December 25, 2008
Chocolate Chunky Cups
You guys all read Orangette, right? At least all you food bloggers do, no doubt. Orangette was one of the first food blogs I found. I don't even know how I got there but I remember a post about her kitchen and a UPS package and that she had polaroid-style photos. I was captivated instantly. One thing I really admire about Molly's blogging is that it's generous in ideas but spare in both its prose and posts. She doesn't post every single thing she cooks. She obviously self-edits, only writes up recipes that are well-tested, and she doesn't show off.
And when she refers back to an earlier post about something from the past, I always follow the links. Because invariably I will find something else to swoon over. But for all the months that I have been reading Orangette, I had not actually cooked anything from it yet. Well, I think I started off on the right foot. In a recent post about holiday baking, she mentioned "chocolate blocks." Cacao-freak that I am, I had to check it out. Which is how I wound up with a friend dubbing me a "chocolatier" and making me laugh out loud. If they only knew how easy it was! Easier than making chocolate chip cookies. Easier than making fruit crisp. And way, way easier than making a pie crust.
Here's the basic idea: Start with good chocolate. Melt it. Add your choice of dried fruit & nuts, and some sea salt. Chill. Done in an hour.
You can find the recipe here. My big change - and with all due respect to the food blog goddess herself, I think it's a huge improvement aesthetically - was to chill my chocolates in mini muffin cups and to reserve some fruit & nuts to sprinkle on top*. So much prettier this way and alerts everyone to the presence of nuts in case of any allergies. Molly chills hers in an 8-inch square baking pan and then cuts into small blocks. I tried that method on the first go-round, but found it hard to cut neat squares. You also lose a lot of the edges if you want them all to look nice - and I hate to waste chocolate! (I melted that batch and started over - it's a forgiving recipe).
The fruit & nut combinations are endless. Dried cherries are so good with dark chocolate, and I combined them with golden raisins, peanuts & pistachios. I added chopped crystallized ginger to a second batch and that was terrific! Hazelnuts would be great if you had them - but really, any nut and any dried fruit can work. I also sprinkled fleur de sel both in and on the chocolates - just be careful of over-salting if your nuts are salted, too. I wish I had had dried apricots in the house because the orange would be pretty - perhaps next time.
A bonbon cup might be a more manageable size for popping in the mouth, but the mini muffin cup is easier to fill and I used my 24-cup mini muffin tin to store them while chilling - very handy.
For my holiday gift bags, I packed 4 chocolates into small Wilton brand candy boxes that I found at Michael's Arts & Crafts, and tied with ribbon.
I will never give up baking, but I have to say that chocolate-making -- at least this kind -- is so simple and so rewarding. I've started reading recipes for homemade peanut butter cups - oh lordy, we're in trouble now....
*Full disclosure: I got this idea from the French Chocolate Bark in Ina Garten's new Back to Basics book. I am a food plagiarizer, guilty as charged.