White Chocolate-Peppermint Cheesecake

Okay. Here is the final dessert using the aerated chocolate as a garnish.

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For the cheesecake, we made a standard batter flavored with white chocolate and ground starlight mints. We baked it without a crust, let it cool, then placed it in a mixer with a paddle attachment to cream it back together and to aerate it. We then made some mock Oreo cookie dough, baked it, then ground it into a fine powder for garnish as well. IMG_0861
For the final plate up, we put another starlight mint in a low oven to allow it to soften, then pressed it paper thin so it shatters when it’s put in your mouth. We placed 3 quenelles of the cheesecake on the plate, a stripe of chocolate sauce and micro peppermint, and we’re good to go.  Here is the dessert plated on white china and also marble.

Aerated Chocolate – Simplified

I have had a fascination with aerating foods and setting foams for some time now.  For a couple years I have thought about aerating chocolate, cheese, and other gels like agar and gelatin.  There always seemed to be other priorities in my career for some time now.  But, I have finally reached a point where I can continue some good experimentation.  I started off with purchasing a couple high impact plastic vacuum seal containers with a 2 1/2  quart capacity.  I chose the Vacmaster because it’s made with solid, thick, heavy plastic to stand up to the chamber vacuum sealer.

Many chefs talk about tempering the chocolate and/or adding oil to it to increase the fluidity, or even adding stabilizing hydrocolliods.  We found you don’t need to do any of this.

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With this container, we melted 1 1/2 pounds of Valhrona white chocolate and put it in a 1 quart ISI canister and charged it, while warm, with 2 N2O charges, shaking very well in between charges.  We then dispensed the chocolate into the container, put the lid on, moved the dial to “vacuum”, and placed it in the vacuum chamber.  We closed the lid and put about 60% vacuum on the canister and the chocolate ballooned up by about 300%. I then stopped the vacuum and opened the lid and found the chocolate was still holding the air bubbles, and not collapsing,  I placed it in the refrigerator and let the chocolate set for 4 hours.  When I removed it, I released the vacuum and took the lid off.  I then placed the container in warm water to release the chocolate from the sides and took it out.

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This was my 5th attempt.  The first 4 times, it wasn’t working and I could not figure out why.  I learned that you cannot vacuum too much because this will actually suck all the N2O out.  You need to just pull a slight vacuum to allow the chocolate to rise, and then stop.  Otherwise the chocolate will collapse before it sets.

The texture is amazing.  It completely collapses on the palate and melts away to nothing almost instantly.  It fools your mind into thinking you’re suppose to have something in your mouth, but then it’s gone. It looks like white bread or angel food cake from a small distance.  We are working on a new dessert that will use this chocolate as a garnish for a white chocolate-peppermint cheesecake.  More to come.

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Farm Dinner Updates. Gotta Be Here! #clericiranch #signorelloestate

We are very excited and proud to have Barbara and David Clerici host a fantastic farm dinner this summer.  They are opening up their ranch to all of us for an unforgettable evening of food, wine, and fun.  We will be featuring wines of the esteemed Signorello Estate paired with 5 courses of delicious Italian themed farmhouse cuisine which would not be complete without homemade Italian cream sodas.  Enjoy an exclusive tour of the ranch and watch your dinner being created right in front of your eyes in our open farm kitchen.

Dessert includes French pressed Napa Valley Coffee Roasters “Chinese Laundry” blend.  Feel great about participation in this event as proceeds go to help raise awareness about local food systems, help support lo cal family farmers and small local businesses, and Connolly Ranch, a local nonprofit organization that connects local area youth with nature through hands-on environmental education and nutrition programs.  Enjoy the slide show below which offers up views of Barbara and David’s ranch and photos of some past events.  Ciao and hope to see ya out on the farm!  Tickets available here.

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Planting my #Garden for #Earthday Today

After WWII, America realized what we thought was the golden promise of an Industrialized Era.  We were (and are) an industrious bunch, working on efficiencies and trying to make EVERYTHING cheaper, better, faster…  at any cost, apparently.  We got good at it.  VERY good.  The problem is, in an era of excess, waste occurs.  We are content with car that get 20 MPG when gas is under $2 a

gallon.  Now it’s over $4 a gallon and we’re worried.  We, as consumers don’t see why it’s so expensive.  We don’t often realize that it takes MILLIONS of years to create the oil we use in practically EVERYTHING we produce from gas, to industrial fertilizers to plastic goods.  It’s taken us under a hundred years to notice that oil is not unlimited and that we maybe running to the end of our supply.  Millions of years to make, a century to use.  Hmmm…  Time to move on to something different.

What does this have to do with my garden?  Nothing really, except that by planting a garden, you too can help save the Earth, just like supporting endeavors to utilize renewable energy sources.  I guess they are linked.  And, it is Earth day after all.  And there’s only one Earth.

So, let’s ALL plan ahead.  Invest in renewable energy now AND start finding ways to conserve water.  Because, the next wars will be fought over H2O.  Trust me.  And it worries me.  Plan now.  Happy Earth Day, Earth.

New Farm Added to the Lineup! #fulltablefarm

We are pleased to announce a new farm will be joining us for a fantastic farm dinner!  Mindy and Juston over at Full Table Farm in Yountville will be providing an array of farm goodies for one of our dinners.  We are very excited because of the quality products and the naturally grown, organic manner in which they produce it.

I first met Mindy briefly at the farmer’s market at the Oxbow last season.  Summer was winding down and I was looking for some veggies to sample.  I was drawn to Mindy’s booth because of the cool sign she had…  I just dig it for some reason.  What a bonus to find how wonderful the vegetables were!  They sell to several fine restaurants in the Valley and I can’t wait to have you try the goods.  Check them out on Facebook, www.fulltablefarm.com or, better yet, come meet and dine with them at their featured dinner this summer.  Full schedule to be released May 1st.

 

 

 

 

A Portion of Our Proceeds… #connollyranch #dirttodine

It has long been my goal to provide a portion of our proceeds from our farm dinners to a local nonprofit organization.  I feel it’s simply not enough to be utilizing local food producers to purchase food from.  There is so much more that can be done.  Nonprofit organizations are the unsung heros that work in the silent background to help change antiquated laws or provide valuable community services.  There are many out there.  My challenge was finding one that was inline with my goals and philosophies of helping support local agriculture and raise awareness about the importance of local food systems.  While there are many out there, I have found one that is able to be involved with the dinners and actively participate in promoting the cause.

Our initial goal was to donate $500 per sold out event.  Well, now we feel that it can be much more.  While keeping our farm dinner prices the same as our initial budget, I think that we will be able to put over 10 times more money into the hands of nonprofits.  Funds that will go towards on-the-farm programs geared towards school aged children.  Programs that teach children hands on about how a farm operates including everything from animal raising to composting to cooking and eating.  I was very impressed.  You can check out a bit about what they do in the video below.  And follow this link to their website to learn more and become a friend.  Better still, come out to one of our farm dinners (scheduled to be released May 1st) to learn more about what they do first hand.

A Hill of Beans

Beans.  What’s there to say?  The magical fruit.  Boiled beans can have a bad wrap for being boring.  Being a culinarian, I have a deep appreciation for beans because they are very versatile and carry flavors very well.  They have a great, satisfying texture and are very nutritious.  Problem is, It’s not easy to find good beans.  Commodity beans on the market today are mere holograms of the original, rich tasting heirloom varieties.  Supermarket beans can be many years old and beans do not age very well.  

With that being said, I have found a producer of these rich, heirloom variety beans and, what’s more, they are local to Northern California.  Enter in Rancho Gordo.  Steve started his bean company because he found supermarket produce lacked flavor and quality.  Lucky for us.  He also sells dried corn, chili, some grains and a few other goodies.  Check him out here;  http://www.ranchogordo.com/html/rg_story.htm

We are proud to announce that we will be using Rancho Gordo for all our bean and dried corn needs for every Farm Dinner Event.  Stop by the Rancho Gordo store in Napa or come to one of our farm dinners this Summer.  Our Farm Dinner schedule will be posted in the following weeks.

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