Love it or hate it, Valentine’s day is here again. I’m pretty neutral about the whole idea behind the holiday, but any day that gives me an excuse to bake is my kind of day.
I really hadn’t thought of doing too much specifically for V-Day, but Mikal and I were roaming around Target a couple of weeks ago and he gave me a wonderful idea. We were looking at the baking items in the seasonal section, and I made a comment about kinda wanting to do something, but really hating the traditional stuff. Mikal mentioned it would be really cool to make human heart-heart shaped chocolate and hand those out, possibly filled with some red syrup of some sort. An amazing idea, of course, though I let myself sit on it a few days before I actually sat down and ordered a mold on amazon.
Around this same time, I saw this amazing dohicky in the actual kitchen section of Target – it is a pot-pie mold!
I love pot pies, and my first thought when I saw this was, “Holy crap! Hand-held chicken pies!” I find chicken pot pies one of the best ways to stave off the cold and sucky, so this made me happy. Honestly, it wasn’t completely the first time I had come across the idea of non-pot pies; some days when I’m exceedingly braindead I peruse websites and recipes and see what strikes my fancy, and one day while planning a halloween celebration I came across this.
Suddenly I had a V-Day yummage extravaganza planned. My only regret is that I couldn’t do more, but these two experiments proved to eat up the whole day.
dough recipe from Baking at Home with the Culinary Institute of America.
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup ice water, or as needed
Stir together flour and salt with fork to blend. Cut the fat into the flour using a food processor, pastry blender, or two knives. (For pies with liquid fillings like custard or cooked fruit fillings that are thickened with cornstarch or tapioca, the bits of fat should be evenly small, and the mixture should resemble coarse meal. This will result in a mealy pie crust, which is less likely to become soggy as the crust bakes. For pies to be filled with fruit or another nonliquid filling, leave some bits of fat in larger pieces, about the size of a small pea, for a crisp and flaky texture in the baked crust.) This is the reason I love the CIA cookbooks – it tells you a lot of the little things to think about as you’re preparing the food.
Drizzle a few tablespoons of the ice water over the surface of the flour mixture and quickly rub the water into the flour. Continue to add the water, a tablespoon or so at a time, just until it holds together when you press a handful of it into a ball. The dough should be evenly mouse, not wet, and shaggy or rough in appearance.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gather and press the dough into a ball. Divide the dough into 2 roughly equal pieces. Pat each ball into an even disk, wrap well, and let chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, cubed or half-rounds
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (if only I hadn’t completely forgotten to put those in ><)
2 chicken thighs (or an equivalent amount of meat)
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup white wine
1/4-1/2 cup flour
sage, salt, pepper, thyme, brown sugar to taste
Remove the meat from the chicken thighs and slice into smallish bite-size pieces. Toss in a pan with some olive oil or butter and cook until just barely done. Set aside.
Put water in small pan and bring to a boil. Add carrot bits and simmer for a couple of minutes until just cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Repeat process for peas. Sauté onions in skillet until fragrant and slightly browning, then add mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms are just done. (By not cooking the life out of the veggies, you ensure that your filling has some texture other than gravy, meat, and those other squishy things.)
In larger skillet, add broth and wine, bring to a simmer. Add flour a little bit at a time until the liquid has the consistency you want. (Keep in mind you might want to keep it a bit wetter than you would like, as you’ll be cooking everything together a bit and the liquid will reduce.) Add the vegetables and meat, then add a sprinkling of sage and some thyme and let the concoction simmer for 5-10 minutes, until flavors have melded and gravy has reduced a bit more. At this point, salt and pepper to taste, and add however much brown sugar you feel necessary to balance the very savory flavors in the dish. Place the filling in a bowl and set in fridge while cutting out the pie crusts. (If you don’t refrigerate the filling before you put it into the molds, it ends up melting the dough a bit, rendering it annoying to get out of the mold.)
Take the pie dough out of the fridge and let sit for about ten minutes or so, until it’s pliable without being too soft. Roll out dough to anywhere between 1/16th and 1/8th inch thick. (These little things are -amazing- for rolling things out evenly D: Before I discovered these, I used a couple of 1/8″ pieces of wood I had lying around for rolling pin guides. These are perhaps the most awesome thing to happen to rolling things out since the invention of the rolling pin.) The thickness of the dough does matter: 1/16″ results in a baked crust that is pretty much perfect as far as ratio of starch to filling, but is more difficult to handle during assembly. The 1/8″ dough is easier to manipulate, but because this mold is on the small side, there isn’t quite enough filling to satisfy all the crust.
Then you open your heart-shaped thinger-doober package up, unclamp it, and use the backs of the mold to cut the shape of the hearts at approximately the size you want them.
(I ended up using the rolling pin on my heart-shapes a bit more because they don’t really leave enough dough for a satisfactory lip around the pocket.)
Put one heart-shape on one side of the mold, spreading the dough a little to make sure it comes around onto the edges a bit. Scoop approximately 1/8th cup filling into the cavity, leaving out as much juice as possible if it’s more liquidy than not. Spread filling around, then place second heart-shape atop the first, close the mold, and press together. (Note: if you use 1/8″ dough, you will occasionally snap the mold apart; that’s ok, because it’s plastic, and goes right back together. Try to not be too hard on it, though.)
Remove the pie from the mold, and you have a wonderful heart-shaped pocket pie of awesomeness! Repeat process with remaining dough and filling. Remember to refrigerate the dough periodically so it doesn’t completely come to room temperature – if you let it come to room temp, the dough becomes soggy and you’ll lose a lot of the flake.
Bake pies for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Let sit on rack for a few minutes, then enjoy. If you opted for the thicker crust, drizzle some of the sauce from the pan over your pot pie to give it a bit more liquid for the crust to play with.
I have attempted to make things with chocolate once before, only last time it was truffles. Strangely, it was the ones with a tempered chocolate shell that turned out the best. Strange, considering it was my first time attempting to temper chocolate. At that time, I found this page, which really helped me figure out the process. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure it out for the first batch of chocolate, and I couldn’t replicate the success of the second batch in the third. I’m not sure exactly how I’m screwing up, and perhaps if I had hundreds of dollars worth of chocolate to use I could figure it out. Unfortunately I don’t, but I do have proof of my success.
3/8 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup (I used agave and it worked wonderfully)
2 jumbo egg yolks
3/4 cups (1.5 sticks) butter, cut into small pieces, room temperature (cut while cold – makes it easier)
3 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), melted and cooled but still pourable
1/8 cup dark rum
Stir sugar and corn syrum in heavy small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil 1 minutes. Meanwhile, using electric mixer, beat egg yolks in medium bowl until pale and thick. Gradually beat in hot sugar syrup; continue beating until completely cool, about 5 minutes. (Do yourself a favor: add the hot sugar syrup in small doses while beater is off – you’ll avoid a very pretty but very messy sugar drizzle fiasco around the sides of your bowl.) Beat in butter 1 piece at a time, incorporating each piece completely before adding the next. Blend in melted chocolate, then rum. (If buttercream looks broken or curdled, place bowl with buttercream over medium heat on stove burner and whisk 5-10 seconds to warm mixture slightly, then remove from heat and beat mixture again on medium speed. Repeat warming and beating as many times as needed until buttercream is smooth. (Before adding the rum, I halved my buttercream into two bowls, added raspberry liqueur to one, Grand Marnier to the other. Wonderful flavor combinations, especially if you should decided to make the cake this buttercream recipe comes from.)
For my successful batch, I used about a pound of dark chocolate. The actual amount isn’t so important, it’s more the ratio of melted chocolate to seeding chocolate. There are two methods for tempering chocolate: you can melt it to between 105°F and 120°F, then slather 2/3 of it on a large marble slab and spread it and mix it back into itself until it is a uniform 82°F, then add that back into the chocolate that remained, and bring it to around 88-89°F; or you can melt the chocolate to 105-120°F, remove from heat, and add the seeding chocolate to it and wait for it to cool to 88-89°F. I don’t know about you, but as much as I would love one, I don’t have a giant marble slab, so I seed. The ratio of melted chocolate to seeding chocolate is 4:1. If you want all the technical information, look here. I’m pretty sure I’d butcher the details.
Fully melt the larger amount of chocolate in a water bath (I do this the same way I double-boil things. I can’t tell if it’s actually supposed to be different, but I know it works. Also, if you cut the chocolate into smaller pieces, they melt more quickly and uniformly.) Remove the bowl of melted chocolate from the heat. The chocolate should be at 120°F for dark chocolate or 110°F for milk or white chocolate. (Cooking for Engineers states that as long as the temperature is over 105°F, the crystalline structure of the chocolate has completely dissolved, which is what is needed for tempering: tempering is the controlled restructuring of those crystals to create a crisp shell.)
Add the smaller amount of unmelted chocolate to the melted chocolate. This is called the seed; it will cool the melted chocolate and cause it to set the way you want.
Stir the melted chocolate gently and constantly until the temperature falls to 85°F for dark chocolate or 83°F for milk or white chocolate. This will take 15-20 minutes, and most or all of the seeds should have melted by the end of this time.
Test the chocolate. Testing chocolate for temper is the only way to know for sure that chocolate is actually tempered. Make sure the chocolate is below 90°F for dark or 87°F for milk or white chocolate. Dip a spoon in the chocolate, place the spoon on the work surface, and leave it undisturbed for 7-8 minutes in the working room at 68°F. Don’t refrigerate – this will throw off the results. (You will know within a few minutes if your chocolate is tempered. It will dull a bit, but still be slightly shiny, and it will look hard/dry in a few minutes. If your chocolate hasn’t set by the 7-8 minute mark, you’re not quite there.) After 8 minutes have passed, look closely at the chocolate on the spoon. If the chocolate has set so that it no longer looks wet, and the surface is uniform and without streaks, the chocolate is tempered.
If the chocolate sets properly, gently warm it over a water bath not exceeding 89°F for dark chocolate or 86°F for milk or white chocolate. Remove any unmelted seeds from the melted chocolate. (I had to shift between having the chocolate on the heat to having it on the counter in order to maintain the general temperature. Other ways to maintain temperature include using a heating pad or nuking it in the microwave.)
Lining the Molds
Pick out your chocolate molds. As I said, I had human hearts, and I even dug up a cutsie-heart mold. You can use anything, really, just make sure it’s clean, has no cracks in the mold, and is free of any debris.
Fill the mold cavities with the tempered chocolate. Use a spoon or ladle and allow the chocolate to fill all the cavities of the mold. Scrape off the excess chocolate. Remove the chocolate from the top of the mold with a scraper, just don’t dip into the mold cavities.
Vibrate the mold on the table. This step will remove any trapped air pockets that could mar the finish of the finished products.
Allow the mold to sit. This allows the shell of chocolate to begin to form. The precise amount of time varies with the chocolate used, the room temperature, and the mold. Usually for small molds, 1-2 minutes is sufficient. (Don’t do multiple molds at once unless you’re really quick about it – I had too much of the chocolate in the first mold set by the time I finished filling the second.)
Pour the excess chocolate out of the mold. Tapping the mold lightly will remove more of the chocolate.
Scrape off excess chocolate. Clean the top of the mold using the scraper again.
Invert the mold. Place the mold upside down, elevated, so that the excess chocolate can drain. Leave inverted for about 5 minutes, or until the chocolate is no longer flowing.
Clean the top of the mold once again. Scrape the top of the mold so that the top edge of each cavity is clean and uniform.
Filling the Mold
Grab the buttercream. The easiest way to get the buttercream into the molds is using a piping bag. Whichever way you do it, there must be 1/8″ between the filling and the top of the mold.
Allow the fillings to firm. If you need to accelerate the process, refrigeration for 15 minutes or so is an acceptable option.
Sealing the Mold
Pipe tempered chocolate over the tops of each cavity in the mold. Allow the chocolate to cover each filled cavity. If the filling is still a bit soft, don’t tilt the mold or you’ll run the risk of mixing the filling and chocolate.
Don’t make the two large mistakes I made: don’t overfill your molds, and immediately smooth the chocolate you pipe over to seal the chocolate if it needs it. Otherwise, you’ll get this:
Allow the chocolate to set at room temperature for 15 minutes. The chocolate you just applied should set at room temperature.
Refrigerate the mold for approximately 20 minutes. Refrigeration will contract the chocolate and make the finished products easy to release.
Be careful when you try to take the chocolates out of the molds – you could screw up all your hard work. First flex the chilled molds slightly, like you do an ice cube tray. Place a flat pan on top of the mold. Invert the mold and pan together. Tap the pan and mold lightly on the table. Lift the mold off the pan. All or most of the chocolates should have come free from the mold and should be sitting on the pan. If there are reluctant chocolates, don’t beat the mold until they come out – twist a bit more, tap, and if they’re still reluctant stick them back in the refrigerator for another 5-10 minutes and repeat the process.
Mine are still a bit sloppy – this is really the first time I’ve used a mold. These babies are amazingly good, though. Whether you take my route and use the raspberry or Grand Marnier, or just random rum, or none, they’re sooooo good. You can also use peanut butter (if it’s runny, add a bit of powdered sugar to thicken it), peanuts, or even just have solid chocolates. If you go for the solids, skip the filling part and go straight to the sealing without emptying the molds of their liquid tempered chocolate.