Saturday, November 11, 2006

She’ll only be 50 once!

But 29 probably for the next 20 years, just like for the last 20. I won't say who is having the birthday for fear of life-threatening bodily harm.



Seems like 50 is some sort of bad age. People not being cognac or wine. In preparation for the party, everyone wants to focus on the celebration without any mention of the age. I guess it’s not such a challenge any more in this country to make it to 50. A lot of people try to freeze time at 29. As if that is some magical number for an age. Like a numerical fountain of youth. Just keep telling everyone that and you will stay young forever.

So she is still panting after the hot young aerobics class ‘spinning’ instructor. Spinning away right next to her now early 20’s daughter panting away at the same instructor. Isn’t it nice when families can enjoy similar passions together? I would say that he’s a lucky guy, but since he is apparently gay (current boyfriend in the class as well), I guess he won’t be taking advantage of that opportunity.

Anyhoo, I wanted to make something that I might only make once every 50 years or so for this special occasion.



And I’ll tell you right up front, it was all a lot harder than it looks in these pictures.

I got inspired by the last Sugar High Friday – Petit Fours edition. Especially the entry from Cake or Death’s Liz. She made some really incredible looking stuff called plastic chocolate.

So I looked around on the Web, and found a site called Baking 911, which lists recipes for making plastic chocolate, as well as the foundational layers for the petit fours that will be covered by the plastic chocolate.



Making plastic chocolate is deceptively easy. It’s just melted chocolate, any sort, kneaded together with light corn syrup. When you mix the two ingredients, you initially get a sort of grainy sand. Continued kneading (like for bread dough) results in a smooth, supple play-dough texture. This can then be rolled out as thin as you fingers will allow you to work with it.

I initially made some Genoise cakes, one chocolate, one vanilla, from a basic recipe I found at Joy of Baking. I have never made such a cake before. My first attempt looked spectacular. Light. Fluffy. I even got it cut into three layers, and reassembled with raspberry jam between the layers. I was so proud.

When TeenBoy opened the fridge, it fell upside down onto the floor from the top shelf of the fridge. And was promptly squished to nothing, and embedded with a layer of dog hairs.

I didn’t actually cry. But it took more than a few minutes for me to catch my breath again.



Actually it was a stroke of luck. I made two more Genoise cakes the next day, the chocolate one and the vanilla one, and they both turned out better than the first one. Just to be sure, I only cut each one into two layers. So in the final petit fours, there is only one layer of jam or ganache. Three layers I could just barely pull off. I personally do not understand how the cake can be cut into four layers and still be expected to stay together.



Then we made the plastic chocolate. Half with milk chocolate, half with white chocolate. I added some food coloring drops to the white chocolate after kneading to get the colors.



The two cakes got cut, into 50 pieces of course.

And the plastic chocolate got rolled. The milk chocolate got rolled into large sheets, much like a ravioli dough. Using cacao powder instead of flour. I cut them out so they would drape over the top of the cut pieces of cake and down the sides. TeenGirl came up with the idea of folding the corners over on either side, which made the final presentation look a lot like a package wrapped in real paper.



We then rolled out the different colored white chocolate balls. I could not make a ribbon out of that stuff to save my life. It stuck to my fingers like pine tar, and had no inclination to attach itself to the chocolate wrapped cakes. TeenGirl and TeenBoy both, however, were able to make some very nice ribbon designs on the cakes.

In the end, we tried for 50 petit fours, and got about 24 finished and presentable. I think we could have hit 35 if we had to. The rest was destroyed in various ways. The dog was ecstatic. And we have lots of tasty crumbs to enjoy long after the birthday party!

Print Recipe

Plastic Chocolate – White or Milk Chocolate
Based on a recipe found at Baking911.com
With suggestions added by surfindaave

Ingredients:
1 pound white or milk chocolate, chopped into small pieces no larger than ¼ inch
½ cup light corn syrup
Food coloring (for white chocolate)
Unsweetened cacao powder (at least one cup)
Powdered sugar (at least one cup, probably more)

Heat water in a double boiler until it boils. Reduce heat to very low. Place chocolate bits in top of double boiler, and heat, stirring constantly, until most of the chocolate is melted. Remove the chocolate from the double boiler, and continue to stir until all the chocolate is melted, and the chocolate has cooled just a bit.

Stir in the corn syrup thoroughly. At first, the mixture will seem like a grainy mess, but with continued stirring, it will smooth out into a sort of modeling clay type texture. It should come easily off the sides of the bowl, and form a non-sticky (or not too sticky) ball. Wrap the ball in plastic wrap, and let sit until completely cooled and firm.

When cooled and firm, cut the ball into several pieces (4 to 8) with a sharp knife. For white chocolate, you can now dye each ball separately (see below). For milk chocolate, it’s just easier to knead a smaller ball than everything at once.

Knead the plastic chocolate as described below:

For milk chocolate:
Spread some unsweetened cacao powder on a board, and on a rolling pin. Roll one of the balls in the cacao power. With the rolling pin, begin rolling the chocolate out. It will be very stiff at first, requiring some strong force and short movements. Eventually, it will soften up, and can be rolled flat enough to fold over. Continue to roll the chocolate, turning and folding, until it is soft enough to be kneaded by hand. Continue to knead the chocolate by hand, much like for a bread dough, until it is very smooth and resilient.

The chocolate can now be rolled out flat on a cacao powder covered surface to a very thin layer, and cut with a sharp knife into ‘wrapping paper’, ribbons, or other designs.

For white chocolate:
Spread some powdered sugar on a board, and on a rolling pin. Roll one of the balls in the powered sugar. With the rolling pin, begin rolling the white chocolate out. It will be very stiff at first, requiring some strong force and short movements. Eventually, it will soften up, and can be rolled flat enough to fold over. Continue to roll the white chocolate, turning and folding, until it is soft enough to be kneaded by hand. Continue to knead the white chocolate by hand, much like for bread dough, until it is very smooth and resilient.

At this point, food coloring can be added. Wear rubber gloves! Flatten the ball out, dust it with some powdered sugar, and add a few drops (too many and the texture will get too soft to work with!!!), between three and eight drops total, and carefully knead the food coloring into the white chocolate. Colors can be mixed (blue and green to make teal, etc.), as desired. Knead until the color in the white chocolate is uniform. Add additional drops to intensify the color, but do not add too many! Wash the plastic gloves thoroughly between color applications, and be sure to dry them thoroughly as well.

The white chocolate can now be rolled out flat on a flat surface lined with max paper to a very thin layer, and cut with a sharp knife into ‘wrapping paper’, ribbons, or other designs.


Print Recipe

Chocolate or Vanilla Genoise Cake with filling
Recipe from Joy of Baking
Some adaptations by surfindaave

Note – since the procedure is identical for chocolate and vanilla genoise cakes, only the ingredients differ, I have listed the ingredients separately, but the procedure just once.

Ingredients:
Either raspberry jam (not jelly) or chocolate ganache (recipe follows)

Chocolate:
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup cake flour (much finer texture than regular white flour, recommended)
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch process cacao powder
4 large eggs
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
additional flour and butter for greasing baking pan

Vanilla:
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour (much finer texture than regular white flour, recommended)
4 large eggs
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
additional flour and butter for greasing baking pan

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place a wire rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven (important to ensure proper hot air flow over the top of the cake during cooking.

Thoroughly butter a 9 inch round cake pan with a removable bottom. Flour the pan, and then flour the pan again with cacao powder. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.

In a small bowl, heat the butter and the vanilla extract until very hot in the microwave. Reserve.

In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour and cacao powder (or just sift in the flour for the vanilla cake). Reserve.

In a large heat-proof bowl, that fits into a pan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs and the sugar. Bring the pan of water to a boil, then reduce the heat to very low. Place the bowl with the eggs and sugar over the simmering water, and whisk until the mixture is heated to lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Do not let the egg mixture sit, or the eggs will cook!

Remove the egg mixture from the simmering water, and beat the mixture with an electric mixer at high speed until it triples in volume, about 5 minutes, and becomes thick and fluffy, like whipped cream. It should fall off the beaters in thick ribbons when done.

Carefully sift 1/3 of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Gently fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Sift ½ of the remaining flour mixture carefully over the egg mixture. Gently fold this into the egg mixture. Repeat for the remaining flour mixture.

Reheat the butter mixture until very hot. Stir. Scoop about 1 cup of the egg and flour mixture into the butter, and fold together thoroughly. Gently pour the butter mixture over the egg mixture, and gently but completely fold the butter mixture into the egg mixture.

Gently pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Ensure, by tipping just a little, even coverage in the pan. Place the pan in the oven, and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. When done, the cake will come away from the sides of the baking pan, and will be slightly springy in the center to a gentle touch.

Let the cake cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. When the cake is completely cooled, run a knife around the outside and remove the side of the pan. Let the cake cool some more.

When cake is completely cooled. Set the cake on a raised surface, like a cutting block. A towel under the cake helps steady the cake and keeps it from turning during the cutting. With a very long serrated knife, and a very steady hand, begin cutting the cake into either thirds (if you're brave!) or in half by cutting in just a little ways, then turning the cake a bit, and cutting in a bit, turning, etc. Until a guide cut has been made around the entire cake. At that point, cut the cake into the desired portions, looking at both sides of the knife as you cut, ensuring both sides are in line with the guide cut.

At this point, I slid a piece of very thin but strong cardboard (actually one of those political mailers) into the cut, set a plate on top lined with wax paper, and, using the cardboard to lift, flipped the cake half (or third) onto the plate.

If cutting into thirds, repeat the above two paragraphs.

For the final piece, place a plate lined with wax paper upside down over the remaining layer. Flip the cake over onto the plate. Very carefully remove the cake pan bottom and the parchment paper round from the bottom of the cake layer.

You now have all your layers on separate plates lined with wax paper.

Spread the raspberry jelly or chocolate ganache on all except one of the layers. With someone helping, position the layers one by one over each other, and gently slide the layer off the wax paper onto the top of the other layer, ending with the layer that has no jam or ganache on top.

You now have a completely reassembled cake with filling between each layer.

Using a long sharp serrated knife and a ruler, cut the cake carefully into the desired petit four shapes. Mine were 2 inches long by 1 inch wide.

Decorate with the plastic chocolate.


Print Recipe

Chocolate Ganache
Recipe by surfindaave

Ingredients:
200 grams of dark chocolate, cut into bits no larger than ¼ inch
½ cup heavy cream

Place the chocolate bits into a very clean and very dry heat-proof bowl.

Bring the cream to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth and well combined.


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7 Comments:

Blogger ilva said...

I'M IMPRESSED! And what a nice thing to make!

1:46 AM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

Ilva - thanks! I am glad people only turn 50 once!

1:44 PM  
Blogger Brilynn said...

This is fantastic! I definitely want to try playing with plastic chocolate now. I had seen the SHF post as well but wasn't too confident that I'd be able to do it.

7:48 AM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

Brilynn, thanks as well! It's not that it's so hard, but it took much more time than I anticipated. And a stiff dose of patience!

12:01 AM  
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