Thursday, October 1, 2009

No Bun in This Baker's Oven



A tragedy of titanic proportions has befallen me. If you are a human prone to weeping at heart-wrenching tales, I suggest you stop reading immediately. However, if you are of stout nature and hemoglobin, rally on.

Here goes, the catastrophe for the ages. My “oh the humanity” moment.

My oven doesn’t work.

I mentioned this to someone the other day and thinking I was being clever, they assumed I was euphemizing some kind of sterility plight. “Gosh, I didn’t think you guys were planning on having kids.” But no, I’m not talking about the kiln on my person wherein there could be a genetic replicant “bun.” Although, come to think of it, it’s possible that’s broken too. No, indeed I’m speaking of that thing that’s sitting in my relatively new to me kitchen.

The burners are sublime. They work gangbusters. It’s a professional range; it’s a Majestic! The flame rips to the heavens and boils water in a nanosecond. When the control is cajoled a tad, the flame dutifully responds. The simmer, oh the simmer, I’ve never seen such a restrained slow burn. But open the oven door and bupkis.

It’s not for lack of trying. We had a guy come over. He lay on our floor, head dutifully shoved in baking cavern, twiddling away at her innards. He left and came back with a piece. Twiddled a bit more, declared victory over her majesty and left. Ray pronounced, “that’s good for now.”

But alas, no. It’s good for never. Because when I do the toggle shimmy as I’ve been instructed to, “You have to keep turning it on until you hear a click and then listen for the flame. You have to do this a few times. Just listen for flame,” I hear no flame. I do, on the other hand, get dizzy. Because I’ve had my head in the oven, dutifully listening. And the gas works just fine.

So the other day, when my lovely friend Kalika asked if I was to be bringing treats to my reading at the local bookstore, Bear Pond Books, I was stymied. It just wouldn’t do to turn up to the hometown crowd, the town that’s a main character in the book, without something to nosh on. They’d been bereft of my treats for months now. They’d already suffered the indignity of having their daily sugar and coffee fix ripped out from under them and to add salt to this gaping wound, I was contemplating returning empty handed. Unthinkable.

But there are other options for clever sweet freaks like me. When we were kids, we’d just mash together butter and sugar and call it a day. But now, we’ve got chocolate truffles. I also made almond brittle but that story and recipe will have to wait for another day. Because these gems, dense and luscious as they are, are worthy of headlining.

“OH CRAP MY OVEN DOESN’T WORK TRUFFLES”

This recipe is a riff off of Alice Medrich’s classic French truffles. She’s the most glorious of pastry chefs and a master of the chocolate arts. Yes, there are egg yolks. Follow the standard procedure if you’re squeamish, i.e. don't eat if you're in the throws of pregnancy, advanced age, compromised immunity.

Ingredients

(makes about 48 truffles from silicon molds and 60 hand rolled truffles)

16 ounces (1 lb) bittersweet chocolate,
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 egg yolks
1/2 cup HOT HOT HOT strong coffee
hearty pinch of salt

1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
1/8 cup cocoa nibs ( just enough for a little garnish)

Melt chocolate, butter and salt over a double boiler until melted.

In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks and SLOWLY add the hot coffee, whisking constantly to insure that your eggs don’t cook and scramble. Chunky egg truffles are not tasty.

Transfer bowl to a double boiler and whisk until the mixture thickens. It should coat the back of a spoon. This cooks the egg yolks and to insure that you’ve reached that point of complete safety, you can use a candy thermometer as you work to make sure you’ve reached 160 degrees, the salmonella killing temperature.

Transfer the yolk coffee mixture to the melted chocolate (make sure the chocolate is still soft enough to allow for you to successfully incorporate the egg mixture) and stir until they are perfectly combined.

At this point, I place the mixture in a pastry bag and pipe it into small silicone molds and let set in the fridge until they are completely solid, an hour or more. I then flip the molds over and nudge the truffle out. I place a sprinkling of cocoa nibs in the center, pressing down gently to make sure they adhere and then coat with cocoa powder. You can also transfer the truffle mixture to a bowl and let the entirety cool in the fridge and then scoop out traditional balls of chocolate and dredge in cocoa. Just as tasty!