Chocolate season has begun! I kicked it off on Tuesday with green tea/honey fudge and jasmine tea/dark chocolate/walnut fudge. Here’s the green tea/honey fudge in progress – doesn’t it make a fabulous witches’ cauldron?
No eye of newt, however – just matcha powder, honey, sugar, and cream. (Well, I may have thrown in a neighbor’s kid or two. Hopefully nobody will notice!)
And here’s the finished jasmine tea/dark chocolate/walnut fudge…
(I apologize for the somewhat industrial-looking nature of the fudge…giant pans of fudge are delicious but not especially photogenic. Not to worry, pretty pictures coming soon!)
Next up was the lemon lavender white chocolate fudge:
This fudge is actually made with Meyer lemons, which are a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange…it has a fruitier and more floral taste than the Eureka lemon you see in supermarkets, which pairs very nicely with the vanilla flavor in the white chocolate.
I also made some coconut tequila lime fudge:
This one looks different because it hasn’t crystallized yet. Finished fudge is a matrix of very small sugar crystals, which give it its luscious mouthfeel. The way you get those crystals is to heat the syrup to ~240 degrees Fahrenheit, then cool it rapidly to 130 degrees. This creates a supersaturated sugar syrup. Then you agitate the syrup until it crystallizes. This produces lots of small sugar crystals, giving the fudge a smooth mouthfeel. (If you left it to crystallize naturally on its own, it would produce large crystals and a grainy mouthfeel.)
Anyway, once it’s fully crystallized it will become opaque and bright white – and delicious.
I also made two batches of caramels:
This one’s really nice – I used Vietnamese cinnamon from Penzey’s (a wonderful source for fresh spices), which has a bit of a kick to it. So the flavor is intensely cinnamon, a little bit hot, and with a honey finish.
And, finally, I made a batch of salted lavender caramels:
I taste-tested two versions on last year’s coworkers – one batch with fleur de sel (French sea salt) sprinkled over it, and one batch with no salt. Interestingly, while people couldn’t identify what was different between salt and no salt, they preferred the salted version. So, sea salt it is.
The last thing I did was to paint all my chocolate transfer sheets. Those are the decorative designs put on top of every chocolate. Here’s a photo of some finished chocolates from last year:
These designs are made by using chocolate transfer sheets, which are basically decals made of cocoa butter (for those of you old enough to remember decals, that is!). You screen print designs on a sheet of acetate using thickened cocoa butter. Then you dip a center in chocolate, and immediately lay a transfer sheet on top. The still-molten chocolate melts the cocoa butter on the acetate, merging the cocoa butter into the chocolate. Then, after it hardens, you simply peel away the transfer sheet, leaving the design on the chocolate.
I like to have a textured, colored background on my chocolates, so I have the images professional screen printed, and then paint the backgrounds by hand with a contrasting color of cocoa butter. The process looks like this:
And the fully painted transfer sheets look like this:
Notice you can still see the brush strokes – that’s intentional, as I love the slightly textured effect this produces.
This morning, my goal is to make one final batch of fudge, and three more flavors of caramels. In the afternoon, I’ll pull out the chocolate tempering machine, and start making those pans of caramel into some seriously luscious bonbons!