Friday, 11 December 2015

Homemade Chocolate Box Strikes Back: 8 Flavours!

For another Christmas gift, that requires good care and attention: homemade chocolate selection box!

As many of you may have guessed, I'm fascinated by chocolate boxes. When I was a small child, I remember watching the film Matilda, an American adaptation of a Roald Dahl classic. The villain, Miss Trunchbull, has a box of chocolates that only she can eat. I remember seeing that scene in the film and thinking "those look so nice!", and thinking that a box of chocolates was such a grown up thing to get.

Over the last few years, I've made a few different kinds of chocolate boxes: some that are dipped, some that are moulded, some that are vegan, some that are milk and dark, and all took a lot of time and effort. But one thing is universal for all the different kinds: chocolate is Hell to work with.

Chocolate is very fickle: if you don't melt it properly, or mix it too much or not enough, it sets as a soft, streaky mess. I've had good and bad luck with chocolate, and this time it was particularly difficult. Humidity, air pressure, and temperature all play a big part in making or breaking good chocolate tempering. The first batch of milk chocolates I made this time around bloomed horribly: all grey streaky and spotty, I was heartbroken.

First batch of milk from the mould bloomed a lot, which made it unusable.

Bloomed chocolate; disaster.

Tempering chocolate without a thermometer is a matter of patience: you must use a bowl over warm water, and 'seed' the melted chocolate with un-melted chocolate. There are many videos available on YouTube about this process, which I recommend that you watch.

To make the chocolate shells, I melted the chocolate correctly to keep it in temper. I half-filled each hole in the mould, then using the tip of the teaspoon, I spread the chocolate up the sides. Placing a sheet of non-stick baking paper underneath a wire rack, I then put the mould upside-down on the wire rack, allowing the chocolate to dribble out of the mould, coating the sides, the excess spilling onto the paper. Once the dripping stopped, I turned the mould right side up and scraped the excess chocolate off the surface of the mould with a palette knife. I allowed the shells to cool at room temperature before filling, because putting in the fridge would run the risk of blooming the chocolate. I filled the individual shells leaving about 2 millimetres of a gap to cap with chocolate.

This chocolate box includes 5 moulded and filled flavours (in both milk and dark chocolate), and 2 dipped milk chocolate flavours:

Soft Caramel
To fill these chocolates, I used the same caramel recipe that I used for my banoffee pie: 7 ounces (200 grammes) light brown sugar, 7 ounces (200 grammes) evaporated milk, 2½ ounces (60 grammes) of butter, and 1 teaspoon (5 millilitres) vanilla essence. I mixed all the ingredients, except for the vanilla essence, in a medium saucepan, and cooked it gently over a low heat until the butter and sugar melted together fully, then brought it to the boil. I boiled it gently for about 5 minutes, until the mixture thickened into a creamy saucy consistency, and darkened slightly. I allowed it to cool before using it to fill the shells.

Pecan Nut Praline
To make the praline for the truffle filling, I put 2 ounces (55 grammes) of pecan nuts, 2 ounces (55 grammes) caster sugar, and 1 tablespoon (15 millilitres) of water into a frying pan. Over a low heat, I heat the mixture until the sugar dissolved, then increased the heat to medium-high. I cooked the mixture until the sugar became thick and dark brown. I poured this mixture onto some oiled non-stick baking paper, and let it set completely. I pulsed the praline pieces in a blender to a powder, then mixed it into some chocolate truffle mixture (see below) before using it to fill the shells.

Strawberry Fondant
I mixed some strained strawberry jam in equal weight quantities with icing sugar to thicken it slightly, and used this to fill the shells.

Lemon Truffle
To make the lemon filling, I used 1 ounce (30 grammes) of caster sugar, fluid ounce (30 millilitres) of milk, 1 ounce (30 grammes) of butter3½ ounces (100 grammes) white chocolate, chopped into pieces1 teaspoon (5 millilitres) vanilla essence, and the zest of half a lemonI heated the sugar, lemon zest, and milk together in a saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolved. I brought it to the boil and cook for about a minute or two until a little syrupy. I removed it from the heat and stirred in the butter, chocolate, and vanilla essence, then returned it to a low heat, mixing until smooth. I allowed it to cool before using it to fill the shells.

Coffee Crème
To make the lemon filling, I used 1 ounce (30 grammes) of caster sugarfluid ounce (30 millilitres) of strong coffee1 ounce (30 grammes) of butter3½ ounces (100 grammes) white chocolate, chopped into pieces, and 1 teaspoon (5 millilitres) vanilla essenceI used the same technique to make it as the lemon filling, and allowed it to cool before using it to fill the shells.

Almond Marzipan
I made some marzipan using this recipe, and used it to make 1 inch (2½ centimetre) balls, pressing them into ovals, and dipping them in properly melted chocolate.

Turkish Delight
I made some Turkish delight using this recipe, and cut it into 1 inch (2½ centimetre) pieces, dusted very lightly with icing sugar (brushing off any excess) and dipping it twice in properly melted chocolate, allowing to set fully after the first dipping, and sprinkling on some coloured sprinkles.

White and Dark Truffle
These ones were a bit of an experiment, but they turned out nicely. I mixed equal quantities of melted dark chocolate and buttercream icing together until it became a thick mixture, then chilled it overnight. I allowed the mix to return to a cool room temperature before rolling into balls. I chilled them thoroughly before dipping in melted white chocolate. These ones were very tasty,

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