Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Little Something For My Beloved....

When I used to work in a certain university bakery, I would occasionally bring home a little some thing for Mr. Devlin, who was studying hard at the same said university (man, was that a dream job!)

It might have been an eclair that wasn't quite the right length for retail but still perfectly edible or a slice of cake.

The point was, I wanted him to know I was thinking of him.

And now that I'm "just" at home and "just" taking care of the house, I still try to find ways to let him know that I appreciate that he is working hard, and  even though we haven't been on a real date since December, I still think he's pretty cute.

The easiest little goodie for Mr. Man is chocolate covered strawberries and this is the right time of year to make them, with strawberries plentiful and cheap.

air drying the fruit
Look for fruit that is uniform in shape, red and ripe all the way up to the stem and without blemish. If you have a soft, leaking spot on the fruit, the chocolate won't be able to set up there. Also, you never want to introduce a liquid into straight chocolate as it has the potential to make the chocolate seize (that's when the chocolate gets all clumpy and gross-there is a way to fix it* of course but it's still not desirable).

When you are ready to dip, first wipe down the fruit with a damp paper towel, just as you would wash a mushroom. If you submerge them in water, you again run the risk of introducing water into your chocolate and being an unhappy camper.

Let the fruit air-dry-this also allows the fruit to come up a little bit in temperature which I prefer when dipping fruit.

In the mean time, let's melt some chocolate.

Honestly, a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips works fine. If you like a darker chocolate, like a 70%, try melting down a few candy bars. Or maybe your special person likes white chocolate best. The process is the same. Chop the chocolate (if not using chips) into smaller bits and place in a heat-proof bowl (I prefer  glass myself). Make sure the bowl fit well over a small saucepan that contains a couple of inches of water. The bowl should never ever ever touch that water (that could case the chocolate to scorch--you know, burn? You can't fix that).   Instead, the bowl should rest over the water. This set up is a double-boiler or water bath.

Turn your heat to a medium heat, not high. Chocolate is not to be man-handled, ok? Love it gently and it will do what you want every time. You aren't trying to bring the water to a hard boil, just enough of a simmer to cause the steam to heat the chocolate from underneath. If you have a bunch of steam escaping around the sides of the bowl, lower your heat (a lot). Again, steam being water, you could cause the chocolate to seize.  Keep stirring the chocolate and you will get a nice, shiney melty pot of yum soon.
As soon as the chocolate is about uniformly melted, cut the heat. Remove the bowl from the heat altogether as soon as you have stirred it smooth. Let the chocolate cool some before dipping.

Now you can factory-line assemble some strawberries. Fruit, then chocolate, then bake sheet covered with parchment or waxed paper. (If you're a lefty, reverse the order).

down and in
up and over

Holding the stem of fruit, dip it in the chocolate, nearly to the top. Now pull up and over to the side of the bowl, to lightly scrape the excess from the side that will be the bottom. Tip the bottom of the fruit up a bit to cause the chocolate to catch at the tip instead of dribbling every where and place the fruit on the sheet at the farthest point from you.

scrape back side and tip

 As you move along, you never want to move a new piece over an old piece because you could dribble on the older fruit and it won't look pretty; so move from the farthest edge towards yourself.

The chocolate will set up--unless your house is a bit warm, in which case place the sheet in the fridge for a couple of minutes to help out the process.

If you would like a little drizzle of dark on your white or white on your dark, melt the chocolate in the same way as mentioned above and spoon the chocolate into a small piping bag (or paper piping bag which can be made with a bit of parchment that you have made into a funnel shape). If you are intimidated by that idea, put the chocolate in a ziploc bag and snip a bit of the corner off.

Drizzle the chocolate over as desired and continue to let them set up.

Whether you are placing them on a cake as garnish or serving them with champagne once the kids are (finally) asleep, keep the fruit in a cool place until service. Generally, you don't want them sit around for more than a day (as if, right?)

*If your chocolate seizes, stir in a tablespoon of solid shortening to the chocolate and stir smooth. Add a bit more shortening if necessary but the fat will counteract the liquid.


Jesse said...

Holy crap that looks yummy!

Anonymous said...

Cake Boss and Daffin's have nothing on you!