I like to say I was born with a stainless steel thumb - my culinary equivalent of the green thumb - and that's a lucky thing for me since my passion in life is food and cooking, and everything that comes a long with it.
What do I do with my life? I dream food, think food, look at food, read about food, work in the food business, travel via food, talk about food, use food as my artistic muse, teach others about food, and clearly, cook, play with and EAT food!
Food is my compass.
It's finally the holiday season! Which, to me, means lots of food, lots of drink, and spreading holiday cheer. Cornucopias of things. Overflowing chalices. Literally all of the good parts of A Christmas Carol. Basically this:
For the entire season. I pretty much end up dressing like male characters from Charles Dickens novels for winter everyday anyway, so it all really comes together. But I digress....holiday season for me also means BAKING. Desserts. Sweets. Cookies. Stuff. Which is basically the worst because baking involves measurements, and despite how OCD and Type-A I am, precise measurements in cooking just ain't my thang. Pinch of this, a little bit of that, cook it 'til it's done. That kind of stuff. So, holiday season essentially = CHALLENGE. Game on, pastry geeks!
My most recent challenge was to make some candy bars. Tempering chocolate? Probably the most stressful thing I've done, besides the time I made this cake for my mom:
Yeah, having to wait almost 3 hours to see if my GIANT HALF-SPHERE CAKE will actually come out of the bowl properly cooked and unscathed sounds like my idea of a great time. NEGATIVE. But back to the candy bars. Why not? I've never made candy bars, so I may as well check it out...and it gave me a proper excuse to spend entirely too much time inside NY Cake & Bake Supply Store. I picked up some dark chocolate disks, some molds, and was OFF! Now, what to put in the candy bar? Definitely the components of a s'more. How could you go wrong, seriously?
*insert that time i felt superbly awkward purchasing only marshmallow fluff and graham crackers at food emporium*
Yes. This is also true. Checking out with solely marshmallow fluff (with dust on the lid, mind you) and a pack of graham crackers is sufficiently awkward. Judging eyes from all directions. Do people put together that I'm probably making s'mores? Do people think that I eat fluffernutter sandwiches? Am I just a fat kid with a serious sweet tooth? I'll never know. But the results of this concoction were well worth the mental anxiety I experienced over the course of a day. On to the candy bars!
This is what you'll need to make some candy bars!
1 lb of dark chocolate
3 Graham crackers, crushed up
Chocolate molds - whatever design you want! Make sure it's deep enough to make a candy bar with fillings.
So first, you need to start with what eventually will be the top of the candy bar. Time to temper some chocolate!! Ok, if you aren't concerned about the chocolate having a nice sheen to it, you can just melt the chocolate and be on your merry way. If you want it to have a shiny exterior with no milk blooms, you gotta hop to some tempering. Apparently you can do so in a microwave, but sadly I do not have said contraption and can't vouch for that method. So the only other option is the double-boiler jam. Also, I don't have a proper double-boiler - so the set-up consists of a sauce pot of simmering water, and a large bowl that can fit semi-snuggly on top.
Chop up 1/2 pound of the chocolate into shards. You can pulse the chocolate in a food processor, but you have to be extra careful as the chocolate will melt quickly from all the commotion. Put about 9/10s of the chopped chocolate into the double-boiler bowl and stir. The chocolate will start melting immediately. Stir and cook the chocolate, and bring up to 110F (thermometer time!). As soon as it hits 110, remove from heat, pour in the remaining chocolate chunks, and vigorously stir with a spatula. For a while. Get crazy with it. You want the chocolate to reduce down to about 90F, and the quickest way to do that is to seriously agitate the chocolate. And, if you don't agitate it enough, the chocolate will not temper properly.
Sidenote: I will be making a series of cartoons about the chocolate that lost his temper. *rim shot*
Once you have lost all feeling in your stirring arm, pour the chocolate into the molds. Ensure the molds are fully covered in chocolate, then pour the the excess chocolate back into the bowl. Use a pastry scraper to help you out. Place the molds in the fridge and allow to cool completely.
WHY IS THIS IN MY HOME?!
Once the chocolate is fully chilled, you can assemble and get ready for round TWO of chocolate tempering. There are two routes you can take here (¡¡¡choose your own adventure cooking!!!) - either use the marshmallow fluff straight up, or toast it a bit to get that legit s'more flavor profile. Kitchen torch time! Spread a good amount of fluff out on a sheet tray. Light the torch. Toast the marshmallow until it's golden brown. Your kitchen now smells amazing - you're welcome. Also, admire the beauty that is torched marshmallow fluff:
Stir it around and spread a thin layer evenly over the chocolate. Be very careful here!! The fluff is obviously very sticky, so it can easily tug away at the chocolate, breaking it. Be gentle. When all the candy bars are sufficiently 'mallowed, sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs. Already looking good!
Final step - temper the remaining chocolate, same way as above. Pour of candy bars, gently scrape off excess chocolate - be careful here also - and place into the fridge to cool again.
And now the moment of truth. When the chocolate is fully chilled, it's time to pop those bad boys out of the molds. Current level of stress: a billion. Did I temper the chocolate properly? Is it going to be shiny? Are these things even going to come out of the molds? IS IT EVEN GOING TO STICK TOGETHER?! I don't know how pastry chefs do it. Literally, I am having a mental chocolate meltdown (pun intended).
But guess what? Those bars came out perfect. Popped out on cue. Nice and shiny. Actually looking amazing. Want to eat all of them. Obviously, before you wrap these up all nice to give to your pals, you need to give it a try.
OH MY. So good. SO good. How can it not be? But seriously. I don't have to explain to you why because...s'mores. Now, have fun with arts and crafts! Wrap these up in some aluminum foil like a present, and if you are absurd enough as me, make a label and wrap it around.
I figured if I was going to make a label, I may as well be honest about the contents.