Christmas was on a Saturday this year, and I had to work right up until Christmas Eve, so I had the unique pleasure of watching my father and my husband take over the bulk of the Holiday Chocolate Making.
Sure, I was involved. I dipped all of the mint tea chocolates and some of the lavender ones. And I was Salt Placer in Chief for all the sea-salt caramels.
And it’s very likely that this makes zero sense to the uninitiated.
But don’t worry – I took many photos!
Let us look at them whilst I give you very scientific directions as to how to make chocolates yourself.
Super Scientifical Direction #1: Buy the book Chocolate Obsession: Confections and Treats to Create and Savor.
Decide on which of the mouthwatering chocolates to make.
(This year, we chose sea salt caramels, star anise and pink peppercorn filled chocolates, mint tea chocolates, lavender chocolates, and force noir [basically, double dark chocolate] chocolates.)
Super Scientifical Direction #1(a): Or, if you don’t want to buy the book and/or are lazy, make sure your Chocolate Partner (parent/spouse/sibling/whomever) owns that book and makes the chocolate centers of whichever chocolates you want to make. And the caramel. Make sure your Chocolate Partner makes the caramel too.
Super Scientifical Direction #2: Freeze/chill/set the centers per the book’s instructions. Extra points if your dishes of chocolate centers take up all the room in the fridge that your mother needs for all her holiday cooking.
Seriously – a giant Christmas roast can’t exactly fit in the DOOR of the fridge.
Super Scientifical Direction #3: There’s another step in here, involving adding some sort of chocolate to the bottom/top of the centers, but I forget what it is because I was working. So refer back to Direction 1.
Super Scientifical Direction #4: Have your Chocolate Partner – henceforth, CP – painstakingly measure out identical bite-sized squares of the hardened chocolate centers.
Make sure that you are hovering nearby with the dog, ready to catch any slivers of chocolate center that do not fit the super careful measurement parameters.
Just kidding. The dog can’t eat chocolate.
Super Scientifical Direction #5: Now that you have been badgered into stopping working because the work day is over, it is time for the Tempering of the Chocolate. This is the silky warm hot tub in which all of the center squares will take luxurious dips.
For this step, you will need chocolate (lots), a double boiler (or a pot and a bowl that nestles into the top of the pot), a bowl, a thermometer, a stove, and a heating pad.
Break up some chocolate into some pieces. There might be some butter involved? I can’t remember. Nope? Just chocolate? Okay.
Then melt the chocolate in the double boiler until it reaches a certain temperature. You can add more chunks of chocolate to lower the temperature.
When it reaches that temperature, then you need to lower it to another temperature, I think? Man, I miss one year of Holiday Chocolate Making and I totally forget how to do it.
Super Scientifical Direction #5(a): You should really read the book because my directions suck.
My picture taking up to this point sucks as well.
Super Scientifical Direction #6: Then you move the top of the double boiler (aka the bowl) to another bowl that is lined with a heating pad.
Aha! The first photo!
It is very difficult to know what you are looking at.
So I have made a Super Scientifical Diagram of the photo to be all helpful and stuff.
See? MUCH clearer!
Super Scientifical Direction #7: Now it is time to dip the chocolates!!!!!!
For this step, you will need the aforementioned bowl-within-a-heating-pad-clad-bowl, a thermometer, some forky-dipper things, the hardened center squares (typing that makes me feel like I’m a game show host), and some cookie sheets draped in wax paper. Or saran wrap if you like fighting with a plastic film that prefers to stick only to itself.
So, you make sure the tempered chocolate is at a certain temperature (which you can raise by raising the heat on the heating pad and lower by lowering the heat on the heating pad and by adding chunks of chocolate). Then you drop one of the center squares into the chocolate hot tub and submerge it. But do this really quickly or it will melt.
Then you use one of the forky-dipper things to lift out the center square from its melty paradise. Try to position the center square so that it is as close to the edge of the forky-dipper as possible without plunging into the chocolatey depths.
in the background.
Or rather, the button of his Chocolate Making shirt.
You should have a Chocolate Making Shirt if you engage in Chocolate Making.
Because you WILL get chocolate on you.]
Then gently tap slash scrape the forky-dipper against the side of the bowl to dislodge as much excess chocolate as possible. Then place the dipped chocolate on the saran-wrapped cookie sheet.
Super Scientifical Direction #7(a): Feel free to swear if the center square falls off the fork and back into the Hot tub O’ Chocolate.
Super Scientifical Direction #7(b): Feel free to swear even more loudly if the newly-dipped chocolate refuses to release its hold on the forky-dipper when you want it to slide neatly onto the cookie sheet.
Super Scientifical Direction #7(c): Have your CP top the chocolate with some indicator of what flavor it is.
We use lavender buds for the lavender chocolates…
Sea salt for the sea salt caramels…
Cacao nibs for the force noir chocolates…
And chocolate drizzles for the mint tea chocolates.
But you can go crazy. I give you permission.
Super Scientifical Direction #7(d): Repeat until all chocolates are dipped and/or the kitchen looks like a Hershey’s bar exploded.
Who are we kidding? The kitchen has looked like a Hershey’s bar exploded since Tuesday. My poor mother is likely STILL cleaning chocolate out of the cupboards and off of the cat.
NOTE: The cat was not actually involved in the Holiday Chocolate Making.
Super Scientifical Direction #8: At this point, realize that you really wanted to make filled chocolates too!!!
Super Scientifical Direction #9: Get out the trays for the filled chocolates. Carefully decorate them with gold leaf or “tattoos” whilst your CP makes the filling.
[TATTOOS NOT PICTURED]
Here’s a close up of some gold leaf action…
Super Scientifical Direction #10: Go to bed whilst your CP and his CP fill clear bottles – the kind you often see filled with ketchup and mustard at diners and such – with the filling and make the chocolate coating for the filled chocolates.
Super Scientifical Direction #10(a): Shake your head sadly at how easily you’ve been replaced.
Super Scientifical Direction #10(b): Zzzzzzzzzz.
Super Scientifical Direction #11: After you coat the chocolate trays with chocolate, you need to place them upside down so the excess chocolate can drain. I mean, you want the centers to be mainly filling, just coated with the chocolate.
Super Scientifical Direction #12: Once the filled chocolates have been coated, filled, and covered with a final layer…
…you get to slam the trays really hard on the counter so they drop out.
CAUTION: Bang the tray down once, firmly, then lift. THEN wait for all chocolates to stop dropping before you slam the tray down again. Many a chocolate has been smushed by Over-Eager Tray Slamming.
Sadly, I do not have a photo of this as I was darting my hands in between slams to rescue the dropped chocolates. Holiday Chocolate Making is nothing if not dangerous.
But I DO have a photo of the “tattooed” star anise and pink peppercorn chocolates!
The tattoos are sheets of transfer paper (or something?) with a pattern on them. The paper part peels off prior to the slamming, and the pattern transfers to the chocolates. We have some pink plaid patterns as well, but they show up best on white chocolate.
By the way, these are identical to the gold leaf chocolates… Except that I photographed THESE for some reason, and not the gold leaf ones. SLACKER.
Super Scientifical Direction #13: Move the dog with your foot because he has found some stray a) chocolate or b) saran wrap on the floor and is eagerly lapping it up. And no one wants saran-wrap- or chocolate-induced barfing on Christmas. NO ONE.
Super Scientifical Direction #14: Enlist a partner to arrange an array of the freshly-made chocolates on lovely plates or in adorable candy boxes.
[Box displayed in front of holiday card collection.]
[LOVELY PLATES NOT PICTURED]
(Man, I really screwed the pooch on the photography, didn’t I? I guess that’s what happens when once is forced to decide between photographing a chocolate or eating it.)
Super Scientifical Direction #15: Taste each variety of chocolate to make sure none of them has been accidentally poisoned.
Especially the sea salt caramels.
[Yes, I love them so much I took TWO photos of them
and ZERO of the force noir.
And ZERO of the finalized gold-leaf versions of the anise peppercorn.]
Super Scientifical Direction #15(a): Really. You might want to taste test two or three of each variety. For safety reasons, natch.
Super Scientifical Direction #16: Deliver beautiful plates of chocolates to all your friends and loved ones. Accept graciously if they invite you inside for a glass of wine, even though it is only 1:00 in the afternoon.
Super Scientifical Direction #17: Stop in the middle of the delivery session to go to a hometown favorite fast food joint where you get two orders of curly fries and a cherry Mountain Dew and the CPs all get giant burgers and will end up eating your second order of curly fries.
Super Scientifical Direction #18: Get a flu shot post curly-fry-pig-out.
Super Scientifical Direction #19: Resume chocolate delivery until you have filled your entire quota of Being Social for 2011.
Super Scientifical Direction #20: Go home to where another partner has graciously cleaned up the wreckage of Holiday Chocolate Making wreckage and has also made lobster for dinner. LOBSTER.
NOTE: This is an absolutely critical step in the chocolate making process. Please inform your partner in advance.
Super Scientifical Direction #21: Once stuffed with lobster and, who are we kidding, about a pound of butter, enjoy poison-free chocolates for dessert.
* * * * *
Seriously? Best Holiday Chocolate Making ever.
And somehow, I managed to cajole both my husband and my brother into joining my father and me for chocolate delivery. Despite the fact that both gentlemen dislike Needless Socializing.
I promised them it would be quick and painless, and that we’d only get invited into approximately 10% of the homes we visited.
It took about five hours and we went into about 30% of the homes that we visited. It was exhausting.
But fully delightful. Especially coming home to yummy lobster. (Which my parents received as a gift from some very awesome friends.)
Can you see why this is my favorite holiday tradition?