Christmas chocolates 2015

This year we made the best box of chocolates so far, and created a new flavour. As usual I worked with Callebaut, opted for a less sweet white, but kept the same cocoa solid percentages for the others:

  • milk chocolate 823NV, 33.6% cocoa solids, 21.8 milk solids
  • dark (semi-sweet) 811NV, 54.5% cocoa solids
  • dark 70-30-38NV, 70.5% cocoa solids
  • white CW2NV, 25.9% cocoa solids, 23.7% milk solids

Ran into  a lot of trouble with fat bloom, starting with the Toblerone.

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I paid it no mind and got to work.

Later I had switched to the Callebaut and got bloom 3 times in a row.

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WTF.

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I know how to temper.  What is going on here?  I think it was the heat in my home, we ended up opening all the windows, and after that the problem went away, so I just remelted all the chocolate without fillings or centres.

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Ah! Ever so much better! I just love those little ornament shapes.

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Tried a new flavour this year, white chocolate vanilla bean with matcha ganache.  It was good. I have embraced using a squeeze bottle to pipe my fillings now and does it ever work better than a piping bag.

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I was quite happy with the peppermints this year. I switched the centre to a milk chocolate peppermint ganache, and it came out very delicious and creamy. Much better than previous years.

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After a few nights of tempering and filling like mad, the boxes were all made up and ready for shipping to my family.

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I always have such fun making these.  Even though sometimes I want to throw all my chocolatiering supplies off the balcony…

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So now that I’m back to making chocolate again, and looking after my blog again, what I have planned for the winter of 2016 is mostly flavour experiments and review of new products I’ve tried and courses I’ve taken.

Where to get supplies:

Christmas chocolates 2014

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Have just finished Year 4 of making chocolates for Christmas. I’ve learned a lot since I started in 2011 and practice really does improve your skill. This is the quality I could create in the beginning, and this is what I make now.

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I was really excited about making chocolates again. Well actually, I’m really excited about working with chocolate at any time, but this year was the first year I could make 9 individual shapes, and mastered the fillings I wanted to create; something creamy and soft and delicious. This may be it, I do not foresee making any future changes to the recipe or the box contents.

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I like November because it’s time to secure the Belgian chocolate. Social invites are turned down with a hushed, “It’s chocolate-making season” and understanding nods. Chocolate paints the ceiling of my home. The fridge has no room for food. It is the month of having dinner delivered and an excuse to be quite lazy in some ways.

See quarter for scale:

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No worries Mom, your box will not contain any dark chocolate.

I used 4 types and for the chocolatiers out there here are the specs:

  • milk chocolate 823NV, 33.6% cocoa solids, 21.8 milk solids
  • dark (semi-sweet) 811NV, 54.5% cocoa solids
  • dark 70-30-38NV, 70.5% cocoa solids
  • white W2NV, 28% cocoa solids, 23% milk solids

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What started as a modest hobby has grown into a massive time-suck. And tears.

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Speaking of new fillings, there they are. They are liquid and delicious, instead of hard and dry. I abandoned icing sugar and evaporated milk, and turned to making ganache; heavy cream, Belgian chocolate, and concentrated oils. The raspberry cream, orange cream, and butter cream are made with white chocolate ganache. The peppermint and peanut butter cream are made from milk chocolate ganache. The caramel is a soft, liquid homemade stuff and I fear it has some mystery addictive quality.

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And it was time to re-draw the map again.

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I feel a great sense of satisfaction when they are all laid out.

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Where to get supplies:

McCall’s Pure Chocolate Workshop review

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This week I attended the Pure Chocolate Workshop at McCall’s School of Cake Decoration with Boyfriend Unit. I was hoping to learn more about making good creamy fillings for my chocolates. I rank my knowledge level close to intermediate, I know how to temper by hand, I dabble in recipe crafting, but so far my creations lack a certain “oomph”. I was really excited to learn from a professional. And what I made after I got home, well… you’ll see.

Cost: $75 per person

Course length: 3 hours

What did we learn:

  • introduction to couverture chocolate and how to handle it
  • melting and tempering
  • working chocolate (tabling) on a marble slab
  • dipping chocolate
  • types of fillings and shelf life
  • storage and temperature
  • moulding and filling

If you’re in the GTA, McCall’s is on Bloor St West between Kipling and Islington, we walked up from Kipling Station. This course is offered once per season. I’ve never been to McCall’s before, and the inside is a lot bigger than you can tell from the street view. There is a retail shop in the front and a teaching kitchen in the back. It was filled with all sorts of glorious machines and tools that I wanted to cart home.

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Our instructor was Kay, who has 30+ years industry experience. She was very knowledgable, and funny. She spent some time talking about different brands of fine chocolate, the conching and tempering process. I have tempered on stove top via double boiler, and in the microwave, and with a professional tempering machine. I have never tabled chocolate on a marble slab before and that is the method we learned.

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^ the box of everything we made in the course

I’m glad I got to try tabling chocolate, but never again! We screwed up the milk chocolate twice before she intervened. How embarrassing. We got to work with polycarbonate moulds, and learned some different techniques to get pretty designs on the chocolate.

I learned a lot, and had a great time. I’d recommend this course to anybody who wants to learn more about working with chocolate.

What I made when I got home:

When she showed us how to coat a mould, everybody said “Ooooh” at the same time, and I decided to try it out on my silicone moulds.

After you temper some chocolate, pour it into your mould until it overflows. Don’t worry about being neat or even. Now whack it on the counter to remove air bubbles and ensure the entire cavity is filled.

You turn it upside down so all the chocolate drips out onto the parchment paper (see top right) and use a palette scrape to pull the excess away.Turn it and shake it a bit to get an even coating, and don’t throw the excess away, once it sets, it is easily peeled off the parchment paper and you save it to re-temper.) You end up with moulds coated in chocolate with hollow centres.

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This will set in under 20 minutes, and then IT IS TIME.
Pipe in the homemade caramel sauce!

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Tap to settle it, and top up with more tempered chocolate. Again scrape away the excess.

And in about half an hour, you have this!

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Tah-dah!

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I mean, just look at it!

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Glorious! This is so much better than the hard caramels I’ve made before. I am so excited to send this to my family in December.

(cookie bowl + ice cream) X caramel sauce

So this was ridiculously easy and delicious. I made cookies last night and Boyfriend asked if I would make some cookie bowls.

“What the hell is a cookie bowl? It sounds messy. Why?”

“Please just try it! It’ll be really good.”

“Oh fine.”

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(Consume immediately after production, just make as many as needed. Don’t bake in advance.)

Make cookie dough. Press the dough flat, and fit it over an inverted muffin tin.

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Bake!

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Damn!

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Carefully loosen edges with small spatula and you have a cookie bowl!

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Add frozen yogurt.

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Heat up the delicious caramel sauce wrought from your hard work and tears.

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Verdict: OMFG. This was fantastic. I forgot the dough spreads so next time I’d space the dough farther apart on the muffin tin. The flavour of the caramel sauce seems better now that I’ve paired it with something, just trying a spoonful of it plain was a bit meh but on ice cream: WOW. I think this could be astronomically delicious with my hot fudge sauce under the frozen yogurt.

Sanctified

Although they look the same, one of these jars contains burnt caramel, and the other is delicious.

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I found this recipe on Bake Like a Pro. It took 6 tries before I got it to work. It’s about as much fun as making fudge. It seemed like a really simple recipe but I had a lot of trouble getting this right.

Time required: 4 hours  (1 hour of actual work)

Yields: about one cup

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $14

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Ingredients:

  • 1 C granulated white sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 TBSP water
  • ⅓ C butter (cold)
  • ½ C heavy cream (room temp)

Instructions:

1. Add sugar, salt, and water to sauce pot, tilt pot to moisten the sugar. A ring of sugar crystals will form but pay it no mind.

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2. Heat on Low, occasionally tilting the pot, until all the sugar has dissolved and it starts to simmer. The mixture will have soapey-looking bubbles.

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This takes forever and is really boring. Don’t leave your stove. I ruined the first batch that way.

Eventually it reaches full boil and the colour will subtly shift to gold. This part took about 25 minutes before I noticed the colour change. When you tilt the pot, a delightful aroma wafts up now.

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3. After about 6 minutes it will darken to orange. This is the part where it is caramelizing and developing a flavour. You don’t want to yank it off the heat too soon but you also don’t want it to darken to deep copper or it’s burnt at that point.

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(I let it cook for 2 more minutes then removed from heat.)

4. Add cold butter and stir until completely melted.

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5. Add warm cream and stir until thoroughly mixed.

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6. Return to stove on Low, it took about 7 minutes to get back to a boil. I let it go for about 2 minutes then removed from heat.

7. Cool on counter 30 minutes. (On batch 3, I only cooled it 20 min and ran into temperature shock where the fat separated.)

8. A skim formed. Strained into mason jar and took it outside to admire because it was so pretty.

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9. Chill at least one hour and it will thicken up.

Verdict: FINALLY! I am too tired and hot to temper chocolate tonight, but I have liquid caramel. Stay tuned for what this goes inside.

Playlist: Nine Inch Nails

The big come down

Round 5 was doing so well. I thought I had it. Alas; it’s burnt and tastes vile. I sense I am almost there. This time the fat didn’t separate, and it has the right consistency. Am going to try one more time today. Focusing on: I have made caramel sauce. It doesn’t taste good, but it is caramel sauce.

There is a stage when the sugar is boiling, it takes on a golden tint, which quickly deepens and goes through several shades of orange before it attains a rich coppery red. Which is where I stopped. And that is too far. At this point it’s already burnt.

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Not so pretty now

How does boiling sugar reform into rock while the stove is still on? Even if the liquid boils away, you shouldn’t get something that looks like meth.

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Do not understand. Is this alchemy? Have I discovered a new property of granulated sugar and created something new? What have I wrought? It is impervious to heat!!!