Sunday, August 25, 2013

We Should Cocoa - Caramels

This month's We Should Cocoa challenge is being hosted by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary and Elizabeth has asked us to produce a 'chocolate', bon bon, candy call them what you may and the main restriction was that whatever we produced had to be consumable in no more than 3 bites! Well  3 bites is still a pretty sizeable morsel so not too restictive there.

I chose to make chocolate caramels as this is my confectionery grail, the one chocolate I so wish I could make reliably and without fear.

I have tried a few recipes over the last few christmases and I suspect it is not so much the recipe as the technique that is giving me problems. Keeping every grain of crystallised sugar out of the caramel and getting the temperature just right are all part of the precision that I struggle to achieve. This time I used a William Curley recipe for chocolate caramels from his book Couture Chocolate. This is a book well worth buying if you become a little obsessed by chocolate. It covers a range of chocolate creations, many of which are sold in his shops, and I particularly like his take on caramels which are never too sweet.

I cannot find any of his caramel recipes published on the web so I will link you to my favourite sea salt caramel recipe from David Lebovitz, which I have produced several times, and for a basic caramel it is my favourite: David Lebovitz salted butter caramels.

Here are some pictures of the dipping process which can be the make or break of the shelf life of the caramel. Any chinks in the chocolate coating and the caramel may start to cystalise, seep out and get up to all sorts of mischief.

The caramel would usually be poured into a frame or square pan to set and cool overnight. To make the dipping process easier a thin layer of untempered chocolate is spread over the top surface and then the caramel is cut into whatever shape you want. The thin chocolate layer is much easier to cut if the chocolate is untempered as it will set softer and ultimately it will be fully covered with tempered chocolate and be the base of the finshed bon bon so any cooca butter bloom will not show. This layer makes the bon bon easier to handle and less likely to stick to the dipping fork.


Drop the piece into the pool of tempered chocolate caramel side down and then using a dipping fork tip the piece over by pushing down on one edge.

Carefully flip the item over by pushing down one one side and then lift out of the pool of chocolate.

The coating later is now on the bottom and will be a firm base on which to lift the piece out on the fork. Try to tap off any excess chocolate before transfering the piece carefully to a sheet of waxed paper onto a cellophane sheet. Try to ease the chocolate off gently making as little an impression into the chocolate coating as you do so. It is often around the forks marks that the coating is dented and this is a weakness where the caramel may try to seep through.

At this point the chocolate will be too liquid still to mark a pattern so move on to the next piece to dip but once this is deposited onto the tray, go back to the last piece, and using the fork to gently plunge and lift across on the top surface mark as good a pattern as you can. Mine are totally random but heck it all tastes the same.
Remember to keep stirring your pool of chocolate to keep the temperature even, and for plain chocolate you are trying to maintain 31 degrees centigrade.  You will most likely get some solidified chocolate around the edges of your bowl and try not to bring any solid pieces back into the pool. Better to gently melt these off with a hot air blower (hair drier). So long as the chocolate pool is not heated up more than  a couple of degrees it should stay in temper but you may need to let it cool down again and keep stirring to allow it to settle again.

The general advice is to only try and temper a minimum of 1 kg of chocolate and not much less. This means you will often be left with a large amount after you have dipped whatever you have prepared.  I quite like to use up the reservoir while it is still in temper and good plain biscuits make great dippers. I even had some caramel trimmings that I managed to sandwich between some rich tea fingers, Twix eat your heart out!

So this post is being submitted to the August 2013 We Sould Cocoa, a round up of which will be up for view by the end of the month. Link to the round up is here: Elizabeths Kitchen Diary and all the challenges in this series are here:  Chocolette Log Blog.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Plum Cake - Eats Well with Custard

I came home with some freshly picked plums today and have made them into a cake to take into work tomorrow. Well more accurately I will be taking in what I have not already eaten for supper tonight.

The plums seemed too small to be Victoria plums, and also not as sweet as I think a Victoria would be, but they looked very much like them. Nonetheless they have made a very nice 'plain cake'. I love that expression, 'plain cake', I think it was used a lot more when I was a child, less so now. I wonder if it was used to reflect more the cost of the ingredients, higher ratios of cheaper flour and sugar and less of the more expensive butter and eggs thus giving a plain cake as opposed to a 'fancy' one. 'Eats Well With', however, is a bit of a new phrase that I first associated with Gary Rhodes though he may not have invented it. I suspect it trashes all the grammar rules as well as sounding a bit odd, so language purists please forgive me this once.

The recipe for this cake is taken almost exactly from one that appeared on  Dom's blog Belleau Kitchen last year. Please head over to mum makes a victoria plum cake to get the full recipe. My only change was to add yogurt instead of milk to the cake mix and to sprinkle the top with flaked almonds, oh, and to use a square tin.

I have quite a passion for custard, so many of my cakes and puddings are adorned with it and in this case it certainly suits the plain cake theme. Most of the time I will use a tin of cold bought custard. You may be feeling rather horrified at this point but custard lovers the world over will understand the attraction. Custard is nearly always instead of cream in my bowl. Ice-cream comes next as it is really just frozen custard after all, and then yogurt and then cream. Unless it is christmas pudding and then it has to be rum sauce (never rum butter). Dwelling on custard as I am, can anyone explain to me why those pots of 'fresh' custard from supermarkets have so much (too much) cream in them?

So here is the whole beauty, and unless I get the mega munchies later there should be plenty for folks at work.