Confections-making season has finally arrived! The long, hot, humid summer of 2013 was finally behind me, so with renewed aplomb I dived into Peter Greweling’s Coconut Squares from his book, Chocolates and Confections, 2nd edition. I do not remember why I chose this recipe, though I had been anticipating making the squares for some time. I bought the dessicated coconut about a month before attempting the recipe, and about two months before bought several bottles of inverted sugar and four 15-inch caramel rulers from JBPrince. A satisfying splurge, indeed. (The caramel rulers, not the chocolate squares.)
The procedure was rather straightforward: cook some sugar syrup, moisten the coconut with the sugar syrup, then cook up a lot of sugar syrup, and add that syrup, plus some frappe (or marshmallow creme) to the coconut. Mix it all together well, then spread into a 12×12-inch frame. Let set. Coat one side of the slab with bittersweet chocolate. When the chocolate sets, flip the slab and cut into 1-inch squares. Dip each square in tempered chocolate, add a little swooshy-swoosh flourish with a dipping fork, then sprinkle on a few strands of dessicated coconut.
They looked great and tasted pretty darn good. I brought some into work and received a few “Fabulous! Tastes just like a Mounds bar!” comments. Yikes! If I wanted to present substandard, cheap confections to my colleagues I would have hopped across the street to CVS to get a sack of Fun-Size Mounds instead of spending much of my weekend and spare change creating coconut squares.
In the interest of understanding and perfecting my craft, I did a Mounds – homemade-coconut-square taste test.
The coconut-filling taste was almost the same, but homemade had brighter flavor. The chocolate of Mounds bar was soft, not snappy, and was a dull, ugly brown with machine-engineered “waves.” And the chocolate has a wimpy flat taste. The chocolate on the homemade specimen, of course, had a beautiful shine and snap — and a rich chocolate taste.
Not a big fan either way, though; I prefer rich, creamy, dreamy fillings. Wish I could remember why I chose to make these to begin with.
I chose Orange Truffles for the first recipe to try in Peter Greweling’s book Chocolates and Confections: Formula, theory and technique for the artisan chocolatier for two reasons: one, they were truffles and therefore within my comfort zone (in theory), and, two, I had plenty of Grand Marnier on hand.
Though molded chocolates are among my favorite types of confections, I’ve gotta say that they’re a big pain in the arse to make at home. Everything is hurry-up-and-wait, extremely messy, and sometimes seemingly impossible for anyone with fewer than four hands.
But I never regret making them — and I will probably make many more. Continue reading
My latest molded-chocolate practice session left me with over 100 thick-shelled chocolates with too little ganache inside them, an estimated two pounds of wasted chocolate, and complete exhaustion. A quick run-thru of notes and lessons learned before I collapse: Continue reading
English toffee is rather easy to make — I based my cashew-loaded version on Carole Bloom’s recipe, but most recipes I’ve found use near-identical formulas. Bloom instructs us to roll the dipped toffee in chopped nuts, coating the piece entirely. I found that to be overkill and decided to have just one side covered with nuts, with a cashew half garnishing the top.
To get the chopped cashews on just one side of the dipped toffee, have a shallow pan filled with toasted chopped cashews (about two to three cups worth) ready to go before tempering the chocolate. Place each freshly dipped toffee piece onto the cashews, gently press a whole cashew onto the top (using this pressure to also press the toffee into the cashew pieces), and let each piece sit until the chocolate is set enough for you to safely move them to another pan. As you take the set toffee pieces off the pan, redistribute the remaining chopped cashews to ensure all subsequent pieces also get a nicely cashewed bottom.
The Carole Bloom recipe I used is from her book Truffles, Candies, and Confections, Ten Speed Press, 2004, p.156-157.
I do not plan to post the recipe here; see LaBau’s book The Sweet Book of Candy Making, Quarry Press, 2012, p.116-117 for more information.
Elizabeth LaBau’s Peppermint Swirl Marshmallows are a no-frills basic marshmallow recipe with the addition of a marbling effect on the top done with red food coloring and a toothpick.
I had gel food coloring but it was not the type you could “drizzle over the top of the marshmallow in a random pattern.” But I did the best I could. My one regret was I did not block off any time this weekend to temper chocolate and dip these marshmallows — while I was cutting the marshmallows I was thinking, GEE I REALLY WISH I HAD TIME TO DIP THESE IN CHOCOLATE — THEY’D BE AWESOME!! But they’re pretty darned good without any coating. I’ll soon test them in a cup of steaming hot cocoa.
I guess I’ll have to make another batch of marshmallows for dipping in the near future . . .
Unable to find a trustworthy cappuccino truffle recipe with a white-chocolate-based ganache (I was trying to please both a coffee lover and a chocolate hater), I decided to adapt truffle goddess Carole Bloom’s cappuccino truffles recipe, which in its original form has a dark-chocolate ganache base.
One of the confection cookbooks I’ve had great success with so far is Carole Bloom’s Truffles, Candies, & Confections, especially when it comes to truffles. I’ve tried her milk chocolate truffles, mocha truffles, and chocolate raspberry truffles — all of which yielded truffles of perfect flavor and texture — and adapted her cappuccino truffles for a white-chocolate ganache. Kudos to her for her carefully written, thorough instructions as well.
When I made Bloom’s already-fabulous chocolate-raspberry truffle recipe for the second time, I upped the amount of raspberries slightly, both for convenience — 12-ounce packages of frozen raspberries were easy to find in my area — and for a little extra raspberry zip. I also changed the procedure slightly, adding the step of an initial hand dipping with untempered chocolate. And I upped the amount of chocolate required for dipping and used a colored-white-chocolate drizzle for garnish instead of her originally prescribed cocoa powder.