In the aftermath of last weekends heat blast, I’ve noticed some of my circuits and tastebuds having obviously taken a more thorough scramble than I first thought. For example, even though the temperatures have dropped to reasonable levels, at least as far as end-of-April goes with close-to-zero-degrees night breezes, I can’t get myself to close the windows at night. Most of the members of my – admittedly small, but cherished – shoe collection have sort of a… sinister? Confining! look to them after just one weekend of flipflop-freedom for my feet.
Having dinner inside a restaurant also seems pointless all of a sudden if there’s a patio available anywhere close by, and most of the time I really can’t figure out whether I actually want to eat something or simply sit there, have a sip of something cold and soak up some late-evening sunbeams. Oh, and speaking of a cold sip, I can’t seem to shake that silly feeling it’s time to move the red wine to the back of the prohibition closet along with a box of shawls, gloves and earmuffs, and pull out a couple of fruity whites and rosés to get them chilled and to get ready to brush the dust off my cocktail-skills that only come into play on the hottest evenings of the year. And all of that despite the fact that I’m well aware that red wine’s not just a Winter-thing, or that cocktails aren’t Summer-exclusives. ..And that neither hubby nor I drink all that much anyhow! I’m great at weirding myself out from time to time. Anyways, while that rather fruitless debate was going on in one half of my headspace this weekend, some other part of me bristled and banged the “too early for all that” gong in the part of my brain that’s supposed to house reason. Usually, having two opposing parties clashing in your head doesn’t bode well for whatever happens next, but in this particular case I had the perfect idea to sit them both down on one table, so to speak. I decided to channel the “Sunglasses, ice cubes, cocktail, paper umbrella” signals into the part of my headspace broadcasting “Fuzzy boots, blanket, tea and chocolate” signals, and out came a selection of Cocktail Chocolates, from Tequila Sunrise to Caipirinha, from one of our local Cocktail Bar’s signature Rosemary-Ginger Ale & Single Malt Thingymabob to a couple of Poncha variations. I see a Summery Cocktail Box… of Chocolates coming your way sometime in the forseeable future, but that’s a work in progress for now. The first thing I did, once I started marching down that road, was to finally remember and pull out one of the chocolate recipes I hadn’t used for a couple of years, The One that ignites the cocktail-related thought-process every time I make them despite the absolute lack of any kind of hooch. Ha, I designed them to be that way in the first place, so I suppose I only have myself to blame! May the Mojito Razz cravings commence… and be satisfied by these yumtastic little pink bites whenever upping the bottoms on the actual drink might have to wait~!
The Raspberry-Lime & Coconut Chocolates
60 White or Milk Chocolate Shells
150g Frozen, unsugared Raspberries, thawed
300g White Chocolate, finely grated
40g soft Butter, cut into small cubes of about 1cm
30g Heavy Cream
1 Lime, Zest
60 Pinches of Lightly Toasted Coconut Flakes
Opt: High-Quality Dried Mint – I’ll get to that, dosage and all, in a bit
A quick word on the berries before we start. There’s two and a half reasons to pick frozen raspberries over ready-to-use raspberry purée or fresh ones. First of all: most store-bought raspberry purées are heavily sugared or contain other chemicals to extend their shelf life that may have an effect on how the purée reacts to heat and the addition of chocolate and butter. Secondly: the frozen ones, while not pretty anymore once thawed, often are more intense in flavor than fresh ones and, at the same time, bring more acidity to the table since they’re generally not frozen at a perfectly-ripe stage of their berryness. That level of acidity evens out the full force of the white chocolate in these chocolates perfectly though. The simple fact that fresh raspberries rarely ever actually make the journey from the market to my kitchen may have something, enough for half a reason, to do with the choice as well…
1) Press the thawed raspberries through a fine sieve with a rubber spatula, right into a large mixing bowl. By taking the berries the extra mile through the sieve you’re removing the seeds and skins of the raspberries to end up with a wonderfully smooth and silky purée. Feel free to skip this step in case you a) don’t mind or b) are in a hurry~
2) Place the purée bowl on top of a pot filled with lightly simmering water. As usual, make sure the bowl never touches the surface of the water and said water doesn’t work up a boil while the bowl is sitting on top of it – both would heat up the ganache too much or irregularly, causing the mixture to stick and split.
3) Once the raspberry purée reaches a point just below a simmer – just hot enough for a teaspoon-ful of butter to melt, leaving golden swirls as you stir it in. Go with one cube of butter at a time, stirring with a spatula until it’s completely dissolved before adding the next.
4) After the last bit of butter has merged into the very-berry mix, pour in the cream and gently stir the mix until it’s completely incorporated as well.
5) Add the grated chocolate in spoonfuls, again stirring until each addition has dissolved without a trace. You should have a glossy, bright pink and creamy ganache beaming up to you out of that bowl by now.
6) Take the bowl off the waterbath and fold in the zest until that too is evenly distributed. Now, this is the point where the food-part of my brain always supplies the aroma of mint without being asked to – so, should you, too, catch the scent of mint for no apparent reason, here’s my tip: Your senses might be experiencing the totally understandable desire to whip up and enjoy a Raspberry Mojito right about now… give in! After you’re done with the fiddly work of piping the ganache into your shells, that is. The lime and raspberry aromas curling out of the bowl actually make me think about adding dried mint leaves to the ganache every time I make these… Until, about two seconds later, I’m reminded of a particularly bad ending to a first encounter with a special kind of sweet back when I was barely able to peek over the top of my grandparent’s coffee table. Let’s just say, I, and my tastebuds right along with me, never got over it. If you’re not as repelled by the idea of chocolate and mint in the same room together as my”grandpa’s-sweets-stash-raid-gone-sideways-trauma-ridden”self, you could try adding a careful pinch of dried mint to the ganache as it’s cooling down. Despite my trauma, I’m actually pretty sure it’ll turn out to be a delicious thing if you’re careful with the dosage~!
7) Leave the ganache to cool down for a couple of minutes, If you’re in possession of an accurate candy thermometer aim for 27°C-29°C as the mark to move it into a piping bag and get ready to fill the shells. If you don’t have a thermometer, touch the surface. It should be slightly above room temperature and the ganache shouldn’t stick to your finger at a very light touch – your finger should leave a mini-print behind, which should pull itsself straight again within a blink.
8) Set the shells, still nestled inside their sheet, onto a cutting board or tray. Sprinkle a pinch of toasted coconut flakes into each shell. Before I made these for the first time, I planned to sprinkle the tops of the chocolates with the flakes, thinking along the lines of a protective layer on top of the ganache. When I saw how pretty the pink filling looked in their milk chocolate shells however, I decided to skip the flakes on top, showcase the undisturbed globes and move the flakes to the inside instead. Of course that’s just my personal way to go about it, you could even fold the flakes into the filling itself if you’d like.
9) Pipe enough filling into the shells to fill them up to ½, then gently tap the board onto a hard surface to remove any air pockets you might have trapped inside the shells.
10) Fill them up to the rims with a second layer. The ganache should be cool enough to have turned kind of gooey coming out of the piping bag at this point, basically straightening itself out into a smooth surface dome’ing the chocolate cups.
11) Leave the chocolates to set in a cool but not cold place for 2-3 hours, then move them into an airtight container and store them in the fridge until their final moments are approaching.
12) Take them out of the cold about 5-10 mins before serving them to allow the flavors to “wake up”~ The ones still sitting in the aforementioned container will stay fresh and yummy for about 2 weeks if kept in the fridge.