Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Truffles The Rat

Truffles the Rat is just that, a big rat truffle and uses the same ganache recipe as my peppermint bark brains

5 oz. white chocolate, divided
4 oz. dark chocolate
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 red hots

Special Equipment:
Wilton Rat candy mold


Break dark chocolate into small pieces and combine with cream and butter in microwave safe bowl. Microwave for one minute at 50% power, then stir until incorporated. Mixture should be thick and smooth. Stir in vanilla extract and refrigerate. 

This is as good a place as any to talk about tempering chocolate. Even though white chocolate isn’t real chocolate it still needs to be tempered because of the cocoa butter. Candy melts don’t, which is why they are easier to use, but I don’t think they taste as good. I’m sure this method isn’t proper, but it works for me and it’s easy. First, I never melt chocolate all the way in the microwave, always leave a few lumps and then stir until the chocolate is completely smooth and melted. I also always use a glass bowl and stir by smearing the chocolate along the sides with the back of the spoon. Keep stirring or smearing until the chocolate has cooled. I do the wrist test, just like you would with a baby bottle, in fact that’s where I got the idea, but it turns out it’s a legitimate thing. Drizzle a small amount of chocolate on the inside of your wrist and if you don’t feel the heat, it’s good to go. Tempering prevents that chalky look once the chocolate cools, giving it a nice sheen and also makes it nice and solid. Alright let’s get back to the recipe.

Microwave 2 oz. white chocolate, again for one minute at 50% power, add 20 second increments as needed until almost melted. Temper the chocolate and then pour into the mold, smoothing chocolate along the sides and into crevices with the back of a spoon. Once the mold is completely coated keep rotating the mold as the chocolate cools to avoid pooling. Once the chocolate stops moving, refrigerate for one minute. 

The chocolate should now be set enough to push red hots into place as eyes. The eyes don’t have to be perfect, I like the irregular white filmy look, and it adds character. 

Refrigerate for 2 more minutes and the white chocolate should be completely cooled. By now the truffle mixture should be set.  Spoon it into the center of the mold gently tapping to get it level. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Microwave remaining 3 oz. of white chocolate until melted. Again temper, and it will be cooled enough so it doesn’t melt the ganache. Spoon chocolate along the center of the mold, gently tapping it will move the chocolate to edges without going over them. Refrigerate until set. 

To serve just turn over mold onto a plate and gently tap to remove. Allow it to come to room temperature before cutting. 

The kids really like it when I insert a few candy bones, into the ganache. One year I used a gummy brain. Nothing like giving the kids yet another reason to fight over the head. Did anyone else start singing the Pinky and the Brain theme song
? No, just me huh?

Eating chocolate rat doesn’t bother me in the least. The thought of biting into artificially fruity flavored gummy candy in the middle of rich chocolaty goodness makes me gag a little. So this year I added a twist that was more to my liking, we’ll call this new twist Gourmet Rat.

Gourmet Rat is almost the same as plain rat but with raspberry blood. Also since Gourmet Rat tastes fancier, he should look fancier. You could add a tiny rhinestone tiara or you could give him a swanky pink tail and ears, which are tastier and less problematic if swallowed. 

Make the ganache as you would with the plain rat, or if you’d like you can get a little fancy with the flavors. If using extracts stick with ½ teaspoon.  Orange extract is one of my favorites, or half vanilla/half orange for just a hint. If you’d like to substitute a liqueur, I would suggest 1/2 – 1 tablespoon since the flavors aren’t as concentrated. 

You are still going to use 2oz of white chocolate to coat the inside of the mold, but start by just melting a quarter ounce of it, with half of a red candy melt, for a perfect shade of lab rat pink. You can use the back of a spoon to push the pink chocolate around the inside of the tail area. For the inside ear area you just need a teeny amount that you can apply with something small like a toothpick.

Refrigerate while you melt the remaining 1.75 oz. of white chocolate. Make sure the chocolate is cool enough to pass the wrist test.  Even then it will still be warm enough to heat the tiny  pink ear bits so quickly apply a thin coat over the pink areas and then don’t muck with them so you don’t disturb the pink chocolate underneath. Coat the rest of the mold and return to the refrigerator. 

For a quick and easy raspberry sauce microwave 2 tablespoons of raspberry jam with 1/2 teaspoon of water for 10 seconds or just enough to warm the jam so you can easily incorporate the water. I’ll be honest here, even with the added water don’t expect it to gush when slicing into Mr. Gourmet. You can experiment with more sauce, or runnier sauce, but it’s pretty darn tasty as is.

I use Rose Cottage raspberry jam. In fact, for all my jam needs, I turn to Rose Cottage products. I’m not affiliated with them in any way, they just happen to make the only jams available at the local grocery stores that remind me of my grandmother’s and that’s the highest praise any jam can have in my opinion. There is not a lot info about them online, but I did find Amish House Market that sells a limited selection of their jams for a reasonable price. I have not had any experience ordering from them. 

Spoon the sauce down the middle of the rat and this time put it in the freezer for a few minutes. The raspberry sauce won’t freeze solid, but it should cool enough that it’s a thick gel.

Since the jam is taking up space in the mold, remove 2 tablespoons from the ganache and set aside to do something tasty with later. Try to quickly get a layer of ganache over the raspberry sauce, pressing along the side edges above the sauce line to get a nice seal between the ganache and white chocolate. You don’t want to put pressure on the center of the mold and squish the raspberry sauce out. Once you have ganache covering all the sauce and sealed along the edges, distribute the rest of it evenly across the mold. 

Return the rat to the refrigerator until firm. Then melt and then temper the remaining white chocolate. Smooth out the chocolate to the edges of the mold.

I got a little sloppy filling this rat, probably because I let the truffle mixture get too firm. Ideally you want a small edge of white chocolate showing all the way around, this will adhere to the last layer of white chocolate creating a nicely sealed chocolate shell. If the filling covers that edge, even just a thin layer it will affect the integrity of the seal.  The raspberry sauce will find its way out and leak. To counter this I stored the rat upside down and maybe that’s good advice for all saucy rats. Bring the rat to room temperature in the upside down position and then right before serving turn it right side up. Of course if you’d like a little blood to ooze from your rat, which is a nice effect, turn it right side up sooner, the sauce is thick and it will be a slow leak. 

When it comes to making rat the flavor combinations are endless and the joyful smiles they bring are priceless. I only wish someone would create a two headed rat mold. And don’t make the mistake of thinking you can only serve rat after Labor Day. Rat is a yummy addition to any special occasion. I’ve even had a request for birthday rat, (I added multicolored jimmies to bottom to be festive).

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Andean Condor Gastric Acid

Prior to creating this label, I hadn't really thought about vultures.  They are just fuggly looking birds that eat dead stuff and show up in old westerns, right?

They are so much cooler than that, everything about their design has purpose.  Most of it's disgusting, but it's all very fascinating. I've also decided that vultures can be beautiful, cute even. 

I picked the Andean Condor from the New World vulture family because with it's 10 foot wingspan it's a huge bird, so I figure it should have lots of gastric acid to share.

If you'd like to learn some interesting stuff about vultures, here are a couple of sources that are as entertaining as they are enlightening.

There is some great information on New World Vultures at Real Monstrosities.

And this awesome video about vulture fluids from SciShow.

The label is short and sweet.  MS Office clip art and Freebooter font by GemFonts.

Since my bottle is opaque I didn't have to worry about contents, but if I were in mind to make some gastric acid.  I would mix a little pale yellow acrylic paint, with a touch of olive green and blend that into some floral water and pour it very slowly to get lots of tiny bubbles. 

Here's a label if you'd like to make your own bottle of acid.