January 8, 2012

Sponge Candy

This light and airy candy is one of my personal favorites. I grew up eating the Cadbury Crunchie (made in Britain) and the Nestle Violet Crumble (made in Australia.) Sometimes called "Honeycomb" or "Seafoam," this candy is a slighly caramelized sugar mixture lightened into a foam by the incorporation of baking soda. The taste has a distinct flavor of caramel and honey and the texture is crispy and delicate and melts in your mouth like cotton candy. I can't tell you how many different recipes I have tried and failed. With one version, I actually shattered the 9x13 pan after the candy had hardened. The recipe below is a combination of several recipes and a much needed online tutorial. It will yield you approximately 4 dozen pieces. Enjoy!

1. Definitely make sure the gelatin and baking soda are fully mixed in or you'll have some pieces that taste more like baking soda than candy.
2. Once you've poured the sponge candy into the pan, be very careful not to disturb it as too much motion will cause it to collapse.
3. If you live in a humid climate, protect the candy while cooling by covering the top of the pan to make it airtight.
4. Covering the pieces in chocolate does more than just add a great layer of taste. It also protects the candy from humidity, thus preserving the airy texture.

1/4 tsp Gelatin, unflavored
1 Tbs cold water
3 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
2 Tbs baking soda, sifted
3 cups dark chocolate, melted and tempered for dipping

1. Mix the gelatin into the cold water in a small bowl or cup, then set aside.

2. Combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a 2.5 quart saucepan.

3. Bring to a boil, insert thermometer and cook without stirring until the syrup reaches 310 F.

4. Remove from the heat and allow to sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.
5. Whisk the gelatin into the hot sugar, ensuring that it is incorporated completely.

6. Whisk the baking soda into the mixture, stirring vigorously to thoroughly incorporate.

7. Return the batch to the heat for 30 seconds, continuously whisking.

8. Pour immediately into a 9 inch springform pan.

9. Leave undisturbed to cool at room temperature at least 2 hours or overnight.
10. Remove the springform pan and using a sharp chef's knife or by hand, break into desired size pieces.

11. Dip into chocolate as desired.

January 1, 2012

Chocolate Ricotta Pudding with Strawberry Coulis

This Giada DeLaurentiis inspired recipe is a classic Italian dessert combining the wonderful flavors of ricotta, chocolate, orange, almond and cinnamon in a smooth, creamy pudding, topped by a very easy to make strawberry sauce. I loved the presentation on this one as you can get very creative with the sauce as well as using a fresh strawberry for garnish. The recipe below yields 6 servings. Enjoy!

1. You will really want to make sure your ricotta mixture is blended thoroughly or your final product will be grainy in texture.
2. This can be made a few days in advance and kept refrigerated making it perfect for a dinner party dessert.

2 cups fresh strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar

Butter, for greasing cups
6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 pounds fresh whole milk ricotta cheese, dried
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp orange zest
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
3 large egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1. Blend the strawberries and sugar in a food processor until smooth.

2. Strain the puree through a fine mesh strainer. Cover and refrigerate.

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Lightly butter 6 (6-ounce) custard cups then arrange the cups in a large roasting pan.
3. Melt the chocolate over very low heat, then set aside.

4. Blend the ricotta, 1/4 cup of sugar, egg yolks, orange zest, almond extract, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor until very smooth.

5. Blend in the melted chocolate.

6. Transfer the ricotta mixture to a large bowl.

7. Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites in another large bowl with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form.
8. Gradually beat in the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar. Continue beating until semi-firm peaks form.

9. Fold the egg whites into the ricotta mixture.

10. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cups.

11. Fill the pan with enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the custard cups.

12. Bake until the pudding puffs slightly but the centers are still creamy, about 25 minutes.
13. Allow puddings to cool slightly before removing from water bath.

14. Cover and refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours but preferably overnight.

1. Run a knife around the sides of the puddings to loosen. Invert the puddings onto plates.

2. Drizzle the strawberry sauce around the puddings and serve.