After a rash of social engagements and writing another chapter of my book, I finally got back to chocolatiering this weekend. I spent most of Saturday in front of the stove, where I cooked nine batches of candy:
- two batches of jasmine tea/vanilla bean/orange blossom honey caramels
- lime ginger chile caramels
- English toffee
- raspberry fruit gel (bottom layer of a two-layer bonbon)
- bergamot fruit gel (bottom layer of a two-layer bonbon)
- Seville orange fruit gel (bottom layer)
- strawberry fruit gel (bottom layer)
- passion fruit caramel (bottom layer)
- walnut caramel gianduja (bottom layer)
I also prepped four kinds of home-candied citrus peel for dipping. That means draining off the syrup, then laying the individual pieces of peel out onto a sheet of parchment paper. This should be done the day before dipping them, to give the peel a chance to dry out a bit – otherwise, soft, sticky sugar syrup is apt to get into your chocolate.
So I wound up with four trays like this one:
Today I fired up the chocolate tempering machine and chocolate-coated a bunch of stuff:
The English toffee was a bit tricky, as the room was fairly cold (about 63 Fahrenheit), so as soon as the chocolate was spread thinly over the toffee, it started hardening. I had to really hustle to get my “Seasons Greetings” transfer sheets on in time. (Chocolate transfer sheets need to go onto warm chocolate; if the chocolate is already solid, the design won’t bond/transfer.) But since I made two large batches of English toffee, and I only need a bit of toffee, I’m hoping it will still work.
I also made a batch of culinary heaven, aka cherry-almond-hazelnut confections. This is a recipe from Peter Greweling’s Chocolates and Confections, where it’s called “JKBs” (don’t ask me why). To make it,you take sliced almonds and moisten them with kirsch, then sprinkle on some sugar and bake them (stirring frequently) until the almonds are toasted and the sugar is crunchy. Then you chop some dried sour cherries. And then you make hazelnut gianduja – a mix of hazelnut paste, confectioner’s sugar, and dark chocolate – and mix the whole thing together. It’s even tastier if you substitute caramel for half of the confectioner’s sugar and whiz the gianduja around in the food processor to grind the caramel – that way it doesn’t grind into fine powder, but into many tiny shards that add just a hint of crispy crunch to the confection.
Anyway, I love almonds, cherries, and dark chocolate together, and this combines all three and adds hazelnut paste to boot! It’s also got wonderful texture – crunchy almonds, crispy bits of caramel, and chewy dried cherries, all in a melt-in-the-mouth soft hazelnutty chocolate. It’s one of my favorite confections.
Doesn’t look like much, does it? But it tastes divine.
I did have a bit of extra time after all that, so I folded eighty more paper separators (they separate the layers of chocolates in storage boxes) and scrubbed down the bathroom, which sorely needed it. Fritz immediately gave the freshly-scrubbed sink the Cat Seal of Approval:
I skipped the farmer’s market this weekend so I could focus on chocolates, but I feel obliged to catch you up on last week, when they had huge porcini mushrooms. How big? Monster. Like this:
I think those are the biggest porcini mushrooms I’ve ever seen.
And, finally, some bonus cats! We visited some friends a few weeks ago, and they had an adorable pair of kittens:
Reminds me of Fritz and Tigress’s kitten days – how could your heart not melt in the face of such cuteness?
And Fritz and Tigress? Full of insatiable curiosity, as usual. Some friends came over to observe the chocolate madness (and cart home some of the “seconds”). One of them set down her bag, and instantly two inquisitive noses had to investigate.