I’ve been chocolatiering nonstop for the past week, trying to catch up from my time away. I’m pleased to say that, with considerable help from two friends, I’m finally back on schedule. Here’s the current tally:
- Candied bergamot peel dipped in chocolate
- Candied grapefruit peel with rose geranium syrup, dipped in chocolate
- Candied yuzu peel, dipped in chocolate
- Candied Meyer lemon peel, ditto
- English toffee (two batches)
- Jasmine tea/vanilla bean/orange blossom honey caramels (two batches)
- Salted lavender caramels
- Ginger, lime, and Thai chile caramels dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with chopped peanuts
- Cinnamon honey caramels
- Rosemary thyme honey caramels
- Coffee cardamom caramels
- Cherry almond hazelnut squares: dark chocolate mixed with hazelnut paste, finely chopped dried sour cherries, and sliced almonds moistened with kirsch, rolled in sugar, and toasted in the oven (yum!)
- Strawberry-honey-rose fruit jelly, dipped in dark chocolate
- Walnut-caramel-cinnamon gianduja (to be dipped in dark chocolate later)
- Coconut almond fudge: coconut fudge dipped in dark chocolate and topped with a roasted almond
I’ve now completed 15 of 36 flavors, so that is quite a bit of progress! Almost all the nonperishable flavors are done. I’m planning to make four more batches of fudge tomorrow, which will take a couple hours, but nowhere near as much time as I’ve been putting in the last few days. And Tuesday should be a light day as well – my main goal for Tuesday is to scrub down the kitchen before Chocopalooza starts on Wednesday.
(Chocopalooza, if you are wondering, is the four-day chocolatiering frenzy during which I and two helpers (this year, my friends Susan and Chris) make all the perishable flavors. We’ll crank out 50-60 pounds of chocolates on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. Sunday is the packing party, wherein ten friends will come over and help me pack the chocolates into boxes. Monday morning I take seventy packages to the post office, and my Christmas presents and Chocolates for Charity commitments will be done for the year!)
So now that I’m caught up, I can take a breather and show you a few of the marvelous things I’ve been doing the past few weeks:
First, of course, the food porn. Here are the ginger/lime/Thai chili/peanut caramels:
Here are some of the jasmine tea/vanilla bean/orange blossom honey caramels, with the transfer sheets still on:
And here’s the coconut almond fudge:
Here’s a portion of the English toffee, complete with sentiments of the season:
And, finally, here is a short video of my chocolate tempering machine at work on ten pounds of molten chocolate:
The tempering machine works by bringing the melted chocolate up to a high temperature, so all the cocoa butter crystals are fully melted. Then you add solid, tempered chocolate to the other half of the bowl (the top part of the video). The melted chocolate circulates through the bottom part of the bowl. That melts the tempered chocolate, which in turn “seeds” the melted chocolates with the right kind of cocoa butter crystals. The bowl rotates to keep the chocolate mixing, and a scraper in the bottom keeps the solid chocolate out of the melted chocolate. Since the tempering machine controls the temperature quite precisely, once the chocolate is properly tempered, you can just stand there and dip chocolates, totally carefree. Far better than the Bad Old Days, when I had to temper chocolate by hand on a giant marble slab.
(Not sure what is meant by tempering chocolate? Great explanation of how and why here.)
But wait! That’s not all. I finally finished the beaded fringe for my sea-turtle scarf:
I had put the project on hold many months ago because I couldn’t find the right color beads for the fringe. Indigo blue beads are very hard to find, it turns out, and I had given up looking. When my mother found out about that, during her visit in August, she insisted on driving around to every local bead shop until finally we found them together, at General Bead in San Francisco. Given that she took such great pains to get me those beads, I thought I should finish it. So I brought it with me to Maryland, and worked on it while organizing her memorial service. Both beaded fringes are done now, though I still need to sew them onto the scarf. I just wish my mom were around to see the finished piece! I think it will be lovely, and the indigo beads are just perfect.
I’ve also started a small beaded Christmas ornament. My mom had a book in her craft room about doing three-dimensional pieces with seed beads. There was a “star sphere” pattern that I thought would make a lovely ornament for her tree (now my brother’s tree, I suppose, though it will always be my mom’s tree to me, as she made so many of the ornaments on it). So I took the book and some of her bead stash, and have been working on it in odd moments:
Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that I can’t make progress on it inside the house. Because, well, cats! Fritz and Tigress are standing by, eager to help. Especially if it involves chewing on beading thread, batting around beads, or making off with my piece-in-progress. (I got up for just a moment, and came back to find Tigress walking off with it in her mouth! I guess she was pleased by my consideration in making her a beautiful little cat toy.) But I am coming outdoors from time to time to work on it in the garage.
And that’s most of what I’ve been up to the last week or so.
And what has Tigress been up to? Using my design wall as a climbing wall, of course. I’ll leave you with this series of time-lapse photos, as Her Royal Furriness starts up the wall, considers whether she can get into the shelves on the right side of the door, and finally climbs to the top shelf on the left. She is quite the athlete, as you can see!