Monday, May 27, 2013

How to: temper chocolate the easy way using a microwave and no thermometer

How to: temper chocolate the pretty fail safe easy way using a microwave and no thermometer.

Check it every 15 seconds and give it a good stir

So everyone always says that tempering chocolate is really hard, but it's really not.

First of all what is tempered chocolate?
It's when the chocolate breaks, like a chocolate bar does. It snaps. If you melt chocolate and don't temper it or don't do it right, it doesn't snap but bends like a gummy bear does when it's completely cooled and back to solid.

Secondly you need to understand what you're doing when you temper chocolate so you understand why you're doing what you're doing:
Chocolate in its solid state is like New York, buildings on a grid. When you melt it, it's like a big storm went right over New York and there's trees and cars and mess everywhere. When it starts to cool down, nothing happens to that big mess, it's fixable but you need something that is going to clean everything up and get everything back in place. For this you need solid chocolate. Solid chocolate knows how to be a grid, it knows how to be neat and orderly and it will tell the rest of that melted chocolate to clean up. That will get New York looking good again and your chocolate back in snapping instead of bending stage.
And by the way, if you overheat chocolate it's like a fire broke out and burned that entire mess... you're never getting New York back or your chocolate. You'll have to start over with new chocolate.

I'm sure a scientist would have a much better explanation but you probably get the concept, right?

So how to temper chocolate:

Break your chocolate into pieces. They don't have to be super small about half an inch squared.
Take 1/4 of the chocolate and cut or grate it fine. It doesn't need to be a flour consistency, just small enough to easily melt.

Put your 3/4 chocolate in a microwaveable bowl and heat it on half power (400 watt on mine) for 1 minute. Stir and heat again for 15 seconds. Take care not to coat the side of the bowl when stirring because the thin film on the side will burn.
Repeat the stirring and 15 seconds heating until only small clumps of chocolate remain in a yummy bowl of molten chocolate. Stopping when small bits remain will keep you from overheating and burning the chocolate.

Take your bowl out of the microwave and add the finely chopped/grated chocolate. Stir so everything is combined and leave it for a few minutes. Repeat until no pieces of chocolate remain. It can take quite a while to melt everything and the chocolate, even though it's liquid will feel quite cool.

If it just doesn't want to melt, or you want to reheat the chocolate because it's gotten too firm to dip or pour or whatever you want to do with it, just reheat it for 10 seconds. Don't reheat it too much or long because then it will be that big mess again and you'll need more solid chocolate to get it tempered again.

Any leftovers can be reused, and tempered again. 

And try not to drink the molten chocolate, that's not good for you. Really yummy, but not good.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Recipe of the week: Basic pie dough for sweet and hearty pies

Recipe of the week

With a basic recipe for pie dough laying around you'll be prepared for anything.... well, in regard to cravings for pie anyway. This is a versatile dough which can be used for all sorts of pies and pastries. You can make tiny pies, large pies, sugary pies or quiche! It's a perfect beginner's dough because it's easy to make and roll, and it doesn't have a lot of ingredients to it. It also has to rest, very important for dough by the way so don't skip that part! But while it's resting you have time to eat something healthy and if you decide your hunkering for pie has past, no worries, just freeze the dough. And next time your cravings start acting up again you can just pop that out the freezer and get right to making one of those yummy pies ;)

Basic pie dough for sweet and hearty pies 
(enough for a 10 inch pie shell)


- 250 grams flour
- 150 grams cold butter in cubes
- 1 egg yoke
- 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons ice cold water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar for sweet dough

Put a bit of water and some ice cubes in a bowl and set aside. If you don't have ice cubes just put something else out of your fridge in a clean bag and hang that in the bowl.

Mix the flour, salt and if using the sugar in a large bowl. Add the cubes of butter to the bowl and rub the mixture between your fingers till you get a bread crumb consistency and no large pieces of butter remain.

Whisk the egg with the lemon and water.
Make a dent in the flour mixture and add the liquids. Stir with a fork until everything starts to stick together. Now use your hand to knead the dough until everything is incorporated. Don't over knead it or the dough will become tough. Make a ball of the dough and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap.

Put the dough in the fridge for at least 4 hours but better yet an entire night. After that you can roll the dough for large or small pie crusts see How to make an apple pie for tips.

Print out this recipe and put it near your flour, handy ;)

Make it beautiful!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

How to: As easy as apple pie

How to:

Apple pie, easy, delicious and self made!

Not long ago I said to a friend "But everyone knows how to make an apple pie at least...". How wrong I was, of all the people there I was the only one who didn't consider that a challenge. Bakking to me is second nature, not hard, easy as... well... pie I guess. One of my first memories is baking cake with my mom. In our little kitchen in "the Valkenkamp" I helped her measure milk and mix the batter. That old mixer I still use. It's become a bit yellow, some bits broke off a long time ago and with heavy work it has been replaced by a splendid new KitchenAid. But I still keep it, partly because of the memories and partly because that old thing still works much better than that stupid new specimen my parents replaced it with. (Who invents a mixer where the batter gets pulled upwards instead of pushed down...) And sometimes mixing with a hand mixer is just better for your cake or for yourself. Nothing helps your frustrated persona better than 10 minutes of making figure eights with a vibrating deafening piece of plastic/ metal with the known fact in the back of your mind that you get to like the batter off that thing when you're done. But you don't know that if you doubt your ability to make something as easy as apple pie so get to work! Whether you bake for 12 or just for you, it's just as easy. I'll give you a How to of confidence to get you started and you'll find there is something else in the world you have no problems doing.

Step 1:
Buy apple pie crust mix (told you it was easy ;) ) You could buy a crust ready made but then my whole piece on mixing will have been for not... 

Step 2:
Buy appels but here comes the yummy apple pie secret: buy at least 3 different kinds. And I don't mean different names but different types: sweet and juicy, tart and crispy, etc. Figure out what you like about an apple pie, do you want it to be sweet or quite tart, do you want the apple to hold up even after it's baked to give some texture or do you like mushy pies? That will help you decide which combination works will for what you want. I usually use granny smith which is quite tart and holds it shape well, and jonagold which is sweet and juicy. I take these as the base apples which means I buy 3 of each and then I add a few different types of which I only buy 1. Generally the supermarket has signs that tell you about the different apples.

Step 3:
Buy custard powder (don't think you don't need it, you do) and sugar if your low on it, you don't need much.
optional: raisins, cinnamon (though you should really have that in your kitchen already), walnuts or almonds, depending on what you like in your apple pie, I'm sure you have a preference. (I'm presuming everyone has eating apple pie before. If you haven't I recommend you go to your parents and discuss why that is.)
Also check if you have everything you need to make the pie crust.

Step 4:
Make the dough as the package tells you to. Divide in 3/4 and 1/4 pieces make into a ball and then flatten into 1 inch thick discs. Tightly wrap both discs in plastic wrap and store in the fridge.
Cut all the apples into small pieces, about 1/2 an inch square. Put them into a big bowl, add sugar and raisins, nuts and/or cinnamon if you want. It's up to you how much, just know that if you add a lot of nuts it might be better to search for a recipe on nut pies, and I wouldn't recommend adding more then 1/2 a tablespoon of cinnamon.
Mix a tablespoon of custard powder into your apple mix. Make sure everything is mixed well and put your bowl aside, but not in the fridge.

Step 5: If your making a big apple pie you can usually take a 26 cm (10 inch) spring form or pie dish but check the crust package. If you want to make little pies, just grab a muffin form.
Spring form: Take off the rim, put a piece of baking paper across the bottom and put the rim back.

Grease the spring form or muffin form with butter, oil or better yet crisco. Make sure you get the corners but make it a thin layer. Add a handful of flour and pat the form while turning so it coats everything. Pat the form over your garbage can or sink to get the excess flour out.

Step 6: Put a piece of baking paper of about 15 by 15 inches on your counter top, get some plastic wrap and a rolling pin. Get the large piece of dough from the fridge and don't be afraid. A lot of people get nervous when it comes to rolling dough, but dough doesn't judge you and if it's not going right you can just start over.
Put the dough in the center of your baking paper and put one or two sheets of plastic wrap over it so they cover the entire baking paper. Start rolling and keep turning the baking paper so your dough stays a round shape. (It's only important for the big pie, if you're making little pies it's only important to get the dough the same thickness everywhere.) Roll from the center out, don't press too hard let the rolling pin do the work and don't roll the edge thinner than the rest of the dough. When the dough has reached a 15 inch diameter, you can stop.

Step 7:
Spring form/ pie dish:
Take the plastic wrap off. Pick up the baking paper on one side and slip your rolling pin under it. Pick your dough up with the pin, it's still on the baking paper at this point. Lay the dough (baking paper side up) 1,5 inches over the rim and carefully guide it over the entire form. It should be in the center, if not carefully move it. When it's centered carefully pull off the baking paper. Do not start pushing in the dough but lift it up on the side and guide it into the form. Try not to stretch it. When it's in you can carefully press it a little so it's in the corners. You can shape the edge now, or later when you add the strips on top.

Muffin form:
Press circles into the dough with a glass or lid or something that has the diameter of a muffin cup plus it's sides. Press down and shake a little so the dough is cut well. When you've made as many circles as you need, pull the plastic off. Pick up the dough and position it over the muffin cup then carefully guide it in without stretching the dough. You'll have to shape it a little and press it in.

Step 8:
Scoop the filling into form(s) and use your hand or the back of a spoon to level it.

Step 9: Take the little piece of dough and roll it out in the same way but try to make it a rectangle where the long side is 10 inches and it's about a 1/4 inch in thickness.
Cut strips of dough and lay them across your pie. You can make an intricate design, or not, it doesn't really matter. Pinch where the strips meet the rest of the dough and remove any excess dough, you don't want anything hanging over the side.

Step 10: Bake the pie as the package tells you to but keep in mind that it might take longer or shorter if you've made it larger or smaller. A fruit pie is done when you can see the juices boiling up at the side and the crust has come loos from the dish. Let the pie cool off in it's form at least till it's luke warm. The juices have to settle and if they don't get the chance they'll flow out when you cut into it. It's better to let the apple pie sit till it's cool (if you can wait that long) and warm the slices in the oven for a few minutes.

That's it! Easy as pie, though not really because that refers to eating pie but that's what you get to do now so yay! Mine went pretty quick, luckily I sold most of it because it was yummy!

Summary of what you need:
- Apple pie crust mix and anything the package says you need to make the dough
- At least 3 types of apples (if clueless buy 3 jonagold, 3 granny smith, and 1 each of apples that speak to you)
- custard powder
- sugar (or some other sort of sweetener in powder form) 
- crisco, oil or butter
- optional: raisins, walnuts, almonds, cinnamon
- plastic wrap and baking paper
- rolling pin
- spring form, pie dish or muffin tray
- an oven :)

I know you're thinking if you mention oven, you have to mention fridge, but you could put it into a cold cellar or outside if it's 7 degrees celsius.

Make it beautiful! Or in this case, just make it ;)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Recipe of the week: Rose water cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for two!

Recipe of the week

These cakes you can easily make in 30 minutes. It tastes delicious and you can share it with your sweetheart, whether it's your lover, a friend, your kid or your tummy ;) It's an ideal recipe for anyone wanting to enjoy some cake without having to eat for 12 or invite them.

Rose water cupcakes with cream cheese frosting 
(makes just 2 cupcakes!)

Made for Motherday 2013


1 egg white
25 grams sugar (I use cane sugar but granulated sugar is fine too)
30 grams of butter, melted
30 grams flour
1 gram baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon
a pinch of salt
10 ml vanilla
10 ml rose water (If you don't have it, no worries, just substitute more vanilla)
+/- 15 ml of milk

50 grams cream cheese
50 grams of butter at room temperature
sugar to taste

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius (350 Fahrenheit). Put two paper liners in a cupcake/muffin tin.
Mix the egg white and sugar together with a fork about a minute. Add the vanilla and the butter and stir until combined. Now add the flour, baking powder and salt and stir until it's smooth. Use your fingers to get the lumps out if necessary (or sieve the flour and baking powder before hand).
Stir in the rose water and lastly the milk. Don't let the batter become too watery (is that a word?? you understand me right.), it has to be a syrupy consistency. Divide the batter over the two paper liners.

Bake the cupcakes in the center of the oven until the look dry and feel springy to the touch, at least 12 minutes (check every 5 minutes after that). Take the tin out of the oven and let the cupcakes cool in it, preferably on a rack. You can now eat them all warm and yummy, or you can let them cool completely and frost them or better yet, put them in an airtight container in the fridge overnight and frost and eat them the next day.

To make the cream cheese frosting: Beat the butter until it's light and airy (takes a few minutes). Then beat in the cream cheese until it's mixed well. Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time and see what you think. Some like it sweeter, go with what you like :) You can then choose to dye the frosting a pretty color, I sometimes use turmeric (curcuma) for a gorgeous yellow color.
Cover the frosting and keep in the fridge until use. 
Either use a spoon to dollop the frosting on the cupcakes as I did with mine or use a piping bag if you want more control.
Separately both cupcakes and frosting can be kept in the fridge for a few days in an airtight container.

Make it beautiful!

© Taart&Art 2013

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