The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at http://www.chocoley.com offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!
My first challenge as a Daring Baker! This month’s challenge was enough within my comfort zone that it didn’t spook me, but it also introduced me to new challenges and techniques. Since this is pretty much the whole point of joining, I think we can call it a success. It was so great to feel inspired and really excited about being in the kitchen again, I think the Daring Bakers is just what I needed.
The challenge was as follows:
• You must make TWO candies
• The first candy must be ONE of the following CHOCOLATE candies:
a. A truffle, dipped or not dipped in chocolate OR
b. A cut (square) dipped chocolate/bonbon OR
c. A filled chocolate/bonbon using a chocolate mold
• The other candy can be any CHOCOLATE OR NON-CHOCOLATE candy you like
We were given a plethora of recipes to try but given a very free rein when it came to choosing flavours and styles, as long as it fell within the rules above. I ended up making three successful sweets – two chocolate and one non-chocolate – and one failed attempt, which was still salvageable and was blogged under a new name as if it worked as I meant it to all along. Mwa ha ha ha. Oh alright, it was the pear, ginger and basil jam. All in all a great first round, and I’m already looking forward to the next challenge.
We’ll start with the chocolates. Interestingly enough, for the G man’s birthday I made him a small batch of filled chocolates, but then I didn’t post about them so that nobody would think I was giving away the Daring Bakers challenge ahead of time (the challenge takers all blog their experiences and results on the 27th of each month). I’ll write a second post about them, to follow this one, or we’ll be here all day (and some of tomorrow). We may be here all day anyway, with the number of things I made for this challenge…
First up, dark chocolates filled with Amaretto ganache. Yum. I love the richness of this ganache, and how easy it is to make. Ganache is my current favourite thing to make; for such little effort, you get great rewards, and people think you’re very fancy and accomplished in the kitchen when, in truth, you might just be good at stirring…
For those of you not sure about what it is or how to make it, I’ve explained about ganache in my jaunty flower cakes post. On this occasion I used dark chocolate, double cream and flavoured it with a teaspoon or two of Amaretto. Very easy. Getting the chocolate into the moulds is also pretty easy, but messy in the extreme. By the last batch of chocolates I was feeling a bit more confident and a bit less messy about it, but I could certainly use more practise (as with everything). The hardest part of this challenge, for me, was tempering the chocolate. There was mess. There was cleaning. There was more mess. There was sweat, and nearly tears. I bought myself an instant-read thermometer to help me with this challenge and with future baking experiments involving superheated sugar products (like table, which a kind fellow Daring Baker has given me her great granny’s recipe for). Having never used a thermometer before I wasn’t really sure the best way to go about it, and I had dreadful trouble in getting it to give me a consistent reading. The one I bought doesn’t clip to the side of the bowl, or pot, and so trying to keep it steady while simultaneously stirring the chocolate was a nightmare. Every time I moved it, even just a little, the temperature reading dropped and seemed to take ages to come back up again. I think this is mainly what ruined my tempering endeavour. You could say it put me OUT OF TEMPER. Ahaha.
I tried the seeding method, which Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives lays out so neatly here:
• Finely chop chocolate if in bar/slab form (about the size of almonds).
• Place about ⅔ of the chocolate in a heatproof bowl
• Set aside ⅓ of the chocolate pieces
• Place bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure the bowl does not touch the water)
Tip: Make sure that your bowl fits snuggly into the saucepan so that there’s no chance of steam forming droplets that may fall into your chocolate. If water gets into your chocolate it will seize!
• Using a rubber spatula, gently stir the chocolate so that it melts evenly
• Once it’s melted, keep an eye on the thermometer, as soon as it reaches 45°C / 113°F remove from heat (between 45°C-50°C / 113°F-122°F for dark chocolate)
• Add small amounts of the remaining ⅓ un-melted chocolate (seeds) and stir in to melt
• Continue to add small additions of chocolate until you’ve brought the chocolate down to 27°C/80.6°F (You can bring the dark chocolate down to between 80°F and 82°F)
• Put it back on the double boiler and bring the temperature back up until it reaches its working temperature of the chocolate (milk, dark or white) as seen in the above chart. (32°C/89.6°F for dark, 30°C/86°F for milk and 29°C/84.2°F for white)
• If you still have a few un-melted bits of chocolate, put the bowl back over the simmering water, stirring gently and watching the thermometer constantly.
• IMPORTANT: You really need to keep an eye on the temperature so that it doesn’t go over its working temperature
It’s now tempered and ready to use.
How those few lines belie the long, long time I spent at my stove top, on a humid August evening, trying to get chocolate to heat/cool/maintain its temperature. Such a very long time. You know you’ve been there a long time when the splashes (oh so many splashes) of chocolate that you get on your hands, utensils and work surfaces go unlicked, because you’re so sick of chocolate… Check out the steps along the way to making these chocs, some of which I’ll explain a bit more clearly later on.
I’ll try tempering chocolate again, but the key change that I’ll make is buying really high quality chocolate. I must admit to using bog standard supermarket chocolate that didn’t lend itself to the fine art of chocolate tempering. I’ll also make a bigger batch, because as with most things, making a small batch is much harder; I think that having more depth of chocolate for the thermometer to be submerged in would definitely help. Plus if you don’t use it, you just need to let it cool down and then you can use it the next time you have a chocolate recipe, either re-tempered or just as it comes, depending what you’re making.
One good side effect of using lesser quality chocolate was that when my chocolates were set, they had the coolest bloom patterns on them. I have no idea why this happened, or how, or how I would replicate it if I wanted to. If there are any chocolate experts out there I’d love to hear your theories! For now we can just look at them and marvel at their swirly loveliness.
The second batch of chocolates were white chocolate coffee creams. I started by dusting the inside of the moulds with bronze food glitter, to make them kind of fancy. I didn’t temper the chocolate (at that point the thought of tempering chocolate was making a muscle just under my eye twitch) and just melted it and poured it over the mould, filling all the little heart shapes. I then turned the mould upside down over the bowl I’d melted the chocolate in and let most of it run back out again. Using a silicone mould meant I could give each heart a little squeeze to get rid of more chocolate and leave a thinner shell, and more room for the filling. Once the hearts were all drained adequately I took a plastic scraper across the top to clean the mould. I set this aside while I made the fondant filling. I was freestyling this, and it turned out pretty well. I know coffee creams aren’t a popular choice but I love them, despite not liking coffee at all. It’s fine as a flavour, but a cup of it makes my mouth feel furry on the inside.
- 1 tsp instant coffee granules
- 2 tsp boiling water
- 5 – 6 tbsp icing sugar
- 2 squares dark chocolate, melted
In a small bowl, whisk the coffee and water until dissolved. Add the icing sugar 1 tbsp at a time, then mix through the chocolate. Done! I wanted to keep it quite swirly but it didn’t stay that way inside the chocolates, sadly. Still, it looks cool in the ‘before’ photos. The G man, a seasoned coffee drinker, thought that the flavour of these was subtle, while I thought it was unmistakable. I suppose maybe it was somewhere in between? We finished the whole batch too quickly to bring in an independent adjudicator though.
Finally (you’ll be glad to hear) is my lemon, cucumber and basil pate du fruit. Now, I did say that this had worked – but that it only true for a given value of ‘worked’. The jellies set OK, but were a little sticky. I thought that leaving it overnight might help. In fact, leaving it overnight left a layer of syrup in the bottom of the tub that I had to drain off again. I suspect I either added too much pectin, or overcooked the pate du fruit. I was roughly following a recipe; actually I was roughly following two different recipes, which may have added to the problem. Here’s how to make pate du fruit that leaks overnight, if you want to make such a thing…
- one large lemon
- 2 inch block of cucumber
- 10 basil leaves
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1 1/4 cups jam sugar (sugar with added pectin)
- granulated sugar to coat
- First, slice the top and bottom from the whole lemon, then boil for five minutes.
- While you’re doing this, peel the cucumber and reserve about half of the peel to stir through the finished pate du fruit. Chop the flesh into large chunks.
- When the lemon’s finished boiling, quarter it and put in a blender along with the cucumber and the basil. Process until completely smooth.
- Pour the mixture into a pot and add the lemon juice and sugar. Stir well and bring to a boil.
- Boil until the mix is very thick – this won’t take long. Stir frequently to avoid sticking.
- While the pate du fruit is boiling, thinly slice the cucumber peel that you reserved. Also grease a 7″ square baking tin with basil oil (or a flavourless oil if you prefer)
- When the mix looks ready (I know, this is extremely vague…), stir through the cucumber peel and pour into the tin. Allow to sit for several hours until cool and firm.
- Cut the pate du fruit into squares, put the granulated sugar into a small bowl and coat the squares.
Hooray! I would point you in the direction of this recipe for blood orange pate du fruit for a clearer set of instructions, or if you search you’ll find dozens of different recipes that you can try out.
Phew, that was a heck of a post! I feel like there is so much detail that I missed out, but there’s only so long I can make a post without the risk of people getting half way and losing the will to read, if not live. Suffice to say, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my first Daring Bakers challenge, and you can expect a monthly post on the latest Daring Shenanigans.