Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pralines, and Kisses and Turtles.....Oh My!

I survived my first holiday in the pastry business.  I posted last week about all of the pies and other goodies we made for the holiday, but this week is all about confections.  I have finally had the chance to make a few more items that are in the shop that are on the confectionery side of things.  Yay! 

Those of you who have known me through school are probably surprised at my excitement given that confections and chocolates (although delicious) were not my favorite subject in school.  However........I have seen the light!  Working with it more at Bittersweet has given me a whole new outlook on the world of confections.  This week I had the opportunity to try my hand at some items that we carry in the shop like pralines, caramels, meringue kisses, marshmallows and turtles.

New Orleans is known for pralines like Philadelphia is known for cheese steaks.  Pralines are these yummy, sugary, caramely flavor, pecan, cookie looking confections.  They are shaped kind of like a cookie, but are nothing but sugary pecan goodness.  They can be very finicky in that you have to be sure and watch your temperatures when cooking the sugars very careful.  It is easy to mess these things up people!  You have to cook down sugars, butter, cream and milk to a specific temperature and then add the pecans and cook a little more, and then take it off the heat and cool to yet another temp.........then stir, stir stir until it looks creamy and hurry up and scoop them before they start to crystallize.  Phew, now you have made pralines.  Sounds easy right????

Every time I make meringue kisses I think of my friend Michele back in Tallahassee.  I remember when she discovered these in the local grocery store and she has been hooked ever since.  I really need to take her some one day.  :)  Meringue kisses are basically these little clouds of sugar that are light and airy and crispy and YUM!  First, you have to make a nice stiff meringue of whipped sugar and egg whites, and then here we also fold in powdered sugar at the end.  After your meringue is ready you fill a piping bag and pipe the meringue into little kisses of white sugar cloud and bake them at a very low temp for a looooooong time until they are dried out.  If you don't bake them long enough they will collapse as they cool.  In school we learned that you can put them in an oven that has recently been turned off and let them sit overnight as well.  I haven't tried this method so I can't comment on how well it works......yet.  At the shop these little cuties are then sandwiched together with chocolate ganache and then half dipped in the chocolate and rolled in chocolate vermicelli (sprinkles to most of  We also made a batch of chocolate chip meringue kisses that were individually half dipped in chocolate and rolled in the vermicelli.  I was never one for meringue, but I am a changed woman.  These things are tasty!

Turtles, oh how I love turtles!  We offer two different ways to enjoy a turtle at Bittersweet; one as the traditional confection and one as a cookie.  To make the traditional turtle you have to first toast some pecan halves and then lay four of them out for the "feet".  I have also made them with 5 halves using one for the "head", but here we use four for just the feet.  We then make caramel and pour just a spoonful at the center where the four halves meet letting some of it spill out one side a little more to form the head of the turtle.  Once the caramel sets it is topped with chocolate and then striped with additional chocolate.  We also paint the bottoms of the turtles with chocolate so the caramel doesn't cause them to stick together in the package.  Oh, the wonderful and simple tricks I am learning to make things easier in the long run.  The turtle cookies are so good!  You start with a sort of shortbread cookie that has a hint of caramel flavor and then a rich chocolate fudge icing is piped on top.  Usually we sprinkle toasted pecans on some of the cookies and leave some without nuts for those who don't like them.  Crazy I tell you, Crazy.......who doesn't like nuts!  Well, excluding my friend Zach and all other who are allergic.  You are forgiven since we know you would if you could.  :)


Well, that is it for this edition and I hope you are enjoying keeping up with my journey as much as I enjoy sharing it.

As they say in New Orleans......Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!  (Let the Good Times Roll)
and as I say......Keep It Sweet People!

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