Alright guys, as always around this time of the year, it’s time for my Winter Box of Chocolates! This time around I actually had help during the selection (actually, help me out on this one… does “Everything!” qualify as help along the lines of “pick two out of these five”~? Hmmm?).
If you guys have been following me for a couple of these boxes, you might have seen my chocoholic friend Rensi comment on my sweet treats – Since we couldn’t get our schedules aligned for a combined-effort chocolate showdown anywhere near the holidays, we had to settle on picking the candidates for this year’s Winter Box’o’Chocolates together and re-schedule the double-trouble chocolate bash for next year. So, during this past week, I found myself in my kitchen on my own again, covered in chocolate, cocoa powder and other yummies… and this is what came out of the sticky deal:
Orange-Rosemary Marzipan Chocolates
Pink Pepper & Madeira Wine Cream Chocolates
Black Cherry & Aged Balsamic Vinegar Chocolates
Roasted Chestnut, Almond & Cranberry Energy Balls
My personal picks were last year’s crowd’s favorite, the Orange-Rosemary Marzipan Chocolates which I will be describe to you in detail down below, as well as the Pink Pepper & Madeira Wine Truffles. Rensi on the other hand, picked the Cinnamon Truffles, Cherry & Balsamic Vinegar Truffles and picked the Chestnut, Almond & Cranberry Energy Bites out of the 2 Bites I presented.
The Orange-Marzipan Filling
4 Large, Unwaxed Oranges
3-4 Drops of Orange Extract
2 Tbsp Liquor 43
Alt: Orange Liqueur and the seeds of about ¼ vanilla pod
50g Icing Sugar
400g Organic Raw Marzipan – hunt down the marzipan with the highest Almond contents and the lowest sugar ratio
1) Set up the peel thing in advance, using the first orange for that purpose.
2) Pick up the first of the oranges and, after topping and tailing it, peel it with a very sharp knife by setting it upright on your work surface and guiding the blade downwards along the curve of the fruit.
3) Slice the resulting broad rectangles of orange peel into very fine julienne ribbons and set them aside – or more accurately: use them to get the “Candied Orange Peel” part of the deal going right away.
4) Once that’s out of the way, zest 2 of the remaining oranges and squeeze all four of them for their juice.
5) Add both the zest and the juice to a small pot and stir in the sugar.
6) Turn the heat to medium-high and allow the liquid to reduce down to about 45-50ml.
7) Add the Liquor 43 to the warm syrup if you want to get rid of the boozy bite or allow the syrup to cool down to room temperature first – blend them together once the syrup has cooled off if you don’t mind a bit of a kick to the filling.
8) Stir in the orange extract once the syrup had enough time to cool off.
9) Once that’s done, chop up the marzipan into small dice and add them to a mixing bowl along with the syrup.
10) Snap on a pair of CSI gloves (unless you don’t mind your hands turning orange for a while) and knead the lot until the liquid’s well incorporated into the marzipan.
11) Turn the dough out of the bowl and place it between two sheets of baking parchment.
12) Grab a rolling pin and roll out the marzipan into an even square or rectangle of about 1,5cm thickness.
13) Pop the marzipan sheet into the freezer for 1 ½ – 2 hrs – make sure to place it on a flat surface, use a tray if you have to.
The Candied Orange Peel
The Julienned Orange Peel – see above~
100g Fine Baking Sugar
1) Place the julienned peel in a wide pot and top them off a batch of cold water – not the 150ml listed, this step is to thoroughly clean the peels and get rid of some bitter agents.
2) Turn the heat to high and bring the water to a boil, then drain off the water and set the pot back ont the heat.
3) This time, add the sugar and the 150ml of water listed above and turn the heat to medium-low.
4) Carefully stir the lot from time to time as it’s heating up, to help the sugar dissolve without breaking up the peels.
5) Once the grains are gone, ditch the spoon – reaching into the hot syrup with a cold spoon would cause the sugar to crystallize around the peels, so if there’s any stickage happening inside the pot, swirl it and its contents until the problem unsticks itself.
6) Once the liquid reaches a gentle simmer, keep it there for 15-20 mins, adjusting the heat if necessary, only tipping or swirling the pot a bit to make sure the peels are swimming in and surrounded & covered by syrup at all times.
7) In the meantime, generously dust a tray lined with baking parchment with fine sugar and a careful pinch of fine sea salt.
8) Strain the peels through a sieve, catching the remaining syrup in a small bowl – you’ll need this to coar the chocolates later on~
9) Separate and spread the peels out on your prepped tray or, should you have one, a fine-meshed cake rack allow them to dry.
10) Store the ones you don’t need for the chocolates in an airtight container later on.
By the way, I’ve played around with these a little over the years, so without going to deep into deco 101’s I can give you one piece of advice: if you’re thinking about braids, bow ties or springy ringlets, make sure your juliennes are very thin and keep them in the syrup a while longer – tie or knot them into shape while they’re still soft. The ringlets you can see on some of these are the result of that strategy… plus a couple of chopsticks~
The Rosemary-Infused Chocolate Coat
200g Dark Chocolate with a Cocoa content of 70-80%
75ml Heavy Cream
30g Unsalted Butter
4 Sprigs of Rosemary, 3 of them finely chopped, 1 kept whole
4 Drops of Orange Extract
50ml of the Orange Syrup youve candied your peels in
2 Tbsp Fine Baking Sugar
1) Finely grate the chocolate into a heatproof bowl.
2) Pour the cream into a small pot and set it onto medium-high heat.
3) At the same time, place another small pot on medium-high heat and add the orange syrup, baking sugar and rosemary needles and sprigs.
4) Bring the mixture up to a boil, then take it off the heat, pop on a lid and move your attention back to the cream-pot.
5) As it’s heating up, flake in the butter and stir until each addition has melted.
6) Allow the creamy mixture to work up a low boil and, as soon as it’s merrily bubbling away, take the pot off the heat and pour the hot cream and butter mixture onto the pile of grated chocolate in your bowl.
7) Sit back for a minute or two, then pick up a spoon and slowly stir the lot to help the ganache along.
8) Once the chocolate has melted and combined with the cream, pop a fine sieve on top of the bowl and, once the rosemary had about 15-20 mins to infuse the orange syrup, pour the syrup into the chocolate bowl through your sieve, straining out the herby bits as you go.
9) Retrieve the sprig you’ve left whole and dip it into a bowl of sugar until the needles are nicely dusted white – as if it were a twig of a freshly-snowed-on christmas tree. Set it aside to dry as you finish up the chocolates~
10) Discard the remaining rosemary needles and pick up the stir-work again until the syrup is well incorporated into the chocolate.
11) Retrieve your marzipan blanket from the freezer and cut it into even squares of about 2 – 2 ½ cm with a heated knife.
12) Carefully dip-and-drag the cold bits into the warm chocolate with a long-pronged pâtisserie fork or something similar, quickly tap off any excess drops and place the freshly coated bites on a tray lined with a coarse-sea-salted sheet of baking parchment.
13) You’ll need to be rather quick with this since the chocolate will set around the near-frozen filling pretty quickly – and thereby thickly if you don’t pay attention. So, to avoid running out of chocolate to coat all of the squares – and to avoid ending up with a less delicious coat to filling ratio – use the first 2-3 bites as test subjects if you’re not used to this type of kitchen-work and give yourself some slack~
In case you’re thinking along the lines of “what’s with the freezer, then? Skip the fuss and get it over with” – we added quite a bit of liquid to the marzipan back there, which means: if it gets too warm before it’s held in place and shape by a firm layer of chocolate, it will dissolve into a shapeless blob. A delicious blob, but still. Believe me, I’ve been there. Which also brings me to…
14) As soon as you’re done, place the tray in the fridge.
15) Now, as far as decorations go, you have 2 options:
a) Have someone help you (at the risk of getting in your way, though) and have them place 1 ribbon of candied orange peel and/or 1-2 needles of snowy rosemary off of the sprig you’ve set aside earlier on top of each bit as quickly as possible while the chocolate coat on top is still wet enough to actually hold onto the deco. As you can guess, this is an exercise in timing and coordination of movement, so the safer yet slower option would be…
b) After about 2 hrs in the fridge, melt about 50g of chocolate in a waterbath and get a sort-of deco assembly line ready. 1 bowl of chocolate, 1 bowl of candied orange peel juliennes, 1 bowl of candied rosemary needles and another parchment-lined tray on the other end. Remove the tray holding the bites from the fridge and move through the assembly line with each and every square in one go – 1 drop of chocolate as glue, 1 peel, 1-2 needles and 1 new place to sit on.
16) Either way, once all of them are decorated, allow them to chill and set in the fridge for another 2-3 hours before transferring them into an airtight container… and back in the fridge.
Enjoy~! And as always, keep in mind that, should you request for one of this year’s Winter Box of Chocolates lineup heading your way sooner rather than later, I’ll happily oblige~