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Life Is Like a Box of…

February 6, 2014

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…Chocolates

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, nothing says “I love you” like a beautifully wrapped box of delectable chocolate candies. But nothing says, “I adore you” like a beautifully crafted plate of homemade chocolate goodies. Believe it or not, chocolate candies are easier to make than most homemade baked desserts, require less ingredients, or rather, less specialty ingredients, with results that can be replicated time and again. Only one piece of specialty equipment is needed, and that’s a candy thermometer.

Accuracy is key when it comes to candy making. And temperature is king, so whatever candy thermometer you are using must be calibrated. Calibration is just a fancy word for making sure the damn thing is accurately recording the temperatures. And you don’t need an Underwriters Laboratory to do this.

If you remember your grade school science class, fresh water boils at precisely 212ºF. So we’ve got a benchmark temperature that we know without having to measure it. Simply place your candy thermometer is a pan of water, and record the temperature when the water begins to boil. If your candy thermometer reads something other than 212ºF, just adjust your temperature goals by as many degrees up or down, as your thermometer is off.

“But how do you know we can just add or subtract the number of degrees the thermometer is off from 212ºF?” you ask. Simple. The degree increments are evenly spaced, not logarithmically. And whoever put the thermometer together that day, wasn’t paying attention, and set the glass rod either too high or too low in the metal case. And this is why I prefer to use an old-fashioned glass bulb thermometer. I can’t actually tell what a digital thermometer is reading, so I go with what is tried and true when I need precise readings.

So, back to Valentine’s Day and what you might try making for the one you adore. The recipe below, coffee creams, requires a small bit of time, some elbow grease, and a short list of ingredients. Quality makes a huge difference when it comes to chocolates, so choose a good quality semi-sweet chocolate, such as Ghirardelli semi sweet morsels, to enrobe these java-flavored gems.

Last but not least, don’t forget about presentation. Wiltons makes some gorgeous and playful candy cups. Choose the small cups in a design that fits the occasion. You can even buy candy gift boxes if you’d like to present your chocolates in a box rather than a dessert platter.

Down to business.

Coffee Creams

 Ingredients:

  • 2 cups white granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water, filtered
  • ¼ cup half and half, or light cream
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 16 ozes semi sweet chocolate morsels, such as Ghiardelli
  • 3 tablespoons shortening

In a medium heat proof glass bowl, add the chocolate chips and shortening and set aside. In a 3-quart saucepan with a heavy bottom, combine the sugar, water, cream, coffee crystals, and corn syrup and set over medium heat stirring continuously. When the mixture begins to boil, carefully clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Cook until the mixture reaches 234º to 236ºF, stirring continuously. The mixture should boil evenly over the entire surface. This should take about 15 – 20 minutes. The last few degrees will go very quickly, so pay attention.

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Cook until the mixture reaches temperature.

Once the sugar reaches temp, turn off the burner and let the mixture cool without stirring to 110ºF. This will take close to an hour. Remove the thermometer and add the vanilla. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until it becomes thick and resembles peanut butter both in texture and color. This may take in excess of 20 minutes of constant stirring, so have backup ready to step in and stir if necessary.

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Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon.

Quickly scoop candy, by teaspoonful, and shape into balls placing them on a parchment covered baking sheet. Allow the candies to set fully. They should look dry. Re-roll them if they set out of shape. Place the candies in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

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Shape into balls.

Meanwhile, place the bowl of chocolate and shortening over a small saucepan with about an inch of water in the bottom, simmering slowly, not boiling. Heat gently until everything is melted and smooth. Drop cold coffee creams, one at a time, in the chocolate.

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Drop cold coffee creams in the chocolate.

Use a dipping fork to gently lift them out and allow the excess chocolate to drip off. Place the creams on a clean parchment lined pan. If the uncoated creams start to soften, return them to fridge to firm up.

Enrobed creams can be refrigerated for 30 minutes to set the chocolate before cupping.

This recipe makes about 45 ¾-inch coffee creams.

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