Saturday, February 11, 2006

Inspiration isn't enough

We're hosting our small group Bible Study at our home tomorrow evening. While I was casting about, trying to figure out what I want to serve, I got my February issue of Gourmet magazine. On the cover is a GORGEOUS Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Cake and inside is a recipe for Chocolate Almond Shortbread cookies. So I get one of my brainiac ideas--"I know! I'll fix all sorts of cool and decadent desserts because Valentine's Day is coming!"

I had a lovely time choosing recipes, planning my dessert menu, thinking about the table and all the fun things that go along with a Valentine dessert party. I remembered that I still have some cute Valentine dessert sized napkins that I bought a few years ago but had forgotton to use. Great! I went to Target and found some really, really cute heart-shaped ramekins ($1 each!) that I can use as candy dishes--conversation hearts, cinnamon imperials, and Hershey's kisses all wrapped for Valentine's day. I found some strawberries to dip in chocolate (and they were 2 pints for $4!) By this time, I'm thinking that everything is falling into place and this is going to be a lot of fun.

Until I started to cook this afternoon. Have you ever had one of those days where everything, absolutely EVERYTHING goes wrong? That was my day. I neglected to read the fine print in the recipe and used a whole package of gelatin in my mousse instead of the 1 teaspoon I should have measured out of the envelope. As soon as the Nutella hit the gelatin (which I was supposed to be whisking) the whole sad mess set up. The whisk was immediately immobilized and stuck to the bottom of the pan. I'm supposed to "whisk" the marscapone into that mixture? I got out my hand mixer and said a prayer. After nearly burning out the motor on my hand mixer, I got the marscapone incorporated into the nutella/gelatin glob. During this time, my stand mixer was merrily whipping creme, cocoa, and sugar. It turned out beautifully. I hated to have to try to "fold" the beautiful whipped cream into my stiff nutella/gelatin/marscapone mixture, but by this time I had a lot of ingrediants already committed, so I folded it in. Surprisingly, it didn't turn out too bad. I licked the spatula and it really tasted delicious. Tomorrow I will test it to make sure my knife doesn't bounce back when I try to cut it before I make the ganache that goes on top.

The Chocolate Almond Shortbread cookies look like they will be fine--as long as they don't fall apart when I take them out of the pan.

I decided to make some plain shortbread cutout cookies just in case the cake sets up like rubber. Now, I have made shortbread for years. I've never had trouble with it. Today I decided to double the recipe because I am taking a meal to a family tomorrow and I needed a dessert. I creamed the sugar and butter and added the flour. It was the consistency of, well, flour. I added extra butter a little bit at a time until it was the consistency of sand. I added a little bit of heavy cream, thinking that might get it to come together. Nothing.

I called my sister, Kathy, who makes delicious, tender shortbread cookies and told her the whole sad story. She was very sympathetic (when she wasn't laughing) but she had no long distance advice for me. We decided to try pressing it into a 9 x 13 and baking it. Here's the result.

I don't think I'll be serving shortbread.

Sigh. I hope the chocolate covered strawberries turn out. . .

(Lauren--I think I flunked Martha Stewart)

[update] Here's the recipe for the Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Cake, Gourmet Magazine Feb. 2006

[update 2] Go check out my friend, Allyson's, Valentine tea party. Allyson is a splendid cook and hostess as well as a fantastically gifted photographer. Allyson, where are you when I need you???

[update 3] Here's the recipe for the Chocolate Almond Shortbread cookies.

Here's what they looked like:

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