Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"So My Chocolate Should Have a Temper???" And Other Baking Discoveries

I'm getting ready to leave for Cambodia in two weeks and promised some friends I would make them some more red velvet cake truffles before I left.
But wait, these cake truffles, well...they look just like your cake balls?
Ah, you are quite right! Needless to say, I was bringing said cake truffles to my production team at church. And although it may seem silly, I felt that cake 'truffles' were much more PC than cake 'balls'. Am I right?

While my last recipe went over quite well, I didn't think the chocolate bark from Kroger was befitting of the title truffle, so I decided to use a higher quality chocolate. For this task, no 'chocolate flavored candy' would do.

Actually I just happened to have some bars of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate on hand, so I figured it couldn't be that complicated. And I was first. I used a double boiler and melted the chocolate bars (it took me a total of 8 bars). I pulled my red velvet cake balls out of the freezer, dipped each in the chocolate and then laid them gently onto a fresh sheet of parchment. Easy-peasy. The Ghirardelli chocolate made a marked improvement in the flavor and they looked pretty good too. I took them into church and to work the following Monday. They received rave reviews and a few people even expressed interest in buying some over the holidays and for a wedding.

The following morning however, I woke up and my beautiful cake balls, err, truffles looked like this (pictured below). I didn't refrigerate them and they were stored in a sealed container. What could I have done wrong?

These truffles had a bad temper!
As it turns out, chocolate should be tempered when used for coating or dipping. Yes, I had no idea what that meant until I Googled it. Those heinous looking spots are called fat blooms, and despite their appearance the chocolate is still fine to eat. Fat blooms are an accumulation of cocoa butter crystals on the chocolate's surface. One of the common causes is due to poor (or complete disregard of) tempering of the chocolate. If chocolate is properly tempered it will appear much more glossy and will form a crisp shell.

So there you have it. I guess some things are good with a little temper. Lesson learned for the Velveteen Baker. To avoid my little snafu, you can watch this video from Ghirardelli about how to properly temper chocolate.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Cupcakery Worthy of its Namesake?

When I first heard about Red Velvet Cupcakery in DC's Chinatown from my friends Marcy and Tia, it was like a beacon. For nights I dreamed about trying a red velvet cupcake worthy of naming a bakery after. Fortunately it would only be a number of days until I had to travel to Virginia for work, and I would be able to make my dreams a reality.

I was able to lure four of my colleagues to the cupcakery for a pre-dinner cupcake run. There were Peanut Butter Cup cupcakes...Cookies & Cream cupcakes....and alas, the Southern Belle. A signature red velvet that can "stand up to Grandma's" or so the menu says. At first glance I have to admit that I was a little disappointed. All of their red velvet cupcakes were a deep shade of mahogany and had a serious case of muffin top. But looks can always be deceiving, right?

Despite my initial hesitation, I went all out. I ordered the red velvet, a peanut butter cup and a soy milk to wash it all down. The frosting was a standard cream cheese with just the right amount of sweetness. The cake however, was a sure disappointment. My colleagues and I all agreed that the red velvet cake tasted dry and over-baked. The net of it: I wouldn't name my bakery after it.

I'm hoping this was just a fluke and maybe their Quality Control Manager was out sick that day. Have any of you been to Red Velvet Cupcakery in DC? How was your experience? Any other DC area bakeries you would recommend?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Same Same, But Different

I'm looking to my readers to see what I should bake next. There are so many red velvet variations on my list that I simply cannot choose. So far the contenders are:
  • Red wine velvet cake - A classic red velvet with a red wine reduction in the batter.
  • Red velvet cake donuts, frosted of course.
  • Gluten-free red velvet cupcakes - for all of you cupcake (but not gluten) lovers out there.
  • Red velvet cake with beets - A red velvet cake colored with beets instead of food dye.
  • Red velvet whoopie pies - Cream cheese frosting sandwiched between two cookie-sized rounds of red velvet cake.
You can vote in my comments section, on my Facebook page, or by using the poll to the right hand side of this post. I'll feature the winning recipe and photos in an upcoming post. Thanks for participating!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Much Ado About Cake Balls

Several weeks back I did a post on the JWT Atlanta blog called The Next Big Thing Could Actually be, Quite Small and asserted my prediction that cake balls were going to be all the rage. Well today I am here to tell you that they are.

Red Velvet Cake Balls w/ Milk ChocolateI was at first a skeptic, but after making some red velvet cake balls from scratch I was truly convinced. There is something so heavenly about homemade red velvet cake and cream cheese icing mixed together, blanked by a nice, rich coating of chocolate.

I'm not going to lie, these little beauties are pretty labor intensive if you make them from scratch. As a matter of fact, you may start to hate me half way through this process and wonder why you ever decided to make these. But this is when you must press on. I assure you that all of your frustration will be worth its weight in gold once you bite into one of these.

Should you choose to make these, here are a few pointers I'd like to offer:
- Find a Kroger and buy a package of their white or dark chocolate bark. You can also use candy melts, but I found them much more difficult to work with.
- Invest in a candy dipping fork or set like this one. Spend a few more dollars on the metal dipping fork, as I rendered my plastic set useless trying to make these.
- You can use any red velvet cake and frosting recipe, but the following is one of my own. If you use another recipe you will need a 9x13 cake, about 2 cups of frosting and 1 or 2 packages of chocolate bark (depending on how much of a perfectionist you are).