dark chocolate tarts

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While I had been sort of hoping to veganize my standard dark chocolate mini tart recipe, I sort of ran out of time and made the regular ones. I changed the recipe just slightly from the old one I’ve shared before.

I mailed some of these to an office where most of the employees are distributed, so a lot of employees miss out on the final results. One employee misread the label on these as “farts” rather than “tarts”, giving him a small chuckle – that was as sweet as my shared baking ended up being for him.

Dark chocolate tarts
Tart shells
1 ½ cups chocolate cookie crumbs (or 1 cup cookie crumbs and ½ cup ground hazelnuts).
1/3 cup melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar

The change I implemented here was simply throwing whole Oreo cookies into my food processor and making them into crumbs. I didn’t fool around looking for some other chocolate cookies or removing the middle filling of the Oreo. This might have made the final shells more structurally sound.

Preheat oven to 190C. Lightly spray muffin tins (regular size or mini ones, as I usually use) with nonstick spray (I usually do not use the spray because the mixture uses a lot of butter; I did use some non-stick spray this time because I was not sure that keeping the filling from the Oreos in the mix would not stick to the pan).

Mix the cookie crumbs (and ground hazelnuts, if you are using them – I did this time) with the melted butter and sugar. Press the mixture into the muffin tins. Bake approx. 5 minutes in preheated oven.

While baking, prepare the filling. Remove from oven and lower oven temperature to 160C.

Filling
10 to 10 ½ ounces of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) – 280 to 300 grams
¾ cup heavy cream
½ cup whole milk
3 tablespoons honey (flavored honey can be nice here)
1 egg, beaten slightly

The difference this time is that I used only heavy cream and no milk in the exact same proportion (so 1 1/4c cream – minus all milk).

Over a double boiler (or glass bowl over a pan of boiling water) mix chocolate with milk and cream. Stir until chocolate is melted and fully mixed together with cream and milk (smooth consistency). Stir in honey.

Slightly beat the egg in a medium-sized bowl. Gradually stir a small stream of the melted chocolate mixture into the egg, whisking the egg and chocolate together the whole time (to temper to make sure the egg does not become like scrambled eggs). Do this with just some of the chocolate until enough chocolate has been mixed with egg to ensure that the egg will not cook. Then add the egg-chocolate mixture to the bowl of melted chocolate.

Spoon the chocolate mixture into the chocolate tart shells. Bake 25 minutes, cool for at least 30 minutes before removing from tin.

irn-bru shortbread experiment

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I am always game for trying out some different form of shortbread. And what could be more Scottish than Irn-Bru shortbread?

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I found and used a recipe I came across online on the Scotsman website, and guess what? It was a total failure. I read the ingredients for the Irn-Bru filling a few times, and it didn’t seem possible that it could come together as an ‘icing-like’ filling – and voilà, it absolutely did not. I don’t see how this could work as published, so because I didn’t have time to mess about experimenting, I used the shortbread cookies (the recipe below worked beautifully) and made a chocolate filling instead:

Shortbread
125g granulated sugar
250g unsalted butter (I used half salted, half unsalted)
375g flour

Soften butter to room temperature. Mix butter and sugar until well-combined.
Add flour and mix gently with a pastry blender/mixer until dough almost comes together, which will take about five minutes.

Gather dough together and knead lightly on a floured surface. Roll dough to roughly 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes. Reroll excess dough up to 3 times. Bake at 265 F (130 C) for about 50 minutes.

You will be making a filling from Irn-Bru and white chocolate and creating nice wee shortbread sandwich cookies. If you follow the recipe, I don’t see how it can work at all. But if you do try it and the following info works for you, enlighten me. All I can think of is that somehow “double cream” differs from “heavy cream”, but I don’t think so.

1 bottle or can of Irn-Bru soda
100g of white chocolate
50g double cream
Pinch of salt

Combine white chocolate and double cream over a double boiler until combined. Let cool and mix in 4 tablespoons of Irn-Bru. Use a piping bag to fill each sandwich. I got what was very much like soup as a result, so no piping bag, no Irn-Bru filling.

Et voilà… in the end, it was not a thoroughly Scottish treat.

Gluten-free carrot sandwich cookie: FAIL

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I have a great recipe for carrot sandwich cookies. People love them.

Because a colleague in my team at work eats gluten-free, I attempted to adapt these by substituting the flour with almond flour. I am not sure whether that was just not “flour-like” enough or, quite possibly, the carrot was just too wet – I tried to dry the grated carrot, but it produced what seemed like liters of carrot juice… and that may well have been the culprit. Or a disastrous mix of both!

The consistency of the dough/batter was right – that is, it was the same as when I have made these with regular wheat flour. But that means very little in the big scheme. These still just *did*not*work*. No two ways about it.

Auspicious beginnings for failed gluten-free carrot cookies

Auspicious beginnings for failed gluten-free carrot cookies

And my state of mind otherwise, with a mini-marathon bake and little private life worries… another week.

Built my world around certain things you say,
I think of nothing else at the close of day
except for maybe how I ended up this way
another drink before you go…

The Changing Workscape: The Problem of Presenteeism & Baking Bounty

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I often joke about the “always-on” nature of the American professional. The work ethic is baked into the American psyche to the point that most Americans have trouble going on vacation without checking their email (what little vacation Americans get). It is not always so much that an American cannot stop working as it is that Americans feel less stress and enjoy the vacation more if they track what is going on in their absence, even if they don’t take action on anything during the vacation.

The Nordic work ethic, on the other hand, is just about the polar opposite. Vacation is serious and no interruption will be tolerated. In most cases. At least this is how it has been in most of my Scandinavian work experiences. While I will never be able to turn off the American worker bee inside me, I support the sentiment of separating work from vacation and time off, and thus am surprised and not pleased when I encounter Nordic corporate exception.

In managerial roles, people need to lead by example. I have of late encountered a lot of people who are taking work home, proudly announcing that they are up late at night answering emails and get up early to get two or three hours (!) of quiet time to work before they actually come to the office. The problem with this is not so much that managers are working at all hours, which is their prerogative, but that they are placing these kinds of expectations on others. I would call this a problem of “presenteeism”. You can be too present. Being present and working at all hours of day and night – and showing everyone that you are working – a manager is creating an environment that makes his/her entire team feel as though he is not doing enough if s/he is not working as much as the manager is, especially when this workaholic enthusiasm is overflowing. Nothing wrong with doing your job and loving it- but maybe some of the sending emails in the middle of the night could be curtailed.

Personally, I find this more troublesome when a workplace is particularly inflexible otherwise. With the way the workplace is changing, I would expect something different.

I have spent almost 15 years freelancing and working remotely. As the new century dawned and I took up residence in a new country, I had to adapt to a lot of new things – and part of that was finding a professional niche for myself. It also seemed like the dawn of a new era that would enable remote/virtual work, particularly in fields like mine (content development, writing, editing). To varying degrees, things have been moving in that direction, depending on the industry I worked in. Obviously the home office let me be the ever-present, never-present workaholic. That is, I have been available to work 24/7 without ever being present in an office. I have always been a happy American-style worker, and my home office is the most productive environment for me. As my regular, full-time jobs took the direction of allowing me to work primarily from home, I have realized that this is the only way for me to work.

The trick now will be to find the place that acknowledges my home as my office and will let me turn up in a real office on occasion, car loaded with hundreds and hundreds of cookies.

Send me a sign/leads – and cookies can be yours. Seriously – give me a lead, and I will give you cookies.