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.
I 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.
When 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?