Chocolate Tasting Party
Chocolate Espresso Bellini
Panini with Chocolate and Brie
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In the shadow of my recent defeat, I see that Giada is hosting a chocolate-only party. It's ok, I'll be strong and try to make it through the show. We see her serving chocolate dishes to her guests. Then we return to her usual cozy chair and back into the kitchen. Thank goodness there was no snapping or kicking of legs.
Giada is making a soufflé with a wonderful Italian invention of hazelnut and milk chocolate - Gianduja. That's how I spell it, anyway.
She exclaims that "the combination together is astounding". We don't usually hear such hyperbole from Giada, so I'm really paying attention to this recipe. In the top of a double boiler, she mixes butter, vanilla, sugar, and, in lieu of ground hazelnuts, Frangelico, which makes "a nice smooth filling." She stirs it until melted. Off the heat, she stirs 3 oz. of milk chocolate into the butter mixture. She puts the whole thing in the freezer. Very Interesting...I would add the Frangelico and, certainly, the vanilla off the heat to keep their intense flavors.
For the second part, Giada mixes together 1/4 cup flour -"you need a little structure in the soufflé" - with 1 cup of milk and a little salt, using a hand mixer. She has the entire mixture in a bowl over boiling water, fashioning her own double boiler. She beats it for 5 to 6 minutes until thick.
It may seem funny to add milk directly to the flour (before you've added the yolks), but that is the correct way to make a soufflé. It's called a bouilli (literally boiled) and it is the base for most sweet soufflés.
She separates 4 eggs, reminding us that they should be at room temperature, over a big bowl. NO! Don't do that. Separate each egg over a small bowl and then add it to the larger amount. Otherwise, if you have a mishap, you'll ruin ALL your eggs.
And if you don't think that one drop of egg yolk can wreak havoc with an egg white's ability to rise high and firm, you don't know how evil yolks can be. Another thing, separate the eggs when they're COLD, but USE them when they're at room temperature.
Giada adds 6 oz. of milk chocolate to the flour and milk mixture off the heat. She stirs until melted.
To the whites, she adds 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar, which she tells us is the secret to keeping them stable. WHY is she is using a handmixer in a glass bowl? You get much more volume from a stand mixer in a stainless bowl. The egg whites kind of fall back on themselves in a glass bowl.
And, about the cream of tartar, Rose Levy Beranbaum, the queen of all things baked, gives 1/2 a teaspoon of cream of tartar to 4 egg whites as the proper proportion. Giada's recipe calls for half of that. (Cream of tartar is used only when BAKING the whites, of course. You don't want to taste that awful stuff.) Rose says with that amount of cream of tartar you could basically beat the whites for 4 days and you still wouldn't overbeat them (or words to that effect).
Sorry, one other thing...my eagle eyes don't miss a thing. After Giada breaks an egg, she puts the spent shell back in the egg container WITH OTHER UNBROKEN EGGS! No, No, NO! You don't want any of the raw egg to pollute the shells of the eggs you haven't used yet. After you crack an egg, the shell should go right in the garbage can, disposal or compost pile.
Giada adds the sugar to the egg whites a little bit at a time. Her little mixer sounds so tinny against the glass bowl. Look, I know that we don't all have designer mixers, but how about a somewhat heavier hand mixer? Plus we know that Giada can have any kind of mixer she wants.
Back from a break and Giada's admiring truffles...
She removes the hazelnut mixture from the freezer.
Giada prepares to mix her egg whites into her soufflé bouilli base. Her classical training shows up here, when she lightens the base by beating in 1/3 of her egg whites. (I was taught 1/4, but whatev.) She folds the rest of the whites in (just beautifully). Giada really does know how to cook, by the way, which is kind of refreshing when watching the Food Network these days.
She butters and sugars individual soufflé molds. She places a scoop of frozen hazelnut mixture into the bottom of each ramekin. Then she spoons the soufflé mixture over, covering the Gianduja completely. She places the ramekins in a bain marie and bakes them at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
Giada moves on to a Bellini made with espresso! She dissolves three quarters of a cup of sugar in 1/2 cup of espresso over medium heat. Then she pours it over 6 oz. bitter chocolate and stirs to melt it. She adds 1/4 cup of Kahlua. This seems like it would be almost syrupy. This mixture goes into the refrigerator.
More truffle action for Giada, as we come back from a break.
She's moved on to Brie and Chocolate sandwiches. Is this a bit farfetched? Giada calls this one of the "funnest" ways to use chocolate. I don't really need an excuse to have chocolate. I could just eat it, without pretending to be a provocateur about it.
For some reason, she decides not to listen to me and proceeds to slice sourdough bread 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thick. She drizzles olive oil over both sides. She toasts them quickly in a panini maker just until slightly browned. She slices the "soft and buttery" brie, while it's cold and chops basil. Chocolate, brie and basil? "Trust me on this one,"she says. Frankly, let's skip the chocolate altogether and put some sun-dried tomatoes on those babies and call it lunch, instead of strange.
She takes out the bread and puts cheese on one slice only. "You don't want to over-cheese your bread." Heaven forfend. Giada carefully lays some chocolate chips over the cheese followed by the basil. She squooshes down the top slice of bread and puts it back in the panini press for 1 to 2 minutes.
She pulls the sandwich out and cuts it into thirds with a serrated knife. She tastes. She SAYS she loves it. Listen, I love chocolate, I love brie, I'm even fond of basil, but that doesn't mean that they have to go down my gullet at the same time.
Giada arranges her store bought truffles. She mixes up her Bellinis. The espresso mixture goes into a pitcher. She pours Prosecco over it and STIRS it. (Never mind about those bubbles.) She pours it into low ball glasses. On second look, they're sort of STEMMED low ball glasses. Oh, who cares? This is going to taste like boozy mud anyway.
She attends to her guests and serves the chocolate sandwiches. I swear NOONE says anything about them. She runs to get the soufflés. I don't blame her. She already served a crummy drink and you always want to try to keep the crowd on your side. The soufflés go over well.
For party favors (don't you think after the age of 30, heck, even 12, party favors are not necessary?), she melts a bunch of leftover chocolate (that's what SHE said) and dips plastic spoons in. She wraps each one beautifully and gives them to her guests for their espresso the next morning. Who's lame idea was this? Seriously.
Will someone tell her producers that Giada does just fine...cooking real things using proper techniques? She doesn't need to give out party favors. She doesn't need to add chocolate to a perfectly good grilled cheese. And she certainly doesn't need to add Prosecco to something you would compost your tomatoes in.