Chocolate can be found in our house at pretty much any time of the year, but chocolate at Christmas is an absolute must. I try and make at least one new festive chocolate recipe each year to give to friends or family and this year I’m delighted to have come up with this Christmas chocolate bark. It’s a layer of dark chocolate covered with a swirled mix of matcha and cranberry white chocolate. It’s delicious.
It’s been a while since I did any chocolate making. Homemade chocolates are a great way to say thank you. They also make a delicious gift or can provide an indulgent pick-me-up. These whisky truffles with dark chocolate and fresh cream ticked all of the above.
Raw chocolates are easy to make. They are also said to be much better for you than regular chocolate; more of the beneficial active ingredients in raw cacao are retained. However, I find plain old raw chocolate on its own can be just a teeny bit boring. So I’ve come up with a few ways to make them a bit more interesting.
Making raw chocolate bars is a relatively simple process, it just requires a bit of melting and stirring. I have made a few versions of this type of chocolate, but I’d never thought about trying to make my own “real chocolate bar” – until now. It’s a lot easier than you might think.
Whereas chocolate peanut butter cups have long been popular in the US as has peanut butter and jelly (jam), the salty sweet combination has only recently blossomed here in the UK. Following on from the craze for salted caramel, comes chocolate combined with peanut butter and it seems to have taken the nation by storm. I’ve become rather enamoured too.
Some time ago, I received a set of chocolate making kits from Chocolate at Home. I made the milk chocolate truffles almost immediately and was impressed, both with the kit and the resulting chocolates. I was saving the other kits up for Christmas. With the party season in full swing, I was pretty sure there would be an occasion to use the Dessert Canapé Kit and I wasn’t wrong.
Sadly and rather frustratingly, both CT and I have been hit by the flu – a result of overcrowding on the trains I suspect and no easy escape from contagious fellow passengers. I can only assume that the old saying, “coughs and sneezes spread diseases” did for us. The result being a rather low key Christmas with no outings in site. Tomorrow our friends hold their annual Solstice dinner and I was saving the canapés for the occasion. Well, we can’t go now, but I’m hoping the canapés can.
This kit was just perfect in my time of need. Cooking and baking is still beyond me at the moment and if truth be told, I don’t fancy eating that much. I was able to make the canapés simply and easily, but still feel I had a hand in the creative process. Both the effort required and the washing up were minimal and I finished the task feeling a lot better than when I started. Contents:
- 15 chocolate canapé cups
- 100g dark chocolate mousse powder
- 40g caramelised hazelnuts
- 50g candied orange peel
- piping bag
Unlike the first kit, when I followed the exact instructions, I thought I’d add my own twist on this one; I created an orange and rhubarb flavoured chocolate mousse, with a bit of a kick to it. I added some organic orange zest and a little of my rhubarb liqueur.
This is how I made:
Orange and Rhubarb Chocolate Canapés
- Poured 125g milk into a bowl and added 1 tbsp rhubarb liqueur.
- Added the mousse powder and whisked briefly.
- Grated in the zest from half an organic orange and whisked again for a few minutes until the mousse was smooth and silky.
- Spooned the mousse into the fifteen chocolate cups provided. A piping bag was provided for this, but as my mousse wasn’t that firm due to the added liqueur, I didn’t think this bit necessary.
- Allowed the mousse to settle and firm up slightly, then removed the cups from their holder and placed on a serving platter.
- Decorated the mousse with the candied orange peel and caramelised hazelnuts provided, then dusted with a little edible glitter (not provided).
The mousse tasted like a sophisticated version of Angel Delight. It was very chocolatey and the orange and alcohol fortified without overwhelming. The chocolate cups were all set at a slight angle, giving an elegant tilt to proceedings and making for a stylish end to any feast.
There’s no doubt about it, chocolate making is fun. It’s also usually messy and results can be unpredictable – or is that just me? Chocolate at Home have taken all of the difficulties out of the activity but have cunningly kept the fun bit in place. They’ve created chocolate making kits that not only make the process easy, but turn out tasty and good looking chocolates. Perfect as a Christmas (or any other time) gift for a chocolate loving friend or relation, these would also be a fun activity for the whole family.
I was sent their entire range to try: two chocolate truffle kits, a dark and a milk, a dessert canapé kit and a reindeer chocolate lollipop kit. I wanted to save the dark chocolate kit and reindeer lollipops for Christmas, so I kicked things off with the milk chocolate truffle kit. This comprehensive kit contains everything you need to make 21 large truffles, bar a bit of basic kitchen equipment. The part that made this particularly easy was the provision of chocolate shells to pipe the truffle mixture into. This avoided much of the mess often associated with truffle making. But the fun part of dipping the truffle shells in melted chocolate is not omitted – phew! The final stage is to coat the chocolates in a crunchy mix of roasted and caramelised hazelnuts.
The kit costs £12.95 and can be bought direct from the Chocolate At Home website. The ingredients weigh 450g and include:
- 125g Belgian milk chocolate (32%)
- 200g milk truffle filling
- 21 milk chocolate truffle shells (35%)
- 50 chopped roasted hazelnuts
- 50g chopped caramelised hazelnuts
- Piping bag
- Instruction leaflet
I was tempted to go off-piste in my usual fashion and add some alcohol to the truffles, but in the end I thought I ought to just follow the instructions and see where they led me. They were both detailed and helpful, all but the melting chocolate part that is. It was assumed that everyone has a microwave, I don’t and suspect I’m not the only one; instructions on how to melt chocolate using a bain-marie would have been helpful. Luckily, I knew what to do and everything worked just as it should. I was very happy with the finished product.
I was impressed with the quality of the kit, which came in a sturdy reusable box lined with orange tissue paper. The piping bag was a good strong one and quite large too, which made filling it particularly simple. However, in addition to the microwave assumption already mentioned, I had a couple of quibbles.
- I would have preferred to have a higher cocoa content in the chocolate which would have made the chocolates a little richer and less sweet.
- The truffle filling contained vegetable fat, which I would rather not see added to chocolate. As everything else seemed to be of good quality, I can only assume this would have been part of the preservation process and that the kits would not be viable if fresh cream or butter was used.
The truffles tasted good and the nutty coating made them particularly scrumptious. I thought they might be overly sweet for CT, but he wolfed a couple down appreciativly and said they were delicious. They looked good too. I gifted a few to the lovely ladies down at Affina who give the best massages ever and always go out of their way to make you feel pampered and valued.
I had some melted chocolate and nuts left over at the end, so mixed these together and filled twelve dinosaur chocolate moulds that I was kindly given by Sisley over at Sew White a couple of years ago.
Thanks for Chocolate At Home for sending me their chocolate making kits to try out. I was not required to write a positive review and as always, all opinions are my own.
|The master at work, not me|
The name Rococo for me conjures up images of sophisticated but slightly quirky chocolate luxury; a company steered by a woman who is thoroughly immersed in the world of fine chocolate. Chantal Coady is a name to be revered, she understands chocolate like few others. She is a chocolate pioneer and when she founded Rococo back in 1983, most of us in the UK had no idea what real chocolate was. Real Chocolate written by Chantal in 2003 was one of the first chocolate books I ever owned; reading the background and history of this most wonderful of substances, got me hooked (if it was possible to be even more hooked than I already was).
Rococo have teamed up with the kitchen expert Magnet to make a number of exquisite chocolates in one of their kitchens and have produced videos to show us how it’s done. In this YouTube video, principal chocolatier Barry Johnson makes Passion Fruit and Rosemary Caramels in the Integra White range at the Magnet Kensington Showroom. It’s an eleven minute step by step guide showing how to produce elegant chocolates including essential techniques such as how to use a mould, make caramel and those all-important finishing touches that delight the eye.
The flavours of passionfruit and rosemary had my mouth watering as soon as I heard about them. I adore passionfruit and when it is combined well with chocolate, it’s a real treat. The addition of the robust earthiness of rosemary is a great balancer to the fruity, tangy sweetness of the passionfruit. I had to have a go. As the video didn’t include quantities, I took an educated guess and the caramels worked out fine. I was only able to find one passionfruit, which wasn’t really enough, so I ended up with only eight caramels and some leftover tempered chocolate. For the 100g of dark chocolate couverture I used, a double quantity of the passionfruit and rosemary caramel would have been perfect, making sixteen large chocolates instead of only eight.
Following the video, but with a few tweaks to adapt to what I had in the kitchen, this is how I made:
Passionfruit and Rosemary Caramel Chocolates
- Using a paintbrush, lightly dusted chocolate moulds with silvery gold glitter as I didn’t have the means for Barry’s method.
- Tempered 100g of Costa Rica origin 71% dark chocolate.
- Coated the sides and bottoms of 16 chocolate moulds (I was being hopeful and only had enough filling for 8). Left to set.
- Pressed the insides of 1 large passionfruit through a sieve into a small pan.
- Added 1 tsp of glucose syrup and a few needles of freshly picked and washed rosemary.
- Heated over a low temperature until warm, then left to infuse for an hour.
- Heated a heavy bottomed pan over a medium to high heat, then poured in 50g golden granulated sugar. Left to caramelise and turn a light reddish brown.
- Removed from the heat and stirred in the passionfruit, mixing vigorously as I did so.
- Added 15g of unsalted butter, followed by 25g of a good 41% milk chocolate and mixed until smooth.
- Left to cool, then spooned into the moulds, leaving a 2mm gap at the top.
- Left for a couple of hours to set.
- Topped the moulds with the liquid tempered chocolate and left to set.
- Removed with great care.
|My attempt at cutting neatly in half|
My chocolates may not have been as accomplished as Barry Johnson, but I was impressed with the results. The chocolate was tempered, with a good snap and a beautiful shine. In fact they were so shiny, they were virtually impossible to photograph. The chocolate was a high quality bar of Costa Rica origin 71% that I picked up at the Waterford Food Festival and it tasted delicious – rich and fruity but with no bitterness. The caramel was exquisite. It had a smooth soft texture and the flavours of sweet tart passionfruit, a hint or rosemary and rich chocolate melded perfectly. One of the points Barry mentions in the video is to be careful the caramel is well sealed by the chocolate as you don’t want it to leak out. I not only managed this, but also achieved a thin chocolate shell so the caramel was enhanced rather than overwhelmed.
So if you’re planning on holding a dinner party or need something special to wow friends and family, why not try making these mouth-watering Passion Fruit & Rosemary Caramels. Even if you don’t, watch the video anyway – it’s so interesting to see the process and watch a top chocolatier at work in a clean and tidy kitchen.
This is a sponsored post. I was not asked to write a positive review and as always any opinions expressed are my own.
As these chocolates contain a caramel flavoured with fresh rosemary, I am entering them into Karen’s Cooking with Herbs over at Lavender and Lovage. Mediterranean herbs are this month’s theme.
With rosemary being a Mediterranean herb, I am also sending this off as a posh Tea Time Treat to Janie over at The Hedgecombers and Karen over at Lavender and Lovage.
Raw chocolate is where it’s at. The interest in raw foods generally is growing and it’s no revelation now that chocolate can be good for you. It has a number of virtues including vitamins, minerals, omega 3 and 6. fatty acids, flavanoids and theobromine. So far, so good. However, this is mitigated against by the processing and additives such as sugar that go into “normal” chocolate. The darker the chocolate the better it will be for you. Raw chocolate does not go through the same heat processing and thus retains more of its beneficial effects. The jury is still out as to whether agave syrup is better or worse for us than sugar. It has a low glycaemic index but is high in fructose.
Who’s tried goat’s cheese chocolate truffles before? If you haven’t you’re in for a surprising treat. They make a fitting end to a dinner party meal and will be much appreciated by any self respecting chocolate and cheese lover on any occasion.