Welcome to this year’s Spring Chocolate Bash a.k.a. My Easter Eggstravaganza~! Just like every year, I used the Spring Holidays as an excuse to dish out delicious little representatives of my “Summer Chocolates” recipe collection to every chocoholic and sweet tooth I know – and, just like every year, the recipes for each bite will appear here, one after another, starting with my personal pick and continuing in the order my chocolate-covered friends, family and of course you request them.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to bathe in chocolate to gain the right to do so ^.~ I’ll post them as quickly as I can translate my fingerprinted and smeared kitchen-scratchings into… actual language. And easy-to-follow instructions – I actually came across one of my ingredients lists with nothing but the “instruction” to “duh” scrawled beneath. Thats me… Anyways, here’s this year’s Easter Box’o’Chocolates~!
Milk & Honey Fudge
Lemon Cheesecake Truffles
I had a hard time deciding which one to post as “My Pick” of the bunch this time around, since two of them came out on top – for wildly different reasons. In the end, my Milk & Honey Fudge won the battle of flavors over the Apricot & Lavender Truffles thanks to a very delicious and slightly boozy evening at a Medieval Festival that resulted in an equally delicious and slightly boozy update to my original, well loved and often-used/requested Milk & Honey Fudge recipe. Here’s the scoop on both the original and the twist~!
One of the great perks of Spring is, of course, the opportunity to venture into the great outdoors without turning into a popsicle and soak up some much-needed sunlight. It’s also the time the two large public gardens in our town turn into the most colorful and stunningly beautiful battlefield where the resident florists, gardeners, their egos and garden-related loyalties clash and fight for the visitors’ attention trying to outdo each other with lovingly arranged flowerbeds, flower shows and spring festivities. The one thing both gardens have in common are areas overflowing with a huge variety of any and all wild flowers and herbs that could possibly flourish in our climate, dedicated to the bee population of the region, but one of them is also home to a small bee-and-honey related museum and info center. By some stroke of luck, I accidentally ended up at the little hut, for once not overflowing with other visitors, during one of my first long Spring walks a couple of years ago. The handful of people inside were just setting up for the day and I had the unique chance to browse and sample the little beekeeper’s shops’ goods in peace and honeylicious quiet after having a good look around the place. Once I had picked a pot of delicious liquid gold that could possibly have made Winnie the Pooh cartwheel around the house to take home with me, I spotted a line of jars filled with different kinds of honey candy. The one that caught my attention was, as always, the Honey and Milk variety. Since I absolutely love that combination outside of candy, I’ve been giving that type of candy one shot after another but at some point, I just had to accept that hard candy and milk just don’t work together as well in reality as they do in my head. This time though, the idea of a chewable cup of hot milk and lots of honey merged with the jar of honey in my bag and the slowly simmering candy-frustration and, while I was racing back home, the resolve to do something about it formed and took the shape of this delicious little fudgey treat that has turned into quite the crowd pleaser since then~
This year, another bolt of luck struck the exact same sweet spot just about 50 meters northeast of the Beekeeper’s hut, during our annual visit to the Medieval Market and Renaissance Fair held in the park every March. You guys know how much I enjoy handmade artisan products and, of course, actually getting to know the people behind the product, so festivals and markets like this are the perfect playground for me, offering the opportunity of having a talk, a laugh and maybe a hot mead or two with the like-minded faces behind the counters. For the last couple of years, Hubby and I kept walking past a stall resembling a very busy beehive, rows of bottles, jugs and barrels barely visible through the hubbub of people swarming towards it, despite Hubby’s taste for a good Whisky and the shop’s sign advertizing their signature Honey Whisky. “We’ll check later, when it’s not that busy.” But we never found it “not that busy”! And so the years went by until this year, when our group was “lucky” enough to hit the festival during the slowest time on the coldest and messiest days of the month and basically had the whole place to ourselves. While a healthy round of mead sampling a couple of stalls over commenced for the boys, I took the chance to disappear for a thorough snoop-around and found myself at the neglected Artisan Whisky and Liquor stand before I knew it. A couple of delicious sample-sips, a long talk about hooch, artisan-pride, food and recipes and a jolly good time later, I rejoined the gang, armed with a bottle each of Celtic Sun, their Honey Whisky, a test-bottle of Caramel Liqueur, a bottle of Celtic Fire (a chilli & cherry liqueur number right up my alley) and a headful of ideas of what to do with those yummies – other than simply enjoying a glass of them, that is. My first idea, what with the proximity to the birthplace of my original Honey & Milk Fudge, was to add a boozy honey boost to the fudge and, as expected, thanks to the piping hot mixture poofing out all traces of alcohol within seconds upon contact, leaving behind a huge spike in honey and just a little hint of a Whisky-flower blooming on the palate. Of course, the addition of the booze is completely optional, but really worth a try~! In case you don’t make a habit of browsing markets, shops and webbies for honey-spiked spirits, here’s the link to the site of the shop I mentioned: Celtic Sun Whisky
The page and the shop are in German, but I bet the people behind the page are as nice and fluent in English as the guys behind the counter on the medieval market and would answer any and all of your questions if you contact them via email.
Aaaaanyways, very long story short: Yum! With or without Honey Whisky! Here we go~
The Almond, Milk and Honey Fudge
300g Fine Baking Sugar
100g Light Muscovado
150g Sugared Condensed Milk
½ Tsp Fine Sea Salt
85g of Your favorite intense Honey – I always use a regional, incredibly fragrant forest honey
1 Tsp High-Quality Vanilla Extract
3-4 Scrapes of a Tonka Bean
About 80-100g Toasted Almond Shaves – enough to cover the bottom of your tin with
Fleur de Sel Flakes on top
Opt: 4 Tbsp of Honey Whiskey
1) Line a brownie tin or an equally wide and shallow, heat-proof container with a sheet of baking parchment.
2) Add the almond shaves and distribute them all across the bottom of the tin in an even layer.
3) Place the tin on a cutting board or a similar portable flat, stable and heatproof surface to make maneuvering the piping hot tin easier later on. Set the contraption aside for the time being and roll up your sleeves for the main gig~
4) Place both types of sugar, condensed milk, honey and fine salt in a wide, heavy-based pot and turn the heat up to medium-low.
5) Pick up a wooden spoon and gently stir the lot until the ingredients have melted into a smooth, non-grainy, sticky “liquid”.
6) As soon as you get to that point, add the butter in teaspoonfuls, continuing to stir until each spoonful has completely dissolved before adding the next.
7) After all of the butter has made its way into the mix, allow the proto-fudge to get back up to temperature and bubbles start rising again.
8) Turn the heat to low and leave the mixture to simmer away for about 6-8 mins, the soft blips of bubbles bursting on the surface turning into louder, wet pops meaning business being your cue to get back to work.
9) Pick up a whisk and constantly stir the fudge until your whisk starts pulling the thickening mixture away from the sides of your pot in velvety streaks and ribbons that will stay visible for just a couple of blinks before sinking back into the soft’ish blend.
10) To make sure you’ve reached the right consistency/temperature you could
a) pop in a candy thermometer and look for 115-125°C,
b) see if you’ve reached the desired “Soft Ball Stage” by carefully dropping tiny drops of the mix into a bowl of cold water and look for soft balls of fudge balling up on contact with the water or
c) dip the backside of a cold metal spoon into the mixture and, after giving it a ten-count to cool off, drag the tip of a finger through the dot – if your finger’s path stays visible, you’ve hit the mark. If it flows back to close the gap, it needs more quality time in the pot.
11) At this point, stir in the last round of ingredients, the vanilla extract and the tonka bean – if you’re going with the boozy option, this is the time as well – and keep at it until the mix has absorbed them. Be VERY careful when adding the liquid – once it made its way through the caramel down to the bottom of the pot, it can and will hiss and spit a bit. Be quick to stir the fudge around and over the hissy spot and use the pot’s lid as a shield just in case.
12) Of course this will have changed the consistency again, so keep up the stir-work with a spoon and, in between stirs, pick up a spoonful of the fudge from time to time – allow it to slowly slide off the spoon and look for it pulling off the spoon in ribbons, folding up like silken sheets on the fudge’s surface before sinking back into the mixture in your pot.
13) Retrieve your tin & board combo and slowly pour the thick liquid onto the almonds from a low height, moving back and forth as not to push the almonds around too much.
14) Once the fudge has made its way in, give the tin a bit of a thwack-and-jiggle to pop air pockets, evenly distribute the mix and smooth out the surface in one fell swoop.
15) Place the cutting board in a cool spot and allow the surface of the fudge to set for around 10 mins.
16) Evenly sprinkle the surface with Fleur de Sel and gently press down on the flakes with a balled-up paper towel – just enough to make the flakes stick.
17) Leave the tin and its contents to cool down to room temperature for around 2-3 hours.
18) Cover the tin with clingfilm and place it in a cool room or in the fridge to chill overnight.
19) After that extended period of R&R, unwrap the fudge, turn it out on your cutting board and cut it into bite-sized pieces.
20) Store the bites in an airtight container and you’ll have a sweet treat at the ready for 3-4 weeks – unless someone else finds your stash~
Happy Spring Holidays~!