I finished the flavor trials yesterday, trying out six new flavors. Here are my tasting notes:
Blackberry jelly with lemon-white chocolate ganache:
- The lemon ganache is marvelous! deliciously tart and lemony. Reminds me of a really good lemon curd. Definitely a winner.
- Unfortunately, the blackberry is muted, too subtle to compete with the very assertive lemon. Replace with raspberry?
Pistachio marzipan with pistachio gianduja (gianduja is a mix of nuts, chocolate, and confectioner’s sugar, ground to a smooth paste):
- Pistachio marzipan is excellent! tasting intensely of pistachio, only slightly grainy (marzipan is like that). Really tasty.
- Pistachio gianduja is hard to differentiate from the pistachio marzipan – not quite as intense as the “pure” flavor due to the addition of chocolate. Very good, though.
- Good flavor, but not very complex. Try again next year, combining it with another compatible flavor. Cinnamon? Orange? Saffron?
Sesame green tea (one layer of dark chocolate mixed with bits of sesame croquant, one layer of sesame gianduja, one layer of green tea white chocolate ganache)
- Sesame flavor is delicious, a nice balance between chocolate and sesame
- Has a nice crunch from the sesame seeds and the caramel in the croquant, gives it a nice combination of textures
- Green tea white chocolate ganache needs to be much much stronger (or have more of it); barely perceptible above the sesame
- Given that it’s a three-layer confection and that all three layers are complicated to make, probably not worth making given that it’s only a so-so flavor. However, some of the components may be interesting and reusable in other contexts.
Apricot Honey Nut Confections (chopped dried apricots, pine nuts, pistachios, and almonds held together by honey caramel, then dipped in chocolate)
- Tasty and nice combination of textures – soft chewiness from the caramel mixed with various levels of crunch from the nuts
- Possibly too many pine nuts; pine nut flavor dominates. Use fewer pine nuts next time? or replace with a milder nut?
- Tends to be soft and sticky; definitely needs to be dipped in chocolate.
- Needs more experimentation/revision to get a really tasty confection; maybe next year!
Port Wine Marzipan with Cinnamon
- Cinnamon flavor strikes first (and is the only readily identifiable flavor), port wine appears as well but more in background. Slightly alcoholic in mouth (from the port, of course).
- Grainy texture, hard to grind in food processor – had to stop the processor halfway through to prevent burnout of motor.
- Probably not worth it for this year.
Mint Julep (bourbon whiskey and mint)
- Too much mint; it dominates the flavor and the whiskey is not very detectable.
- Curdled while mixing, probably because the chocolate was too warm
- Try again next year with considerably less mint.
As you can see, not all the flavors are successful. Some people consider my chocolates to be a work of inspired genius; they’re not. Just the result of careful experimentation, and discarding the unsuccessful results. Repeat for about twenty years, and you’re bound to get a really good line-up.
Meanwhile, I have made some progress on the two-color chocolate transfer sheets, though they are still not working as reliably as I would like. Here is one batch, dipped at about 70 degrees and then sitting overnight down to about 57 degrees:
As you see, they came out crisp and clean – beautiful.
However, another batch, dipped at 75 degrees, kept in a warm room up to 82 degrees, and then let sit overnight down to 65 degrees, did not fare nearly so well, even when refrigerated for 1/2 hour.
I’m concluding from this that temperature plays a large role in the success of the two-color sheets. Unfortunately, temperature control in a room without air conditioning is a bit of a conundrum, especially since the weather has been unseasonably warm. I may have to store chocolates in the bedroom, where there is an air conditioner.
I may also abandon the idea of using two-color transfer sheets in this year’s batch. I bought a bunch of colored cocoa butter and a cheap airbrush, and may try airbrushing a colored background onto my single-color transfer sheets. I have a few extra days this week in which to play with this – hopefully it will turn out well!
Finally, I’m pleased to say that we finished kittenproofing the house on Sunday evening, and let Fritz and Tigress out into the main house. While they were initially tentative in their explorations, within an hour Fritz had discovered the joys of galloping full tilt down the hallway that runs the length of the house. So we got to see a kitten galloping one direction, then immediately reversing and running the other direction. Over and over again. Kittens are so wonderful!
And here are a few more kitten photos, for your edification and delight: