Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Romancing the Tin

Many years ago, before my first child was born, my husband and I visited Northern Italy. As we were young and broke, we backpacked across this romantic region of Italy. Besides the amazing architecture, museums, cathedrals, and breathtaking vistas, we fell in love with Caffarel Gianduia 1865 chocolates, (a sublime mixture of milk chocolate and hazelnuts). In fact, one of a handful of treasures we brought back from Italy, was a tin of these magnificent "boat" shaped confections.

In 1826, Pier Paul Caffarel began making chocolates in an ex-tannery located at the edge of old Turin city centre. In 1852, Caffarel introduced it's new confection, called Givu, meaning "stub" in Piedmontese dialect, which became known as the original Turin Gianduiotto. In 1865, during the Turin Carnival, Gianduia (the masked character that is the official representative of the city) handed out Caffarel Gianduiotti to the spectators. From then on, the character Gianduia became associated with the chocolate; hence, Gianduiotto Caffarel became known as Gianduia 1865. The factory has since relocated to Luserna San Giovanni (the birthplace of Pier Paul Caffarel). Here is a look inside!



So, when I ran across this "Giandua Souffle" recipe, by Giada de Laurentiis, I had to try it! These individual chocolate souffles, made with milk chocolate and hazelnut liqueur, are amazing! You want to know what the best part is? You can make them up to 2 days ahead, before baking! It's no wonder they wound up on my holiday menu! Well, even though my Gianduia tin is empty, I still have it and this treasured recipe! Buon Natale!


Giandua Souffle

Makes 6, 6-ounce ramekins

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon sugar, plus 1/4 cup, plus more for ramekins
1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur (Frangelico)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces milk chocolate, chopped or chips, plus 6 ounces, chopped or chips (this is by weight, click here for more on food scales)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
Pinch salt
4 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, if you are going to bake them now. Butter and sugar 6, 6-ounce ramekins, or more if using smaller ones.

Heat the butter, 1 tablespoon sugar, hazelnut liqueur, and vanilla in a double boiler over medium heat until the butter melts. (Click here for more on double boilers.) Remove the butter mixture from the heat, add the 3 ounces of chocolate, and let sit until it melts, about 3 minutes. Place the chocolate mixture in a pie dish and place in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up. Use a spoon to form the chilled mixture into 6 evenly-sized  balls (truffles) about the size of a walnut. Reserve in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, place the flour in a double boiler and slowly whisk in the milk. Add the salt. Heat the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly until thick, about 5 minutes. Add the egg yolks and continue to whisk constantly. Don't curdle the eggs! Turn down the heat, if necessary! The mixture will thicken to the consistency of mayonnaise in another 3 to 4 minutes. Like this:


Stir in the 6 ounces of chocolate and set aside to let the chocolate melt.

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl or stand mixer. Using a hand or stand mixer, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add in the 1/4 cup sugar and continue whipping until firm peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the warm chocolate mixture.

Place a ball (truffle) of the chilled chocolate mixture in each of the ramekins.


Spoon the souffle mixture over the truffles and up to the rim of the ramekins. (At this point the souffles can be covered and kept refrigerated for 2 days.)

Place the ramekins in a hot water bath (a baking pan, filled with hot water, about 3/4 way up the ramekins) and bake until golden on top and the souffle has risen, about 30 minutes (40 minutes if refrigerated). (The souffles won't rise as high if they were previously refrigerated. That's okay. They sink quickly anyway!) Remove from the oven. (Click here for a tip on how to remove hot ramekins from a water bath.) Serve immediately. Delicious!

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Blue Christmas and a can of Febreze!

The holidays are in full swing with parties galore, but what should you bring your holiday host? The standard gift is a bottle of wine, and in my opinion always appropriate. However, during this festive season, a homemade gift alongside makes it even better! Instead of something sweet (like peppermint bark, meringue mushrooms, or lacy nut cookies), how about something savory, like "Walnut Blue-Cheese Coins!" 

These rich crackers are unbelievably easy to make (as long as you have a food processor), and can be refrigerated a few days ahead to be baked off when needed. I recommend using Roquefort (the king of cheeses and my personal favorite), Stilton (English classic), or Gorgonzola (for a mild, sweeter version). One note of caution: if you are planning to make these for your own holiday party, make sure to bake them the day before your guests arrive or they will be greeted to an overwhelming bouquet of funk! (Febreze anyone?) These savory crackers make a nice presentation when packaged in cellophane sleeves and seasonal ribbon. You can also attach them with ribbon directly to the wine bottle. It is a gift that you will be proud to bestow and your host will truly enjoy!


Walnut Blue-Cheese Coins

Makes about 30

Ingredients:

1 cup toasted walnuts (3 1/4 ounces)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces
1/4 pound blue cheese, crumbled (2 ounces)
Coarse salt for sprinkling (I use French grey sea salt.)

Directions:

In a food processor, finely grind 1/2 cup walnuts. Add the flour, table salt, pepper, and baking soda; pulse to combine. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add cheese; pulse until the dough comes together, about 15 seconds.

Transfer dough to lightly floured surface; divide into two equal parts. Using your hands, roll dough into two 1 1/2"-diameter logs. Coarsely chop remaining 1/2 cup walnuts; sprinkle over a clean work surface. Roll logs in walnuts. Wrap each log in plastic wrap, and chill until firm, at least 3 hours.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice logs into 1/4"-thick coins. Transfer to ungreased baking sheet; sprinkle lightly with coarse salt. Bake until centers are firm to touch, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container, at room temperature, 3-4 days.


Recipe from Christmas with Martha Stewart Living.