Friday, January 6, 2017

The Christmas Where I Failed at Making Chocolates

I love chocolate. I love eating chocolate, smelling chocolate, and looking at chocolate. And I really, really love making candies with chocolate. 

For most of my life, I've spent the holiday season making coconut  (and chocolate coconut!) filling, peanut butter filling, and peppermint filling, rolling these into different shapes, and dipping them into luscious melted chocolate. When I was a junior in high school, for our English class' business unit, we all had to do a mock interview for a job we'd like to have. I decided to interview for a position of "chocolatier," and brought a selection of candies to class with me. Let's just say I was one of the most popular girls in class that day ;) Last summer, just two days before giving birth, I hauled a tub of 300+ homemade chocolates into an art gallery, since a friend of mine had commissioned me to make them as refreshments for her art show. I really like working with chocolate. 

I was excited to spend Christmastime enveloped in all things chocolate, especially since I held myself back from chocolate-making during Advent. Well, I'm here to inform you all that I have been failing in my chocolate endeavors. Mishap after mishap has occurred, and the liturgical season of Christmas isn't even over yet!



It all started on the morning of Thursday, December 29. The day before, we had gotten in from visiting out-of-state relatives, so our apartment was in complete shambles-clothes, toys, and presents were scattered everywhere. Bright and early, I hopped out of bed. To clean? Nope. To make butterfingers. A good friend of mine was driving down from Kansas to have lunch with me, and I wanted to make some delicious treats for dessert. The filling was mixed and formed into squares in a matter of minutes, and it was cooling in the freezer while I started picking up the floor, getting dressed, and catching up on social media. 

Time to dip some butterfingers! 

I waltzed over to the freezer. As I began pulling open the freezer door, I was distracted. I had just learned of Debbie Reynold's death, and I was praying for her soul and her family, and thinking about Singin' in the Rain. The cool air hit my face. Hmm, I should watch that movie in honor of Debbie Reynolds. Two trays of butterfingers tumbled down to the floor. 

Thankfully, about 1/4 of the candy stayed on one tray, so those were still edible. I had enough to offer my friend, but all of my hopes and dreams of feasting on these candies fell into the trashcan with the large pile of crunchy orange goodness. 

Three of my brothers would be visiting us later that weekend for New Year's Eve, and since I could no longer offer them butterfingers, I needed to whip together something else. I have always wanted to make chewy caramels that I could dip in chocolate, so I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity. Plus, it would make me feel super accomplished. So, Friday evening, while my husband was off with friends, I pulled out a recipe that claimed to make ooey, gooey, chewy caramels. Well, I just want to let you all know that trying to boil a caramel mixture on the stove so it can reach "firm ball" stage, while simultaneously caring for a rambunctious six-month-old, is a bit insane. I'm still astonished that myself and the candy came out of that experience without any burns. It looked great, it seemed to be at the firm-ball stage-ish, and it tasted good. But, when I checked on the platter after it had cooled a bit, it was definitely not chewy caramels that greeted my eyes. On the bright side, it's probably the tastiest toffee I've ever made. 

And now we come to the Great Truffle Misadventure. 

I really, really wanted to make some fancy chocolates as part of a Christmas present for one of my best friends, who I would be seeing on Epiphany weekend in Kansas. I decided that Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffles would be perfect. Bold, flavorful, rich, and delicious. I had never made them before, but it didn't seem like that difficult of a task. Granted, all of the times I've made plain chocolate truffles, I've struggled with getting the ganache to the perfect consistency, but it always works out in the end-so I wasn't that worried. Excited to be fancy, I glossed over the multitude of recipes that called for raspberry jam, and instead picked one that involved making a syrup out of fresh raspberries.  These would be the best truffles imaginable. In fact, I would probably bring extra to give away to other people. Images danced through my head of myself, traipsing around Kansas with elegant truffles, basking in the praise of others. 
Ha. As they say, "Pride goes before the fall." 

First, I turned my back while the cream was heating on the stove, so of course, the cream boiled over and our stovetop now smells like burned cream whenever we turn on that burner. Then, after adding the required amount of raspberry syrup, I tasted the mixture-and didn't detect the raspberries as strongly as I wanted to. So, I did what I felt I needed to do: I added some of the raspberry puree that I had strained out. No longer would my truffles be the super smooth, silky wonder that set them apart from so many other recipes I saw. Nope, they would have chunks of berry puree, but I was going to have to deal with it. As I was alternating between dumping in berries and tasting it, I glanced at the recipe and realized that I had put in too many tablespoons of butter. 

Hmm. That may cause problems with the truffles hardening. But I've seen a wide gamut of truffle recipes that all call for different amounts of butter, and they all turn out, so hopefully this won't be a big deal? 

 With hope in my heart and resignation in my eyes, I put the truffles in the fridge and hoped for the best. Hours passed by. Each time I checked, the truffles were so gooey. They would not hold shape very well. Maybe once they've been chilled overnight? The next day came and still so, so gooey when I touched them. With options (and ingredients!) running out, and only a few hours to go before leaving for Kansas, I did the only thing I thought would help: pull out the last of the chocolate chips so that I could dip the truffles. The hardened chocolate would taste delicious and help the truffles hold shape, so it was the perfect solution! I popped some chips in the microwave (I'm not fancy when it comes to melting chocolate) and turned back to the filling. Several seconds went by, and I started to smell a weird odor coming from the microwave. Since our apartment (and the furnishings that came with it) are all rather ancient, I decided that it would not be a wise idea to use the suspicious-smelling microwave or chips. 

I was recently given a double-boiler (or something like it),
so I heated the water and then topped the pot with the matching bowl and the rest of the chips that I had. Unfortunately, I put to much water in the pot, steam escaped, and after dipping a few truffles successfully, the chocolate seized. So my pride won't be satiated, because I now only have a couple of dipped truffles for my friend and not a bunch to give away and impress people with. But humility is good (and something which I greatly need to work on!). 

And on the bright side, that seized chocolate  (since it can't be recovered for dipping) becomes a nice snack for me ; )

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