Monday, January 4, 2010

Day 306, 040110

First proper post of the new year; let's go with something positive.

Because of time constraints and needing to be in two places at once I didn't manage to make the dip at White Wells this year (although Alex did). My 101 tasks over the yule season were somewhat warmer affairs.

I made chocolates and humbugs as Christmas presents for many people, and took two days over making them. At the end of day 1 I had these:
End of Day 1

This is what 7kg of sweeties look like after sorting:
7Kg of sweets

And this is the representative sample of what I made
 the list

Let's get the humbugs out of the way, shall we?
Boiled sugar and peppermint oil, basically. You heat the syrup to 154° C, and then fold and stretch it into a rope which is then cut into smaller pieces while still soft. I didn't make a big enough batch for my sugar thermometer to work properly so I was doing the "drop some into a bowl of iced water" method of testing the stages, and boiled it for about 10 seconds too long. As a result a lot of it crystallised too quickly on the slab, and it set far, far too fast for me to cut completely. Argh. Still, I managed to get about 70 wrapped and although some are a bit larger than others they're bloody tasty. Dangerous for fillings, though - don't chew these.

These do count as task #92 - make a batch of boiled sweets - as these are exactly what I had in mind, but... I'm not happy with the results, so not counting this as completed. I'll have another try when the weather is a bit warmer, as I'm sure the coldness of this winter, and our kitchen especially didn't help matters.

Thinking about it, I'm not sure that overcooking the syrup made that much difference. It was supersaturated of course, but it was the coldness of the ambient that made the sugar crystallise so quickly and I may have been a bit violent with the spatula when folding it over on itself, again causing crystallisation. I understand that using cream of tartar (tartaric acid, formed on grape skins) makes the sugar easier to handle but makes the results more hygroscopic. As they're fairly susceptible to atmospheric water anyway I'm not sure I want to make these any more sticky on the surface. Still, practice makes perfect.

Humbug Humbug

As for the rest of the sweets...

Truffles, next. I made two batches of "big" truffles (ie, hand-rolled) and one of small (piped into shells); the big truffles were coffee (made by adding 2 tbsp good instant coffee to the cream, then finally rolling or dusting with some chocolate offcuts flavoured with coffee oil)

Coffee Coffee

and Amaretto, made by flavouring with 50ml amaretto and rolling in crushed amaretti.

Amaretto Amaretto

The small truffles were cocoa pops, folded into a basic mixture and piped into moulded shells.

Cocoa pops truffle Cocoa pops truffle

Salt caramels are lovely; basic caramel made with milk and cream (and again, had the same problem with the sugar thermometer so was doing the drop-into-ice-water method, but got it right this time), salt added, dipped (because caramels are hygroscopic) and decorated with sea salt crystals.

Salt caramel Salt caramel

The fondants are made by mixing warm water with (what is basically) icing sugar to form a stiff paste, and adding peppermint oil, then piping into moulds. I tried to be clever and colour the moulds with a little green cocoa butter, but this failed (the warm chocolate melted the cocoa butter), hence the gap at the back end.

Mint fondant Mint fondant

The pralines are only technically pralines; I used a neutral paste, which is made up of fat, sugar and nut paste, but doesn't have a flavour of its own so you have to add flavour to it. In the case of the lemon pralines I added some lemon puree and some sicilian lemon oil, and piped into some white chocolate moulds.

Lemon praline Lemon praline

The Orange pralines were made with the same neutral base with cointreau, orange puree, and then some candied peel dropped into the top of the shell before piping the flavourings in. It was only later, when I realised these looked exactly the same as the cocoa pop truffles that I added the blob on top of the dome...

Orange praline Orange praline

Finally, the B&Cs. These are made by making a layer of chili jam, allowing it to set, then covering with a layer of blackcurrant ganache, then cutting and dipping, finally decorating with some white chocolate coloured with purple cocoa butter. These are seriously labour intensive and impossible to make in batches smaller than 140. By the end of dipping these my back was killing me. But they're so, so worth it.


There's a set on Flickr containing all these photos and a few more of the construction process - feel free to have a look. They're all really tasty, but if I could redo any it'd be the humbugs, because I boiled them for too long, and the hand-rolled truffles, because they're just too big and need to be about half the size.

Well worth the two days, I think. In the end it made sufficient presents for 24 people (some of whom were getting "proper" presents as well, but it all counts), and there were plenty of leftovers - there's still about 40 B&Cs and a similar number of humbugs - to pick at and put together a "randoms" box to scoff on NYE.

Next: Ukulele!

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