Christmas chocolates 2014

20141226_101719

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.

20141226_101741

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.

20141226_101754

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:

20141129_155925

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

20141129_160250

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

20141215_191218

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.

20141215_112850

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

map600

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

20141215_184429

Where to get supplies:

Advertisements

“The charm of homemade chocolates!”

That phrase is code for “something went wrong”.

IMG_3172

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…

IMG_3177

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

IMG_3171

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.

IMG_3150

I was so excited to open this!

IMG_3154

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

IMG_3157

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.

Patty’s peppermint bark

I’ve been making peppermint bark for a few years. It’s my Christmas specialty. I’ve experimented with different brands of chocolate, candy canes, and peppermint extract vs. peppermint oil, and when I make my annual trip to buy mass quantities of Belgian chocolate, inevitably the shop keeper and other patrons ask me what I’m making. This sparks interesting discussions in the line-up about the best way to achieve a perfect bark, like so:

I send it to my family and Boyfriend’s family. This year, I wanted to make bark, plus a surprise that Boyfriend and I collaborated on. The surprise will not be unveiled for a few days, but I’ll teach you how to make bark today.

One popular bark flavour is using all-white chocolate with red canes, but I prefer a bark that is 2 parts white chocolate to 1 part semi-sweet, using the traditional red, green, and white candy canes per batch.

Good to know before you start:

The chocolate must be tempered, so review my how-to guide before trying this.

Buying candy canes after Christmas is an exercise in futility, lots of places sell out. I buy the canes in Nov, and pick up the Callebaut chocolate in Dec. Whether or not to use peppermint extract or peppermint oil depends on your taste preference, I prefer the oil which I order online from Golda’s Kitchen.

Working with chocolate, you must make sure EVERY dish and implement is completely dry. A drop of water will cause the chocolate to seize.

Wear latex gloves while handling chocolate to prevent the natural oils in your skin from blemishing it. The heat of your hands will also melt it, wearing gloves helps reduce the heat a bit.

this is a lot of chocolate

(By the way, that picture is all the chocolate I purchased this year, not just the portion I used for my bark. I just like looking at all of it together.)

Time required: 5 hours

Yields: enough for 7 households

Total cost: depends on the quality of chocolate, and since it’s a gift I’m not going to say

Special kitchen implements I used:

  • chocolate thermometer
  • 2 cookie trays: 18″ x 12″ and 14″ x 10″
  • wax paper
  • hammer
  • large freezer bag
  • gloves/tongs

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 16 oz white chocolate
  • a few drops of peppermint oil (I use LorAnn oils)
  • 6 jumbo Allan peppermint candy canes

Instructions:

1. Line baking trays with wax paper.

2. Use a serrated blade to chop the semi-sweet chocolate. Weigh out 8 oz, and divide it between two bowls: two thirds in one, one third in the other. Temper the chocolate and stir in one drop of peppermint oil.

3. Pour the chocolate into the trays, spreading evenly with a spatula. Chill in fridge for at least 10 minutes.

Take a break to wash and dry your bowls and chocolate thermometer, they must be bone dry.

4. Unwrap the candy canes, place into freezer bag, and HULK SMASH!! Hammer away until you’ve got a bag of itty-bitty pieces, and set them aside.

5. Chop the white chocolate, and temper it too! Stir in 2-3 drops of peppermint oil.

6. Stir crushed canes into white chocolate.

7. Immediately pour onto first layer and spread evenly with spatula.

Let the trays sit on the counter for 15 min, this gives the white chocolate time to bond to the semi-sweet. Once I forgot to do that, and the white never really adhered to the bottom layer. :[

8. Chill in fridge for at least 3 hours.

9. When you are ready to cut it into pieces, remove the wax paper from the bottom and let it sit on the cutting board for 10 minutes. Use a heavy blade to cut into strips.

10.  Place into tins, separate each layer with a piece of waxed paper.

11. Keep in the fridge. Allow the pieces to sit at room temp for 10 minutes before eating.

12. See all that bark dust on the cutting board? Save it as a garnish for hot chocolate with steamed milk, or pancakes!!

Verdict: When I started out making bark, I used to make it with equal parts of each chocolate. My sister Chocoholic suggested decreasing the semi-sweet. I followed her advice and was really pleased with the result. Bark has a strong flavour so a thin piece is fine, using the 2:1 ratio results in perfect, delicious bark. Merry Christmas!

Playlist: Type O Negative – Hey Pete

Patty’s chocolates round 1 – peppermint

I have made chocolates before, but I have never used a chocolate mould before. I was curious if having a properly shaped and sized chocolate would really make a difference. Taste is the most important factor, and I know that my chocolates taste good. So how important are aesthetics? Let’s find out.

Once again I am using Callebaut chocolate which I adore.

(Belgian chocolate + peppermint) x joy² ÷ 15 = bliss

Good to know before you start:

Make sure that all your kitchen implements are clean and dry to prevent seizing.

Time required: 3.5 hr (30 min prep plus chilling)

Yields: 15 pieces

Cost per portion: $1.00

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $15.00

Special kitchen implements I used:

  • fine sieve
  • Fat Daddio’s silicone chocolate mould, sloped cylinder shape
  • Wilton silicone spatula, with flat end

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz semi-sweet Belgian chocolate
  • 1 oz semi-sweet mint chocolate Chipits
  • ⅛ C heavy cream
  • 3-4 drops peppermint oil

Instructions:

1. Melt chocolate in the microwave, reserving about one third. Microwave on High for 3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds.

2. Add reserved chocolate to melted chocolate, and stir in 1 drop peppermint oil. Stir until smooth.

3. In a heavy-bottom sauce pan add cream and 2 drops of peppermint oil, heat to scalding.

4. Using a sieve, add cream to chocolate and stir until smooth.

5. Spoon into mould. My chocolate was very thick so “smoosh into mould” might be more accurate.

6. Run a flat-end scraper over the top of the mould. I used my silicone spatula for this, in 3 passes. This action collects the excess chocolate on the end of the scraper, which you can then stuff into any cup that isn’t filled enough.

7. Place mould into covered container, and chill. The product description says chill 20 min but I let them chill for 3 hours before sampling, and the were perfect, and I left the rest in the fridge overnight anyway.

8. To remove from mould, cover your hand with a plastic baggy and use thumb to pop out the chocolates. The plastic prevents the oils on your skin from blemishing the chocolates. Work quickly and touch the pieces as little as possible to avoid melting and smudges.

Verdict: These turned out great, I’m quite pleased. They are smooth, creamy, and make my taste buds sing. Oh, I love peppermint!

Using a chocolate mould was easy. If you want to make a large amount of chocolates, use 4 moulds at a time and quadruple the amounts of chocolate. This mould cost $8.25 and was totally worth it.

I knew my chocolate would have air bubbles because it was so thick, there was no way to ensure it flowed into the moulds evenly. If you are looking for a perfectly smooth finished product, skip the cream.

I don’t regret any of the chocolates I made in muffin tin cups, but from now on I will always use a mould.

Making these has changed me profoundly. I’m completely serious. It feels like I have reached a whole new level in baking. I feel like a rock star. It reminds me of the day I made the dessert that changed my life, but more on that in December.

Have you ever baked something that made you feel differently about your mad skills?

Playlist: Castlevania soundtrack

Patty’s peppermint chocolate cups

I challenge you to find a Patty who doesn’t like peppermint. She does not exist! And if she does, I don’t want to meet her. Tonight I’m trying a new method of making candy, and we’ll see if it works out. I am making this recipe up as I go so let’s hope it turns out.

I based this idea off my chocolate peanut butter cups, and used my favourite Belgian chocolate, to make delicious candies with a bold peppermint flavour. I tried to use a new technique to coat the chocolate but you’ll have to wait and see if it was worth it.

Time required: 1 hr

Yields: 10 (ten!) candies

Cost per portion: $3.60

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $36.00 with Belgian chocolate, about $14.00 with generic

Special kitchen implements I used:

  • digital scale
  • serrated knife
  • mini baking cups
  • large container with lid

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 3 oz white chocolate
  • 3 oz mint semi-sweet Chipits
  • 1-2 drops peppermint extract

Instructions:

1. Used a serrated blade to chop the semi-sweet chocolate and set it aside.  Chop and weigh the white chocolate and place that into a separate container with the peppermint chocolate Chipits.

2. Transfer chocolate to microwave-safe bowls.  Microwave the semi-sweet for 2.5 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds.

3. Spoon the chocolate into the mini muffin liners, the 3 on the left are the new technique I tried.

For the first three cups, I used a pastry brush to paint the chocolate over the bottom and sides, planning to fill the middle with the white-peppermint chocolate, then top with another layer of semi-sweet. But I realized I didn’t have enough chocolate, so after painting three I gave up, and just put a dollop of chocolate into the others.

Remember to gently shake each cup so the chocolate settles smoothly.

4. Chill for 20 min.

5. Melt the white chocolate and peppermint Chipits on High for 3.5 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Stir until evenly combined.

6. Stir in peppermint extract.

7. Spoon melted mixture on top of chilled cups.

8. Refrigerate another 30 minutes.

Remove wrapper and…

Can you see the thin layer of semi-sweet at the bottom of the cup?

Verdict:

OMG yum. Really loving these. Wish I had made more. Will do this again with triple the quantities.

Boyfriend said, “Heaven. I live in Heaven. It smells like Heaven, it tastes like Heaven. If I could picture in my mind what it’s like to be in Heaven, that is it.”

And what happened to the three painted cups?

Yeesh, that idea was a wash! I think would have worked better with a thicker coating of chocolate and a top layer.

Playlist: grumbling Boyfriend