Tag Archives: chocolate ganache

BANANA SPLITS

We have been spending a lot of time lately with our Los Angeles grandchildren. In particular, Susan has been assisting in school-related transportation. All of that is different from when I was growing up. First, few if any kids walk to school, and at least in Southern California there are no orange school buses. Parents line up for blocks in their cars before the schools open in the morning, waiting to drop off their child in a congested delivery area and then creating a neighborhood traffic jam on their way out. The process is repeated – some of it in reverse – at the end of the school day. Second, hours are completely different school to school so that the bell may ring at 7:30 in the high school but not until 8:30 in the middle school.  This makes it easier for parents with kids in more than one school, but it also keeps one on the road for hours. Then, I guess just to keep you on your toes, Tuesday hours are likely to be different from Monday hours – but not every week. We now have a detailed schedule plastered on the kitchen wall, just the same as the one at my daughter’s house. With a schedule like that, you are bound to need a little refreshment in the afternoon, and my wife and grandson are kindred spirits.

They often make a stop at the local outlet of Handel’s Ice Cream. By now they have the routine completely worked out: walk up to the window, study the menu of at least 30 or 40 flavors of ice cream, place your order, and when it is dished up, sit at a garden table in front and eat up. There are more elaborate treats, including milk shakes and sundaes. The most treasured item is the banana split, and when there is need for a special celebration (or maybe not so special) it calls for a banana split.

Handel’s version of the banana split is fairly traditional except that it comes in a plastic disposable dish. One day I was reminiscing about my childhood and ice cream parlors with Naugahyde-covered stools and glass bowls designed especially to hold a banana split. My grandson found that an interesting story (an unusual reaction of one of my grandchildren to one of my stories) and wanted to find one of those glass dishes.

Thus, began my quest. None of the local stores had the bowls in stock, and the owner of the kitchen store allowed as how they probably weren’t made anymore. All I had to do was look on Amazon to find a carton of six bowls made by Libbey Glass priced at about $4 apiece. I ordered them, and they arrived moderately safely with only one broken. They looked like the ones that I remember from my childhood, long with curved-up ends and just big enough to hold a split banana and three scoops of ice cream.  Finding ice cream was easy, and I settled on the classics: vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry.

Sauces took more effort. I am still getting used to the local grocery store, and I couldn’t find sauces, so I decided to make my own. The pineapple was easy, although not as satisfying as the real thing. For the chocolate sauce, I made a cream-predominant ganache, and for the butterscotch, I used an internet recipe from The Perfect Cake (Susan G. Purdy) by way of the Washington Post and the famous blog, Smitten Kitchen.

Since it was my week for dessert at the Sunday family dinner, I made banana splits. They turned out to be a big, big hit with my grandson. Not surprisingly, they turned out to be a big hit with everyone else.

RECIPES

Chocolate Ganache Sauce

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces (by weight) heavy cream
  • 4 ounces (by weight) chocolate chips, chopped (best quality you can find)

Method

  1. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan and immediately remove from the heat.
  2. Sprinkle the chopped chocolate chips into the warm milk, shaking the pan gently to make sure the chocolate is in contact with the cream.
  3. Let stand, undisturbed, for 5 minutes to allow the chocolate to melt.
  4. Stir until the mixture is smooth and completely combined. Transfer to a container and cool.
  5. Since the sauce contains cream, you should refrigerate if you do not use it immediately. That will make the sauce too thick to pour. You can rewarm it very gently with a 5 to 10 second pulse in the microwave.

Butterscotch Sauce

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar (packed)
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Method

  1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat
  2. Add the sugar, cream, and salt, whisking to combine completely.
  3. Bring to a low boil for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and cool. Refrigerate if not using immediately.
Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes

BUTTERMILK PANNA COTTA AND CHOCOLATE GANACHE

I’ve been watching more of my DVDs from The Great Courses and the Culinary Institute of America. I have particularly enjoyed “The Everyday Gourmet: Baking Pastries and Desserts.” The presenter is Chef Stephen L. Durfee who is an instructor at the Greystone campus of the CIA. He certainly has earned his chops – he is a James Beard Foundation winner and has been the pastry chef at The French Laundry, among many other accomplishments and awards. His lessons have been very instructive, and his style has been friendly and conversational.

The lessons have come in handy. Susan has had a minor procedure needing a soft diet for a few days. That seemed like a perfect time for me to try out Chef Durfee’s recipe for panna cotta. What could be easier than panna cotta?  On top of that it’s very tasty. Another nice thing about the recipe is that it invites variations. Buttermilk gives an interesting flavor, but the usual fruit toppings were out. What could be easier than chocolate ganache?

RECIPES

Buttermilk Panna Cotta

Ingredients

  • 2¼ cups buttermilk
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

  1. Place 1 cup of the buttermilk in a wide-rimmed bowl, reserving the rest
  2. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface of the buttermilk and let rest for 5 minutes to bloom the gelatin.  The surface should wrinkle up as the gelatin blooms. You can ensure an even process by exposing more of the buttermilk by breaking the surface with a whisk.
  3. In a medium sauce pan, dissolve the sugar in the cream and bring to the boil.
  4. Pour the boiling cream into the bloomed gelatin mixture and stir to completely dissolve the gelatin.
  5. Add the vanilla extract and reserved buttermilk to cool the mixture.
  6. Strain the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve. This step is very important to remove any clumps of undissolved gelatin and buttermilk..
  7. Pour the strained, cooled mixture into 6 serving dishes or ramekins. The mixture should be cooled before pouring it into the dishes or ramekins. Otherwise it might separate into layers.
  8. Refrigerate several hours or over night until the panna cotta is set.

Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 5 ounces heavy cream
  • 1 ounce corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur (optional)

Method

  1. Chop the chocolate into small pieces about the size of an M&M candy to make sure it will melt with the added hot cream before the cream cools off. . Transfer to a medium bowl.
  2. Combine the cream and corn syrup, stirring to make sure the syrup is completely  dissolved. Bring to a rolling boil in a small saucepan..
  3. Pour the hot cream and corn syrup mixture into the chopped chocolate. Let sit undisturbed for a moment or two to let the chocolate begin to melt.
  4. With a spatula, stir the chocolate from the center outward until the cream has been completely and evenly incorporated.
  5. If desired, add the orange liqueur and stir until completely incorporated.
  6. Cool for 10 minutes or so until just warm to the touch.
  7. Ladle one or two tablespoons onto each of the tops of the chilled panna cottas. Return to the refrigerator and chill for 1 hour. This will form a  firm chocolate layer. If you want something softer, use more cream when you make the ganache.
  8. Serve.

4 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes

PANNA COTTA

Even though Sarah is trained as a savory cook, by default she has also been doing baked goods and desserts at Rich Table. She doesn’t think of herself as a pastry chef, but her success proves otherwise. Desserts have been among some of the most popular items at Rich Table since it opened over a year ago. There is always pressure to keep some of the old favorites on the menu, but there is also pressure to introduce new items on a fairly constant basis.

Two recent additions are:

Blue corn cake with honey-griddled plums, and vanilla ice cream. This dessert is a riff on Sarah’s favorite cornbread recipe, but made with blue corn meal. I suspect that comes from her interest in New Mexico traditions. She also has a good source for blue cornmeal from  Tierra Vegetables in the farmers market at the San Francisco Ferry Building.

Blue corn cake with honey-grilled plums and vanilla ice cream

Blue corn cake with honey-grilled plums and vanilla ice cream

Bittersweet chocolate ganache with almond butter crunch and passion fruit meringue.

Bittersweet chocolate ganache with almond butter crunch and passion fruit meringue

Bittersweet chocolate ganache with almond butter crunch and passion fruit meringue

Panna cotta is one of the old favorites, but Sarah has come up with lots of variations that have kept it popular and fresh. Some of those variations include buttermilk, coconut, and more recently cream cheese.  Panna cotta is a cousin of flan, crema catalana, and crème brûlée. Those custards are made with eggs which are cooked gently to provide thickening. Panna cotta has gelatin added for the thickening agent. In commercial kitchens, leaf or sheet gelatin is the form most commonly used, but that form is not often available in grocery stores and is a little trickier to use. That’s ok, because a perfectly good panna cotta can be made with the granulated form, although you may need to experiment and cut back on the amount of the gelatin if the finished panna cotta too firm for your taste.

Sarah’s current cream cheese panna cotta is delicious, but if you want to try it at home you will need to tinker with the amount of gelatin you use. The firm texture of the cream cheese sets up too hard with the usual amounts of gelatin.

I think her buttermilk panna cotta is every bit as good. Sarah makes it with fresh cultured buttermilk that the restaurant gets when it house-churns its own butter. That’s not practical at home, but fresh commercial buttermilk will work. That’s my version below.

RECIPE

Panna Cotta

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons orange blossom water
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur (optional)

Method

  1. Place the water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Let stand for 5 minutes or until the gelatin softens. Do not let it stand too long or it will turn into a solid blob that is hard to dissolve.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, buttermilk, and sugar. Bring to a  boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  3. Using a whisk or immersion blender, stir in the softened gelatin. Stir for at least a minute. Make sure that the gelatin is completely dissolved. Otherwise it will sink to the bottom and form a separate gelled layer.
  4. Stir in the orange blossom water and optional Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur.
  5. Pour into 6 6-ounce cups. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.
  6. Serve with fresh berries or your choice of toppings.

4 Comments

Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes, Restaurants