Category Archives: Confections

Eat your heart out

Yes, I do realize this is a bit late for V-day. Which is kind of funny, as I was attempting to get everything done so that I could get this post up before V-day. Oh well. I figure I’ll share it with you anyway because these chocolates were pretty kick-ass.

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Making your own chocolates is actually pretty easy – all you need is chocolate, really, and whatever filling/random items you want to add to it. I use Dove dark chocolates for a few reasons – I find dark chocolate a bit easier to work with when tempering because it takes form nicely, and seems a bit less finicky than milk chocolate; it was also an amazing price at Grocery Outlet, which made me very happy.

I’m still getting used to tempering chocolate. It seems that my first batch or two turn out really nicely, but when I go for more than that I either become less vigilant about the temperature and stirring, or I attempt different things and they go all sorts of wonky. Mikal and I ended up talking a lot about this particular batch of chocolates, and my difficulties with time management and project management in general. One of the things he suggested was attempting smaller batches of chocolates and confections so that I’m not wasting or making him eat such large amounts of fail on my way to getting my technique down.

An additional tool I discovered in an old catalogue from Matfer Bourgeat would be totally awesome and would help me make smaller batches more easily:

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The one thing that has been keeping me making larger batches has been that the new thermometer I bought has a sensor about an inch from the tip – this is a vast improvement from about two to three inches from the tip, but it still requires quite a bit of liquid in order to accurately gauge temperature. With a spatch that has a thermometer in it, I wouldn’t need nearly as much liquid, and I could make smaller batches for testing purposes. I would love to get my hands on one of these.

Mikal recently acquired a new lens for the camera, so we ended up taking quite a few shots trying to get acquainted with the different focal points. It has a wonderfully shallow depth of field, but it is very different from the lens we received with the camera. I don’t have the camera in front of me so I won’t try to say which lenses we have. Anyway, I’m used to having to get about four inches away from my subject for a macro shot of any decency; with the new lens I don’t have to get that close – in fact it’s a very bad idea.

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This is the back-side of the dark-chocolate almond bar I made. I used almond slivers because my mold isn’t deep enough to accommodate whole almonds.

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A front view of the bar.

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My first attempt at the bar, along with wrapped bars.

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I managed to procure this particular candy mold a couple of years ago, and I love it. I have found, though, that dark chocolate is quite hard to take a picture of and get adequate detail. In case you can’t quite make it out, those are about as anatomically correct of hearts as one can make with chocolate. Well, as one can make with a chocolate mold. These are filled with raspberry creme filling.

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And for some not-so anatomically correct hearts filled with peanut butter.

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More experiments with the camera. It was fun, but somewhat infuriating.

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Along with these items, I also made a bunch of chocolate shells filled with whipped cream and strawberries. Those were a hit 😀

Another day, another failed caramel experiment

I cannot seem to get this caramel thing right for beans. I attempted another batch last night, this time doing the sugar syrup by itself, then adding the cream and butter. I did heat the sugar syrup to over 300°F – the particular recipe I was following had the base caramel recipe at the top, and then three variations. The first variation is the kind I have had most success with, initially heating to 245°F then going on to add the cream. The second variation is the one I tried, called “old-fashioned caramels,” and it said to heat the syrup to 310°F the add the cream. The bit that threw me off is that the base recipe at the top tells you how to do the base sugar syrup, and the variations tell you what to add to that. Unfortunately, I was following the base recipe a little too closely, because it says to heat the sugar syrup to 340°F initially – a good 30°F over what it should be. Guess who was watching Enterprise trying to not watch a pot of sugar boil? Me. I actually let it get high enough without me staring at it, only to realize I had gone past my mark. Mikal talked me into finishing this batch because it couldn’t hurt. He had already bottled up the first fail batch of sauce to use in dinner tonight, and said that if it fails we will simply have more caramel in jars.

I went ahead, and it looked last night like it might actually turn out…. The top of it was actually firming to the touch. It is still somewhat firm to the touch on top, but it just didn’t set. I keep forgetting to do the ice bath test since a couple of batches ago. I guess it’s a good thing I bought more whipping cream last night.

Update on Christmas Confections Part III

I have attempted a third batch of apple cider caramels, this time taking some advice from this site. This is where I got the information for increasing the temperature of the initial syrup heating to 300°F. It also told me not to stir it. I was very concerned about that, as I was convinced it would explode in a ball of burnt sads.

So far, it hasn’t. It is currently sitting in its pan, chilling out on the counter. I am letting it cool as much as possible before covering it with plastic wrap for the night. I’m hoping that it sets to a nice consistency, but that it isn’t too hard. That was my main worry.

We will see. I will likely issue another small update, either a hey-lookie-I-have-awesome-caramels dance or a there-will-be-a-fourth-trial /sigh.

UPDATE: This batch didn’t turn out at all. I attempted to use the same recipe I had been using because it tasted so good, but there were a couple of differences in method beyond the temperature thing. First of all, the second recipe has you save all your cream to add at once, rather than putting 1/3c in the sugar syrup; additionally, it has you melt the butter in the cream so that it can be added all together gradually, as it does bubble up. I will do a bit more research on it, perhaps try the second recipe and see if that works. I checked the CIA version, and it uses sweetened condensed milk rather than whipping cream, and it adds everything at once and uses similar temperatures to the initial recipe, so I don’t know if they will come out too soft again. Will have to look and see.

Christmas Confections – Part III

At some point last week, I realized that these random non-baking bits I have been doing – the not-quite almond roca, marshmallows, etc. – are all items I will be able to feature as part of my sellables on the main cocofancy site. This particular realization was very exciting, and very…. I’m not quite sure how to describe it. I was excited/anxious/surprised. It’s as if this whole blogging and baking and doing things thing is actually getting somewhere. It’s an interesting feeling.

In the gift boxes I sent to people, I included the following item, though in a sad form. I had recently purchased a new thermometer from the CIA, and it’s pretty amazing. There are only two things I would change about it – put the sensor about a quarter inch further down the stem toward the tip; and include calibration instructions in the packaging. You see, it has the nifty ability to adjust the temperature to calibrate it correctly should anything happen to make it a bit out of whack. Unfortunately… it didn’t come properly calibrated. Thus, when I attempted to make my caramels the first time, I brought the mixture to the recommended 248°F and took it off the heat… only to find that the caramels came out quite a bit on the soft side. I have had to keep them in the fridge in order for them to maintain their shape. Why did I keep them, and why did I send them if they were a bit of a failure? Because they are frickin amazing. I can only say that I really don’t tend to like caramels – way too sweet – but these have such a wonderful flavor, and they came out so smooth! zomg. Really amazing.

I am attempting the recipe a second time, this time with a rather expensive digital thermometer I received as a gift. This one is from Williams Sonoma, and it has a gigantically large stem, but the sensor seems to be the whole bottom inch of the stem. We will see how that goes.

Apple Cider Caramels

2 cup high-quality apple cider
1 cup heavy cream or whipping cream, divided
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup agave or light corn syrup
1/2 cup butter, cubed

Pour cider into a medium saucepan and boil on high for about 20 minutes or until the cider is reduced to 1/3 c. Keep an eye on it…it might try to run away. Set aside to cool. (I put it on simmer and it took… about 30-45 minutes? The first time I tried this I totally went too far and kind of burnt the cider. I tend to be cautious after that sort of thing.)

Line an 8″ square pan (if you want 1″ tall caramels – I attempted the second batch with a smaller rectangular pan, probably 9″x11″ pan) with parchment paper, making sure to leave about 1″ hanging over the edges for easy removal. Coat with a bit of vegetable oil and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine 2/3 c. cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and reduced apple cider. Set aside.

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, 1/3 c. whipping cream + enough water to reach the 1/2 c. line on the measuring cup, and agave/corn syrup. Cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Insert the candy thermometer and simmer until the syrup reaches 234 degrees.

Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cream mixture. Add the cubed butter and stir until the cream and butter are fully incorporated. Return the pan to heat and re-insert the candy thermometer. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the temperature reaches 248°F. (I don’t know if my thermometer was off a bit, but I ended up heating mine to a reading of 253°F. Because I’m paranoid, I ended up reading up on various ways to test caramel – the Culinary Institute of America’s Chocolates and Confections mentions an ice-bath test. When the caramel is around the right temperature, you dip a spoon into the caramel mixture, then stick the spoon into a bowl of ice-water for a few seconds. This will bring it to its normal temperature and you will be able to gauge the hardness of the caramels when they are set. I attempted a few spoon-dips, and got it to a hardness that is definitely a step up from what it was.)

Remove from heat and pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Let the mixture cool completely at room temperature or in the refrigerator. I covered the top of the pan loosely with saran wrap and left it out overnight. You could cut the caramels into 1/2″ squares and wrap each caramel in wax paper, but I’m lazy so I cut the caramel into 1/2″ logs, which meant that I had exponentially fewer pieces to individually wrap. Store in an airtight container or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.


So… My second batch isn’t terrible, but still isn’t quite as firm as I want it to be. It’s definitely firmer than the last batch, but it still somewhat soft. I have been doing a bit more research, and it seems that the initial part of sugar-heating is where a lot of people disagree, and where a lot of the variation of the texture and form is realized. I will be making another batch tomorrow and heating the initial sugar syrup to 300°F. Yay for experimentation!