The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at http://www.chocoley.com offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!
When my husband asked me on Sunday if I was making Schweddy balls, we hadn’t even heard about the new Ben & Jerry’s Schweddy balls ice cream. But it’s always good for a laugh. And no, I wasn’t making Schweddy balls, I was making raspberry cream-filled chocolates.
Cream-filled chocolates have been a weakness of mine since I was a little girl. If you buy me a box of candy, skip the chocolate-covered nuts and caramels. I want the biggest box of buttercreams I can afford.
Another weakness of mine has been my fear of tempering chocolate. I couldn’t imagine success. So when I saw that this month’s challenge including tempering chocolate, I knew it meant it was time. I decided it didn’t matter if I failed or succeeded, but that I had to try. That I would make a buttercream was a given.
After dithering between making maple or raspberry creams, my son chose raspberry. I found a recipe on About.com for a Raspberry fondant that included cream and fresh raspberries. The corn syrup and marshmallow creme would add a little insurance against crystalization.
I’m getting more comfortable with a candy thermometer but still feel some foreboding when I start making candy. Fortunately the weather had finally turned cooler and drier, so I felt as ready as I would ever be.
I’ve come a long way from my attempt to make caramel corn as a newlywed. I boiled the caramel on high for ten minutes, because anything that needs to boil should be cooked on high heat, shouldn’t it? I had a pot of tar at the end. I’m surprised I didn’t burn down the kitchen.
Making candy is a fascinating form of chemistry. I love to watch the changes as the syrup boils down. As the water boils out of the mixture the color changes, the syrup thickens, and the sound of the bubbles changes pitch. Cool stuff.
Here is the fondant at the beginning of the boil. Notice how light the color is and how foamy the bubbles look.
Here is the fondant as the temperature rises and the raspberries release their juices. It looks so pretty and smells divine. Notice the definition of the bubbles.
I worried about having too many seeds in my candy centers, but since the candy isn’t stirred while cooking, most of them settled to the bottom of the pan and I was careful to leave them there when I poured the syrup out.
Some candy recipes call for citric acid, to enhance fruit flavors. I knew I had some but I didn’t find my bag until I’d completely finished my candy. My grocery story didn’t have any either. So as a little cheat I bought a big bag of Sour Patch Kids. After rubbing the closed package between my hands, I had rubbed off more than enough citric acid for my recipe. Plus the bonus of having Sour Patch Kids to eat.
I felt success within my grasp. I poured the syrup onto a baking sheet to cool before I started kneading it. It was during the kneading that I started worrying this wasn’t going to turn out. I have carpal tunnel and I stirred and then kneaded that mixture for as long as I physically could, but it was becoming too painful. But the fondant was still shiny, with a texture like caramel. It definitely was not creamy like I needed.
I set down the fondant and walked away for some pouting on the couch. I tried to tell myself that raspberry caramels would still taste good. But then it hit me; if I can knead bread in the KitchenAid mixer, why couldn’t I knead fondant? It was worth a try.
I threw the fondant in the mixing bowl, attached the paddle (not the kneading attachment), turned it on and, once again, walked away. When I checked it after some time, I was amazed that the mixture was dull and creamy, just like it was supposed to be! I was ecstatic.
I rested the fondant overnight and then shaped the centers into bonbons.
After the drama with the fondant, tempering chocolate wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. It’s mainly about paying attention, and having a chocolate thermometer and a lot of patience. I have the chocolate thermometer. It’s the other two qualities I sometimes lack.
The big mystery, to me, about tempering chocolate has always been how to hold the chocolate at a steady temperature for dipping. It turns out the temperature doesn’t fluctuate as quickly as I thought it would. After reaching dipping temperature I kept the pan on a heating pad. When I needed to, I would put the chocolate back over hot water and stir for about 15-30 seconds to bring the temperature back up. Of course, the temperature will drop faster if you use chilled centers.
I dipped all the chocolates without getting more chocolate on my kitchen than on my fondant centers, and I didn’t get any my pink t-shirt! I guess I really didn’t have anything to worry about. My big worry now is how many buttercream chocolates I’ll be eating now that I can make them myself!