Sunday, October 30, 2005

Not many candymaking days left before the holidays

The weather has been perfect for making chocolate. Chilly and dry. However, the behemoth green fridge pumps out a lot of heat, and cranked up the temperature to almost 69 degrees F. In this house, with the chocolate I use, it's best to keep the temperature around 67, but I was able to produce quite a few nice batches yesterday. The photos below are a representative sample of what I created. Further down, you can read about (and see the evidence of) John's and my adventure making shrimp scampi with an Emeril Lagasse recipe. We should have titled it "When recipes go awry." Enjoy!

Here's a close up of some of the nicer marbeling. I swirl the chocolates together in a bowl over hot water before spooning the mixture into the molds and spreading it with a small, food-friendly paintbrush.

I have so much fun making the marbley starfish and seahorses. The big challenge is getting both chocolates to be the same temperature so that when I chill the molds, the white doesn't crystalize. It's weird, the dark never crystalizes--only the white. It took a couple of runs at it, but then they started working out just fine. These have a chocolate hazelnut filling -- not a lot, but enough to make a difference.

When I started making candy, these were among the first shapes I tried. The blue should be familar to any woman worth her salt. I'll give you a hint--the song "Moon River" was the theme to the Audrey Hepburn classic film that includes the name of the store that uses the famous boxes of the same color. These are filled with a gooey marshmallow creme. They measure about 1 cubic inch.

Dark chocolate filled with a cherry filling that includes real cherries. I like the fun shapes.

This was my first shrimp dish after welcoming seafood into my life after 15 years of vegetarianism. Below the main recipe is the recipe for the Essence. It really should have been written in the portions needed for the scampi, but it wasn't. That was a problem because we used the entire 3/4 of a cup instead of the 3 teaspoons needed for doubling this recipe. It could have been worse--I could have used all the salt called for in the recipe and we both could have had heart attacks instead of just really racing hearts. Oh well. The photos that follow show how we made it.

Thawed, frozen shrimp, prior to our peeling off the tails. I got a little squirmish about it (hey, I'm only newly unvegetarian), so John did the honors while I busied myself with other preparation.

These were the only uncooked, peeled and deveined shrimp we could find. Two pounds for US$26.99. We thought they were on sale and nearly bought two bags. Not a rip off, though. They were big shrimp in great shape that tasted very good.

Way too much Essence of Emeril for this dish. Note to self: buy ground pepper. Grinding enough black pepper for a doubled amount of Essence can irritate your throat and nose. It's orange comes from all the cayanne pepper and the paprika. I used the sweet, hungarian kind.

Ronzoni rotini in my wonderful All-Clad saucepan (courtesy of John's mom, who was super generous with gift-certificates to Williams-Sonoma last Christmas. Connie, this pot always cooks everything perfectly!

Along with the shrimp, garlic and a few other yummy items, we picked up some curly leaf parsley at Wegman's in Bridgewater. The smell was fantastic. The bunch was way more than we needed for this dish, so I'm going to share some with Mom.

Mom had given me the Alaska Cutlery Mezzaluna quite some time ago, but the new wooden bowl was from our recent trip to Vermont. John and I picked it out at the original Vermont Country Store in Weston. Oh, that's minced garlic in the bowl. :)

This is not what it's supposed to look like. We used the entire Essence sub-recipe. It's only supposed to be around 3 tablespoons of the stuff. This is equivalent to about 3/4 of a cup. Yikes! By the way, for those of you who love to know the tools cooks use, this is a large Emile Henry bowl in green (not bright green, but more of an avocado green). The large silicone spoonula is from Williams Sonoma. Now everyone's got these branded kitchen instruments with the brand burned into the wood. They say that the silicone part can be pulled off and placed in the dishwasher. I don't bother, just handwash them.

We had two skillets going during the cook time. The recipe called for too much butter for us, so we cut it by a third. The fresh parsley smelled great.

The plated pasta and shrimp. Joann had brought us these lovely pasta dishes a couple of years ago, and we use them all the time.

Don't let the photo fool you, due to our over-cautiousness about overcooking the shrimp, we botched the recipe. BAM! is pretty much the understatement of the year. It wasn't the cayanne pepper that was the killer, it was the freshly ground black pepper. John had ground two tablespoons of the stuff to match the recipe for the Essence. Note to the Food Network: when you provide a subrecipe for a portion of the larger recipe, ensure that the portions are specific to the larger recipe, and emphasize the difference prominently. We later rinsed the shrimp with cold water (since we couldn't eat them as is) and chilled them for a day. Last night, we tried the shrimp without the sauce. I ate one cold and John heated his over some plain rotini. Very garlicky and somewhat salty. A big learning experience for both of us.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The view from my window at the Marriott Waterside, Tampa, FL.

Directly across from my little balcony on the 21st floor, was the structure-in-progress shown in the snapshot on the left of this collage. The photo on the left is of the Tampa Convention Center. It takes up the lion's share of a city block, with scenic walkways on the water. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 09, 2005

More candy

Today I spent much more time making chocolate than I would have liked. However, it was a productive day in preparation for the holiday season. I also needed to fill a small order. Below is a selection of photos that show two boxes I put together (a small and a medium) and some close-ups of the ones I made today. Enjoy!

We forgot to leave a tip at the place we stayed in Freeport, Maine, so we're sending them a special box of my chocolates. This is the middle layer, left to right and top to bottom: Dark Chocolate Toffee Crunchie, Milk Chocolate Fruit Creme, Dark Chocolate Strawberry, Milk Chocolate Crisp Rice Jewel, Dark Chocolate Fruit Creme, Oh Canada!, White Chocolate Toffee Crunchie, Milk Chocolate Crisp Rice Jewel, Milk Chocolate Almond, Butterscotch Dreamy, Dark Chocolate Almond Treasure, Classic Caramel, Dark Chocolate Solid Mini Butterfly.

This is the bottom layer of the box I prepared for the James Place Inn, the lovely place we stay when we go to Freeport, Maine. From left to right and top to bottom: Dark Chocolate Ganache Peanut Butter Cup, Milk Chocolate Marzipan Wonderbow, Solid Dark Chocolate Sunburst, Dark Chocolate Almond Treasure, Milk Chocolate Fruit Creme, Dark Chocolate Marzipan Wonderbow, Milk Chocolate Crisp Rice Jewel, White Chocolate Toffee Crunchie, Dark Chocolate Coconut Fantasy, Fudge Mintie, Dark Chocolate Solid Butterfly.

I have a few different designs for the small box, this plaid in a variety of color combinations and a nice range of solids. I prefer anything in purple. That's my logo designed by Drew Diskin, my cousin. Didn't he do a lovely job? Sometime next year, John will re-do my web site to include the theme of the logo.

This is the bottom layer of the small box: Classic Caramel, Dark Chocolate Almond Treasure, Butterscotch Dreamy, Dark Chocolate Strawberry, White Chocolate Toffee Crunchie, Make Mine Buttercreme.

This is the top layer of a small box I put together this afternoon. From left to right and top to bottom: Mom's Cameo, Dark Chocolate Coconut Fantasy, Fudge Mintie, Dark Chocolate Solid Mini Butterfly, Milk Chocolate Almond, Dark Chocolate Toffee Crunchie.

Close-up of Make Mine Buttercreme. This one is made of white chocolate, milk chocolate and smooth buttercreme filling.

Close-up of Fudge Minties. Made of dark green white chocolate, milk chocolate and mint-flavored fudge filling.

Close-up of a few Mom's Cameos. Made of white chocolate, coral colored white chocolate that I mixed myself, and milk chocolate.

Close-up of Butterscotch Dreamies. Butterscotch flavored white chocolate outside, gooey vanilla filling inside.

This is the top layer in the box for the James Place Inn. From the top left to the right and down, here are the candies: Milk Chocolate Fruit Creme, Butterscotch Dreamy, Fudge Minty, Make Mine Buttercreme in Dark Chocolate, Dark Chocolate Strawberry, Milk Chocolate Crisp Rice Jewel, Dark Chocolate Toffee Crunchie, Solid Milk Chocolate Mini Butterfly, Milk Chocolate Almond, Dark Chocolate Marzipan Wonder Bow, Oh Canada!, Mom's Cameo.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Candyland Crafts in Somerville (they call me Our Lady of the Free Plugs) had a sale on molds, including two of these which I bought for a dollar a piece. Inside the milk chocolate is a whole California almond. I buy my nuts from Trader Joe's because they're the largest and best tasting around. I'm particularly fond of their cashews with 1/2 the salt.

O Canadaaaaaaaaa. Well, not so many a's, but that's the name of this candy. The filling is a maple walnut ready-made variety.

These are classic caramels. I use Peter's caramel for the filling.

This set of jewels was half solid (the upward facing portion) and half milk chocolate mixed with tiny crisped rice bits. They're much shinier in "real life."

Yes, those are paintbrushes soaking in a bucket between the columbines and the forget-me-nots. They're soaking because the painters are finished with their work for the day. I wouldn't have chosen the garden as the ideal place to put the bucket, but the painters didn't damage anything or drip paint on the plants, so I am not complaining. Below is a series of photos taken last Thursday and Friday while the house was being painted. Enjoy!

I didn't take a post painting photo of the bathroom, but here's the color, Whipple Blue. I really liked the color and the name reminded me of an old friend who passed away not too long ago, Bob "The Whip" Whipple. I hadn't seen The Whip in a few years, having moved away from the Montclair area more than 6 years ago. Lenny told me of his passing, and I was reminded of his struggle with cancer. I have fond memories of The Whip and was inspired by his strength and perseverance. It's a very soothing blue.

Last Thursday, the painters started with the trim (except by the floor) and doors, then they were able to apply two coats of brand new green paint on the walls before leaving at 4:30.

As you can see, we still haven't finished the deck because it rains and soaks the thing before we can stain it.

John did such a good job lugging all the huge, heavy furniture into the middle of the livingroom. We then covered it all with plastic just in case anything should drip. Our friend Chuck (see previous postings on the rose bushes) helped haul the big tv into the diningroom and out of the way. We were very grateful for his help and last-minute availability.

The guys sealed off the kitchen with plastic and tape, then did the same with the opening to the dining room.

Then, they painted all the edges around the ceiling and trim.

Next, the painters used a wide roller to apply the paint within the dried edging.

The guy were taking their lunch while I lurked around the livingroom snapping shots here and there to capture their progress.

Right here, you can tell the difference in the two shades, but ordinarily it looks like it's all one color where the two tall walls meet on the second landing of the stairwell.

You can still see the old hooks to the right and left of the halfmoon window. We forgot to ask the painters to remove them prior to painting, but they were nice about it, spackling and repainting so well that you can't tell there were hooks in those spots previously.

Sooner or later we will replace the rickety fireplace doors, but it looks so much better with the new paint. It dried darker than it appears here. It's much closer to a dark spring leaf green than anything else.

Ta-da! We now have Kittery Point Green walls in the upstairs hall and halfway down the stairwell, and Sherwood Green down the rest of the stairwell and in the livingroom. The trim and doors were done in Acadia White, after our trip to the national park in Maine of the same name. All of the colors were Benjamin Moore. Our painters were Acclaimed Paint (free plug for the guys). We are happy with the job and even happier that the insurance paid most of the tab as a result of the pipe that burst between the garage and downstairs restroom.