Thursday, December 23, 2010

CHOCOLATE EXPLOSION!



It's late December, so the time has come to get making Peppermint bark, and this year, Truffles and Peanut Buttercups as well. I'm including my winging-it recipes that are constantly evolving to document general proportions and to give y'all a starting point, for those of you who've asked how I make these. There are a gazillion ways to make nearly anything, so I'm just recording how I made all this, today. Feel free to leave comments about how you make these! Disaster-prevention tips are always welcome! Here are the recipes. I trust that y'all will remember from Home Ec or a grandparent or whoever showed you around a kitchen to read the whole recipe from start to finish before embarking.

Peppermint Bark
Melt chocolate chips or bulk dark chocolate in a double boiler, or a similar rig - a metal bowl resting into a pot of simmering water. Be sure not to let any water splatter into the chocolate or it may seize up. This means instead of a warm pool of pourable liquid chocolate, you'll get a clumpy mess. As the chocolate melts, stir with a metal spoon. Line a glass or ceramic casserole pan with at least 2" sides (5.1 cm) with waxed paper. Once the chocolate is completely melted, pour half of it into the casserole pan. If you have loads of chocolate, use a big pan or many big pans, if you don't have much, use a wee pan. Smooth out your chocolate into an even-ish layer, and then place in the fridge to cool. Meanwhile, in another metal bowl melt white chocolate. You only need half as much white chocolate (or less) as dark chocolate. Also while the first layer of chocolate is cooling you can place your corn-syrup-free organic candy canes (yes, they make them, though they may be hard to find - and they're expensive, but with all that sugar they'll last a few years just fine) into a cloth or plastic bag. Then proceed with hammering the candy canes into bits. Be thoughtful with your surface. If you have some rage to release, you may want to take this part of the process outside and use a really sturdy surface. Some may be lucky enough to have a super-helpfull mother who does this so that you can multi-multi-task and start with the Peanut buttercups. Pause. Pause. So now your chocolate layer is all cooled and solidified and you can pour the next layer, the white chocolate. The heat of the white chocolate will melt the top part of the dark chocolate layer. If you'd like a fairly dramatic contrast between the white and dark chocolates, smooth the white chocolate just enough to spread out the layer, without mixing it too much with the dark chocolate underneath. Again, let the chocolate cool as you multi-task or breathe or whatever. And for your final layer: add the remainder of the dark chocolate that you melted at the beginning. Before it dries, sprinkle the candy-cane bits/powder over the chocolate. A thin layer of the powder will adhere pretty easily. The larger bits may need to be gently pressed into the chocolate so that it dries into the top layer. Let everything harden. Shake off excess candy cane bits and save for later to incorporate into future chocolate adventures. Viola! Peppermint bark. Gently break into pieces and place in glass jars or reuse tins.
Sprinkling and then patting the candy cane bits into the top layer of
dark chocolate, and the layers of the
finished Peppermint Bark.

Note: Please check out the ingredients of all your ingredients. Sadly we live in a time where hydrogenated palm oil is the second ingredient of much chocolate, including Ghirardelli. Not to mention the child slave labor that poisons the chocolate market - including huge multinationals like Hershey’s and Nestle. For more information, please see: "Chocolate’s Bittersweet Economy: Cocoa Industry Accused of Greed, Neglect for Labor Practices in Ivory Coast" Democracy Now! Feb 14, 2008

I've been trying to find a source of bulk fair-trade (certified or not) dark chocolate. The search continues, please let me know if you know of an ethical source for dark chocolate.


Peanut Buttercups
You can make your own Peanut Buttercups, replacing uber-sugared and hydrogenated-oiled peanut butter with real organic ground peanuts (or sunflowers, almonds, etc). I also added some local Honey and Cinnamon powder that helps save Orangutan habitat. Melt dark chocolate/ chocolate chips in a double boiler and stir. Once entirely melted, add the tiniest layer of chocolate to the molds you picked up from a kitchen shop/thrift store or that you saved from last year's Advent calendar or Ginger-bread-house-making-kits, etc. Stir enough honey and cinnamon to sweeten and spicen to your liking. Add a lil dollop of the filling into the molds, and press it down/ spread it around if you wish. Shallow molds harden pretty quickly, well, if you're not in a wicked hot kitchen. I have some larger molds - Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos sugar skull molds by Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada who radically transformed my negative perception of skulls into one of beauty and respect. These larger molds take longer to cool (more surface area/thicker layer of chocolate= longer to cool), so I placed it in the fridge. Once cooled, add more chocolate to cover the Peanut Butter-mound and complete the cup. Let it cool again until completely solidified and they come easily out of the molds. Notes: Peanut Buttercups don't require much chocolate and pack a protein punch. I used silicon star-molds once and it the chocolate got all white and splotchy, so now I jut use my plastic molds. Today my mom showed me how using two spoons to scoop the chocolate out of the other makes the process much smoother!




Molds, Making the Peanut Buttercups, and the Innards.
Truffles

10 ounces Dark chocolate
1 1/4 cup Coconut milk
optional: Cocoa powder, more Dark chocolate, Coconut flakes


Pour the coconut milk into a double boiler and warm on low heat. Meanwhile, chop the chocolate into tiny pieces, if they haven't been so already, and then place into another metal bowl. Once the coconut milk is warm, pour it over the chocolate bits and place the bowl over the warm water. Stir the mixture constantly until the chocolate has melted and mixed completely with the liquid. This is your ganache
. Refrigerate until hard (approx. 3 hours, can put in the freezer if you’re in a rush).




Stirring the Ganache, fresh-pressed Ginger juice, and Dad
lends a hand with his Laser Thermometer (138
°F/58.88°C)




Separate containers holding the various flavors of ganache, Rolling the ganache into balls - the balls got stickier as my hands got stickier, the smoothest ones were created just after rinsing off my hands, Re-hardened ganache, and Finished truffles.

Remove ganache from refrigeration and scoop out by the spoonful, rolling into balls with your hands. Place balls on a wax paper-ed baking sheet and return to refrigeration to harden. Once hardened, remove balls from refrigeration and roll in a shallow bowl of cocoa powder, fair-trade if possible, and/or dried coconut flakes. Or you can melt more dark chocolate in a double boiler and gently roll the cooled balls in the warm chocolate, which when cooled will created a harder outer layer over the softer ganache. If storing for later, place balls in containers, and place waxed paper between layers. Store in the refrigerator and remove 30 minutes before feasting on them.

Flavors: For simple chocolate truffles, this is all you need. However, you can add other simple ingredients to create chocolate flavor explosions! Today I made two batches and separated both in half. Four flavor possibilities. Last time I created Rose (using organic rose powder from Mt. Rose Herbs), Vanilla-Coffee, Ginger, and Orange. I pressed a tiny bit of dried pink rose petal into the outer chocolate layer of each Rose truffle as it dried. I pressed a tiny bit of chopped Ginger chew (you could use crystallized ginger with the sugar rinsed off) to identify the ginger ones. And atop the Orange I added a couple crushed Red pepper seeds. Today I made Ginger, Orange, Coffee, and Vanilla. I made Ginger truffles by grating enough fresh ginger root and pressing it through a fine metal strainer to get 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger juice. Potent! For the Orange, I added 5 drops of *organic* Sweet Orange essential oil to a half batch (please use essential oils with extreme caution: they are highly concentrated. Please don't ingest them without really knowing what you are doing). I added 2 tablespoons of homemade Vanilla extract to the Vanilla truffles. I infused 2 tablespoons freshly-ground fair-trade Coffee beans into the coconut milk for a few minutes, and then strained out the bits before melting in the chocolate. With the exception of the ground Coffee beans, I added the flavor ingredients after I'd removed the ganache from heat and poured it into smaller containers, such as glass measuring cups. I stirred each thoroughly and then placed it in the fridge. (Adding flavor ingredients after removing from heat is especially important when using a few drops of essential oils, as they will quickly evaporate with heat. Likewise, the alcohol in ingredients such as Vanilla extract or say Damiana-infused Brandy, will evaporate if left over heat.) 


Chocolatey Notes: Playing with chocolate gets messy, so get out all your supplies beforehand and have a spatula handy to scrape all the good chocolate from bowls and fingers! Bendy rubber spatulas are the best (but make do with what you've got)!

A note on flavorings: Foods, herbs, and spices should be flavorful enough without involving chem labs. You don't need "flavorings," natural or otherwise, just the actual plant sources. See Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation" for a fascination description of the "Flavoring Corridor" off the New Jersey turnpike, born of the perfume industry.
Keep all the chocolatey bits for a finale mystery chocolate blend!! Melt all the dribbles and chunks into Peanut clusters (roast Spanish peanuts and stir them into the chocolate, place dollops of the concoction onto waxed sheets), more Peanut Buttercups, Truffle ganahe, etc. I know you probably don't want to think about any more chocolate ever at this point. But you'll change your mind! Of you'll have friends willing to take it off your hands.


To learn more about chocolate, see the article that my friend Sandra Lory of Mandala Botanicals wrote: "More than a Valentine’s Sweet: Theobroma cacao". Keep an ear out for these workshops: El Cacao, The Plant That Chocolate Comes From with Sandra Lory, Herbal Valentines with me (Feb 2012: at City Market in Burlington and Hunger Mt Coop in Montpelier), and Raw Chocolate with Linda Wooliever.

For more chocolate-y recipes, see the Valentine's Aphrodisiac Recipes post.

Fair trade Chocolate-based remedies available on Dandelioness Herbals' online etsy shop (with descriptions): 

*Chocolate Spice Elixir: a Warming Aphrodisiac with Damiana, Ginger, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cayenne, Vanilla, and Fair trade Chocolate Syrup
*Volcán de la Pasión: Cinnamon Rose Chocolate Honey Aphrodisiac Elixir


Today's Sources of Culinary Inspiration: Julia Child, Grammy and Pop-pop's sweets, the films Like Water for Chocolate, Chocolat, and Tortilla Soup, PBS's The Meaning of Food, and the books Botanica Erotica by Dina Falconi and Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses by Isabel Allende. And I just found out that Maya Angelou recently wrote a book entitled Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart.

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