Don't let candy-making terms or techniques deter you from trying your hand at making sweets. Here are some tips from a couple of pros.
Temper: "All you're really doing is heating (chocolate) and cooling it while stirring it and adding more chocolate. The trick is in being patient and paying attention to how it looks," says Liddabit Sweets' Liz Gutman in Brooklyn, N.Y. Don't get any water in the chocolate or it will seize up.
Decorate: After filling the sandwich cookies, roll edges in nuts, candy sprinkles or coconut. Dip half a filled sandwich cookie in melted chocolate (white, dark, milk), suggests Stephanie Samuels, owner of Angel Food Bakery, 1636 W. Montrose Ave.
Sounds like panache. Sounds fancy but is super-simple to make.
Heavy whipping cream is heated, poured over chopped-up chocolate, then stirred gently until chocolate melts. "On Food and Cooking" author Harold McGee, who traces the creation of ganache to 19th-century France or Switzerland, calls it one of the simplest chocolate preparations "that can be infused with many other flavors."
You'll use it: To glaze a cake (when ganache is liquid), to fill sandwich cookies or pastries (when it's cooled and thickened). It is the beginning of chocolate truffles.
How to do it: One of the simplest ganache recipes comes from chef Wolfgang Puck. He suggests using a good quality bittersweet chocolate such as Valrhona, Callebaut or Scharffen Berger.
Heat 1 cup whipping cream just to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Place 8 ounces finely chopped bittersweet chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour cream over chopped chocolate; set aside for 2 minutes. Stir slowly with a wooden spoon until all chocolate has melted and blended with the cream, about 2 minutes. Be careful not to let too much air enter the mixture while stirring. Makes: 2 cups
Why bother: Two perfect ingredients — what could be better?
Chocolate wafer sandwich cookies
Note: Adapted from Angel Food Bakery owner Stephanie Samuels' recipe. She suggests using a readily available dark cocoa such as Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa. "Something that's a little on the darker side gives it a stronger chocolate taste without adding any sweetness."
Mix: Blend 1 1/4 cups softened unsalted butter, 2 cups granulated sugar and 2 eggs in mixer until fluffy. Sift together in a bowl 3 cups flour, 10 tablespoons dark cocoa, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add to butter mixture. Mix slowly just to blend. Do not over-beat.
Form: Turn onto floured surface; knead slightly. Divide in 2 pieces; flatten each. Wrap, then refrigerate several hours or overnight. Roll out 1 piece about 1/8-inch thick (keep remaining dough chilled, and chill scraps before rerolling); cut into shapes (circles, hearts). Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake at 325 degrees for 12 minutes. Cool. Sandwich two cookies with filling.
Fillings: Ganache, flavored buttercream (vanilla, bourbon, espresso), thick jam (apricot, raspberry), thick dulce de leche.
Makes: About 3 dozen 2-inch-diameter sandwich cookies
— Judy Hevrdejs, Tribune Newspapers