Chocolates are a perfect gift but of course after diamonds! Be it festivals, birthdays, anniversaries or just dropping by at a friend’s place for a hot cuppa, gifting chocolates can never go wrong. If the gift is homemade then that’s even better! It is an Indian tradition to celebrate each and every stage of life with sweets. Chocolates are the new entrant in a traditional plate of food though.
Finger-licking, delicious and melt-in-the-mouth chocolates are easy to make at home. They can also be paired with an assorted array of fruits and savouries. The versatile chocolate finds its place in starters, main course and definitely in the dessert section. Most people have childhood memories revolving around chocolates. One can just create those magic moments in the comforts of one’s own homes.
Before starting to make chocolates at home, one must temper chocolate to give a glossy look. Tempering chocolate is quite different from melting it. Melting chocolate gives a dull and unappealing look. Melting also makes chocolate longer to harden. This also lacks the crisp snap that one hears while breaking into one. Rather one ends with a crumbly texture of chocolate. So tempering is an important process to enjoy a smooth experience.
Tempering is a process of correctly aligning fat crystals to prevent a grey, dull-coloured and waxy-textured chocolate. This ensures a good gloss, silky smooth finish and an even coat on any fruit or snack. Tempering is not some rocket science that one has to be afraid of. Basic cooking utensils or tools at home can be used to temper chocolates. But before starting, one needs to buy the correct type of chocolates. Chocolates can be semi-sweet, bitter-sweet or dark chocolate. The important thing to watch out for is the percentage of cocoa solids present. Chocolates with 55% to 70% are considered ideal for cooking or baking. To temper the gift of Theobroma cacao trees one needs a lot of patience.
Take a large bowl with some water. Take another bowl that is smaller than the first one. With two bowls ready, chop up all the chocolate. Heat up the water in the large bowl and place the smaller bowl on it. Do ensure that the smaller bowl does not touch the water. Add 2/3 of the chopped chocolate into the smaller bowl and stir continuously with patience till it melts. This will take some time. Once the chocolate melts, take it off the heat of the water. Add the rest 1/3 chocolate and keep stirring. The temperature of the melted chocolate will ensure that the rest of the chocolate melts. In this way, one can ensure a stable crystalline form of the present cocoa butter. Continuous stirring helps to bring down the temperature and restricts further cooking of the chocolate. This process is called seeding. One has to take care that the chocolate does not come in contact with any drop of water or any moisture. One can check by putting a drop on the wrist, as it is heat sensitive, to check if it is warm enough to coat and cool enough to handle. Though a chocolate thermometer is also a good investment.
One must keep a thick towel to wrap the base of the bowl to prevent any more from cooling down. If the chocolate starts to solidify, one can just put the bowl into another bowl of hot water for a couple of minutes. The leftover tempered chocolate can be stored in an airtight jar and refrigerated. It can be reused after re-tempering.
This luscious-brown goodness can be used to dunk in strawberries, pretzels, cookies or even to finish off your cakes. They can be used to make yummy cheesecakes. One can make a simple yet irresistible cheesecake with Oreo biscuits and chocolates.
Oreo biscuits: 2 small packs
For the cheesecake
Cream cheese: 2 cups
Tempered chocolate: ¾ cup
Whipped cream: ¾ cup
Powdered sugar: ½ cup (can increase according to taste)
Crush the biscuits along with the cream in between them. Add butter and check if the biscuit crumbs come together as a ball. Pat them evenly onto a springform tin. Let it set.
To make the cheesecake, take the cream cheese and beat it well. Add sugar and the tempered chocolate. Stir all of the ingredients well. Now add the whipped cream and use the cut and fold method to mix well. Pour it on the biscuit base and let it sit overnight. Garnish with strawberries.
Another handy recipe with tempered chocolate would be truffles. Truffles can be stored in airtight jars.
Tempered chocolate: 1 cup
Heavy cream: ½ cup
Assorted nuts and candied peels: ¼ – ½ cup
Desiccated coconut for coating
Mix cream with the tempered chocolate. Add in the nuts and the candied peels. They would come together as a single mass. You can adjust the number of nuts to bring in the whole thing together. Roll them into small balls and coat them in desiccated coconut. You can also coat them with cocoa powder or sprinkles. They come handy to enjoy after dinner.
One can enjoy the not-so-sinful gift of pre-Olmec’s in varied form. One looks at a simple swirl of the chocolate into hot cream or milk as delightfully satiating. Others love their lips to be coated with the bitter-sweet creamy richness while biting onto their favourite molten lava cake. Chocolate is something that attracts people of all ages. This decadent ingredient is also considered a mood lifter by many. So, one can have them without any guilt. While this ultimate food transports us to a heavenly abode with a generous lick, handling chocolates is equally an easy task. One needs to be calm and patient when working with it and not to forget to don a creative cap while incorporating it into recipes.