Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chocolate Overload

Last week was a big chocolate-making extravaganza, the occasion being a surprise treat for Emily's birthday. Her sister-in-law Katie went to visit them in Switzerland this week, so I made the chocolates and then drove them up to her in Tacoma before she left. July is not a great month to ship chocolate overseas! Also not a great month to make them unless you have good air conditioning, which I don't. But I survived by pointing our portable AC into the kitchen all week, and it turned out OK. I don't know if that would have even worked this week, with temps at 106 outside.

After much trial and error (and tantrums) I finally got a pretty decent handle on molding the chocolates. I think the biggest mistake with the previous batch was letting them set up in a warm kitchen. When I put them in the wine cooler right away, they set up nicely with no streaks and released from the molds easily. Some were shinier than others, though. I also got better results with tempering the chocolate a little bit longer. Before I figured all this out, though, I had to throw away a whole batch of passion fruit chocolates. Sorry, Pat! The filling was kind of grainy anyway...still need to work on that recipe.

I made Jasmine tea chocolates, recipe from Michael Recchiuti's cookbook. The ganache was a mixture of dark and milk chocolates:

Then my own recipe for strawberry:

The filling could have been more intensely strawberry flavored, so for my marionberry ganache I increased the berries and decreased the cream. Much better:
I put a bright pink lustre dust in the molds, and it didn't show at all on the dark chocolate. It did look very nice on the milk chocolate for the strawberry, though.

I have finally perfected my key lime chocolate...better than Godiva! The trick was to use key lime concentrate, which I got from the Perfect Puree of Napa Valley. The green lustre dust also looked particularly nice.

One of the chocolates I really liked from Recchiuti was his Star Anise & Pink Peppercorn (milk chocolate). The recipe said to steep the spices for 5-8 minutes, and I unfortunately left them in the cream for 8 minutes. Yikes...way too strong licorice flavor. I can only stand a bite or two. I think you need to be a big licorice fan to appreciate them...hopefully Mom will take them off my hands.

And the last batch was a rose caramel in white chocolate with a dark chocolate base, also Recchiuti's recipe. That was my favorite from his store. The recipe called for rose geranium oil, but I already had rose oil, which was expensive, so I used that instead. It was good, but of course I'm curious to taste the difference with the rose geranium (can't remember from way back in February). Yet another pricey ingredient for me to invest in. My batch turned out to be a tasty confection, but I have to say the overly salty salt caramels from the previous week were more addictive to me. I think salt caramels are my new favorite thing.

Of course, I also really like a strawberry/milk chocolate combo. So I finally tracked down a decent dried strawberry, Stoneridge Orchards. The result tasted just like the ones from Godiva...delicious!
I also felt creative and decided that freeze dried strawberries mixed with milk chocolate might be good. I was right! They have a nice crunch.
I think I would like to try them with a 45% dark chocolate, though. Which is naturally 2 or 3 times more expensive than the 38% Callebaut milk that I use.

All in all, it was a productive week with lots of good learning experiences. One of which was, I should have bought a much bigger wine cooler for chocolate storage! But the one I have was certainly better than nothing, and it has been a lifesaver these past few weeks. Now I need to eat my way through what is left of the most recent chocolates, so that I can make another batch of salt caramels.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ginger Chocolates and Salt Caramels

Finally, I've gotten off my heiney and made a couple batches of chocolates! This week's excuse was mother's birthday (which was last month). She likes ginger, and I just got Michael Recchiuti's cookbook which includes the recipe for his marvelous ginger ganache. So I had to try it! I'm very excited about this cookbook...Recchiuti chocolates are my favorite of all that I've tasted anywhere in the world, and all of my favorite flavors are in this book....yay! I've had it with dipping chocolates (tedious!), so this month I invested in some polycarbonate molds. Easier, and a prettier result. Though as usual, due to my tenuous grasp of chocolate tempering technique, the results were mixed. About half of them were nice and shiny, and half had streaks of untempered chocolate, or were cracked because they didn't fall out of the molds easily, and I had to whack the molds too hard to get them out.

Since I was in the chocolatier spirit, I also decided to modify one of Recchiuti's caramel recipes to try to replicate my favorite salt caramels from Sahagun.

Started out by tempering the chocolate in the machine...
Dusted some of the molds with lustre dust...
Then filled the chocolate molds and let them drain of excess chocolate. You're supposed to scrape the tops off again, but I waited too long for the dark chocolate, so they had set up too much and some got a little raggedy.
Then filled the molds with the ganache or caramel, and topped them with another layer of chocolate after filling was set...
Some of them turned out pretty well....
Others not so much....
The ginger ganache was a dark chocolate in a white chocolate mold, and the salt caramel was covered with dark chocolate.

Lessons for next time:
1. Use less lustre dust. I think less is more in this case...they looked a little funky.
2. Cut the salt in the caramel by 1 tsp. I got a little carried away, and it was a bit salty, even for me! But I will not let them go to waste, because I am frugal that way! ( "Don't waste chocolate": my number one motto).
3. Tempering: practice, practice, practice. I will try warming the molds first and letting the chocolate filled molds rest for a few minutes before draining for a thicker shell, which will hopefully release from the mold easier.