I was at the dentist the other day, bib in place, cheesy tabloid in hand, waiting… when a voice from behind said, “You’ve been slacking.” A heart-stopper of a statement when sitting in that particular chair. It was a relief to find out he was referring to this blog, and my less than sterling progress of late.
I think I’ve said this before, but I’m too lazy to do the research, so bear with the redundancy… It’s the time of year. A time when it’s hard to take decent food photos because they need to be taken in natural light (unless you want to invest heavily in equipment, and I don’t), and it gets dark at six o’clock. I often don’t get to cooking until later in the day. With only two mouths to feed, I don’t usually make oodles of my creations. So it gets dark, things get eaten, the recipe is but a dim memory the next day. Sigh. But going forward I will try to put the same effort into this blog as I do into flossing. Thank you, Dr. Keck. And for those who don’t floss, just do it. Floss your teeth, toast your nuts, turn the lights out when you leave the room.
Homemade chocolate bars, at first thought, are a little funny to me. You take existing chocolate bars, melt them down, and… mold them into new bars. Hmmmmm. But you’re filling them with something of your own creation. You can wrap them in pretty paper and decorate them with those stickers you thought it would be fun to buy that keep turning up in weird places on every cleanup day for years after. Fancy chocolate bars–and I just bought a slew of them for my chocolate-obsessed niece’s birthday–can run you between $5 and $10 apiece, so maybe making your own, with the exact the flavors you want, isn’t such a bad idea. It’s not hard. And Valentine’s is a perfect excuse to go that extra chocolaty mile for someone you love, or maybe like a little more than that person over there.
I have chocolate bar molds. How did that happen? You don’t need them. You can use recycled plastic containers. Try to use something that doesn’t have the ghosts of meals past embedded in the plastic, like the black rectangle your Chinese food came in last night. Butter containers, yogurt containers, etc. You can use glass. Round containers, square containers. Ice cube trays! Plastic will make it easier to remove the bars as you can bend them, but a gentle nudge with a butter knife at the edge should do the trick if you use glass.
The number of bars you get depends on how big your containers are and how much chocolate you start with. You’re going to have to eyeball it a bit. Take the filling into consideration. I used half the Pound Plus bar from Trader Joe’s and, with filling, got about 8 one-ounce bars. Like a sock in the dryer, some chocolate will get lost along the way.
I used a pastry bag to fill the molds, and if you’re using molds, I highly recommend it. It allows you to aim and shoot with precision, as opposed to the madness of spooning the chocolate into the molds that for me always ends with half of everything on the counter, floor and my hands. If using larger containers, you can just pour it in. Using a pan with a lip would be ideal.
I temper my chocolate, but you don’t have to. If you don’t, you will need to refrigerate your bars.
You will need a candy thermometer for the fondant. I use a marble slab, but you could cool the fondant on the back of a chilled metal baking sheet.
As always, with candy-making, you are using your hands a lot, so make sure they are ever so clean before you begin, please.
Peppermint Fondant Chocolate Bars
(I used milk), divided into thirds and chopped. I used about 8 oz (225g) and got six 1 oz.(30g) bars. I also used one 2 oz. (60g) dark chocolate bar for decoration.
1-1/4 cups (300ml) sugar
1/2 cup (120ml) heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp. (15ml) unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon (1.25ml) cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon (2.5ml) peppermint oil or extract
Add all the fondant ingredients, except the peppermint oil/extract to a saucepan and bring to a boil, without stirring. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, without stirring, until it reaches 236F/113C degrees.
Pour the fondant onto a marble slab. Using a spatula (metal or silicone) move the fondant around as it cools, sliding the spatula underneath and flipping and spreading it around. After a few minutes, when it is cool to the touch, sprinkle the peppermint oil or extract over it and work it in. Knead the fondant for several minutes until smooth and buttery. If it starts to get powdery and break apart, add a few drops of water. Cover immediately with plastic wrap or keep in an airtight container until ready to use. I rolled the fondant into small spheres to make it easier to add it to the bars. You could form it into tubes or squares, but you want to work fast, covering it when you’re done, because it will dry out and turn to dust.
I don’t use a thermometer when tempering chocolate, but if you want to be absolutely precise, you should read this. What I do is… melt two-thirds of the chocolate either over a water bath or directly over very low heat. When it’s just melted, I take it off the heat and add the remaining third of the chocolate, stirring gently until it’s completely melted.
To assemble the bars:
Spoon or pipe the melted chocolate into the molds, filling about halfway. Gently push the fondant into the chocolate. Add another layer or chocolate. Use a butter knife or the back of a spoon to smooth the chocolate over the top so that no fondant is visible.
Chill the bars in the refrigerator until set, about 5 to 10 minutes. Wrap and store in a cool dry place.