Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Chocolates, Three Ways

 Last year, as part of the Food 52 Secret Swap , I made ninjabread cookies, which were adorable (and I'm pretty sure my giftee liked them too). This year, in the interest of time, I decided to make chocolates instead.
Now, these were supposed to have been one box of simple caramel filled chocolates. I'd already made the first batch, and then my friend Tiffany came over. Tiffany makes her own caramels during the holiday season, and after scolding me for using storebought ("If you'd told me, I'd have made a fresh batch for you!") she took a look at what I'd done, saw all the leftover chocolate, and said, "Hey, I bet we can come up with a few more ideas. You've got some sea salt, right? And what about cayenne pepper?"

Three hours later, we had not only regular caramel chocolates, but chocolates with sea salt and cayenne spiced ones as well. After we packed them all up and tied the boxes together tower-style with a gold cord, I had to admit that it looked pretty elegant. And a heckuva lot more fancy than my one little white box.

The recipe itself is pretty simple. The hardest part is waiting for the chocolate shells to harden up before they're filled. But really, you can knock out a batch of these in an afternoon.

 Chocolate Caramel Chocolates

1 bag chocolate chips
1 bag soft caramels (individually wrapped)
1 candy mold
1 food grade paintbrush

Melt half of the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. To do this, put the chips in for 45 seconds to a minute. Pull them out and check. If the chips haven't started to melt, nuke them again for 15 seconds at a time, checking each time (don't burn them!) Once they start to melt, pull them out and stir like crazy until there are no longer any lumps.

When the chocolate is smooth, put a tablespoon in three of the mold indentations. Swirl the paintbrush around to cover the sides and bottom of the indentation. Do your best to cover as much as you can--remember, this is the shell for your caramel filling. Repeat with the rest of the indentations, and when you're finished, put the mold in the freezer for about 15 minutes or until the chocolate is solid.

As the chocolate is setting, start unwrapping your caramels. Depending on the size of your mold, you may need one half to one whole caramel. Roll each caramel into a ball. Set them aside.

Once the chocolate is set, pull the mold out of the freezer. Take a ball of caramel and firmly (but not too hard!) push it into the indentation so that it spreads out into the shell. You don't want the caramel to go over the edge of the chocolate--preferably, it'll stop just before that edge. When all the indentations are filled, take the leftover melted chocolate (you may have to reheat it) and spoon it over the caramel and the indentation. Smooth it out with an offset spatula (if you have one) or the back of a butter knife (if you don't), and put it back in the freezer to set for another 15 minutes.

When the chocolate has set again, pull the mold out of the freezer and gently twist or push to remove the chocolates. Arrange stylishly or eat them all!

Sea Salt Chocolates

Melt the original half of the chocolate chips with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of whipping cream, stir like crazy, sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt, then set aside to cool.  Use this instead of the caramel. When the chocolates are completed and out of the mold, put them on a plate and nuke them for 5-10 seconds to soften up the top, then sprinkle them with another pinch of sea salt.

Cayenne Pepper Chocolates
Follow the instructions for the sea salt chocolates, but add a pinch of cayenne instead of salt. For the top, sprinkle with red crystals if you've got them, or even a flake or two of red pepper.

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