were beautiful to look at, and even better to eat!

Also of note today: fabulous foccacia smothered in sauteed onions and apples, bacon and goat cheese. A comparison of biscuits: one batch with Crisco, two with butter, one of those with buttermilk, the other with half-and-half cream. Butter-buttermilk wins hands down. Also, one of the best flourless chocolate cakes I've ever had, with a most intriguing texture - somehow dense and chocolatey and potent, yet almost disappearing the second it enters your mouth (the happy result of an error in mixing). Oh, and yesterday's eclairs were pretty wonderful - crisp pate a choux shell, luscious pastry cream, topped with thick ganache (ganache is a simple combination of heavy cream (most typical) and chocolate, made thick for truffle centers, thin for delicate glazing and whipping). One of the bread doughs wouldn't rise for some reason, so naturally we salvaged it by rolling little balls and deep frying them! Even better, this was a cornmeal, cheddar, and jalapeno dough. Hot and crisp and sprinkled with salt, they were the perfect morning snack.

Later today we worked on the fort for several more hours. It is coming along impressively in spite of the all the snow we are working in (got another 2-3 inches today). I was snapping branches too close to a very sharp, face-level branch and came away with an awesome gash on my cheek. Tomorrow's Saturday, so we can work on it even longer!

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