Hand-dipping Strawberries in Chocolate or What’s the Hair Dryer Doing in the Kitchen?

IMAG0941 (2)Weather plays an integral role in working with chocolate as every candy maker knows. And I should know, too. Seems like such a simple thing, dipping strawberries in melted chocolate, and it is if you’re not working in a warm moist kitchen. Who knew that early May would bring such a record-breaking hot humid day? But there I was determined to made a little surprise gift for a few of my friends for Mother’s Day.

strawberries setting upTo get the down side out of the way, the chocolates won’t set up. You’ll have to make space in the fridge. Then, when you box and deliver them, you have to move fast. Tell your friends to refrigerate them and eat them soon. They don’t hold up well.

The up side is, of course, they’re utterly delicious and impressive, especially if you find long stemmed strawberries perfectly ripe and use a high quality chocolate. I used Ghirardelli semi-sweet chips. Finely chopped bulk chocolate works even better.

strawberries, chocolate dippedNow these gorgeous strawberries have to be washed! There’s the rub. How do you gently wash a strawberry and get it completely dry which you must in order to dip them without messing up your chocolate? This is my aha moment. Dip the strawberries shaking very gently in cold water, lay them out on a clean towel, pat dry (which won’t be dry enough) and then, using a hair blow dryer on a low setting and no heat , dry those babies to the bone. That’s the trick and remember where you heard it.

For 12 huge strawberries, I melted one pound of chocolate in the top of a double boiler, over simmering water, but not touching it.   I “seeded” the chocolate, adding more pieces to cool it down to a good coating consistency. A little corn syrup can add glossiness. If it needs thinning out, add a little cooking oil and stir, stir, stir.

Just hold the strawberries by their stems and spoon the chocolate on letting any excess drip off. Otherwise, you’ll have “feet”. Lay them down on a silpat sheet or parchment paper on a cookie sheet. If your kitchen’s warm, refrigerate. When you’re ready to put your gift together, place each in a paper cup and into a bakery box. Tie up prettily and listen for oohs and aahs.

What do you do with that leftover melted chocolate? Use your imagination. I made peanut clusters.

Photos  by Michael Kirigin

 

 

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Hand-Dipped Chocolate Strawberries

Hand-Dipped Strawberries

Photographer Bill Brady

Of course you can buy a box of candy, but where’s the love in that?  These hand-dipped chocolate strawberries proclaim love with their voluptuous coating and perfect strawberries and they can be created in an hour. The procedure may look long because I’ve provided detailed, can’t-fail directions but notice there are only two ingredients. Of course, you can use white chocolate or milk chocolate and you can roll them in nuts, but this is the way I like them best, simple and luscious.

Ingredients

1 lb. fresh strawberries (preferably with stems)

16 oz. high quality dark chocolate* in wafer form or chopped into small pieces

Procedure

1. Gently rinse strawberries.  If you have a hair dryer with a no heat setting, use it the dry the strawberries. Lay them out on a towel and move them around as you dry them.  This technique works perfectly.  Otherwise, just pat them dry gently with an absorbent cloth.  They must be perfectly dry.

2. Melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler.  I improvise a double boiler by placing a pan that fits inside a larger pan but does not touch the bottom.  Fill the bottom pan with just enough water so that it doesn’t touch the upper pan.  Bring the water to a boil. Turn off the heat.  Place chocolate in the upper pan.

3. The chocolate will melt.  Give it time and stir from time to time. Let it reach a temperature of 88 degrees.**

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon sheet.  Set aside.

5. Take the pan of melted chocolate out of the larger pan and, holding each strawberry by the stem, dip it into the chocolate. Roll it around so that the strawberry is nicely covered. Hold it over the pan until it stops dripping.  You can use a spoon to smooth the bottom.  Set it on the parchment paper.  If the chocolate is still dripping, you will wind up with a “foot” on the strawberry.  Not good.***

6. The chocolate will set if placed in a cool area.  You can place the baking sheet in the refrigerator but only long enough for the chocolate to set.  Left in the refrigerator the chocolate will take on an opaque finish instead of the glossy color you want.

* I order chocolate online from World Wide Chocolate http://www.worldwidechocolate.com/?gclid=CObR0d-_sLgCFcyj4Aod-DkAdA  They offer gourmet chocolate at discount prices.

** If you wish to temper the chocolate for the most professional look, directions can be found at

http://candy.about.com/od/candybasics/ht/temperchoc.htm

***Should you have leftover chocolate, toss in some coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans and spoon out clusters.  They, too, will set up on parchment paper.

Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate!

Chocoholic Heaven: Chocolate Mousse

Is there a more romantic dessert than chocolate mousse?  Simple, yet elegant.  The quintessence of velvety richness.  Topped perhaps with a dollop of freshly whipped cream and a few chocolate shavings.  However, it can certainly stand on its own.  Many identify Julia Child’s chocolate mousse as the classic version and true, it has a unique mouthfeel that is airy, almost foamy.  However, it uses eggs that are never cooked and, even though there is only a tiny chance of salmonella, I prefer a safer version that is rich and velvety.

There are just a few ingredients so the quality of the chocolate plays an important role in the outcome. Also, I suggest a bittersweet or semisweet chocolate containing between 50 and 60% cacao.  A higher percentage will produce a drier result.  Be sure to serve the mousse in pretty dessert goblets. And ladies, if you have ever doubted that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, you’ve never served him chocolate mousse.

Ingredients (8 servings)

2 cups heavy cream

4 yolks from large eggs

3 T superfine sugar

1 t pure vanilla extract

7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted

Directions

1. In a small saucepan heat 2/3 cup cream just until it starts to steam.

2. Whisk together egg yolks and sugar in a separate bowl.

3. Slowly add half of the hot cream to the egg yolk mixture until thoroughly combined.

4. Add the warm egg-cream back into the hot cream in the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture reaches 165 on a digital thermometer.

5. Off heat, stir in the vanilla and melted chocolate.

6.  Chill thoroughly.

7. Whip remaining 1 1/3 cups cream in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form.

8. Stir about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the chocolate custard and then gently fold in the remainder until no streaks appear.  Serve chilled.

(Adapted from a recipe by Rebecca Franklin)

Chocolate Reveries

by Victor Ribaudo

Some of my fondest gastronomic memories involve chocolate.  I’d venture to guess that I’m not alone here.  What is it about chocolate that causes our hearts to skip a beat when it’s presented to us in its many sumptuous forms?  Nay . . . even the thought of chocolate for some can trigger and inner longing that may lead to heady, euphoric ecstasy – causing faintness of breath!  OK, maybe I exaggerate, as I am wont to do.  (After all, I am Italian.  It’s genetic.)  The point is chocolate to most of us is a luxury we cannot do without.  I’m in that league.

When I was a child, my grandmother often made me chocolate sandwiches.  Yes, you read correctly.  She’d take crusty Italian bread, toast it in the oven, and then sandwich a chocolate bar in between the slices.  She’d press it with her hands, and the heat from the toasted bread sufficiently softened the chocolate bar to a silky consistency.  I was in heaven.  And I wanted more of it.  She also prepared something called cuccia for me on St. Lucy’s Day (December 13th).  This was a pudding made from cooked wheat berries, milk, candied fruit and chocolate.  Oh yes, it was as good as it sounds.  There were usually lots of wheat berries left over.  These were served to me the rest of the week for breakfast, swimming in warm chocolate milk.  Beats cold cereal any day.  Of course, I was often treated to the chocolate candies, cakes and brownies every kid begs for at the supermarket.  What can I say . . . they spoiled me!

At Easter . . . well, is there anything more heartwarming than a chocolate bunny?  My Mom procured the best, of course, from a chocolatier shoppe on 86th Street in Brooklyn.  The ears were solid, and so they were my preference.  And let’s not forget the chocolate drives at school.  My aunts and uncles would buy boxes of those bars from me, only to hand them right back for my sister and me to enjoy.  I especially loved the smell that wafted from the boxes as I opened them.  Those bars of chocolate were ridiculously delicious – melt-in-your-mouth velvetiness and studded with tons of roasted almonds to boot.  Amazing!

So you see, I was predestined to love chocolate.  Naturally, as my culinary tastes grew more sophisticated, I searched for even more heightened chocolate experiences.  Not hard to find.  Every fine restaurant has at least two chocolate creations on the dessert menu.  My first foray into that world began with chocolate mousse.  (Please check out Phyllis’ recipe above (it’s outstanding.)  Then I was enamored by the molten chocolate cake.  Who could resist that hot chocolate lava oozing from a petite cake.  Looks innocent until your fork breaks the crust. Then watch out!  Black Forest Cake also became an uncontrollable passion for me.  After all, chocolate and cherries were destined to fall in love.

And so it goes.  Double, triple, quadruple chocolate cakes and pastries…love them all.  Hot or cold chocolate puddings…bring them on.  Chocolate covered donuts…hot fudge sundaes…chocolate chip cookies…chocolate dipped strawberries…chocolate liqueurs.  Can’t get enough of them.  Extravagant?  By all means.  I mean, we must live to eat.  That’s my motto.

Want someone to fall in love with you?  Bake something chocolaty for them.  If the recipe calls for hard baker’s chocolate, be sure to melt it in a double boiler. Easy.  Just place a mixing bowl over simmering water, and stir continuously until the desired consistency is achieved.  Then you’re good to go with whatever recipe you have on hand.  Watch out though;  it’s intoxicating.  The person you serve it to might take this as a proposal of marriage.  The rest is up to you.

Photographer Bill Brady
Written by Victor Ribaudo
Recipe by Phyllis Kirigin
Food Stylist BrianPreston Campbell
Blog syndicated at the datingsymbol.com

  1. Chocolate … in all it’s glory! Fantastic photos and lovely memories!
    Debbie :-)

  2. I love your pictures with all of the light. And I also love your chocolate mousse recipe, keep up the great work!!
    Charlie, 12 year old food blogger

  3. carine says:

    Oh…chocolate…Glorious chocolate….You made my day…thanks~

  4. Beautiful photos. I have a hankering for some chocolate now.

Candied Orange Slices Dipped in Dark Chocolate

I have always adored the lovely confection of citrus enrobed in dark chocolate, but never got around to making it.  Well, I finally got around it it, motivated not  only by my sweet tooth, but  by a recent stop in a candy shop.  Walking along East 61st Street in Manhattan, my husband and I happened to pass a quaint little chocolate shop.  I had to stop in.  Places like that can’t be passed by.

The glass cases were lined mainly with molded solid chocolates in the shape of little animals. But what caught my eye were the chocolate dipped candied orange slices.  “What is the price of your chocolates?” I asked the smiling clerk.  “$88 a pound.”  Oh, my God.  And I thought Godiva chocolates were expensive. Alright, I have no resistance, not an iota of will power when it comes to chocolate.  It’s in my DNA.  It runs through my veins.  I actually bought three tiny chocolates.  She handed me a weightless bag in exchange for $5.75.  They were melt-on-your-tongue-and-savor good, but $88 a pound???

What I really longed for were those orange slices.  I knew it was time to try my hand at them.  Off to the Internet for some research.  Not a lot out there, but finding a good tip here and another there, this is what I did.  You’re going to need a couple of days to turn these out, but there’s actually very little work and they’re quite easy.

Ingredients

 2 navel oranges

¾ cup water

1 ½ cups sugar

8 oz. dark chocolate

½ cup sugar, preferably raw

Procedure

Cut navel oranges in half through the stem ends.  Turn each half cut side down and cut about 1 inch off both ends.  Cut halves into ¼-inch slices. Don’t use ends.

Bring water and sugar to a boil in a 12-inch high-sided sauté pan.  When the sugar has dissolved completely and mixture is bubbling, lay in each orange half, keeping them as separated as possible.  From this point on, don’t stir. Just press the oranges down from time to time.  Adjust the heat so that the orange slices are cooking at a low bubble.

The syrup will slowly thicken and the oranges will soften.  Cook until oranges soften to the point of almost falling apart.  Take off the heat and let sit about 10 minutes.  Remove each one with tongs and place on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet to catch drippings.  Let dry in a cool place (not the refrigerator). This will take at least 24 hours.

Cut 10 oz. of dark chocolate into small pieces. Put a couple of tablespoons aside. Melt in a double boiler. When smooth, check temperature with a candy thermometer or laser thermometer. Stir in additional small pieces of chocolate to bring the temperature down to 88 degrees.

Spread out sugar on a plate.  Using tongs coat each orange slice on both sides with sugar.  Shake off excess.  Hold a slice on the rind at the top of one edge with tongs over double boiler and spoon chocolate over half of orange slice. Place on a baking  sheet  lined with waxed paper to set up. Wow all the chocolate lovers in your life!

Photos by Michael Kirigin

Chocolate Cake with Mocha Buttercream Frosting

This is the cake everyone in my family requests for a birthday cake.  It’s rich, decadent and luscious.  Chef John Clancy taught me how to make the buttercream frosting.  I have scoured my cookbook collection and the Internet for the perfect chocolate cake.  This is as close as I have come.

I have made two changes from Christopher Kimball’s chocolate cake in The Cook’s Bible.  First I have substituted an extra ¼ cup of cocoa for ¼ cup of flour to make it more chocolaty.  Secondly,  I have used a technique I learned from cake decorator Scott Woolley for helping to assure a moist cake.  Instead of allowing the cake to cool off when removed from the oven and thereby losing moisture, he wraps the layers immediately in aluminum foil and places them in the freezer.  This also makes frosting the cake easier as there are no loose crumbs.

Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

1 ¼ cups cake flour

¾ cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa

2 t instant espresso powder

¼ t baking powder

½ t baking soda

½ t kosher salt

12 T unsalted butter, softened

1 ¼ cups sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

1 egg white, room temperature

1 ½ t vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk

Procedure

1. Grease the bottom of two 8-inch baking pans.  Line with parchment paper.  Grease paper (I use butter) and flour pans.  Turn pans upside down and lightly tap  to remove excess flour.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place oven rack in the middle position.

3. Sift flour, cocoa, instant espresso, baking powder, baking soda and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper.

4. Add butter to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 1 minute or until light-colored.

5. Add sugar gradually and beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes until mixture is very light-colored and fluffy (scrape down 2 or 3 times).

6. Add whole eggs and egg white one at a time, beating for 20 seconds after each addition.  Add the vanilla and beat for 10 seconds.

7. Add the flour mixture in three parts alternately with the buttermilk.  Beat on low speed after each addition and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Do not overbeat.

8. Pour batter into pans and bake 25-30 minutes.  Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick.  It should come out clean.

9. Now here’s the part that might surprise you.  Don’t let the cake cool. Instead, wrap well in aluminum foil and place in freezer.  This will help to insure a moist cake that will be easy to frost.

Mocha Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients

¾ cup milk

3 egg yolks

1 ¼ cups confectioners sugar

¾ lb. unsalted butter (3 ticks) softened but cold

2 T instant espresso

Procedure

1. Place the egg yolks and sugar  in a heavy sauce pan and with a wooden spoon, mix them together until well blended.

2. Put the milk in a small saucepan and heat it over medium heat until bubbles form around the edge of the pan.

3. With a wire whisk, beat hot milk gradually into sugar mixture.  Cook on low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until mixture is thick enough to coat a spoon.*

4. Place the hot yolk mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat on high speed until double in volume and down to room t temperature.  Add the instant espresso.

5. Turn the mixer down to medium speed and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time.**

6. After all the butter has been added, turn the mixer up to high speed and beat for about 2 minutes until the buttercream becomes light in texture and forms soft peaks.

7. Remove cake layers from freezer.  Place one layer on the pan it was baked in turned upside down.  The cake and the pan will line up perfectly thereby allowing you to frost the sides and transfer the cake to a platter without any mess.  Spread frosting on the top of the layer.  Then place the top layer on. Spread frosting on the top of the cake and then the sides.  Allow the cake to rest in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Optional: Make a syrup of 1/3 cup cold water and 3 T sugar. Stir and cook until sugar dissolves, 4 to 5 minutes.   Add 2 T Amaretto or Kahlau liqueur to syrup and brush on cake layers.

*The way I tell that the mixture is thick enough is that it begins to thicken on the bottom of the pan.  At that instant, scrape it into bowl of mixer.

**At this point the frosting will look gloppy, to use a technical term, but fear not.  It will come together and become glossy when beat at high speed.

Photo by sweetpaprika

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