At first glance it might seem that I am just a happy, normal girl who loves to bake and walk her dog. However, I have suffered with an eating disorder since I was 13. It was only in May 2014 when I realised that this Voice in my head was slowly but surely trying to kill me. And so began the long, hard, and painful journey which is recovery...

I want My Cocoa Stained Apron to be a special place...a place for reflection, memories, shared stories...and of course a little bit of cocoa-staining ;) Recovery might be the hardest thing you ever choose to do in this life. But it is also the bravest and best decision you will ever make.:)

Monday, 18 August 2014

Ganache. Maltesers. Ravioli. A successful baking day.

Well, what I think I should perhaps enlighten you about next of all is the origins of the name Ganache-Elf. And for those of you who are in the dark as regards ganache itself, I believe it is time for your ignorance to be swiftly brought to an end. You won’t regret it, trust me. Maybe I will “inspire” you to go ahead and make it for yourself. Once you’ve tasted it and realised how wonderfully simple it is to make - all it requires is a little patience, a teency bit of effort, and a certain degree of willpower in order to prevent you, the ganache creator, from eating it all straight from the pan before it actually does make its way onto your finished cake or dessert or whatever - I am adamant that ganache will become a staple in your kitchen, whichever way you choose to make it, and whatever you decide to use it for - whether that be swirling on top of cupcakes, icing a cake, drizzling over ice cream to create that perfect dessert - or, perhaps, you plan to just consume it in the way I mentioned above - straight from the pan, spoon by delightful spoon. And so, I hear you say, what is in this wonderful thing you keep on droning on about? The answer: two things - chocolate and cream. And that’s all. It’s most certainly one of those matches that were really made in heaven.
I can’t remember precisely the first time I made ganache, but at a guess I would say it was early enough in my baking journey. What I do know is, I loved it straight away, and have been making it on an almost weekly basis ever since. I use it for everything: desserts, as a sauce, for topping cupcakes, muffins, biscuit cake, etc, etc. When I moved in with my roommate, ganache was constantly being made and consumed by the pair of us. Ganache-smothered buns and cupcakes; ice cream cake with ganache drizzled (well..maybe drizzled isn’t quite the right word. Perhaps splashed, or coated, would be more suitable? ) over each piece in generous spoonfuls; chocolate cakes with the stuff spread over the entire sponge layer in seductive, gorgeous waves, and then piped in little swirls on top to give a beauitiful, enticing finish to the completed creation. So intense was the level of ganache production on my part that my roommate nicknamed me Ganache-Elf (yep, you’ve guessed it, I am pretty titchy heightwise). It was a name that only us two understood and used, of course, but I loved it anyway. I did think myself like a little elf in a way I suppose: small, and always busying away, in her favourite place of labour: the kitchen. And of course, ganache-making: there was something distinctively me in that; and ganache was one of my signature creations.
Anyway, more on ganache later. As I say, it really, I believe, deserves a whole post to itself. I was just about to type that I am going to tell you my “secret” and reveal all about how to make ganache in your own home for you to use in your own baking. (Or perhaps, not for your own baking. For your own consumption, does that sound more appropriate?) But I can’t say that. It’s not as if people don’t know what it is, and I would say bakers and non-bakers are fully familiar with it already. If you are one of those I sincerely apologise if you find my waffling on about it somewhat tiresome. But please be patient, ganache-enlightened reader, because I know for a fact that there are some unfortunate individuals who aren’t as lucky as you are!!
This is something which always makes me smile about ganache-making. As a baker, of course, I’m constantly bringing people cakes and such like as gifts or whatever, and, surprise surprise, there’s a good chance that whatever I choose to bring them will have ganache on it. And then there’s an equally good chance that the next day I get a lovely text or message saying: “Thanks so much for the cakes, dear! The chocolate icing stuff is AMAZING! How do you make it? You’re a genius!” Or something similar. But the truth is…I am NOT a genius. Ganache is not difficult to make, as I have already made clear to you. Get it right and everyone will be singing your praises as they do mine. But just because it’s not hard, it’s no small achievement, though, don’t get me wrong. You may not be a genius, but you are a gancache-maker. And that is an AWESOME thing to be and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.
Now, more updates on my baking over the past few days. I’ve been in an adventurous spirit this week I think as I have tried a few things which I have never done before by myself and at one time believed were far, far beyond my skill or ability. Recall how I told you about my mushroom ravioli plan. Did I go for it, in the end? And was it a success?
WELL (drum roll)…I did!! And well, I wouldn’t say it was perfect, but…it was edible! It resembled mushroom ravioli!! It tasted good!! What more could I ask for from my first ever attempt at making homemade pasta without a pasta machine??
Ok, let me tell you a bit more about it. Mushroom ravioli is one of my Mam’s alltime favourite dishes. As a family, we spent some wonderful family holidays in Mallorca, that beautiful idyllic gem of an island off the coast of Spain. One of our favourite destinations in the evenings would be a small Italian restaurant in the square of old town Pollenca. Mam would always order their mushroom ravioli, ignoring any exclamations that she should try something different for a change. I would smile and think to myself how lovely it would be if I could recreate Mam’s alltime favourite at home. Of course buying ravioli with mushroomy stuff in it and just making my own sauce would not be at all sufficient, oh no. If I was going to make mushroom ravioli, I was, genuinly, going to make it, no strings attached, from scratch - pasta, filling, and sauce all inclusive. The thought of taking on such a difficult cooking challenge was both exciting and daunting. Making pasta by hand - it was a completely new and unfamiliar territory and even as I finally decided to grab the bull by the horns and give it my best shot I was almost certain that my first attempt was going to be a failure. Before I set about making the pasta dough I had already prepared my emergency back-up dinner in the likely (so I thought) event that the ravioli would be completely inedible or disgusting. A ragu that I had made a few weeks ago and had frozen had been defrosted earlier that morning, then mixed with b├ęchamel and penne pasta to make a tasty al fauno; my plan being that I would cook that in the oven while I filled the ravioli and cooked them on the hob. Soon enough about a dozen ravioli shapes, stuffed with a mushroom, spinach and cheesey filling, were sitting prettily on a floured baking tray, waiting to be cooked in the large pan of salted water bubbling merrily away on the stove. My heart booming wildly as if my whole life depended on the success of my dainty little creations, I carefully lowered each one into the boiling water and immediately started to time them. I could not, for one second, tear my eyes away from the pan. Any minute I expected one of them to crack and for a gooey sticky mess to erupt forth from benath its pasta covering; or for them all to just sit dejectedly at the base of the pan for eternity, stubbornly refusing to float to the top as my recipe dictated they would once cooked.
But, miraculously, neither of these atrocities occured. My little shapes all drifted obediently upwards after about four minutes, and I, dazed with shock, my face as red as a beetroot after having stood too close to the stove for all that time with the steam from the pans blasting into my face, briskly drained them in a colander, distributed them amongst the warmed plates, poured over the complementary creamy sauc and tottered into the dining room, calling out ”err, dinner, dinner’s ready” in a voice squeaky with astonishment, delight and triumph. I had made pasta! I had made pasta! I had made pasta! Yes, the pasta layers were a little bit on the thick side, for sure, and were not cooked quite as I would have wished - there was still a slight chewiness to each ravioli; bordering so close to the perfection of al dante, but just missing ithis ideal target by inches - but I had done it.
And yes, in the pic below are my homemade Maltesers. Yet another sweet creation made by my roommate which I had always desired to make for myself – the last few times she had made these for us, I hadn’t actually assisted in any way, except for doing her the favour of cleaning the bowls of unused malt dough and milk chocolate when she had finished with them, and of course never once declining her offers of one once they were made. I could NEVER resist these. I adore Maltesers anyway, but my roomate’s ones were extra special. Slightly more substantial, with a thick layer of melted milk chocolate enclosing each one of these chewy, malty ball of deliciousness, anyone would think that making them would be incredibly and depressingly difficult. But rest assured. The only step that may cause some difficulty is the melting of the white chocolate for the centres. White chocolate, wonderful as it may be, is a bit of a pain when it comes to being melted, and if you’re not careful you end up with a nasty gritty mixture as the stuff that’s in the chocolate separates from the fat solids or something. I’m not going into the sciencey stuff don’t worry, but that’s what happens if you overheat it, so be warned. After all, what could be more infurtiating than wasting any amount, big or small, of one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind: CHOCOLATE? Anyway, on to how I made them. It’s this simple: melt the white chocolate, mix with Horlicks malt powder to get a fairly stiff dough from which small balls can be easily rolled (you might need to add a little water here if it’s too stiff or not rolling), roll into the said balls (any size you like. My roommate would make rather large ones which I always delighted in biting in half when I ate one, or removing the chocolate layer with my teeth and letting that melt in my mouth before tackling the malty bit. Or if you prefer you can just make small ones the size of real Maltersers as I did. Or make a variety, or whatever: I’m not going to dictate to you what to do with YOUR amazing Maltesers.) Place in the fridge for a while, then melt the milk chocolate. (Or even, if you prefer, melted whitite chocolate, or dark chocolate, would be pretty awesome too. Or why not do a mix?)  Coat balls. Place back in fridge. Done. Well, now you have to wait, sorry. Well, true, you can still eat some with the chocolate still gooey, that said. Think I might do that myself the next time.
For my thirty-four gorgeous little spheres of delightfulness I used a hundred grams of both white chocolate and malt powder, and a hundred and fifty grams of milk chocolate. Well…there was way too much of the latter for the number of balls I had. But that didn’t go to waste, of course. After all your hard work licking out all that unused chocolate doesn’t seem too unfair now, does it? Just make sure you leave room for the Maltesers themselves.
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