Have you made your own chocolates before? If not, it’s a lot easier than you might think. Sweet and salty, melting and crunchy, these salted caramelised almond chocolates are pure delight. Flower shapes are entirely optional.
It was my lovely cousin’s wedding last weekend and as she was getting married to a Welshman, the wedding took place in Wales. Now this was not your average wedding but a rather grand affair lasting three days; due to work commitments, there was no time for a honeymoon. This gave the bride and groom a chance to spend time with their family and friends and likewise gave me an opportunity to have a proper catch up with my family. Day one was a spa day for some, with others such as myself, meeting the bride to be in the evening for a glass of champagne. I wanted to make her something as a pre-wedding soother – chocolate seemed the appropriate choice. I wasn’t sure what her preferences for chocolate were, but guessed she might be a milk chocolate sort of girl. I decided to make a bar of salted milk chocolate and also some plain milk chocolate spoons in case she didn’t like the salted option. Luckily, this turned out to be a favourite of hers. I also used a Good Luck label mould that I bought from Sew White just before Christmas along with the chocolate spoon moulds. So, it was time to put some of the tips I’d learnt from the chocolate course to good use and try my hand at chocolate tempering once again.
|Milk Chocolate Spoons|
This is how I made:
Salted Chocolate and Chocolate Spoons
- Melted 150g milk chocolate (G&B 38%) in a bowl over a pan of hot water.
- Removed from the heat and added a further 50g of chocolate, stirring until all of the chocolate had melted and the temperature had cooled to 29C.
- Carefully spooned into six spoon moulds and one label mould.
- Added a pinch of fleur de sel to the remaining chocolate, stirred then poured into my Golden Ticket mould, sent over from the chocolate queen herself Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.
- Left to set then turned the chocolates out of the moulds, managing to break one of the spoons as I did so.
|Congratulatory salted milk chocolate bar|
The Wedding Day itself dawned bright and fair, but there was still a decided nip in the air. Caerphilly Castle proved to be a rather impressive setting for the wedding. It was built in the 13th Century by an English baron at the time of Henry III in a successful bid to keep the Welsh at bay. Surrounded by a moat and lakes, this is the second biggest mediaeval castle in Britain, Windsor being the first. It is particularly famous now for its leaning tower, damaged during the Civil War, which, whilst not quite as tall as the leaning tower of Pisa, inclines at a steeper angle. We had plenty of opportunities to explore the castle thoroughly.
|Leaning Tower of Caerphilly|
Impressive the castle may have been, but warm it was not – there was many a goose pimple to be seen throughout the day and evening as we all shivered in our wedding finery. Stiletto heels were in abundance, how they coped with the terrain I do not know, but thankfully no injuries occurred. The bride looked absolutely stunning and the wedding breakfast (at 16:30) was impressive. The waiting staff were excellent – friendly, but professional, managing to serve the food so it arrived hot and more importantly was delivered to the right people. My vegetarian options were scrumptious. I had a saffron, pea and asparagus risotto to start with and a tomato polenta stack for my main course. The pudding was a chocolate fondant which was appreciated by all. We’d previously enjoyed canapés along with champagne up in one of the towers – how those stilettos made it up and down the ancient spiral staircase, I’ll never know. The canapés were also served warm and were particularly welcome. Speeches and dancing followed with the bride and groom doing an impressive first dance inspired by Dirty Dancing – they must have been practising for quite some time.
|No stilettos here|
|White Hydrangeas everywhere|
|The Bride & Groom|
Day three was another gathering of family and friends, this time for a hefty lunchtime meal in a nearby inn, with lashings of punch for those not driving. Many were staying the night, along with the bride and groom, but not us. With heavy stomachs but cheery hearts, CT, my mother and I wended our way back home to Cornwall.
|Last of the Cupcakes|
These homemade chocolate Brazils may not be quite as healthy as the sugar-free We Should Cocoa challenge I have set for January, but they were jolly delicious and contained only a small amount of sugar. They are also suitable for vegans.
When Dom announced that this month’s Random Recipes was to choose something from a book gifted at Christmas last year, I thought oh good. I was thrilled to have received Tea with Bea as a present last year and really haven’t used it much. Now was my chance, I thought. But something was drifting around in the back of my mind, trying to get break through to the surface. With a feeling of doom, the thought finally emerged: I received two books for Christmas last year. The second was the highly regarded Cooking with Chocolate by Frederic Bau from the Ecole du Grand Chocolat Valrhona – eek! Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic book and I love poring through its pages whilst having fantasies about reproducing the high art of patisserie found therein. But these are, I should stress, fantasies, not actuality. I mean to say, me? Actually make something from it?
I used a random generator hoping against hope that Tea with Bea would be chosen; after all I did have a 50% chance. But, it was not to be. With heavy heart, I used the random generator once again. Page 378 gave me a concoction so complicated I nearly fainted on the spot. A cake made up of seven, yes seven different recipes: chocolate sponge, ginduja pastry, gold-dusted chocolate shards, chocolate custard, cocoa syrup, chocolate mousse and a chocolate glaze. I could see Christmas would have to be cancelled as I locked myself in the kitchen for the next few days. No, sorry Dom. For the first time in all these months of entering Random Recipes I was going to cheat. I had a tentative look at the recipe on the previous page and then looked again. Yippee, Golden Palets (or truffles to you and me). I was wanting to make chocolates for Christmas and to enter Vanessa’s virtual Lets Make Christmas chocolate event having sadly missed the real live one at the Rococo Chocolate Factory in London, so these would be perfect. Even the thought of tempering chocolate and the three stars donating hardest level recipe, did not put me off. These seemed to be simplicity itself in comparison to the da Vinci Code of cakes.
On 12/12/12 it was my Great Uncle’s 100th birthday. There is a big family get together up in Kent this weekend to celebrate this momentous and unusual event. I wanted to make a particularly good job of these chocolates as some of them are destined for the birthday boy. No pressure then.
Inevitably, I changed the recipe, but like to think I stayed true to the spirit of the golden palets. I flavoured the ganache with rosemary rather than vanilla and upped some of the quantities as I wanted to make a goodly number.
This is how I made rosemary chocolate truffles:
- Placed a large sprig of rosemary from the garden into a pan.
- Poured in 250ml double cream and bought to a simmer.
- Turned the heat off and left it to infuse until cold.
- Removed the rosemary.
- Added 2 tbsp of set Cornish honey and warmed the mixture up again until it was just hot and the honey had melted.
- Gave it a good stir.
- Melted 240g dark chocolate (Green & Black’s Cook’s 72%) in a bowl over hot water.
- Stirred until smooth then removed from the heat.
- Poured one third of the cream into the chocolate and stirred in quick small circles until all incorporated.
- Poured in another third and repeated followed by the final third.
- Added 25g of diced unsalted butter and stirred until smooth.
- Spooned some into 24 chocolate moulds and left to set overnight along with the rest of the mixture.
- Turned out the ganache from the moulds onto a silicone mat and rolled teaspoonfuls of the remaining ganache into 30 balls.
- Melted 340g of dark chocolate (Green & Black’s 72% Cook’s) in a glass bowl over hot water, ensuring it didn’t go over 58C.
- Removed from the heat and let it cool down to 29C
- Placed it back on the heat and raised the temperature to 32C
- Dipped the ganache pieces into the chocolate with a fork and placed on a silicone mat to set. Decorated some with a sugar flower and some with a light dusting of edible gold glitter – 54 in total.
- Hunted around for hours, trying to find suitable boxes to put them in.
- Used the remaining melted chocolate for other items which will feature on the blog in due course.
My tempering didn’t give my the glossy chocolate I was hoping for, but I wasn’t really surprised. Apart from anything else, my kitchen was colder than the fridge, which doesn’t make for happy chocolate. However, after the three hours it took me to temper the chocolate and dip everything, I was determined to be pleased with the results. They certainly tasted fantastic, with the flavour of rosemary coming through nicely, but not too strongly. The texture was beautifully smooth and with a bit of dressing up, they looked fine.
Dom may have a lot to answer for, but Random Recipes spurred me into action and produced a huge number of chocolate gift boxes, so I will forgive him 😉
I was so sorry to have missed the fabulous Lets Make Christmas gift swap with Vanessa Kimbell and Chantel Coady, but am delighted to be able to submit this post to the virtual version and thus play some part in the great chocolate event of the year. Incidentally Vanessa is very excitingly now running a cookery school in Northampton called Juniper & Rose.
With the rosemary playing such an important part in these chocolates, I am also submitting this to Karen’s Herbs on Saturday.
To me, food in London means two things and takes me straight back to my student days. Firstly, high end treats for special occasions like birthdays and graduation. I remember the excitement of tea at the Ritz & tea at the Grosvenor, not something a girl from a remote Cornish village had ever experienced before. Secondly and much more frequently, I made use of the abundance of good cheap Indian eats in and around the back of Euston Station – this may account for my occasional lateness to lectures. It was here I was introduced to Indian sweets and was smitten by their exotic flavours. So when Fiona of London Unattached set this month’s Best of British challenge as “what does London food mean to you”, Indian sweets were the first thing that sprang to mind.
I was dying to have a go at making some Indian sweets after receiving Indian-Inspired Desserts by Roopa Rawal (watch this space for a forthcoming exciting giveaway). So leafing through the book, it was just a matter of picking which one. Because I still have some rose syrup left, the coconut and rose barfi caught my eye. That was the one I wanted to start with, but with the addition of some fruit to offset the sweetness a little and to give some natural colour. Hmmm, what’s in season? Well it’s been a while since I last got scratched arms and purple stained fingers, but blackberries it had to be. I managed to pick a tub full from the hedgerows and made my way back home with glee.
This is how I made my first ever barfi:
- Pureed 300g blackberries with a stick blender & rubbed through a sieve to extract the juice into a medium heavy based saucepan.
- Added a 387g tin of condensed milk and warmed it up on a low heat, stirring all the while.
- Added 4 tbsp rose syrup.
- Increased the heat a little and added 200g of milk powder. Whisked until all lumps had disappeared.
- Added 40g desiccated coconut and continued to stir.
- Cooked for about an hour, stirring every few minutes until the mixture looked fairly dry and as though it might be thick enough to set.
- Spooned into a 2 lb loaf tin lined with baking paper and smoothed down with the back of a spoon.
- Crossed fingers and hoped it would set.
- Bingo, after a few hours it had well and truly set.
- Melted 30g dark chocolate (G&B Cook’s 72%) in a bowl over hot water.
- Turned out onto a board.
- Drizzled teaspoonfuls of the melted chocolate over the barfi.
- Cut into 32 squares
I was thrilled at the result; my barfi tasted like a true Indian sweet, despite the fact that blackberries may never have been used before. The texture was perfect too. The blackberry flavour was very much present and the rose though subtle, did not go unnoticed. The chocolate drizzle added another flavour dimension and helped counteract the sweetness. Having said that, they weren’t as sweet as I had imagined they would be. They featured at a dinner party I recently held for friends and were well received.
Best of British is a monthly challenge showcasing the best of what British food has to offer in various counties or regions around the UK. The challenge is sponsored by The Face of New World Appliances and currently has a £50 Amazon voucher prize to give to a winning entry each month. Here are the previous regional entries: Cornwall, Scotland, Yorkshire.
As I used freshly picked blackberries, I’m also entering this into Simple & In Season, a monthly blogging event created by Ren of Fabulicious Food and this month hosted by Katie Bryson of Feeding Boys and a Firefighter.
I’m also submitting this to Javelin Warrior’s Made with Love Mondays – a challenge embracing the whole concept of making everything from scratch.
For Mother’s Day this year, I decided to make some cake truffles. I had some left over lemon & poppy seed cake from the book swap event which, I thought, mixed with orange, would make some nice tangy St Clements Truffles.
This is what I did:
- Creamed 1/2 oz unsalted butter with 1 oz icing sugar until very pale.
- Crumbled in a square of lemon & poppy seed cake.
- Beat this together until all incorporated and smooth.
- Added a couple of teaspoons of orange liqueur & beat some more.
- Formed into small balls and placed in the freezer for 30 minutes to harden.
- Melted 60g dark chocolate (Green&Black’s 72% cook’s chocolate).
- Dipped the cake balls into the chocolate and placed on some greasproof paper to set.
- Almost immediately, placed a sugar flour on top of each before the chocolate set.
- Placed in a pretty box and tied a ribbon around.
To celebrate my blog’s third birthday and to give to CT as a Valentine’s gift, what could be more appropriate than chocolate truffles? The excellent hazelnut sherry cake was so large that it lasted us the whole week. By day eight, I had one slice left and it was starting to look a little dry – just right to be turned into cake truffles. As it happened, I received my chocolate competition win in time for the big day, so featured that instead of the truffles.
As I didn’t take note of quantities and can no longer remember exactly, this is an approximation of what I did:
- Creamed 1/2 oz unsalted butter with 1oz icing sugar until light and fluffy.
- Added a glug of hazelnut oil and creamed some more.
- Blitzed the cake leftovers in the coffee grinder – I did this rather than crumble the cake because of the large pieces of hazelnut contained in the cake.
- Beat the crumbs into the creamed mixture until well incorporated.
- Added a sloosh of hazelnut syrup (I expect frangelico would have been good, but I don’t have any of that) and mixed some more.
- Placed teaspoonfuls of the mixture into 13 round chocolate moulds and pressed in firmly – could have just rolled between hands to form balls, but I wanted something a bit more uniform for a change.
- Left to cool for half an hour – there was no need to put these in the fridge as my kitchen was virtually freezing at the time.
- Melted 100g G&B cooks 72% dark chocolate in a pan over hot water.
- Removed the cake balls from the mould and dipped them into the chocolate.
- Placed suitably chosen love hearts on the top and left to set.
CT was delighted to receive this bounty. Here’s what he said in between mouthfuls. “From the ridiculous to the sublime with the fizzy love heart, which is frankly a pink stained toothed kiddy sweet to a truly delicious, sophisticated, nutty, delectable truffle. Two ends of the spectrum of sweets, represented – from utterly artificial to something hand crafted and made with care and love. It’s artisan chocolate, but fun!
The truffles had good chocolate shells which had just the right crispness about them, cracking in a satisfying way to release the treasure within. They had a heady hazelnut flavour with a smooth mouthfeel punctuated by granular pieces of hazelnut which gave a good contrast. The ganache itself wad , in CTs words authentic, not some generic paste. The following day, CT said rather despondently “very sorry to see the end of those”.
I’m submitting this to Caroline and Ros’s Alpha Bakes hosted this month by The More than Occasional Baker – L is for Love!
Chocolate for Christmas gifts is of course a necessity. Last year I made ginger chocolates and orange sticks, but what to do this year? A while ago, Susan of A little bit of Heaven on a Plate very kindly sent me a couple of pots of edible gold dust / glitter and I was itching to use them. As soon as I saw White Chocolate Mendiants in Eric Lanlard’s Cox Cookies & Cake, I knew a variation of these would make their way into this year’s hampers. Although I set myself the task to learn chocolate tempering this year, I haven’t actually managed it. I thus continue to be hesitant about making chocolates; although bloom doesn’t really change the taste of chocolate it most certainly makes it look unappealing. Anyway, this is how I gave it a go.
- Drew lots of circles about a couple of centimetres apart on a sheet of greaseproof paper using a pencil and plastic milk bottle top.
- Turned this over so I could see the circles but had no worries about pencil poisoning!
- Into separate bowls put some shelled unsalted pistachios, dried cranberries, dried mango pieces (cut into small strips), dried physalis, blanched almonds split in half, strips of candied orange and lemon peel.
- Melted 150g white cook’s chocolate (Chocolate by Trish) slowly in a bowl suspended over a pan of hot but not yet simmering water.
- Spooned teaspoonfuls of the chocolate into the circles spreading it out to fill the entire circle (made 30).
- Working fast placed a cranberry, pistachio and a piece of mango or phsyalis on each chocolate circle before it set.
- Dusted on some Disco Gold using a small paint brush.
- As soon as set (didn’t take very long in my cold kitchen), peeled the mendiants off with a palette knife.
- Melted 150g 38% milk cook’s chocolate (Chocolate by Trish) using the same method as above, but reserving about 30g which I added after the chocolate was melted. This was an attempt at the seed method of tempering, but without a thermometer it was a bit hit and miss.
- Spooned the melted chocolate into the circles as before (made 30).
- Topped these with cranberries, mango pieces and almonds and left to set.
- Dusted with Disco Gold.
- Melted 150g 72% dark cook’s chocolate (Green & Black’s) using the same method as the milk chocolate (made 32).
- Topped with pieces of candied orange or lemon peel.
- Dusted with Antique Gold.
These mendiants were a huge success and although I made them well over a week ago now, they still look good and my worries about the chocolate blooming has not materialised ….. yet!
Four bags of these have already disappeared into hampers and have now long departed this house.