Monday, 28 July 2014

Lessons in Chocolate Dipping and Edible Anniversary Gifts

So, it is that time of year again where my parent's wedding anniversary and my sister's birthday happen in the same week and I'm always stuck for gift ideas.

Don't get me wrong, I love my sister dearly, but at the moment she's not able to eat as many sweeties as she usually would like. So, seeing as I'm already making a birthday cheesecake (at her request) which will be more than enough, I'm going to have to come up with another idea for her for a present.

My Mum and Dad, however would greatly appreciate some something nice and sweet. Last year I made them a box of chocolates, and I could easily do the same this year, but I thought it's be nice to do something different.

I have learnt quite a lot about chocolate dipping since last year. When I attempted it last, I found it quite difficult. I got very hung up on it being all perfect and professional and tried to temper the chocolate myself and it didn't work as well as I'd hoped. The thing is if your chocolate is low quality to begin with, no matter how well you temper it, it will be low quality when it sets. How do you solve this problem? Well, I have two solutions: a) you buy better quality chocolate, or b) you cheat, which is what I have learnt to do and do effectively.

In my post about cake pops, I coated them with chocolate that I had bought for about 70c from Lidl and I melted it with a little tiny bit of oil, to make it more of a glaze. The result is a free flowing coating that sets really shiny and smooth and looks very professional; despite the fact you couldn't label these as "chocolate cover" but only as "dipped in chocolate coating", it looks as neat as you'd like.

Of course, if one prefers the rustic and domestic look of homemade sweets covered unevenly in mediocrely tempered chocolate of not fantastic quality, then my previous chocolate box was a complete success. I, however, do not and as such developed this cheat of making it easier and a little cheaper, which is what my blog is all about at the end of the day.

So what will I make them this year? I could do the chocolate box thing again, but I like shaking things up a bit and making some decorated biscuits, and I think  I know just the thing.

I have no idea why, but the other day I was at a friend's house and we were talking how the elephant has quite a presence in British children's programmes, books and toys (as a result of colonialism) and when I was a little girl I remember being given a decorated gingerbread elephant with Smarties for eyes, which is also a painfully British thing. I was commenting on the fact that elephants aren't really a thing here in Ireland, but are quite ubiquitous to our cousins across the drink.

I remember as a little girl getting a gingerbread elephant, decorated with royal icing and Smarties. It was a very typical British image of an Indian elephant, with a colourful back rug, that was very prettily decorated in royal icing with bright colours and feathering, Ever since then, I've always wanted to recreate this beautiful gingerbread morsel of childhood memory.

I thought it would be nice to make a little family of gingerbread elephants decorated with royal icing: a Mummy, a Daddy, and two little boy elephants, and two little girl elephants, each representing my brothers, my sister and I. I think it'll be cute, and a little blast from the past. The only thing is I have to design a teddy cutout.

I'll keep you posted.

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