Saturday, October 31, 2015

Peanut and Hazelnut Butter

I have been meaning to make homemade nut butter for a while now, thinking about it... but it didn't happen until just recently. I don't know why it took so long. It's relatively simple and you can have some fun with it.

This one has a bit of cinnamon and a hint of sweetness from honey. It's nice with apples, on toast, and it might be great swirled into a bowl of hot oats. Or maybe in the center of a homemade peanut butter cup? Though not really peanut butter...

Since I've made it, I've been imagining other versions I might try. Cashews processed with some coconut oil and spiked with cardamom. Pecans with apple pie inspired spices. And why not a version of Nutella- hazelnuts and cocoa powder? Of course, it might not be a bad idea to go basic and try out some plain peanut butter. I suppose I just went and jumped ahead there.

The point is that there are so many combinations that could be tried... maybe try mixing dried fruit and seeds into nut butter, bits of chocolate, coconut, different spices... start with a base and go from there!

Peanut and Hazelnut Butter
makes about 2 cups (around 500 ml amount)

1 c (130 g) hazelnuts
1 1/2 c (225 g) peanuts, without skins, dry roasted and unsalted
3 T (45 ml) honey
1/4 c (60 ml) peanut, sunflower, or another neutral oil
1 t (3 g) ground cinnamon
1/4 t (large pinch) fine sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 F/ 180 C. Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast 8-10 minutes, shaking the pan a few times during the bake to toast evenly. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool slightly. If the hazelnuts have skins, place the nuts in a kitchen towel and rub them to remove the skins. Let the hazelnuts cool completely.
Place the cooled hazelnuts and peanuts in the bowl of a food processor. Process/pulse until the nuts resemble coarse sand. Add the rest of the ingredients. Continue to process until the mixture resembles nut butter (this will take a while- maybe up to 15 minutes total). Give the food processor a 5 minute break once or twice during this process as this is a lot of work for the machine- you do not want to burn out your food processor.
If you like it a bit smoother, sweeter, or saltier, add extra oil, honey, or salt and process to incorporate.
Remove the nut butter to a covered container and enjoy within a couple weeks.

*Yes, it is drier than standard versions of peanut butter, but I prefer to use less oil. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Chocolate Terrine (in a pool of Blackberry-Port Sauce)

Some might say any recipe that starts with a pound of chocolate can't be a bad thing.
I've made this seven or eight times in the last year, each time changing things here and there as it was never quite what I was looking for. The thing is, you can't just keep making one large chocolate terrine after another. No, no, you can, but you shouldn't.
You can't rush these things, you need a break between. So you keep notes on important things like this.
And who knows, maybe it'll change again.


But, the good news is that most people are ok with chocolate in general, as well as assisting in it's dispatch.

A chocolate terrine is in some ways like a mousse, but a bit more stiff and slice-able.
Best sliced cold, though not served directly after, the terrine is creamy melt-in-the-mouth chocolate, not too heavy, but still decadent. I don't know exactly what it is, the more dense a chocolate dessert, the more decadent it seems.
(Although, perhaps strangely, I don't think I would say a piece of solid chocolate is the most decadent of all.)
To me, a thicker pot de creme seems richer than it's not quite so set brother. It's just cooked a little longer, so why is that?
Perhaps one slows down a bit to eat it, maybe it's more likely to be savored... There could be some cue taken unconsciously.

Good reason to make sure the terrine has the time it needs to set completely. In addition to the increased ease of slicing (a function of time and temperature), we'll definitely say upon it's requisite gradual consumption, more enjoyment is gained (and in that case, since you naturally slow your pace, you consequently need less).

The blackberry-Port sauce is a fantastic accompaniment, complimentary and fruity with a slight tannic flair- a little deeper than berries on their own, and so nice for early autumn. There's a certain perfume-y quality in a berry and red wine combination that I love.

Not only is it a make-ahead (save yourself stress day-of and be proactive) dessert, it won't work out behave properly if not made ahead. Please don't go rogue on this one, folks.
The fact of the matter is that it's an especially important point if you happen to be serving a crowd- save the last minute stress for another time.
(Likewise, souffles are more appropriate to prepare for the more intimate group, and a nightmare for the crowd. Planning is important.)

That said, the recipe certainly does not serve a small group. And though you can work on halving it, it won't be the most straightforward of all time as the recipe does not call for an even number of egg whites. I can say I find that extra chocolate terrine is ok to freeze for a couple weeks to a month, as long as it's properly wrapped and in a covered container. The ingredients are much the same as in ice cream. Just let it warm a bit before you dive in.
But let's face it: yes, you can eat it straight out of the freezer, it can be done.
And sometimes that's just the way it has to be, it's the awful truth (honestly).

Chocolate Terrine
serves a 12-16

(5 cups, about 1500 ml- keep in mind for your mould)

16 oz (454g) good dark chocolate (60-70%), chopped
12 T (171g) unsalted butter
4 large egg yolks
3 large egg whites
1/4 t (2 g) fine sea salt

1/2 c (114g) sugar
1 1/4 c (about 320 ml) heavy cream 

Grease/spray/oil a mould and line with plastic wrap (clingfilm).
The one I like to use may be a bit unconventional, a long and relatively thin loaf pan, but I really prefer it's shape.

Place the chocolate and butter in a large heat safe bowl, and place over the top of a pan of gently simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Stir occasionally until the mixture is completely melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat and let cool slightly, 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to dissipate the heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the salt and about half the sugar until incorporated. Whisk the egg yolk mixture into the warm chocolate. Let cool an additional 10-15 minutes.

Whip the whites in a medium bowl until frothy. Add the remaining sugar, a little at a time, whisking all the while until you have medium peaks. Add about one third of the whites to the chocolate mixture and whisk  gently until homogenous so the mixture is lightened a bit. Put the whisk aside and get a large spatula. Add about half the remaining whites and fold gently. Scoop the remaining whites into the chocolate and fold gently (you don't want lumps of egg whites, but small streaks are alright- you want to keep air in the mixture you gained with the whipped whites, not beat it out).

Whip the cream until medium to stiff texture (using the same bowl as with the whites if you are able). Fold about half the cream into the chocolate, gently but thoroughly, until incorporated. Add the rest of the cream and again, fold gently. Carefully spoon the chocolate into the prepared mould, filling the corners and smoothing the top. Perhaps tap the mould carefully on the counter a couple times so your terrine settles.

Lay the overhanging plastic wrap over the top of the smoothed chocolate.
Refrigerate the terrine 24 hours. 

Blackberry-Port Sauce
makes about 4 cups/1 qt./1 scant liter

12 oz (340 g) blackberries

1/3 c (76 g) sugar
2/3 c (160 ml) water
pinch of salt
10 oz (about 285 ml) blackberry jam
1/2 c (125 ml) Port
lemon juice, to taste, if necessary

Combine the blackberries, sugar, water, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer about 3 minutes to soften. Remove the pan from the heat, and pour the contents into the bowl of a food processor. Process until the berries are broken down. Add the jam and pulse a few times until incorporated. Add the Port and process until just combined. Taste the sauce and add lemon juice as necessary, a little at a time.
Let cool (at least slightly) before removing to a covered container. Refrigerate until cold and ready to use.

To unmould:
If unable to turn it out directly, place the bottom of the mould in a tray (or sink) of warm water for 10 seconds. Unwrap the top of the mould and place upside-down on a parchment paper lined tray. Tap, if necessary, and lift the mould from the terrine. Remove the plastic and refrigerate the tray until ready to slice. 

Before slicing, warm a sharp knife under running water. Wipe dry and slice the terrine (of course, this will vary depending on the mould used), re-warm and wipe the knife dry between slices.
Slice directly out of the fridge, but let the plated desserts warm a few minutes before serving- just to take a little chill off and soften the texture slightly.

Ladle sauce onto plates and top with slices of terrine.