Back in the Chocolate Again

  spicy bark-1 All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.
Charles M. Schulz

My kitchen has been cold and dark. Well, actually the kitchen has been pretty lively but, as a cook, I have been cold and dark since May.

My husband does nearly 100% of the cooking at our house (yes! It’s heaven!) and he has been very busy. I bake the occasional batch of cookies or loaf of bread but my main activity in our kitchen is making candy and chocolates. And I have not been able to indulge, in making or eating chocolate, since it got warm out.

The reason I had to take those months off is that it is impossible to temper real chocolate if the temps are above about 70 degrees. “Tempering” is the process by which chocolate is brought to the state where it has a high gloss, stays solid at room temperature, and has that “snap” when you break it or bite into it.

If a person wants to work with chocolate in warm weather, they either a) have a climate-controlled workspace or b) use a substitute for real chocolate, like the so-called “candy melts” or chocolate chips.

Candy melts and chocolate chips have their place in the world but they simply are not real, quality chocolate. And since, for me, chocolate is a treat (and a high-calorie one), if I’m going to eat it, or give it to my family, or sell it to valued customers, I’m going to use the real thing.

So, anyway, it’s cool now in upstate New York, so I’ve gotten back to this particular creative outlet. I’ve been re-listing candy in my shop. I guess I sell about 25 varieties and have been slowly getting them all back out there.

In the last few days I’ve made a couple different concoctions. First, I made a dipped candy that is similar to Mounds bars, but a little more robust and chewier. It has a center of coconut mixed with a cooked candy syrup that is then dipped into tempered chocolate.

coconut joys-4I also made a couple of batches of a spicy bark—dark chocolate, with toasted pumpkin seeds and dried sour cherries in it. It is souped up with cinnamon and some hotter spices, for a warm glow when you eat it. I made two batches because it is my mother’s very favorite and, since I was making it for a customer, I thought I better give my mom her fix, too!

The traditional way to make bark is to get the chocolate in temper, add the inclusions and then spread the mix, free form, on parchment paper. Then when the chocolate has set, you cut it or break it apart.

spicy bark-5When I made this bark yesterday, I did most of it that way but then made some into candy bars, using molds. I like the way they look (see that nice shine? The chocolate was in perfect temper!) but you can’t just break a little bite off, for a nibble, like you can with the traditional bark. What do you think? Is one form more appealing than the other?

choco barsI’m sure I’ll be back here, talking about chocolate as the months go by. I may even write up a lesson on how to temper chocolate, so you can make some of my goodies for yourself!

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13 thoughts on “Back in the Chocolate Again

  1. Chocolate!!! I tend to eat more of it as the weather gets colder 🙂
    And aren’t you lucky your hubby does the cooking! I assume you own the special machine for tempering?

    • I am lucky that my husband cooks–I don’t enjoy it much and he really does! You know, I haven’t bought a tempering machine–I’ve researched them and planned to but even the best ones for home chocolatiers do not get very good reviews. So, I just keep tempering by hand. If you know anyone who has loved one of those machines, I’d be happy to hear which make/model!

      • I’ll certainly let you know!
        That’s too funny about the tourists buying those marijuana kits. There are plenty of shops selling them still…I guess the Dutch are pretty laid-back about it 🙂

  2. I shouldn’t have read this post before bed. I may dream of chocolate tonight.
    My husband is the cook in our house too! He is a fantastic cook. I love to bake! We make a deadly pair especially since I need to lose a few extra pounds.

    • Yes!! The weight management is always the issue, huh? My husband and I did Weight Watchers very seriously a couple years ago and have been successful, so far, in keeping the weight off but it’s always in the back of my mind.

    • Thanks for that feedback! I agree even thought he bark is easier to actually eat. Since I can list both, via listing variations, I may try that and see which buyers prefer.

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