“The charm of homemade chocolates!”

That phrase is code for “something went wrong”.

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The first time I poured chocolate into molds, they had lots of air bubbles. I complained to my sister who wisely explained it’s like Ed Norton’s glassware in Fight Club, the little imperfections show it was hand-crafted and it’s just the charm of homemade chocolates. So now every time something untoward happens while I’m chocolatiering, you will hear an indignant curse from me, followed by a soothing assurance from Boyfriend Unit, “It’s the charm of homemade chocolates, don’t worry.”

And what goes wrong when you are making chocolates, pray tell? Air bubbles, cracks, bloom (cloudy spots), smudges, melting, seizing, fillings not centered, fillings exploded,  misprint on map, et cet. But I no longer care. Because I know, when people open the box…

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… and eat one, they are all “OMFG”. And that makes me smile.

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We make a 9 piece box, with one dark chocolate, three milk chocolates, and five semi-sweet chocolates. This year Boyfriend Unit experimented with a sea salt dark chocolate since he hates raspberry cream. He really liked the result.

Using a full-sized block of chocolate was a new experience. This is a 5 kilo or 11 pound block of Barry Callebaut Belgian chocolate, classified as a well-balanced bitter cocoa taste, 53.8% cocoa solids. This is the base of all my semi-sweet chocolates.

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I was so excited to open this!

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Just look at that! That is a lot of chocolate.

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My mother asked recently about my weekend plans.

“Making chocolate.”

“Oh hunni? Could you maybe send less dark chocolate this year?”

“Mom, there is one dark chocolate per box!”

“Oh hunni, that’s too much! I don’t like dark chocolate.”

“Ok Mom. No dark chocolate in yours.”

Stay tuned for how this was made and where to get supplies.

Sea salt penuche taffy

Apparently 3 is not the magic number, or this would be a picture of penuche fudge instead of penuche taffy.

Until this failed to set, I had high hopes that I had finally achieved penuche fudge, which as I mentioned yesterday, is a childhood dream of mine. Alas I did not achieve fudge, but I did achieve something, and it has the faint taste of penuche, like a dream gone past recall. I am so close!

I wonder if this is how my sister Chocoholic used to feel.  For years when she made fudge it never set, it just slowly slid to one end of the pan. We ate it anyway, and it was delicious, but there is something annoying and humbling about being unable to make fudge.

I followed the traditional penuche recipe from Old Tyme Fudge. I’m going to try it again today.

I read a lot of online candy recipes, and often find comments that say, “This recipe sucks, I followed it exactly and it didn’t work”.  That’s a pretty conceited way to look at it. If it doesn’t work, the problem must be the recipe? It can’t be your ingredients? Or your equipment? Or your lack of technique?

I used to do tech support, I’m okay with admitting the recipe is fine and the problem is the user. If you try 3 different recipes of the same thing and it doesn’t work, the only common denominator is you.

Notice how it’s still pretty glossy? I suspect that is the problem. It’s stretchy, and when you take a bite it retains a perfect imprint of your teeth, so I think the problem is that I didn’t beat it enough after it cooled. (I was conservative during beating because I didn’t want another rock-hard lump of penuche.)

And yet…

… it wasn’t a total loss. Look at that gorgeous colour!  It mostly held its shape. Boyfriend carefully sliced each piece for me. (Okay, I couldn’t slice this, I tried. After jumping up and down leaning on the knife and not getting anywhere, he rescued me.)

I tasted one, and it was good. I added a little sea salt and wow. Even though this isn’t the final result that I wanted, I liked this a lot, but I’m not sure I could make this again even if I tried.

I’ve read that beating fudge by hand takes around 10 minutes and I had no interest in making my arms sore, so I used my KitchenAid and beat it for 1 minute (20 seconds on Low, 40 seconds on Med-High.) It was so thick I stopped. If you are interested in recreating this penuche pseudo-taffy, instead of making actual fudge, follow the recipe above and under-beat. I have no idea if you’ll get the same results so good luck!

Chocolate caramels

Last night I ventured into bold new territory: the art of candy making.  Chocolate caramels dusted with coarse sea salt are probably not the best breakfast, but this is from the girl who used to eat brown sugar for breakfast so really, what did you expect?

I adapted this recipe from Nestlé’s Chocolate 3 Books In 1 which is on Amazon.com. My last few attempts to make caramel failed miserably, so let’s see how this goes.

Good to know before you start: Caramel can be a dangerous item to make. You must heat sugar to a very high temperature and hot sugar is like napalm, it will burn you terribly.

Before you begin, fill the sink with cold water and ice cubes, and in the event of a burn, immediately submerge the injured arm into the cold water.

Minimize the risk of burns by wearing a heavy long-sleeved shirt, use long oven mitts, and do not put your face near the pot. Be aware that caramel will bubble up like lava once liquid is added, use a deep pot and a long-handled spoon to stir. Stir slowly, avoid splashing.

You need at least 45 minutes in the kitchen uninterrupted.  You cannot walk away from the stove, so pre-measure your ingredients and only start caramel when you have the time to do it, don’t try to rush it or you’ll be sorry.

The original recipe uses two packets (each 1 oz) of Nestlé Toll House CHOCO BAKE pre-melted unsweetened chocolate flavour. I have no idea what that is, and I substituted with cocoa powder and two extra tablespoons of butter.  If using the Choco Bake stuff you only need 1 C of butter.

Time required: 1 hr, plus over night to set

Yields: about 28 pieces

Cost per piece: $1.21

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $34.00

Kitchen implements I used:

  • candy thermometer
  • baking pan 8″ x 8″ and one larger one
  • tin foil
  • plastic wrap
  • mini muffin cups
  • ice cubes

Ingredients:

  • 18 TBSP unsalted butter (2 sticks + 2 TBSP), melted
  • 1 C granulated white sugar
  • 1 C brown sugar, packed
  • 1 C corn syrup
  • 414 mL sweetened condensed milk
  • 6 TBSP cocoa
  • 1 TSP pure vanilla extract
  • coarse sea salt

Instructions:

1. Line baking pan with foil and grease.

2. Measure out condensed milk and cocoa, set aside.

3. In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, add: butter, white and brown sugars, and corn syrup. Cook over Medium heat, stirring constantly.

Mix it all up…

4. Once mixture is boiling, add cocoa powder and condensed milk. Reduce heat to Medium-Low and stir often (almost constantly).

The goal is to obtain a temperature of 118°C / 245°F which should take at least half an hour. Once it’s been bubbling that long, check with a candy thermometer, which is soft ball stage.

Stirring in the cocoa took awhile, it kept floating up and not blending. After 5 min or so it started to look like this:

5. As soon as you reach correct temperature, remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

6. Immediately pour into prepared pan, be very careful not to splash yourself.

(In the back is my candy thermometer sitting on the big spoon thing.)

Place dish into cold water bath, this will lower the temperature so the caramel does not keep cooking into the hard ball stage.

7. After the water is no longer cold, remove from water and cover with plastic wrap. Leave it on the counter overnight to set.

It’s easier to handle if you use plastic wrap instead of your bare hands. Cut with a sharp knife.

8. Set into muffin cups, and sprinkle with salt.

Verdict: These were good. Eventually I want to progress to making real caramel without corn syrup but this is a good start. The last few times I’ve attempted real caramel with just sugar and cream and vanilla it was a disaster but this turned out very well.

I tried one without salt, way too sweet though.

Playlist: Jem & the Holograms soundtrack

Chocolate caramel cookie surprise!

How do you get the Caramilk Bar inside the cookie? Very, very carefully.

I spent today with my cousin J. She kindly provided a recipe for chocolate chip cookies, stuffed with Caramilk bar pieces. Intriguing!

It’s a cutout from a magazine and I’m not sure which magazine it’s from, and it turns out it was in a Longo’s flyer.

Tonight I made a beeline to the store to get Caramilk bars to try these out.

Good to know before you start: This dough is hard to handle.After the dough is prepared, but before the candy pieces are added, chill it in the fridge. I prepared an entire batch of dough but only baked 12 cookies tonight, and by the 9th cookie, as I was shaping it, it began to stick to my hands badly. I recommend baking them in small batches for this reason.

Time required: around 1 hr

Yields: around 36 cookies

Cost per cookies: $1.00

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $36.00

Kitchen implements I used:

  • large baking pan
  • parchment paper
  • mixer

Ingredients:

  • 1 C unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 C brown sugar, packed
  • ½ C granulated white sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temp
  • 1 TBSP vanilla
  • 3 C flour
  • ½ TSP baking powder
  • ½ TSP baking soda
  • ¼ TSP salt
  • 1 C milk chocolate chips
  • 4 Caramilk bars

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 177°C / 350°F, centre rack. Line baking tray with parchment paper.

2. In a mixer, beat butter until fluffy.

3. Add both sugars, beat until blended.

4. Beat in eggs, one at a time.

5. Add vanilla. Set mixture aside.

6. In a large bowl, whisk together: flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

7. Stir dry mixture into butter mixture, adding half at a time.

8. Stir in chocolate chips. Place mixture in the fridge for at least 10 min.

No pic for you!

9. Use knife to cut the Caramilk bars apart.

I will not eat the pieces, I will not eat the pieces. I will not, I will, I ... oops.

10. Scoop out dough with a table spoon, roll into a ball.  Make a small indent with your fingers, and place one square of Caramilk into the indentation. Pinch the dough up to cover the candy, and roll it through your hands again to smooth it out, then place on tray.

11. Bake 15 min. Cool in pan for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack.

Cool on rack at least 2 min before eating.

Verdict: Stupendous! Loved this.

The dough is different from what I’m used to, it has a heavy, almost cake-like consistency, and the caramel centre is piping hot. And so good. They were much better than the cookies stuffed with Oreos.

I baked 12 and put the rest of the dough in the fridge. Together with Boyfriend and V we enjoyed them with milk. (These also dunk well!)

Both agreed “These are really good.”

Playlist: 80’s

Patty’s apple caramel honey cheesecake

The other night I polled my readers, to find out what people thought would taste best with an apple dessert; and honey won. So here is my apple caramel honey cheesecake.

Whew.  Try saying that 3 times fast.  This sweet number is made from a bed of spiced honey graham crackers, covered in fresh tart apples, homemade caramel sauce, and a cream cheese filling made with honey and applesauce.

I was planning to post this the day after the poll, but hit a minor snag.  Well…okay, more of a giant snag. More on that later.

Good to know before you start:

There is a significant time gap between baking the crust, and baking the entire cake, so once the crust is done, shut off the oven, and remember when you turn the oven back on, a lower temperature is used.

Because the crust is chilled before the filling is added, you don’t want to put a cold pan into a hot oven.  You will need to either chill the crust and caramel, then let it sit until it reaches room temperature, or transfer the crust into a new pan already at room temp.

Notice anything new? Or blue? 😀

Time required: 2 days (4 hrs + overnight chilling)

Yields: 40 pieces

Cost per portion: $1.20

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $48.00 (sheesh, glad I just needed apples)

Special kitchen implements I used:

  • electric mixer
  • baking pans: 9″ x 13″ nestled inside a 14.5″ x 10.5″
  • tinfoil & plastic wrap

Crust ingredients:

  • 6 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1¾ C honey graham cracker crumbs
  • ⅛ TSP ground nutmeg
  • smidgen of ground cloves
  • 2 tart apples, (peeled, cored, minced) ADD AFTER CRUST IS BAKED

Caramel ingredients:

  • ¾ C dark brown sugar
  • 5 TBSP unsalted butter
  • ½ TSP ground cinnamon
  • ½ C heavy cream

Filling ingredients:

  • 4 blocks of cream cheese, softened
  • 1¼ C granulated white sugar
  • 2 TBSP powdered corn starch
  • ¼ C unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 TBSP Billy Bee honey
  • ¼ C heavy cream
  • 5 eggs, room temp

Crust instructions:

Step 1 – Use centre rack.  Pre-heat oven to 175°C / 350°F.

Step 2 – Line a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with tinfoil, and grease it.  If you turn the pan upside down and wrap the foil around the outside to get the shape this is easier.

Step 3 – In sauce pan on Low, melt butter.

Step 4 – Combine graham cracker crumbs with nutmeg and cloves, and stir into butter.

Step 5 – remove from heat and press into prepared pan.

Bake 10 min AND TURN OFF THE OVEN.

Step 6 – shred or mince the apples

Step 7 – while crust is cooling, mince 2 apples, and spread this directly over the crust.  Leave on cooling rack.  (There are two different colours here because I did not mince the apples at the same time and one browned a bit.)


CARAMEL INSTRUCTIONS:

Step 8 – in a sauce pan on Medium, melt sugar and butter, whisking often.

Step 9 – When it starts to boil, stir in the cinnamon and remove from heat.

Step 10 – Stir in cream, return to heat until bubbly.

Step 11 – Carefully pour this onto crust, use spoon to spread it to the edges.

Step 12 – Refrigerate at least one hour.  (Before this can go in the oven later with the filling, this pan needs to be room temperature so you’ll need to let it sit or transfer to a new pan.)

FILLING INSTRUCTIONS:

Step 13 – now pre-heat oven to 150°C / 300°F.  Fill kettle and turn on Low, now.

Step 14 – Beat cream cheese on Medium until smooth.

Step 15 – One by one, beat in (and ensure each ingredient is thoroughly blended before adding the next) add: sugar, corn starch, apple sauce honey, and heavy cream.

Go magic mixer, go go go!!!

Step 16 – On Low speed, beat in eggs, one at time, until just blended.

Step 17 – Pour filling onto crust.

Step 18 – Place the pan containing your cake into a larger pan, and fill the large pan with boiling water to form a bain marie.

Step 19 – Bake 65 minutes, it is done when edges are set but centre jiggles.  (Do you see that odd colour in the centre?  That’s what happens when you scrape the bowl of cream cheese and get the pieces that weren’t properly beaten into your cake. Grrrr.)

Step 20 – Cool on rack at least one hour, cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight, before using a hot knife to slice into pieces.  (I blotted the top with paper towel as some condensation had developed.)

Verdict:  Surely a piece of cheesecake made with real apples must have some tiny health benefit, yes? Loved this.

You know, I am totally over the idea of making cheesecake in a round springform pan.  Never again. I get consistently better results when I use a rectangular baking pan.

To create my recipe, I planned a small, round cheesecake, and cut out as much of the eggs and cream cheese as I could, reasoning that since the filling is always quite high, I could probably get rid of 50% of it and still have a tasty cheesecake.  Um, no.

The first attempt ended in total disaster.  It literally disintegrated in my hands; cracking, deflating, and sliding apart.

This was particularly disappointing because it was the first dessert I made in my new KitchenAid mixer.  (Which is a cobalt blue Artisan tilt-head beauty!)

I consulted my cheesecake guru, and she thought the problem might be too much liquid, not enough cream cheese, and not enough time in the oven. I want to be clear: the mixer was not to blame!!

So I went back to the drawing board, played around with my ingredient ratios,  tried a different pan, and baked it a little longer. Success, how sweet it is!

I have arrived at a strange point in my life, where kitchen appliances excite me to a level I thought was gone past all recall. Eh.  Excuse me, I have to go stare at my beautiful blue mixer for awhile.

Playlist: Labyrinth soundtrack