If I were to wait for the proper weather to bake certain desserts, I'd never get to turn the oven on or fry some donuts and the ice cream machine would be churning year round. Take Halloween day, it was near 90F pretty much all day long and yet I wanted to bake some fun goodies for the neighbors. We spent the day in short sleeves, going about the neighborhood with the kids steaming in their costumes. More than one of them thought ill of their parents for dressing them up as a furry teddy bear or a heavy padded alligator. I know these feelings disappeared when I brought down these hot Chocolate Wontons and a batch of Tonka Bean Ice Cream that we had with glasses of apple cider...on ice.
Years ago we used to have a different chocolate special everyday at the restaurant and certain mornings proved difficult to come up with a bright idea at 5am when I was hand deep into kneading baguettes. I remember opening Chocolate Passion by Timothy Moriarty and Tish Boyle with the assurance that I'd have a winner and often recommended it to patrons asking me for a recipe. When I stumbled upon Maury Rubin's Book Of Tarts, I think I baked just about every one of them they were so creative.
Sometimes it's a technique or a subject that makes me delve in a cookbook. Sometimes it's the story behind its coming to life, an anedocte, the writing. Sometimes it's the author and her/his journey. In short, something that moves me beyond the recipes (I have quite a head full of those already) which is the case with Jaden's first cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook, from which I made the chocolate wontons. Having shared a plane, meals, drinks, and a panel with her, I can tell you that Jaden is good people and I am extremely proud of her. I knew her book would be one I could open at any page and cook something new, delicious and fresh. All four recipes I have made so far were a hit with us and our friends.
If you were to come to my house you'd think I spend all my spare change on cookbooks. If you looked a little closer, you would see a fine print on most reading "preview copy", "press release copy", etc... About twice a week, the mailman makes the hike up to the front door and drops a new box on the porch. He also leaves a couple of doggie treats for the pupps. They know it, they go crazy until I get to the door. What do I do? I open the box, I flip through the book and get the post-its out. "This one will be great for friend S." or "This is one for R." and so forth.
I am very appreciative of this situation, believe me and I am under no obligation to review or pimp them out on this site. I know that a friend would benefit from a crockpot recipe book more than I will since I don't own such a beast, or my baking-challenged friend S. might enjoy a basic dessert cookbook more than I will. But there are books I hoard, read, cook and bake from, hoard again, read some more and cook from until the hinges get worn out. Jaden's book will be one of them.
I must give Jaden kuddos for the dessert section though she said it was tough to write. Her approach to dessert is very much what we like throughout the week: fresh fruits, easy to prepare frozen treats and the occasional splurge like the chocolate wontons. The headnotes say they will make little girls squeals and little boys break out into a disco dance (I am paraphrasing) and the neighbors' kids did just that on Halloween when I handed them out! I think I even saw a couple of adults shake their bootie in delight too!
These are so easy to make and if you get an extra set of hands to help out, you can make a double batch in a flash. Plan on that as they disappear very fast! There is no need for a deep fryer and if you keep the oil at a steady 350F you end up with perfectly crisp, never oily wontons which chocolate center oozes out as you bite into them. I had planned to serve them with her Asian Pear Frozen Yogurt but we devoured that one too fast so I went with my own tonka bean ice cream instead. The almond and vanilla flavor of the tonka paired really well with the chocolate once again. (see recipe notes)
Chocolate Wontons, from The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook, with permission of Jaden Hair
1 tablespoon water
12 wonton wrappers
12 pieces of chocolates (I used about 4 chocolate chips per wonton)
high heat oil for frying (I used canola)
Powdered sugar for dusting
In a small bowl, make an egg wash by whisking together the egg and the water.
On a clean, dry surface, place a wrapper down with a point facing you. Place a piece of chocolate or chocolate chips near the top end of the wrapper. Brush a thin lauer of egg wash on the edges of the warpper. Fold the bottom corner up to create a triangle and press down at the edges to remove as much air from the middle as possible. Make sure the wrapper is sealed completely. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and chocolate pieces. Keep the prepared wontons covered with a piece of plastic wrap or a damp towel to prevent them from drying.
In a wok or medium pot (I used a 9-inch cast iron pan), heat about 2 inches of oil to 350F and gently slide a few wontons into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan as the oil temperature would lower too much and you would end up with grease-soggy wontons.
Fry 1 to 1 1/3 minutes on each side until both sides are golden crisp.
Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with powdered sugar
Tonka Bean Ice Cream:
Notes: Yes, tonka beans are banned from import in the US by the FDA, yet they are used by many countries in food preparation and desserts in particular. Consumed in large quantities, they can be toxic as they contain an anticoagulant which many blood thinning medications are based on, courmarin. So, it's banned, but its main agent is used in meds here and you can purchase tonka beans on ebay. UGH?!! Gotta love the FDA and large medical companies politics. Since I use 2-3 beans a year in recipes that feed no less than 8 people each time, I know we are ok but research and educate yourself before cooking with tonka beans if you are interested.
By the way, if you have vanilla extract from South America in your pantry and wonder why it smells like a vanilla bean got too close to an almond one night, that's probably because tonka beans were used instead of real vanilla or diluted with it to make it cheaper to sell. Nothing wrong with that if you are aware of all the facts.
Tonka beans smell like a cross between vanilla and almond extracts and if you can't find or do not wish to use tonka beans, substitute with each extract in the ice cream recipe and you will get close to the actual flavor.
6 egg yolks
1 cup (100gr)
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tonka bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla + 1/2 teaspoon almond extracts)
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the sugar until pale and thick. In a saucepan set over medium heat, bring the milk, cream to a simmer, without letting it come to a full boil. With a microplane, grate the tonka bean right over the milk and cream simmering (I add the little knob left for extra flavor). Slowly pour the hot cream over the egg yolks mixture while whisking to temper the egg yolks. Pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the cream coats the back of spoon. It should register 170F on a candy thermometer. At this point you have made a custard sauce, also known as "creme anglaise". Let cool completely, strain and refrigerate until cold, preferably overnight.
Once and the custard is cold, process according to your ice cream maker manufacturer's instructions.