Wednesday, October 29, 2008

whisk-y business

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a KitchenAid
My friends have stand mixers; I’m kind of ashamed

I do have the space for it if my counter’s rearranged

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a KitchenAid...

I want a KitchenAid mixer.

Of course, you say. Join the club. Every aspiring chef, enthusiastic home cook, pretentious foodie, and eager bride-to-be wants a KitchenAid mixer. Does it even need to be said?

You want one for all those complicated, meringue-based desserts, like pavlova and vacherin and dacquoise. You want to be able to make mousse at the drop of a hat. If you get the pasta attachment, you won’t need a pasta maker. You have as many reasons to want a KitchenAid mixer as there are recipes on your to-do list.

If only those were the only reasons.

I want a KitchenAid mixer to avoid my shortcomings. I want a KitchenAid mixer so that I can ignore my failings. I want a KitchenAid mixer so that I no longer have to contend with my bête noire. (Bête blanche?)

I want a KitchenAid mixer so that I can make whipped cream.

You see, a KitchenAid mixer makes whipped cream foolproof. You open the carton, pour it in the bowl, add sugar and flavorings as needed, turn on the mixer (medium speed – high makes the cream splash everywhere), wander away, and when you come back a little while later, the contents of the bowl have doubled in volume, and whisk attachment is trailing those smooth swirly patterns through a fluffy cloud of white. Turn off the mixer. Voilà, whipped cream.

Whipping cream by hand is a different matter. Despite the fact that you cannot walk away from it, you don’t take your eyes off it, and if you’re paranoid, you’ll stop to check the texture every other minute, it is still much, much easier to miss that split-second of luscious perfection and end up with a bowl of clumpy, clotted pre-butter instead.

I’ve learned that I will probably screw up hand-whipped cream about every other time that I try it.** I’ve also learned that when I work with white chocolate – my other bête blanche – it only goes right about once every three times.

Which means, if I’ve calculated my probabilities right, that I have a one-in-six chance of not screwing up when I make white chocolate ganache.***

Which is why I only make frozen white chocolate ganache. Sub-zero temperatures hide a multitude of sins - even slightly overwhipped cream develops an agreeable texture when frozen. Add crumbly shortbread and some raspberry sauce, and a disaster can become a respectable dessert.

Hmm. If I can’t have a KitchenAid mixer, could I have an ice-cream maker instead?

Frozen White Chocolate Ganache Tart

(Serves one if you like white chocolate a lot more than I do. Leftovers can go right back in the freezer.)

First, the shortbread shell: Get out a big bowl, drop in a stick of softened butter, and use a fork to mash it with one-eighth of a cup of sugar and a half-teaspoon of salt until well-combined. Measure out one cup of flour, and use the fork to gradually incorporate it into the butter until you have a sandy mixture that you can form into a ball.

Preheat the oven to 325F. Take an eight-inch false-bottomed tart pan and set it on a baking tray. Take the shortbread dough and press it gently into the pan. If it seems a bit thick, remove some of the excess and bake it separately. (It's nice to snack on.)

Prick the dough lightly with a fork. Bake in the oven for thirty to forty minutes, or until the pastry has turned golden in color. Set aside to cool.

Next, coat the shortbread with a thin layer of dark chocolate (it's not essential, but it helps with integrity issues, and adds an interesting dimension to the flavor of the finished tart): Bring a pot of water to a simmer on the stove. Set a heatproof mixing bowl on the pot, and add a few teaspoons of dark chocolate chips. Stir until melted, and remove from heat. Use a butter knife or a teaspoon to coat the shortbread shell in chocolate. Pop it in the freezer to set.

The first step in the ganache (the easier step) involves melting the cream and the white chocolate together. Take three ounces of white chocolate (use chips, or cut a bar into small chunks) and place in a big metal bowl. Pour three-quarters of a cup of heavy whipping cream into a small saucepan and place over low heat. Stir the cream. Keep stirring the cream.

The idea is to get the cream to a little below body temperature, which is hot enough to melt chocolate. You could use a candy thermometer if you're gadget-inclined, but I just test with my fingertips, and pull the cream off the stove when it feels like a warm bath.

Pour the warmed cream over the chocolate. Stir until the cream and the chocolate are incorporated together in one smooth mixture. Let the mixture cool, then stick the entire bowl in the fridge to chill. Cream that isn't cold won't whip.

Once the white chocolate cream mixture is properly chilled, it's on to part two - the whipping. If you're lucky enough to be in possession of a stand mixer, pour the cream into the bowl and let the machine work its magic. If you're doing this by hand, well, misery loves company, right?

All I can recommend is that you whip the mixture gently and carefully and stop to check the texture every other minute. You even can err on the side of caution and leave the mixture a little underwhipped.

Once you get the ganache to its desired texture (or close enough), pour it into the tart shell, smooth out the top, and freeze for at least two hours. Serve with plenty of raspberry sauce.

*My sincerest apologies to Janis Joplin. I couldn't resist.

**The fact that I can hand-whisk lemon curd and hollandaise and even egg whites for soufflés without missing a beat makes this particularly exasperating.

***Given those odds, you might be wondering why I make white chocolate ganache at all. The answer, this time, is that we were celebrating Kitty's birthday.


~~louise~~ said...

I want a KitchenAid mixer so bad, I can taste it!

Julie said...

My KitchenAid mixer was a Christmas gift in 1994 and I love it dearly. And when I recently found myself in a situation where I had to whip cream with a whisk I thought my wrist would fall off. That's work!

This is a delicious sounding tart. Nice way to celebrate a birthday.

adele said...

Louise - I've often joked that the fastest way to acquire one seems to be marriage.

Julie - I find that hand-whipping is easier with my non-dominant hand, probably because I use it less. Then again, I don't handle a whisk correctly (move the wrist, not the shoulder) because ten years of piano lessons left my wrists as stiff as boards.

Alex said...

My dad's girlfriend makes whipped cream with a whisk, or sometimes a hand-powered egg-beater. Blasphemy!

Jennifer said...

I have a kitchen aid hand mixer that makes perfect whipped cream with the whisk attachments. Aside from that, a bunch of us one year all chipped in to buy another friend a KitchenAid stand mixer for xmas one year. Which speaks well for crabbing enough to the right people and they'll do something to shut you up ;)
Also, there is an ice cream maker 'attachment' of sorts for the KA stand mixer; though I don't suppose this makes you feel any better.

~~louise~~ said...

Hi Adele, just dropped by to see how your holiday season is. I'll let you know if I get one this year, I doubt it. I've promised myself one for 2010; no matter what!!!