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ChocoMom

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  1. Re: blueberry ganache. I did this a couple times, pre-fire, and lost the formula I had worked on. I recall using milk chocolate ( I know, weird...but it worked well), blueberry powder, and essentially, blueberry "jam" strained through mesh. If memory serves me, I may have popped in a bit of blueberry schnapps, and a few grains of tartaric or citric acid. The blueberry powder is indeed a little pricey. 4 oz of the organic blueberry powder on Nuts.com runs $20.99. There must've been a price increase, because I don't think I paid that much before. Having said that, a little of the powder goes a LONG way. Have not tried doing a lemon PdF, so I can't offer much help there. I have done other PdF's using Agar - which were very successful, so perhaps trying another gelling agent might yield a different result?
  2. ChocoMom

    The Bread Topic (2016-)

    @Ann_T Thank you so much for posting the link to the Kaiser rolls!!! I was surprised to have some much-needed down time this week, and a need for Kaisers. So....I made them- not once, not twice, but three times this week!!! (There was a fourth time, but I had a temporary memory lapse, and ended up making a round loaf of bread in my Dutch oven with that same dough.) My entire family thanks you, as well!! The recipe is now engrained in my memory.
  3. Consistently great food and atmosphere are both top priorities. Service is a close second. And the reason I say that, is because "service" can be rated in different ways. Length of time in having the order taken, length of time to receive the food, waitstaff attitudes/behavior, etc. So, if a great plate of food takes longer to get, I can forgive the time issue. A prime example of a restaurant with a perfect balance of great food, great atmosphere, and a fabulous staff- (IMHO) would be the Dearborn Inn. I've been going there for nearly my whole life, more sporadically in the last 20 years. But, never once has the food, atmosphere or service been anything short of perfect. (Their coffee is amazing, too!) The staff we've dealt with there are the kindest people, as well. My Dad had always made an effort to learn the names of everyone he met. He'd say their name, shake their hand, and say their name again. One of the waiters must have been quite touched by that, and for decades, he was always there when our family would visit, and would serve us. When my Dad became confined to a wheelchair years later, this particular waiter wanted to be alerted if my parents pulled in, so he'd do his best to meet them near the entrance, wheel him in, seat him and my Mom, serve them, and then wheel my Dad out, help him into the car, fold up the wheelchair, put it in the back, and help my Mom into the car. He even came to both of their funerals. He took care of me graciously, when I went there a couple times, after my brother died this past August. The hostess knew my parents well, also, and would alert the waiter whenever she'd see them/us come in. The pastry chef and/or servers even knew how fond my mother was of raspberries. Whatever she'd order as a dessert or breakfast side, if it was appropriate, ended up with mounds of extra raspberries., or a bowl of raspberries on the side. Its like they just knew. And honestly, I don't know that my parents were really singled out, because the Inn had/has many "regulars". The staff really seems to dote on every patron. Its just that extra effort they put forth with fantastic attitudes that makes you feel welcome and well-cared for. There are certain places that just seem to tick all the boxes, and that one is at the tippy top of my list.
  4. ChocoMom

    Aldi

    There are two Aldi stores we go to, whenever we're nearby. They're both 3 hours away. They both had 1 pound packages of butter for $1.99. Apparently, they don't let you buy more than 5 in one trip. (I tried to get 6 one time- right before Christmas. ) I don't get there too often. My husband has a newly remodeled Aldi near a couple of his hotels in WI, that he frequents during his on-site visits. I text him my grocery list, and he gets whatever he can find. It is always packed with customers, and food does not stay on the shelves long there.
  5. I'm no expert on French pastry cream, but if you're interested in adding powerful raspberry flavor minus the weight of a puree...raspberry powder made from freeze dried raspberries works wonders. HTH.
  6. ChocoMom

    Grocery Shopping

    I've been pleasantly surprised by my favorite grocery store's pricing lately. Usually, the pricing, esp. produce, is quite high this time of year, but, blueberries and strawberries have been insanely inexpensive as of late, with exceptional quality and flavor. The blueberries, 2 (pints) for $5 , were plump, juicy and not one squished little bub in the whole bunch! Strawberries- 2 (quarts) for $5 - same deal. Ripe, none were moldy or squishy, and they actually tasted like a strawberry. Most of the winter berries we get up here look more orange than red, and the flavor has no resemblance to a strawberry. Asparagus was only $2.99/bunch- about a pound or so. Melons, pineapples, lettuces, cukes, spring onions, ....the list goes on and on. Chicken breasts were on sale as well, and the dairy dept. blew me away. Almost everything I needed was buy one, get one free. Special K - all the varieties were 2/$4. My favorite coffee- Cameron's, was 2/$10. Normally, it's $6.99/lb. This blew me away yesterday. My hubby and kids love the store-made fried chicken from the deli. Normally, it's $8.99/8 pc bucket. Yesterday, I was gobsmacked. I was in a hurry to get lunch on the table, but I was stuck in town for longer than expected. So, I ran into my favorite store, for the chicken. Not only did I get the 8 piece bucket of chicken, but also a TUB of mashies, a TUB of gravy, 2lb of coleslaw, AND 4 dinner rolls.....for $8.99. Felt like I won the lotto! I don't buy that food very often, but wit h my daughter, her boyfriend, hubby and the moose to feed...that whole spread was greatly appreciated. When hubby heads out of town again, and he does the Aldi- trip for me, I'll have him stock up on the favorites - butter, salmon, turkey bacon, and the take-n-bake breads. I'm going to be saving up dough for a more lengthy Aldi trip when I do another show in May down in Escanaba. I'd love nothing more than to stock the freezer with salmon, and turkey bacon!
  7. Liver is at the tippy top of my list. My Mom would cook it for my Dad and brother once in a while. I thought the smell was so horrid, I'd get my nose plug from swimming class, and put it on until I went to bed. I never got over that. Then, anchovies, kippered herring, sardines, escargot, and *bleu cheese. Funny thing is, after I got pregnant with my first kid, that bleu cheese I so hated- became a staple. Salads had to have bleu cheese dressing for the duration of the pregnancy. I still love it, decades later. About corn. I loved corn, in all its forms. But, when I was undergoing testing for allergies as a kid- the doc discovered I was very allergic to it. I thought perhaps the allergy might have lessened or gone away - so I tried some about 7 or 8 years ago. It about killed me. I tried hominy also- figuring that the processing might have neutralized the allergens. Nope. One little bite and my tongue and throat swelled up so quick...I couldn't believe it. Corn on the cob didn't even react that quickly! So, no corn for me. It sucks, because I especially loved grits, and popcorn.
  8. I have the Dulcey from Valrhona. If the flavor profiles are similar, lavender should work. I just used the Dulcey in some Earl Grey chocolates this week, and they are quite delicious. I haven't tried it yet, but I suspect that a Chai flavor might pair well with it, too. I would think something along the lines of coconut / lemongrass, or a coffee / cappuccino might work as well. I drink Earl Grey tea daily, and I've been wanting to try this for awhile. Reading of @jmacnaughtan's amazing adventures with bergamot just inspired me to try the Earl chocolates now.
  9. I thought the introduction of tubbed frostings were for the sake of convenience, and less mess. My parents were older than most others, and did things in a more old-fashioned way-so I was quite used to getting out the butter, powdered sugar, etc, or, seeing Mom use a boxed frosting mix. When us kids got older, and Mom got busier with her hobbies, she would still do obligatory baking for various school or church events. But, given her new, busier life, she was looking for shortcuts, and tubbed frosting was a dream come true for her. I thought the stuff was a little off-tasting, and preferred the boxed mix frostings. (I later became accustomed to the really chocolatey tubbed icing.) Soon, I was unable to find the boxed mixes on the shelf at the store. Once in a while, I'd see a Jiffy frosting mix, and now I can't even seem to find that. Jiffy wasn't exactly top of the line, and was kind of grainy, so, I'd decline buying it. More expensive, but quite tasty, is the King Arthur chocolate buttercream frosting mix. Today, I use half butter, half shortening, powdered sugar, 2 drops of almond extract, 2 drops of coconut extract (which erases that funny powdered sugar taste), HWC, marshmallow fluff, and a little vanilla- or cocoa powder and espresso- depending on what is needed. Yes, its messier than cracking open a tub of icing, but waaaaayyyy tastier. I'm not sure that it was the cost of sugar that made manufacturers turn to tubbed icing, but rather their knowing that consumers were living faster paced lives and would pay a little more for convenience of pre-made frosting. Incidentally, that tubbed chocolate frosting is wonderful smacked in between graham crackers. Mom would use up left over frosting like that, and put them in our lunches for a treat. I use the leftover homemade frosting like that for my kids. yum.
  10. ChocoMom

    PdF using Agar

    Thank you for the suggestions, @Kerry Beal and @pastrygirl !! One for the team, it is. This shall be my weekend project, and I will report back.
  11. ChocoMom

    PdF using Agar

    So I was pondering what to do with a large container of cherry puree, and decided to do a PdF-type layer in a bonbon. Using Greweling's formula for agar jellies (p. 345 of Choc and Conf.) I can do this. But, his directions say to add the puree when the agar-sugar-glucose mixture cools to 194F. What I am wondering is, if I added the puree when the agar mixture was say, around 195-200F, if the resulting texture might end up being pipe-able? I've not made a pdf using agar before, so I'm interested in learning if it can be manipulated like that. Thanks for any help or suggestions!!!
  12. For Christmas, my 10 year old niece got a gift certificate for a private chocolate class with her Aunt (me). She's been dying to do this for the last couple of years, so that's what I decided to do for her. It was 7 1/2 hours of fun and learning. I did something that I NEVER do in a class....let her concoct her own fillings. I showed her how to weigh out ingredients, mix, taste, etc. So, we ended up with a crazy combination of tangerine creme layered with dragonfruit pineapple; a dark chocolate-cherry ganache, a caramel, and raspberry-white chocolate. She picked out the colors, and I taught her how to airbrush. So, below are a couple pics of the adventure.....
  13. ChocoMom

    New Years eve fun

    @Toliver I'm dying laughing....Showed the article to my 21 yo son...he LOVES Peeps. 1st question he asks, "Do they make them at Christmas?" 2nd question, "When's Easter?"
  14. Abigail and the chickens have been fighting over scraps since Christmas. I toss it out the back door, and whoever's close by gets dibs. But, the second Abby starts sniffing around, the chickens run. (She doesn't hurt them, but they're still scared.) Ethel, on the other hand, will go neck in neck with Abby when it comes to food scraps. She's more bold, not to mention old and cranky. Since its been quite frigid out the last few days, Abby has been snuggling on her new blankie downstairs on the heated floor in the mudroom. I did toss her down a few lean scraps from the rib roast...and she's not complaining. Its been a feast for all the animals, except Cooties. She's petrified of humans under 3 feet tall, so, she stayed hidden for the past 5 days. The last of that crew just left a little while ago, so she'll be happy with some milk leftover from the little human's sippy cups.
  15. Well, my SIL (husband's brother's wife) hosted and made lasagna for Christmas dinner, and sent us home with half a tray of it. Super Delish! There were 15 of us present for that. I made desserts and salad for that dinner. Arriving the following day were the rest of the kids and grandkids. Since we had all 5 kids, spouses, and 4 grandkids here....The extra lasagna came in handy. Reheat and eat. My first DIL made bread and brought that along...so with leftover salad, it was the perfect meal. (We also hit a Mexican restaurant for lunch- which was fab!) Dec 27 was my SIL's 60th birthday. (This is my husband's older sister.) It was a surprise party, with a whopping 24 people in attendance. I hosted that event, and wow! Glad we did an open floor plan. Made it buffet style.... Meal was as follows: Martha's Vineyard Salad (a family favorite) Homemade breads Rib Roast, Rump Roast, Venison backstrap fillets....dry rubbed with Umami powder. Mac and Cheese (recipe from ThatWhichNourishes)...its very creamy and wonderful Mixed veggies Rosemary/garlic/sour cream smashed potatoes Gravy made with portobello mushrooms, yellow onion, tarragon and beef broth. Had that simmering for 8 hours. Dessert. Birthday cake, of course. ...3 layer. Devils food center with white outer edge. Thin buttercream icing. In a mille feuille style, added a vanilla marscapone filling, alternating with raspberries. the center of the cake was black cherries rolled in maltodextrin (so they didn't ooze). Made a barrier around them with the marscapone. So that was the bottom 2 layers. The tops was dotted with the marscapone, and piled high with blackberries and raspberries, garnished with mint leaves. Meant to encase the whole thing with spun sugar; ended up mostly the top being encased. Served with a French vanilla ice cream and bourbon caramel sauce. SIL was very happy. (waiting for a pic of that to post it here. ) My other SIL brought a couple extra chocolate cakes for the kids to dig into, because the whole cheese-berry- thing with cake was not appealing to the youngsters. We are eating leftovers from that for dinner tonight. I was extremely pleased to hear that the venison was well-received. We have some folks who can be quite critical about that "gamey " taste they expect- which I can understand. But, remarkably, there was none of that taste detected- which was surprising given the number of critics present. I'm told that the experience has converted one relative over to taking up deer hunting.
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