Sunday, December 20, 2020

Safe and Healthy Holiday Season

There must be something here that I can eat!!
With the shortest day of light behind us now, I look forward to longer, light filled days. Dealing with Covid19 through the majority of 2020, has been a challenging experience for most of us. We cannot let our guard down with this virus! The holiday season will look very different this year for all of us.

I am fortunate to live on an acreage with a large vegetable garden and walking trails through the woods. Our temperatures are predicted to drop below freezing in the next few days. Today was time to pull more winter carrots from the garden and put extra mulch on the carrots, strawberries, garlic, cabbage and kale. As I pulled up 2 small rows of carrots I found a climbing cutworm in the soil. The chickens will be put to work to clean up that raised bed in the Spring after all the carrots, beets and kale are out. I pulled a one gallon pail, five pounds of assorted carrots including my first try of Kyoto Red Carrots, a Japanese sweet red carrot from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.

Dec. 20th, 2020 ~ 5 pounds of fresh garden carrots
They say the bright red color becomes much darker when grown in winter, so I only pulled a few for comparison sake.

Until next year ...  have a safe holiday season.

From my home to yours ... Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Bon Appétit 

... stay healthy, be safe, wear a mask and take good care!

Photos by Sally Rae

Sunday, December 13, 2020

New Belgian Callebaut 'Callets'

Bags of Belgian Callebaut 'Callets'
Chocolate plays a large part in most of our holidays. Whether it is Valentines Day hearts, Easter bunnies or eggs, Halloween goodies or Christmas Truffles ... chocolate plays a major role in our gift giving celebrations.

Once a year I make an assortment of handmade Belgian truffles and chocolates. My annual chocolate ritual began in 1990, shortly after moving to Denman Island. We could not find a local chocolatier to our liking, so I started to experiment and develop an assortment of our favorites.

Denman Christmas Craft Faire 2010
Production was too much for just us, so the 'extras' were used for gift giving... and from there demand grew and grew! In 1994 my boxed collection of truffles and chocolates debuted in the Denman Island Christmas Craft Faire and was sold out the first day. I began increasing the size of my recipes and had to buy a small used fridge just for my 'chocolate season'. In 2010, I filmed a small video on YouTube of the Denman Christmas Craft Faire including a glimpse of my chocolates. Back then, I was producing the maximum amount for one person to accomplish while also working in Courtenay, growing a garden and running a household. 

11 pound slabs of Belgian Callebaut
Until this year, I was buying the imported Belgian Callebaut Chocolate in eleven pound slabs from a wholesale distributor in Victoria. Covid has brought many changes to the food supply chain and for some reason my supplier was now selling a different brand, not Callebaut chocolate. In my frantic search for Belgian Callebaut, I found an online Canadian company called Vanilla Food Company where I was able to order and have my Belgian Callebaut delivered. One difference is I am no longer purchasing the chocolate by the slab, they are now in big bags and in 'callet' or chips form. Last year I found these same Callebaut callets at The Bulk Barn in Courtenay of course at a much higher price than buying the large bags. I have not checked if they are available there this year.

from Callebaut 'Callets' to handmade truffles

These callets are a time saver, no more taking the time and energy to break down and chop the chocolate slabs for ganache and dipping. Just scoop from a bag and temper! And it is a little too convenient to scoop a little bowlful for snacking!! Our house smells like chocolate for a shorter period of time these days but those days are cherished. I'm proud of my truffles ... plus the knowledge and experience I've gained over 40 years of working with food as a professional ... and the 30,000+ individual handmade chocolates I've made so far on Denman alone!

I have purchased other professional baking supplies from Vanilla Food Company in the past. If you are looking for a high grade food coloring I would suggest their 'AmeriColor' Soft Gel Paste Food Color. I searched the web for this product and was very happy to find it available through a Canadian company, paid for in Canadian dollars!!

AmeriColor Soft Gel Paste Food Color

It is an easy to use gel format that will not weep, separate or harden. It is able to withstand the freeze/thaw cycle without colors bleeding. It will not break down even the most delicate icings. A very small amount is needed for intense color that will not impart a bitter taste. The bottles are a convenient squeeze, with a re-closable lid. Mix and measure one drop at a time for color that is consistent from batch to batch. They are available as individual colors or in kits of assorted 6-12 colors. 

Here is a basic ganache recipe for chocolate truffles, it is dense and easier for beginners to work with...

Chocolate Truffles      Yield: 40 truffles
The ultimate chocolate indulgence! A truffle filling in its simplest form consists of chocolate and whipping cream... termed 'ganache'. *Tempering chocolate is to heat and cool chocolate to stabilize it for making confections. The chocolate hardens with a smooth, glossy, crisp finish.

1 cup whipping cream
14 oz. top quality dark chocolate, callets or very finely chopped
2 Tbsp. liqueur (for alcohol free truffles use; coffee OR flavored syrups)
1½ lb. dark, milk OR white top quality chocolate for dipping, callets or coarsely chopped
Garnish: crystallized edible flowers, chopped nuts, cocoa powder, threads or swirls of chocolate

In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, scald the cream. Remove from the heat and quickly stir in the finely chopped chocolate until completely melted. (If you are using syrup, add it to the cream before scalding.) Cool 5 minutes stirring once or twice to be sure all the chocolate has melted to a smooth ganache then add the liqueur. Pour into a large bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Form the ganache into tablespoon sized balls, roll between your palms until round, place on the bake sheet, cover and refrigerate for an hour or overnight until firm. If the ganache is too soft, spoon them out but do not form them, place them in the fridge and then form. 
Special Truffle Assortment

Meanwhile,temper’ the dipping chocolate: Start by chopping the chocolate very finely. Throughout the tempering process, be careful that no moisture gets into or condenses on the chocolate or it will become impossible to work with. Place the chopped chocolate in the top of a dry double boiler over hot, but not simmering water. (NEVER use a microwave for this.)

Stir as it melts. A chopstick or silicone spatula can be used for this process. Heat the chocolate to 104°F. Remove from the bottom of the double boiler. Cover the bottom so the escaping steam does not condense on the chocolate.

Cool to 80°F stirring occasionally. Return the top of the double boiler with chocolate to the bottom and bring the chocolate back up to 89°F. The chocolate is now tempered and ready to use for glazing, drizzling or dipping.

Line a bake sheet with parchment or wax paper. Dip each ball into the tempered chocolate, tap to remove the excess chocolate and to prevent a ‘garden slug foot’. Invert the dipped chocolate onto the lined bake sheet. Allow the dipped truffles to set up or harden without touching or your fingerprints will blemish them.

To garnish; drizzle threads or swirls of different colored chocolate for each variety if you are making multiple flavors so you can tell them apart. If using crystallized flowers or nuts they should be placed while the chocolate is still soft. For cocoa, allow the chocolate to cool completely then roll in cocoa. I use cotton gloves (available from Pharmacies) to handle the chocolates once they are set. Put each chocolate into a 'paper bonbon cup’ and box to store. 

**These truffles can be frozen for up to 3 months. Wrap the box in 2 layers of plastic wrap, then with tin foil. To defrost, remove to the fridge and defrost in the plastic and foil wrapping.

Until next time ... Bon Appétit ... stay healthy, be safe, wear a mask and take good care!

Photos by Sally Rae
Denman Island Craft Faire 2010 Video by Sally Rae
Truffle Recipe by Sally Rae