Passages: Linger - The Cranberries: 0:50
Russell Degnan

On music; greatness is short

Dolores O'Riordan's voice carried Linger from a somewhat over-produced ballad into something magical. The long leads - around two thirds of the total song - and the big chorus obscure my favourite part of the song: the beautiful lyricism of the verses. Almost every line is subtly different, with a quickening rhythm within each section that brings out the emotional toll of a one-sided, poorly communicated break-up.

The Cranberries had many fine, under-rated, songs but only a few recaptured the same style that made Linger great - When You're Gone was probably the best of them, and a better song overall, but even it doesn't quite capture the same heights as those two verses.

Finer Things 30th January, 2018 00:18:10   [#] [0 comments] 

Passages: Paper Bag - Fiona Apple: 1:15
Russell Degnan

On music; greatness is short

Paper Bag, the best song on Fiona Apple's ridiculously titled When the Pawn..., has a triptych structure. 75 seconds of syncopated jazz, concluding with the chorus. If that was the song, it would a be good song, about a paper bag.

Then it kicks off.


I went crazy again today
Looking for a strand to climb
Looking for
A little hope.

Unrequited love. Feel the deep sigh at 1:55...

Hunger hurts
But starving works.

Finer Things 19th March, 2015 22:38:00   [#] [0 comments] 

Christmas Chocolates
Russell Degnan

Perhaps the most belated of any chocolate recipe posts, but eh... This year I had help, as my old friend, A, who I recently reconnected with after eight years (old friends are the best!), came over and provided essential suport in the rolling, pitting, and enlivening of what turned out to be a three day process.

Inspired, or insane, we decided to make eight different selections. Two of the truffles are quite straight-forward:

Egg Nog Truffles

250g White chocolate
20g Glucose syrup
50g Cream
5g Butter (softened)
1 Egg Yolk
1/2 tsp Nutmeg (grated)
20ml Whiskey (pref. Cinnamon Whiskey)

1. Combine cream and glucose syrup and bring to boil, add the egg yolk and stir through to set slightly.
2. Pour over chocolate in heat proof bowl, let sit for a few minutes then stir from inside out to create ganache.
3. Split into two parts, adding dry ingredients, butter and liqueur to each and mix in without over-agitating.
4. Pour mixtures onto plastic wrap enclose and leave for several hours.
5. When cool, disgorge from wrap and agitate (briefly) until firm enough to roll.
6. Using hands, roll into small balls and leave overnight.
7. Dip in tempered white chocolate then grate some cinamon onto top.

We took some inspiration from this recipe but had a spare egg yolk which added to the creaminess, and used a standard truffle mixture which I have a better sense of. White on white can be really sweet, but this was good.

Pistachio, Cranberry and Brandy Truffles

As here, or steps 1-7 above, dipped in dark chocolate, with grated nutmeg on top.

Mixed Peel, Grand Marnier Truffles

Truffle mixture as here, or steps 1-7 above, dipped in dark chocolate.

8. A used a zester to knot some lovely orange peel onto the top.

Pistachio Cupcakes

Pistachio gianduja base

Create the pistachio gianduja as here, then pour into cupcake moulds and refridgerate.

White chocolate ganache and cherry

200g White chocolate
20g Cream

1. Melt white chocolate and add cream, being careful not to split ganache.
2. Put in a piping bag and pipe onto top of each cupcake base
3. Add half a glaced cherry to the top of each cupcake

A relatively basic recipe, albeit one that burnt out my food processor makign the paste (cheap model it is), and with multiple steps. The photos below show various parts of the process: the Mayan chocolate before adding the coconut milk; the mayan and pistachio truffles after rolling and dipping; the two jellies - cherry and lemon/ginger tea - prior to adding the white chocolate nougat. Note the real chunks of cherry through the jelly.

Lamington Chocolates

As here, but with more white chocolate in the nougat, and cherries instead of strawberries.

Chocolate Guiness Pieces

200g Dark chocolate
200ml Guiness

1. Prepare a large bowl with ice in the bottom
2. Put the guiness and chocolate into a pyrex bowl that will fit into the larger bowl.
3. Place smaller bowl over saucepan of boiling water and stir until chocolate melted and combined with guiness
4. Once combined, put into ice bowl and whisk vigorously for several minutes until a chocolate mousse forms.
5. Put into a piping bag and pipe small pieces onto a plate.
6. Place in fridge unti fully set
7. Dip each piece in tempered milk chocolate.

The mousse part of this is based on Hervé This recipe, and will work for any combination of water and a little alcohol, or beer. It probably helps to reduce the guiness slightly, to make a thicker mousse that will hold its shape, but this worked too. Piping allows some more interesting shapes. There is a knack with the wrist and the height of the nozzle that took some adjusting too, but it is a handy skill. Mousse made in this way is phenomenally good and fast. It is a much easier process than the whipping and waiting if you just want to eat mousse.

Mayan Chocolate Truffles

300g Very dark chocolate (85% or more)
zest Orange
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Chipotle chili powder
1 tsp Vanilla paste
1 pinch Sea salt
250ml Coconut milk
1 tbsp Coconut oil
- Cocoa Powder

1. Combine chocoalte, orange zest, cinnamon, chipotle chili powder, vanilla paste and salt in a bowl
2. Put coconut milk and coconut oil in a saucepan and bring to a simmer
3. Pour over chocolate in heat proof bowl, let sit for a few minutes then stir from inside out to create ganache.
4. Pour mixtures onto plastic wrap enclose and leave for several hours.
5. When cool, disgorge from wrap and agitate (briefly) until firm enough to roll.
6. Using hands, roll into small balls, toss through cocoa powder, then leave to firm.

We took this from an online recipe that looked promising. They went a little sour after a while (read: months), but were very good at first.

Those were the successful recipes. There was another, which I won't recommend, but will describe. Make 500ml of boiling water with three tea bags of lemon and ginger tea, then pour into a bowl of packet lemon jelly. This, by itself, is delicious. Really delicious. But it makes terrible chocolate. Whatever is in packet jelly doesn't affix to the chocolate, and melts easily, so it can't be dipped, only poured into chocolate moulds. Also, the jelly has a limited shelf life, so it has to be eaten within a couple of days from the fridge. It is possible to make extremely tasty lemon and ginger jelly chocolates, but not with packet jelly. Better to have the jelly by itself (it is great for a head-cold), or in a trifle.

A last note to thank A for the company, pictures, and presentation. That is all her.

Finer Things 12th March, 2015 00:14:05   [#] [0 comments] 

Notes from the Animation Festival 2014
Russell Degnan

A pilgrimage, Helen called my inevitable return to the Melbourne International Animation Festival, though without the implied penitential aspect. Festivals that correspond with World Cup years are always a little bit harder to stay awake in, and I'll note in passing that Malcolm again indicated that next year won't last 11 days. I made things slightly easier for myself by skipping the abstract animation, late night macabre and the quickdraw animation influences screening.

Of the 27 I did get to though, and is is now traditional, here were the films I thought stood out, for various reasons. As a rule I don't like to have a best of the festival nominee, as the film-makers have their own artistic and technical reasons for their decisions that should be respected. But, not for the first time, I wasn't a huge fan of the official best-of film. Technically brilliant, but a shallow plot, and if animaed shorts have a weakness, it is in that area. Thus, if from this list you only watch one film, make it To This Day; films with this level of emotional depth are rare.

The Entertainers

Love The Way You Move: Slightly Left Of Centre Aaron McDonald, Ben Ommundson Aust. - Neither the music nor the song are classics, but Soviet/Putin references and modern dance music is pretty funny.

IOA Gabriel Moehring Next 2 - A hyperventilating Beckett-esque speaking machine. Very short and sharp.

The Gift Julio Pott Sth.Amer. 2 - The course of a sub-optimal relationship simply and precisely drawn.

A Quoi Ca Sert L'Amour - Edith Piaf Louis Clichy Paris 1 - The course of a marginally better relationship, with a very French song and scenery.

Wildebeest Ant Blades Int. 5 - Wildebeests discussing risk and Bayesian priors. Badly.

The Technically Superb

Sonata Nadia Micault Int. 1 - Rotoscoped dancing. Long, perhaps to it detriment, but fabulous movement.

Patch Gerd Gockell Int. 3 - A collection of black and white tiles, painted subtlety differently then animated on a wall.

Passages Luis Paris Sth.Amer. 1 - A cyclist, on a loop through the coutnry side, brilliantly interplaying light and shadow.

Bear Story Pato Escala Sth.Amer. 2 - The life of a bear, in a box. The transitions of scenery are particularly cool

Ascension Thomas Bourdis, Martin de Coudenhove, Caroline Domergue, Colin Laubry, Florian Vecchione Int. 3 - Incredibly realistic looking mountain scenery (and amusing) story. The attention to detail on the textures and snow is phenomenal.

Four Margherita Premuroso, Luca Da Rios Kids - A spring awakening, with fabulous depth and detail in the trees and backgrounds.

Bendito Machine IV Jossie Malis Int. 2 - A long fruitless journey, depicted entirely in silhouettes.

The Well Plotted

To This Day Shane Koyczan Int. 1 - A poem, animated in short bursts, and seamlessly put together.

In The Air Is Christopher Gray Felix Massia Int. 1 - An odd little story of children, love, and death.

The Gallant Captain Katrina Mathers, Graeme Base, Patrick Sarell Aust./Kids - Very charming film of a boy in his boat, thinking of his father.

Padre Santiago Bou Grasso Sth.Amer. 1 - A slow, intriguing film about the carer of an old dictator, accused of genocide.

Betty's Blues Remi Vandenitte Int. 2 - Musical story of the life of Blind Boogie Jones in Lousiana, in to very different styles.

Strange Fruit Hili Noy, Shimi Asresay Int. 6 - A brutal Israeli allegory of teaching discrimination to children.

The End Of Pinky Claire Blanchet Int. 5 - Of criminals, and their loyalties to friends and their own survival.

The Bizarre But Brilliant

5 Metres 80 Nicolas Deveaux Paris 1 - Giraffes, high-diving, and so gracefully.

Dancing Graffiti Rodrigo Eba Sth.Amer. 2 - Using graffitied stencil art to dance on streets; so much more complicated than just drawing.

Land Masanobu Hiraoka Int. 2/Kids - A film for which kaleidoscope is an apt description. Fabulous movement and completely trippy.

365 The Brothers McLeod Int. 5 - Great idea: 1 second of animation every day for a year. Needs multiple viewings.

Ex Animo Wojciech Wojtkowski Int. 3 - Hand drawn character transitions at their best.

The Elephant's Garden Felix Colgrave Aust. - A garden of odd creatures. Very Pythonesque, in style and humour.

Finer Things 5th July, 2014 16:44:52   [#] [0 comments] 

Pistachio Gianduja Easter Eggs
Russell Degnan

Continuing the gianduja theme* I recently put together a pistachio slice, layered with a chocolate/caramelised pistachio top, and a pistachio paste/white chocolate gianduja. It went over very well - some people really like pistachios - but I thought I'd try something more complex for Easter.

Pistachio Gianduja Easter Eggs

Pistachio Paste

200g Pistachios (peeled, toasted)
50g Sugar

1. Put still warm ingredients in a food processor and grind until oil is released and paste is smooth.

Gianduja eggs

250g Nut paste
150g Sugar
200g White chocolate

1. Add sugar to paste and continue grinding until smooth
2. Melt chocolate and add to food processor, grinding only until mixed so as not to burn chocolate
3. Pour onto marble board and agitate until cooled/tempered
4. Pour onto plastic wrap and put aside to cool
5. When set, pinch off pieces, working together into small round balls, then press into oval shape and set aside.
6. Drive a toothpick into the base of each egg.

Caramelised pistachio bits

100g Pistachios
50g Sugar
5ml Lemon juice

1. Put ingredients in saucepan and heat, stirring, until sugar is partially caramelised.
2. Press flat marble board until cooled.
3. Crush with mortar and pestle into small pieces.


As needed Tempered dark chocolate

1. Working quickly, dip two thirds of each egg in the melted chocolate
2. ... then in the nut mix
3. .. then press toothpick into a cork mat, leaving each egg upright.

I had originally thought I could roll the eggs in a bowl, adding dark chocolate bit by bit until they were all coated. But I had no bowl big enough to get them to roll, nor did I trust that they would neither disintegrate nor coalesce into a single (tasty) pistachio chocolate ball. But nor did I wish to have flat bottomed sides as with a truffle. The upright toothpicks allow the chocolate to drip off the eggs, keeping a rounded shape. Though very little did, and the bigger aesthetic issue was the large-ish pieces of pistachio that made them uneven. I could have dipped the eggs completely in chocolate too, but I thought I'd keep that flash of green.

There are quite a few steps here, and some take some time, but if you are a fan of pistachios they are definitely worth it. The slice mentioned earlier is essentially the same recipe, but with the chocolate and bits used as a base, and the pistachio gianduja slabbed onto the top. It is much faster - no rolling, picking, or dipping - if you aren't looking to create egg shaped objects.

* I also made Grand Marnier flavoured truffles, rolled in cocoa, nuts and candy bits, simple, and not worth posting about.

Finer Things 22nd April, 2014 00:06:38   [#] [0 comments] 

Easter Chocolates: Hot Cross Gianduja
Russell Degnan

I wanted to largely avoid dipping chocolate this easter, though that won't be the case entirely. I've been recently experimenting with gianduja - the mix of nut paste, sugar and chocolate - and wanted to try and create something hot cross bun like. Many, many things went wrong. But the smell is divine, they look cute, and taste not so bad either.

Hot Cross Gianduja

Nut Paste

180g Hazelnuts (peeled, toasted)
40g Pecans (peeled, toasted)
40g Pistachio (peeled, toasted)
40g Almonds (peeled, toasted)
75g Sugar

1. Put still warm ingredients in a food processor and grind until oil is released and paste is smooth.


375g Nut Paste
225g Sugar
300g Milk Chocolate
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
100g currants
As needed White Chocolate

1. Add sugar and spices to paste and continue grinding until smooth
2. Melt chocolate and add to food processor, grinding only until mixed so as not to burn chocolate
3. Add currants to mixture.
4. Pour onto marble board and agitate until cooled/tempered
5. Line pan with baking paper and pour into slab.
6. When set, cut into inch squares.
7. Melt white chocolate and using a small nozzle create crosses across each piece of chocolate (or, as is easier, in rows).

Peeling hazelnuts... isn't ideal (almonds are slightly easier). I tried several methods. The method by Alice Medrich is clearly the best: boil for a few minutes in water with a few able-spoons of baking soda. The toasting needs to be a little longer than normal to compensate for the increased moisture, as the paste needs to be dry before the oils will be released. With regard to the nut mix, do as you see fit. I didn't want a purely hazelnut taste, but the key to the taste are the spices.

Processing the nuts always causes me enormous trouble - in this case a cut finger and a burnt out mixer motor. This is probably the fault of my food processor that habitually leaves a hollow cavern of half grinded paste, spinning pointlessly. The use of both a whisk (?) attachment and the cutting blade - and eventually just the former - managed to keep the mixture circulating better, but it took a long time (> 90 minutes) to break down.

The rest of the process is straight-forward, even simple. Gianduja doesn't need to be enrobed (although a base layer might be preferable) so the pieces can keep the colour and texture. It would be nice to create a more rounded top - perhaps by pressing the mixture while partially set, but who has that kind of time?

Finer Things 20th April, 2014 23:28:18   [#] [0 comments] 

Christmas Chocolates
Russell Degnan

Bereft of present ideas for certain family members I went on a minor chocolate spree just before Christmas, generously gifted a string of 20 degree days by the Melbourne weather, Those curious about temperature and chocolate should watch the video below, where it is magnificently explained from the 50th minute (the entire series of lectures is brilliant, if you have a spare 80 hours or so).

Five flavours were chosen. Because they are basically the same I'll run through them quickly.

Pistachio, Cranberry and Brandy Truffles
Pecan, Ginger and Rum Truffles

450g Dark chocolate
60g Glucose syrup
180g Cream
20g Butter (softened)

Sufficient dry Ingredients and 30ml liqueur

1. Combine cream and glucose syrup and bring to boil.
2. Pour over chocolate in heat proof bowl, let sit for a few minutes then stir from inside out to create ganache.
3. Split into two parts, adding dry ingredients, butter and liqueur to each and mix in without over-agitating.
4. Pour mixtures onto plastic wrap enclose and leave for several hours.
5. When cool, disgorge from wrap and agitate (briefly) until firm enough to roll.
6. Using hands, roll into small balls and leave overnight.
7. Dip in dark chocolate (for the pistachio and cranberry truffles, grate some nutmeg onto top.

Simple, fast. Truffles aren't complicated nor terribly time consuming, and it is nice to be able to do several flavours more or less simultaneously.

White Chocolate Coffee Truffles

250g White chocolate
20g Glucose syrup
15g Cocoa Butter
50g Cream
5g Butter (softened)
10ml Black coffee, reduced to syrup.
20ml Kahlua

Follow recipe as above, cocoa butter combined with white chocolate, dipping in milk chocolate.

The hard part of this recipe is that white chocolate is hard to work with, melts at different temperatures, ends up thicker, and the ganache needs a lot more agitation before it can be rolled. The thicker the coffee is the better because it needs to overcome the otherwise sickly sweetness of the white chocolate. Feedback was positive though.

Tomato Chocolates

As here, without the mulberry molasses.

The lack of molasses changed the flavour but not to its detriment. It still doesn't have a strong tomato flavour, for good or ill (probably good), with most people likening it to a very odd turkish delight.

Banana and Mango Fondant Chocolates

For the fondant
500g Sugar
100g Glucose syrup
100g Water

1. Combine the ingredients in saucepan and bring to boil, stirring. Continue cooking to 117 degrees.
2. Pour onto marble slab (lightly splashed with cold water), sprinkle more water on the top, then leave to cool to 50 degrees.
3. Agitate until it turns into a short-textured mass. Wrap in plastic wrap and leave.

For the jam

1/2 Banana (large)
1/2 Mango
250g Sugar
50ml Water
20ml Kirsch
10ml Lemon juice
Pinch Cinnamon

1. Put banana, mango, water and sugar in saucepan and cook to 106 degrees, stirring occasionally. Lower heat and reduce water as much as possible.
2. Add Kirsch, lemon juice and cinnamon and put aside.

For the chocolates

1. Melt fondant in heat-proof bowl over water bath to 70 degrees.
2. Mix in jam thoroughly, and set in moulds.
3. Set in fridge - several hours.
4. Dislodge fondant centres, cut to size and dip in dark chocolate.

Far and away the most complex, not least because I was: a) making it up somewhat, though the basics for the fondant and jam were taken from Chocolate and Confections and Mes Confitures; and b) because I'd not made a fondant before, and the sugar kept creeping down the uneven slope of my benchtop and off my under-sized marble board. The fruit puree is added later, because the acid can prevent crystalisation, but I had no issue getting thick centres, and might have easily used the fondant immediately rather than leaving overnight to ripen. The taste was good, without being anything special. But several hours of dipping - nay tempering for dipping - and having a house smell like the 4kg of chocolate I went through for a week might have jaded me to the taste somewhat.

The main trouble for me remains the process of dipping, which takes forever and requires constant concerns over tempering and thickness. If I could fashion a faster and more consistent method of dipping in large quantities it would halve the time to make them. Something to ponder in the new year.

Finer Things 1st January, 2014 22:42:29   [#] [0 comments] 

Coffee Chocolate Nut Slice
Russell Degnan

The good thing about slices is that provided you have time to wait for each layer to set, they are generally very quick, and very forgiving. This particular recipe was made up in order to try a particular technique - namely, boiling cream with coffee in order to make a coffee ganache. Everything else is just there to work around the coffee taste which is great, but pretty strong.

Nut and Berry Biscuit Layer

100g Almonds, chopped
100g Walnuts, chopped
100g Blueberries, chopped
150g Basic biscuits, crushed
200g Condensed milk
80g Butter, melted
1tsp Cinnamon, ground

1. Combine ingredients, adjust liquid amounts to create something that holds together but no more.
2. Line pan with baking paper, press into pan. Bake for 10min to lightly brown.

Easy. Using biscuits (Marie in this case) is the cheats way of making a slice, but it is fast, and it didn't matter really. Those quantities are completely made-up; they'll work; they are just made-up if you want it to look like the picture. When you aren't baking it doesn't really matter, as long as it holds together, and as long as the nuts aren't too big, and you have enough liquid, it will. While this is baking...

Coffee Chocolate Ganache Layer

400g Chocolate, dark
100ml Cream
200g Condensed Milk
1 Coffee bag (about a teaspoon)
40ml Kahlua
20g butter, softened

1. Put Coffee Bag into Cream and bring to boil, remove from heat and let steep for a few minutes.
2. Remove bag and squeeze liquid from bag gently over chocolate. (If you don't have a bag, you need to strain the cream with a muslin cloth, replacing lost mass).
3. Add condensed milk to cream and bring to boil again, boil for a few minutes, stirring constantly.
4. Pour over chocolate, and emulsify by stirring centre then outwards.
5. Add Kahlua and melted butter, stir edges until no liquid remains on edge of bowl.
6. Pour over biscuit layer. And leave at least 1 hour to set.

Not quite as easy. This is more fudgy than a typical ganache, but the condensed milk will thicken and caramelise a little, which is why it goes in after the coffee is removed. Coffee bags are a new thing, but they make this task a lot easier because you don't need to strain it; the light squeezing will capture a lot of flavour because the aim is to make this layer quite strong - almost inedibly strong, as it is offset by the sweetness and chewiness of the other parts.

Vanilla White Chocolate Layer

150g Chocolate, white, melted
20ml Cream
5ml Vanilla paste (or equivalent essence)

1. Melt the white chocolate to 40degrees and stir in the cream and vanilla.
2. Quickly, with as few light strokes as possible, smooth over surface of the ganache layer.
3. Leave to set (1 hour).

I hate white chocolate. Too thick. Too easy to over-cook. Too quick to set when worked. If you look carefully you can see speckles of unmelted white chocolate because this was a disaster. But no matter; that's the beauty of a slice. In short, the cream makes it easier to cut, because it is no longer pure chocolate but a really hard ganache, and therefore won't crack easily.

Surprisingly, this worked amazingly well. Each layer is, by itself, extremely strong. The biscuit layer is almost pure nuts and berries; the coffee ganache layer is bitter and harsh; and the vanilla white chocolate is ludicrously sweet. But in combination they really came together. It could probably use slightly less biscuit, and slightly more dark chocolate (or just be thinner), but I'm quite happy with it.

Not that you can really go wrong with a slice.

Finer Things 2nd December, 2013 22:40:56   [#] [0 comments] 

Earthy Lasagne
Russell Degnan

Procrastination and a lack of other options saw a little baking tear on the weekend. An attempt at nougat, which may have been acceptable - is it possible to make sugar and honey inedible? - but is probably over-handled and flat; and a lasagne which came out much better than expected, given it was mostly made up of ingredients I needed to use.

I like traditional bolognese and bechamel lasagne, but it can come out very starchy. In the wonderful Snowflakes and Schnapps there is a lasagne recipe with veal and spinach that uses no tomatoes. This is a variation, heavy on mushrooms and earthy flavours. Quantities are pure guesses, but that's par for the course around here.

Meaty Part

1 Large brown onion, chopped
100g Mince - beef, but optionally veal
2 tsps Vegetable stock powder
200g Brown mushrooms, sliced
200g Baby spinach, washed
1 handful fresh sage
White wine

1. In a little oil, fry the brown onion until starting to caramelise
2. Add the mince and vegetable stock, fry until brown, then the mushrooms with a little butter, frying until soft.
3. Add the spinach, sage and enough white wine to de-glaze pan. Cook until spinach wilted and no liquid remains in pan.

Cheesy Part

40g butter
20g flour
200g Button mushrooms, sliced
200ml cream or sour cream (or both)
100g Blue cheese, in chunks
White wine
tsp Ground nutmeg
pinch Ground cayenne

1. Add 20g butter and mushrooms to saucepan, fry, stirring constantly until soft. Add white wine to deglaze pan, allow to evaporate then put aside
2. Add remaining butter and flour, whisking until light brown, then while stirring, pour in cream slowly.
3. Add cooked mushrooms, blue cheese and spices, then cook until thickened, stirring often.

Lasagne Part

100g Gruyere cheese, sliced
Dried lasagne sheets, one box.
Truffle Oil

1. Prepare a lasagne dish with a few small knobs of butter, then the first layer of lasagne, breaking as required to fit
2. Alternate meaty part with a little truffle oil drizzled on, and cheesy parts with layers of lasagne in between, trying to get all the mushrooms from the cheesy part into the middle, and leaving just enough cheese sauce to coat the top sheet.
3. Coat top sheet with remaining cheese and Gruyere cheese, bake for 30min.

If I was completely honest, it is a little oily, even by my very unconcerned standards, you do have to wonder about a thick pool of butter at the bottom of the dish. But the combination of multiple mushrooms and cheeses is such a rich meld of different earthy flavours is well worth it, and in any case, if it stays in the dish or on the plate, you've not eaten it. Variations to reduce the fat content are naturally available. Or you could run it off. I recommend the latter.

Finer Things 10th November, 2013 23:17:21   [#] [0 comments] 

Tomato Chocolates
Russell Degnan

One of my favourite little cooking references is the Flavour Thesaurus which makes the point that tomatoes and strawberries are very similar (albeit with the former having little to no sugar), and even interchangeable. That led to a discussion, and then a challenge to make tomato flavoured chocolates, and hence the recipe below. The inverse - a strawberry pasta sauce will be tried shortly.

The basic method and theme is the same as in this recipe. create a jelly, set it, coat it. You can do a lot more with the coating than I do, but I was somewhat rushed.

Tomato jelly

400g Tin of diced tomatoes
150g Glucose syrup
500g Sugar

100g Water (washed through tomato tin)
20g Powdered gelatin

2 tsp Vanilla paste
2 tsp Mulberry molasses
1/2 tsp Cinnamon (ground)
1/2 tsp Nutmeg (ground)

50ml Galliano

1. Prepare a slice-tin (approximately 25cm x 20cm) by lining with baking paper.
2. Hydrate the gelatin with the water, and melt in a water bath.
3. Combine the tomatoes, glucose syrup, sugar, vanilla paste, mulberry molasses, connamon and nutmeg in a saucepan and cook to 120degC, stirring constantly.
4. Pour mixture into another bowl, allowing mixture to cool slightly then add gelatin mixture and Galliano.
5. Pour into slice-tin and refridgerate until set.

A standard jam recipe, and subject to change. I wanted to take the edge off the tomatoes because they have no sugar. This might have been overkill though, particularly the molasses, which had the side-effect of almost caramelising the jelly. Nevertheless, you can still taste the tomato if you know what you are looking for, and it turned out very tasty, but still slightly unusual, so the recipe is presented as done. Or at least, as I think it was done. I have no idea exactly how much spices and alcohol was poured in, but this is roughly right.

Slabbing and coating

As needed Dark Chocolate

1. Melt and temper a large amount of dark chocolate.
2. Coat the jelly side of the slab with chocolate. Let set.
3. Turn slab onto board, jelly side up, and cut into 1x2cm rectangles
4. Dip each piece in chocolate and allow to set

As before, easy but tedious, notwithstanding keeping the temperature at the right level on which I am still working out the best method for repeated flash heating and remelting.

Were I to do this recipe again I'd probably leave out the molasses, and maybe cut back on the vanilla. In general, when noone can guess the flavour, you've gone too far, and that is the case here. Just about every non-citric fruit in the spectrum was suggested before we got to tomato; so I'd like to retry with a slightly harder edge. It is possible the sugar is more than sufficient to make up for the lack of natural sugar, and the extra flavour isn't needed at all. On the other hand, the jelly is really nice, and offsets the dark chocolate perfectly, so it may not be an improvement if the next batch tastes more like a super-sweet chutney.

Finer Things 30th August, 2013 01:48:49   [#] [0 comments] 

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