Monday, March 11, 2013

Fancy Filled Chocolates

Looking back over our posts so far I have noticed that Sarah has recipes... and I have jumbles of ingredients where the amounts don't actually matter. I swear I do cook things with recipes, I just haven't made a whole lot of those lately. And this one is no different!

Last Christmas I got a big idea to make fancy chocolates for everyone on my list. I had been buying expensive Christopher Elbow and other kinds of chocolates, which are fabulous but the fillings sometimes were weird, and I kept thinking up stuff that I thought sounded better. So I started a list of things like apple spice rum raisin, passion fruit praline and lime curd with toasted coconut. And you know what? They all turned out awesome!

This time I stuck with 2 fillings because I wasn't planning an array of gifts. I brought back one filling that I had done over Christmas, Nutella and caramel, which was a total hit. And I wanted to try something new, and I had some leftover ganache from the bark recipe that I wanted to spice up, so I went with lime chocolate ganache.

I had all of the fillings ready before I started melting the chocolate. I used Nutella straight from the can, and put it in an icing bag so I could pipe it into the molds easily. For the caramel, I used the old standby of melting some caramels with evaporated milk, but any caramel you like that is runny enough to pour or pipe would work.

The ganache was your standard dark chocolate and cream/milk, and then I reduced the zest and juice of 3 limes with a little sugar, and then stirred it in to the still warm ganache. The ganache started out really thick and firm. Surprisingly, the ganache smoothed out quite nicely in the microwave in 30 second increments.

Next comes melting the chocolate to pour into the mold. Thanks to Brian for getting me these awesome  silicone molds for Christmas! I have tried the cheap all-plastic ones, and they are ok, but I tended to crush the plastic in the process of removing the chocolates.

Tempering the chocolate is a good idea because it will give the chocolate a satisfying snap when it hardens. Here is a detailed set of tempering instructions. I was lazy this time and did my no-thermometer version, where I just heat the chocolate slightly hotter than melting point, cool it for a bit and then put it back on the heat. It worked just as well, so it seems the that exact temperatures aren't all that important. Of course, all of this is done with a make-shift double boiler because it will help you not burn the chocolate. Dark chocolate seems to be the easiest thing to work with, but milk and white chocolate are doable too.

There are lots of ways to get the chocolate into the mold... you can pour it all over and shake it out, paint it in very carefully, but I go with a sort of in-between method of spooning some into each well and then shaking it around and using a (very clean) finger or toothpick to make sure all of the edges are covered and then shaking the excess out. Then I use a metal scraper to scoop all of the excess chocolate off the top of the mold. I find it to be a nice balance of making a giant mess while still being detail-oriented.

After coating the molds with chocolate I stick them in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes so they harden up nicely and are ready for the filling. Keep an eye on your melting chocolate, or take it off the boiler while you wait so it doesn't burn. Once hard, you can pipe, pour, funnel, spoon, smoosh, etc. your filling into the coated molds. I piped the Nutella, used a squeeze bottle for the caramel, and spooned in the ganache and they all worked just fine. Make sure your fillings are level-ish, and slightly below the threshold of the mold so that you have room to cover the bottom of the chocolates. I found the scraper was great for spreading the chocolate over the mold so they have flat bottoms (preferred in this case).

After everything is assembled, stick them back in the freezer or fridge to finish setting them up. The silicone molds made it super-easy to unmold the chocolates because the mold just turned inside out and dropped the chocolates right out! I didn't have to bang them on the table and whack them with kitchen appliances to free them like with the plastic molds.

I mixed in some white chocolate at one point to get that marbled effect, but it is hard to keep consistent because everything just starts turning medium brown after a while. Whatever the color, I haven't hit a bad one yet, chocolate with fun filling is always a crowd-pleaser.

Two things though, plan on making a huge mess of your kitchen, your hands and your clothes, and plan on spending several to many hours depending on the number of trays and different fillings, because even on take-two, I spent 5 hours! I recommend getting creative with the fillings, I feel like that is the most fun part. Next time... maybe squid and mustard!

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