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.

Strawberry Sherbet

 

Strawberry SherbetThis strawberry sherbet is light, fresh and not too sweet—the perfect refreshment for warmer weather.  It will rival any brand of store-bought in the grocery store.  Lush, silky and rosy-hued, this stunning dessert is easy to make, but you do need an ice cream maker.  Small freshly picked strawberries are featured in most farmers markets now so you can pass on those large flavorless cross-country imports.

There seems to be a bit of confusion between sherbets and sorbets. Sherbets contain cream or milk and have a silky texture. Sorbets do not contain cream or milk and have an icy, yet refreshing, texture.  Both are best when they contain no water.

This sherbet has an intense strawberry flavor, not too sweet and not too tart and involves no cooking.  I think you’ll love it.fresh strawberries

Ingredients

2 cups hulled strawberries

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups whole milk

2 t freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 T vodka

Directions

1. Mix together strawberries and sugar.  Let sit for ten minutes or so until strawberries absorb sugar and begin to exude their juice.

2. Place in food processor and puree.

3. Press through a sieve to strain out pits.

4. Stir in milk, lemon juice and vodka.

5. Refrigerate at least two hours (or overnight) until mixture is thoroughly chilled.

6. Pour mixture into the container of an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Note: the vodka will prevent the sherbet from freezing hard.

Sherbet photo by Bill Brady

Strawberry photo by sweetpaprika

Easy Strawberry Jam; A Day at the Market

Strawberry  jam

The fruits of my efforts

Cookig strawberries for jam

Fresh strawberries boiling away

Great day today at the local farmer’s market.  Missed the rain, got a parking spot, saw scapes for the first time and learned how to peel beets.  I had been doing it wrong. First of all, scapes, I learned from Reginald, author of Ceramic Canvas,  are the buds of the garlic plant before it blossoms.  I bought some, of course, simmered them in water and then sauteed them with beets in a little butter.  One of the vendors enlightened me about peeling beets with ease.  Steam them until tender, cool and then use your fingers to rub the skins off.  Works perfectly.  I used disposable gloves. Couldn’t resist the wonderful strawberries.  Made Ina Garten’s simple strawberry jam.

Easy Strawberry Jam

3 pints fresh strawberries

3 cups superfine sugar

2 T orange-flavored liqueur

1/2 Granny Smith apple, peeled cored and cut into a small dice

1/2 cup fresh blueberries

Rinse strawberries under cold water.  Drain and hull.  Leave small berries whole, cut larger ones in quarters or halves.  Place in a heavy Dutch oven and toss with the sugar and liqueur.

Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.  Add apple and blueberries and continue to keep at a rolling boil until temperature reaches 220 degrees.  This will take 25 to 35 minutes.  Be sure to stir from time to time and skim and discard any foam tha rises to top. Let cool and then store in glass containers.  Refrigerate.  Should keep for at least 2 weeks, but you and your friends will consume it before then.

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Garlic scapes

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Radishes

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New pickles

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Glorious strawberries

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Greens galore

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Zucchini

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