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:

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Toblerone truffles

So, my plan was to pipe Toblerone ganache into truffle shells, and dip them into perfectly tempered semi-sweet Belgian chocolate. I was envisioning something like a Lindt chocolate. After all, I had done this successfully before under the guidance of Hobby Victim and I was confident I could produce something worth keeping.

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Do you have any idea how annoying it is to pipe ganache?  Seriously? It sucks. It starts out simply enough. Take some truffle shells and dipping tools.

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Wrangle the ganache into a piping bag like a champion.

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Plan to snip a tiny corner off, and overdo it.  “Pipe” ganache into the shells.

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And by pipe I mean try to at least get some of the god damn stuff into the shell. At one point the chocolate shot out of the bag and got *everywhere*.  On the 3rd tray I got fed up and stopped.

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Now, dipping the first one looks so neat and contained. A perfect little truffle waiting to be enrobed in Belgian chocolate.

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However, all good things come to an end and after you’ve filled about half the tray, dripping chocolate starts to get everywhere. But after enough of them are dipped, a sense of pride starts to build. Smile at what you have wrought.

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After all, the tiny imperfections are the charm of homemade chocolates! They tasted pretty good, but the fillings hardened the next day, so I’m going to put some more experimentation into how to get a Lindt-like centre. Need a little more time at the drawing board for these but overall a success.

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Playlist: Celldweller

 

Ganache gone wild – WTF just happened

Ugh. On Sunday I spent 2.5 hours making a perfectly emulsified ganache for an experiment. I let it chill overnight, and it solidified. I am so steamed.

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Ganache is typically equal parts scalded cream to chopped chocolate, in this case Toblerone.  To achieve a proper ganache that doesn’t crack or separate, you need to emulsify it.  Emulsification is the process of combining two or more liquids, which normally don’t combine, into one. (Basically you stir and rest, stir and rest, chill, pass Go, collect two hundred dollars.) It was all going so well…

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I poured the heated cream onto the chocolate and let it sit for bit, and then stirred every 15 minutes, for 2 hours.

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The hell with stirring by hand. I’ll let Nemo do the work for me. After all that is what I have a stand mixer for, who wants to stand there the entire time? I have video games to play.

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After 2 hours, it had lightened considerably, and had a smooth texture. All okay so far.

So I covered it with saran, and stupidly forgot to press it down to the surface, so the surface hardened.

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I intended to use it on Monday but I was busy. I took it out of the fridge today, and lo and behold.

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What. Is. This? I tried to save it by reheating but the fat started to separate. Wuah! This is no good.

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I figured it might be salvageable if I could stir heated cream into it, and miracle of miracles, it seemed to recover.

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Alright, we’re cooking with gas now. As to what I made this for, well, just stay right there and find out. Next year.

“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.

On chocolate making

I had an wonderful thought on making chocolates the last time I was at the grocery store.

“Look,” I said to Boyfriend, “they are selling giant Toblerone bars for $8.00 over there!”

“Nevermind that!” he said, and valiantly tried to steer me away.

“Think about it: Toblerone ganache.”

“What’s that?”

“You make ganache by pouring scalded cream onto chopped chocolate, then let it set.  I want to buy that bar and make a Toblerone ganache, and use it as a filling for a new chocolate I’m going to make!!”

“Hmmm…”

That was the critical moment. I knew I had won.

But alas, no chocolatiering for me today, I am very sick and it’s going to be a few days before I am fit for baking. However, December is here which means: very soon I will soon be making my Christmas specialty. While I am recuperating, I’m interesting in hearing your thoughts on chocolate.