Archive for December, 2012

December 28, 2012

Pomegranate Bark, and chocolate-making lessons learned.

This is what christmas looks like:
Christmas butter

yes that is sugar and butter creaming together in my kitchenaid.
I started a post earlier in December that went along the lines of “It is the end of the first week of December and if you have not started knitting a scarf it’s time to not just start thinking about homemade gifts, it’s time to put them into practice.

I planned on batches of secret family recipe jams jam cookies and experiments with a healthy cookie. Something with pomegranate.
On December 23rd I finally started baking. After 8 dozen jams jams I was done with cookies. I looked around for something else (preferably simple and quick, not resembling a cookie, no dough, butter or flour or more white sugar) to do with my pomegranates and chocolate and came across Fine Cooking’s Chocolate Pomegranate Ginger Bark described as “Impressive-looking yet quick and simple to make, this confection makes a perfect holiday or hostess gift.

Yes. it is impressive looking! Yes it is quick to make! Yes! It makes a perfect holiday gift!
I made her recipe with a few lessons learned.
I’ve never melted chocolate before. I used the microwave on medium power at 15 second intervals. It melted, quite lovely. I stirred in pomegranates and decided- hey lets add in some orange juice. And then I wondered- hey what exactly is seized chocolate? Well. Seized chocolate is a matte mass of chocolate that usually happens when you add any minute amount of liquid to melted chocolate. Such as, liquid from wet pomegranates, or a splash of freshly squeezed orange juice. It is difficult to spread.

google image search- seized chocolate

google image search- seized chocolate

Basically the shiny smooth chocolate turns matte, and doesn’t flow. It still tasted really good. In fact- I found out that bark is typically made when you accidentally seize your mass of nice melted chocolate (thanks MutritiousNuffins!.)

My chocolate bark set and I split it into chunks. This is what it tastes like: you bite down on a piece of chocolate and suddenly the berries pop in your mouth. So you have bittersweet chocolate in your mouth melting on your tongue with notes of orange, pomegranate, salt, more chocolate. It’s delicious. I made two more batches. This time I wanted to try to not seize the chocolate. Instead of mixing half the berries into the melted chocolate – which seized the whole mass in the first place- spread most of the melted chocolate out onto the silcone mat then sprinkle the berries all over and press them into the chocolate a bit with your spatula. Use the rest of the melted chocolate to drip chocolate swirls all over the top which will help hold in the pomegranates when you snap the chocolate into bark. Finish this off the some orange zest over the top and a sprinkle of some nice fleur de sel and let it sit in the fridge for an hour.
Seized vs. not seized:The chocolate had a nice snap when I broke it into chunks and still had the shiny chocolate coat.I don’t think there was a bit of a taste difference- perhaps just a subtle change in texture from the seized batch. Either way this takes 5 minutes to make. an hour or so to set. and it is a beautiful sweet chocolaty present that has gotten rave reviews such as “I’ve never tasted anything like this before, truly a signature dessert!”.

pomegranate chocolate bark
Feel free to experiment with both recipes. Here is mine, with thanks to Melissa Denchak at Fine Cooking:

    Pomegranate Chocolate Bark

    *10oz Bittersweet Chocolate
    *Pomegranate seeds from 1 pomegranate (about a cup)
    *nice salt
    *orange zest (1/2 orange) (i tried to use candied ginger but it really just all stuck together in a sticky mass when I minced it up so I moved on to orange zest)

    1)Break up your chocolate into small chunks into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on med. power for 30 seconds. Stir. do another 30 seconds, stir. At this point stir & microwave in 15 minutes increments & stir until your chocolate is melted.
    2)Pour most of the chocolate onto the silicone lined cookie sheet. A handy tip was to tilt your cookie sheet side to side to help the chocolate spread out quite thin (about 8x 10, mine spread more oval-ish into about a 6×10 spread).
    3)Sprinkle on pomegranates. Pour remaining chocolate over pomegranates. Finish off with some orange zest and sprinkles of salt.
    4)Let it set in the fridge for an hour or more, then break into pieces.
    Keeps in the fridge for 5 days, or freeze!

Happy holidays, and best wishes for the New Year to you all!

December 3, 2012

Squash for Dinner Part 3! Chili!

Pumpkin chili?
I thought of adding some pumpkin as soon as I smelled the maple from the bacon cooking in the stock pot.

That may sound insane but here is my reasoning: I’ve been reading a lot of squash recipes and baking, roasting, pureeing different varieties. Often maple syrup or honey comes up as a flavour combination with squash. One cooking class, I learned to smell what you’re cooking with and see what flavours are invoked in your head. My squash project has added a new flavour profile to my brain, squash and maple. Another flavour combination is the Three Sisters. This is actually a companion planting method of corns, beans, and squash.
The three crops benefit from each other. The maize provides a structure for the beans to climb, eliminating the need for poles. The beans provide the nitrogen to the soil that the other plants utilize, and the squash spreads along the ground, blocking the sunlight, helping prevent establishment of weeds. The squash leaves also act as a “living mulch”, creating a microclimate to retain moisture in the soil, and the prickly hairs of the vine deter pests. Maize lacks the amino acids lysine and tryptophan, which the human body needs to make proteins and niacin, but beans contain both and therefore maize and beans together provide a balanced diet. From Wikipedia, Three Sisters Agriculture.

Well now that I was going to be adding pumpkin in the chili- did I want to hide it?

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