I am so excited for my first ever completed Daring Baker's Challenge, and what a challenge it was that I immediately succumbed to it. The Daring Bakers' August Challenge is Candylicous, where we are to make 2 types of candies; chocolate and bonbons. Special thanks to Lisa and Mandy for such a brilliant idea! That was all the encouragement I need, as it is, our house is always filled with something sweet, something chocolatey and definitely something homemade! I couldn't decide just the two, so I splurge and indulge for something a little more..
I decided to use the polycarbonate moulds courtesy of Squires Kitchen (review will follow soon) and tried to emulate my favourite Thornton's Viennese truffles filling with whipped dark chocolate ganache. As the recipe was really my own trial, it was really pleasing that the whipped ganache turned out as good as the real thing! I covered the ganache with white base and milk chocolate top, just for tad bit of fancy. They were really an extravagant hit!
Craving for a bit of variety, I took out the chocolate bar silicone moulds and made some gorgeous 'Black Forest Bars'..these bars were adorned with biscuits and preserved cherries covered in good quality, tempered dark chocolates. I must say, making homemade chocolates is really heavenly. Tempering the chocolates was not that difficult, and reliably easy with the help of a good candy thermometer. Mastering the art of tempering, the world of exquisite chocolates is your oyster with arrays of fillings to choose from. For this challenge, I have used pralines, toasted chopped almonds, pecans, preserved cherries, dark chocolate ganache and even chilli!
Then it was time to crack on with the bonbons. I decided to try my hands on something I've never tried before, the Persian Pistachio Nougats. I remembered how expensive the nougat from Neuhaus was when we bought them in Brussels recently; they did cost a bomb! Every time we wanted to indulge in divine nougats, we would get some from the Neuhaus London branch in St Pancras but given the success of the homemade version, it would be good to keep the money in the pocket instead! The best part was, they were really easy to make. I used some edible wafer paper (rice paper) for the touch of rustic elegance.
It has been really a wonderful challenge, and I was pleased to discover such a nice way to present some homemade gifts to friends and family. After all who wouldn't fancy a bit of candy and chocolates, eh?
Tempering the chocolates
The most important nugget of advice here is to get some good quality chocolates, as they make a big difference in the taste and texture of the outcome. Try not to use the commercial 'chocolate coating' as they do taste awful once tempered, trust me. I prefer Chocolat Pattisier Menier swiss chocolates for baking, which can be found at your local supermarket ( got mine from Sainsbury's). There are few tempering methods, for this challenge I chose the bain-marie method. Place 2/3 of your chopped chocolates in a bowl over the boiling water and once melted at temperature around 45C, add in the remaining 1/3 of the chocolates to bring the temperature down. The ideal temperature for tempered chocolates prior to use varies depending on the percentage of cocoa butter present:
- dark chocolate 31-32 C
- milk chocolate 29-30C
- white chocolate 27-28C
Now the fun begins!
Viennese Milk-and-White Chocolate Shells with whipped dark chocolate ganache
Own recipe, inspired by Thornton's Viennese truffles
150g tempered milk chocolates
150g tempered milk chocolates
200 g chopped dark chocolates
1 cup double cream
Prepare the whipped ganache. Place the double cream in a heavy bottom pan and bring to boil. Add the cream into the chopped dark chocolates, mix well until chocolates are fully melted. Keep the ganache in the freezer for about an hour.
After an hour, take out the ganache, and let it warm slightly at room temperature. Using an electric mixer, beat the ganache until the colour lightens slightly. Now the ganache is ready.
Scoop the tempered dark chocolates into chocolate moulds and turn the mould upside down to remove excess chocolate. Place mould in the freezer for 10 minutes. Once the shell has hardened, pipe the ganache as filling and pour some tempered white chocolates to form the base. Cool the chocolates in the fridge until they are set.
Black Forest Chocolate Bars
Own recipe, inspired by Cadbury Black forest bar
1 cup preserved maraschino cherries (alcohol-free version is available)-chopped
200g good quality, 70% cooca dark chocolate-tempered
1/2 cup coarsely crushed digestive biscuits
Place the biscuits and chopped cherries in the mould. Pour the tempered dark chocolate and place the mould in the fridge until the chocolates are set.
Persian Pistachio Nougat
Adapted from Good Housekeeping magazine
2 large egg whites
250g granulated sugar
1 tsp rose essence
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
1 tbsp liquid glucose
1 cup toasted pistachio
a pinch of salt
Optional: Edible wafer papers
Using a freestanding mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks are formed. At the same time, place the sugar, honey, water, liquid glucose and salt in a heavy bottomed pan and let it simmer on medium heat until the mixture reaches 240 c on candy thermometer.
Keep beating the egg whites and gradually add this hot syrup until the mixture becomes really stiff. Add the pistachios and rose essence, mix well.
Line a rectangular baking pan with the edible wafer paper. Spoon the mixture onto the lined pan and cover with another layer of wafer paper. Place another heavy glass or plates on top and keep it in the fridge until the nougat is set, preferably overnight.
Take the nougat out of the pan and cut into squares.
Keep the nougats in an airtight container, they do last for about couple of weeks.