Sunday, July 31, 2011

Truffle FAIL

Let me begin by saying that this was NOT my first time making truffles. I consider myself a fairly seasoned truffle maker in fact.... Oreo-Cream-Cheese Truffles have been a staple of my gift-giving repertoire for several years. But I now realize that I always make those to give out at Christmas. They are most certainly a winter baking treat... and that's where I ran into trouble.

It began with my wanting to find something to make out of the insanely prolific patch of mint in my garden. The internets led me to this recipe for fresh mint chocolate truffles and I instantly thought "Oooh, sounds tasty! I can totally make those. No problem!" (this is in fact exactly how I talk to myself in my head.) If you go look at the photo on the recipe link you'll see what I was aiming for. As you'll see shortly... I missed. By a LOT.

Things started out well. I cooked up the cream and added the mint, mixed everything together and happily came out with a tasty right-amount-of-minty ganache.

It cooled in the fridge for a full day before I was able to take the time to roll the balls and prep for dipping in melted dark chocolate. I even made the little candied mint leaves to use as a cute garnish. (Did I mention that I'm trying to use a TON of mint? If swear the stuff grows so fast in my yard we can almost sit there and watch the sprigs forming).

Perhaps I should have been more concerned when even after "lightly dusting" my palms with cocoa powder as instructed I still ended up with gooey melty chocolate all over my hands after each little truffle was rolled. But I just chalked it up to this being a different type of recipe than the drier cookies-and-cream style that I normally would make and soldiered along.

After the rolled ganache was set hard in the freezer for a few hours I got everything set for the dipping. This is where things went terribly, terribly wrong for me. The first few went fine, but at around piece number five I realized that the candy coating was suddenly seizing up and now had the consistency of thick frosting. I quickly realized that because the room was warm (this has been a rather hot and humid summer in new england, like it has pretty much everywhere in the US) the truffles were collecting condensation... and by putting that water into the chocolate I had ruined the bowl full.

I probably should have stopped and let things cool all over again and re-thought my whole "finish making these right now" concept. But I'm just not that kind of girl. Once I get started I'm pretty much going to muddle through the mess as best I can regardless of anyone's better judgement. First I kinda used the thickened chocolate and tried to basically frost the balls of filling... really not so attractive. I believe my husband rightly compared them to something our dogs would make. (And trust me when I tell you that we don't have some special breed of talented crafty baking dogs.)

Then I figured that since my first few came out okay I could just melt some smaller cups of white chocolate and if it seizes after a few dips, at least I won't have wasted as much, right? Wrong! I got one truffle done kinda okay in the white. And I even had one of my tiny cups seize right out of the microwave as soon as I tried to stir it... Maybe the fork was wet? Maybe the air was so bloody humid it just soaked in from there. I have no clue.

Still unwilling to give up on tasty mint-chocolate treats (I was making these to bring to my sister-in-law's baby shower, by the way. So I really wanted them to look pretty and presentable in front of my mother-in-law, not to mention the aunts and cousins and everyone else.) I tried spooning the white chocolate on top of the horribly lumpy things I now created. I also tried rolling un-coated ones in powdered sugar, but it mostly just turned to mush from all the moisture sweating off of them. Here are some of my assorted attempts in all their glory:

In the end I decided to roll the most horribly lumpy ones in cocoa on the grounds that moist, sweaty poo-looking balls were more unappetizing than anything with a powdery cocoa look to it. I think that worked out okay. They were at least not a total waste of time, effort, and most importantly, chocolate!

At least I was able to present the nicest, least poo-looking ones I could to my SIL

I sorta stuck the rest on the end of the dessert table (I ended up filling about three of those tupperware containers you see in the pics) and thankfully people did find them to be yummy. I was even asked politely if I made them myself... I don't know if it was worse to admit that yes, I made something that ugly. or that someone might have thought I would actually purchase such unattractive candies. I suppose either way it was a good thing that they turned out to be so tasty!

Friday, July 8, 2011

The job description didn't say anything about heavy cleaning...

I have been at my new job for about two weeks now and I'm still enjoying it, getting my feet under me, and spending far too much of my time cleaning the shop space. This is my shop:
well, actually that is not my whole shop, it is only my spray area. Which is insanely awesome because its about 24' x 28' (larger than the entire wood&paint shop area at my previous job). This takes up a little less than half of my whole paint space, plus there's a fairly large paint storage and mixing area with two sinks off to the side.

In that picture I've already picked up and swept and shop-vac-ed the floor for the most part. It started out looking like this:

The floor surface is 4 x 8 sheets of homasote laid down over the concrete floor and just gaff taped at the seams. While the stuff does start out a shade of grey, the color of that floor is actually just tons and tons of overspray from the gray and silver paints that are the main colors used in that part of the shop. The roll of paper standing up in the back of the room in that first photo was the very first thing I purchased at this job in order to cover the floor so in the future it will be much easier to just replace the paper rather than try to clean off the flooring material ever again. (the big white cabinet is actually a safe that we use as a storage cabinet for spray paints... it is rated to be explosion proof so it certainly qualifies for use as a flammables cabinet)

On the right hand side of the shop is our air handler. I don't even want to know how long it had been since someone had changed the filters on it, and I was so grossed out when I took them out to replace that I went a little cleaning-frenzy crazy on the thing...

That's one half of the machine scraped clean (my hands have the scrapes to show for it too) and the inside walls & floor vacuumed out. Here's a closeup so you can see a little more of just how much grime was there. It was quite literally up to a half-inch build up of paint that had settled in some places.

But all that work was totally worth it to me. Because I now have a happy spray room with a clean filter system keeping the air moving. Not only will my lungs thank me later, I just work so much better in a clean space. I'm chalking it up to time well spent in a shop that is slowly but surely starting to feel like it's really mine.