Monday, 8 October 2012

Filled Chocolates - What to do and not to do

For my birthday my sister gave  me a professional poly-carbonate chocolate mold and a couple of bags of organic melting chocolate from the confectionery where she works, Woodshade Organics. I have written about them before, here. She also included her notes and some recipes from a chocolate course she did. With all this I thought I'd venture into the delicate world of confectionery too. At least on a small scale (for me and my closest). The principles aren't that hard, but perfection is. I made a couple of errors with my first batch, then did some online research and tried again. The second time was much better, and I'd now like to share what I've learnt. It's far from a definite guide, but it can help you avoid some of the same pitfalls I fell in to. As caramel filled chocolates are my favourite, those were the ones I made. But you can, of course put any filling to your liking, such as fruit, peanut butter, marzipan, nuts, mint, dulce de leche). You'll need:

About 200g high quality melting chocolate (I recommend Woodshade, but any good melting chocolate will do). The quantity really depends on how many you are making, how big your mold is etc.
Caramel Filling (enough for small 150 pieces. Any left over can always be poured over vanilla ice cream):
200g sugar
200g cream
50g butter
100-150g dark or milk chocolate
Pinch of salt
(A few drops of rum essence)

1 Candy thermometre (essential for a perfect result)

Step 1: To make the filling, start by letting the sugar melt slowly in a pot with a thick base and tall sides. Do not stir as you might accidentally set off a crystallization process and end up with a big hard lump. You can, however, move the pot around and shake it lightly to make sure the sugar melts equally. Make sure you don't use too much heat or the caramel will burn. Once all the sugar is dissolved and has turned an amber colour (you can let it go darker to get an intenser flavour, but be careful it goes from dark to burnt without warning), remove it from the heat and pour in the cream. It goes without saying that you need to be careful around molten sugar. Let it bubble up (hence the tall sides of the pot) and then start stirring it with either a metal whisk or a fork. Let it simmer for a minute or two while stirring constantly to make sure any sugar lumps are dissolved. Let it cool down to about 40ºC (104ºF) and stir in a pinch of salt and the butter until shiny. 
Chop the chocolate for the filling finely and add it. Dark chocolate for a darker more intense filling, milk or white for a lighter one. At this stage it divided my portion into 3. One for pure caramel, one medium runny to which I added a few drops of rum essence, and one which i gave a good amount of chocolate. The amount you add determines how liquid your filling is. The more, the harder. Add > 200g for a solid filling, 200g-100g soft to runny, and < 100g quite runny. There should be sufficient residual heat to melt it. Pour into a piping bag or just a small plastic bag and let it cool off completely, e.g. in the fridge. Cooling it down will further harden the filling.

Step 2: Tempering the chocolate for the shells. To get perfectly shiny chocolate shells you need to follow a strict procedure called tempering the chocolate. This will prevent the crystals in the chocolate to align randomly and create a matte or white looking chocolate. You will need a thermometre and a water bath/bain-marie (a bowl put inside another pot with simmering water). You can use a microwave but it's harder to control the heat, and if you are in a rush, you probably aren't making filled chocolates anyway. Chop the chocolate finely and let 3/4 of it melt in the bain-marie while stirring. As each type of chocolate has different amounts and structure of fat, use the thermometre and the following table (all temperatures in celcious):
                                            T1              T2          T3
Dark choclate                      52º             29º          31º
Milk Chocolate                    47º             27º         30º
White Chocolate                  43º             26º         29º

T1 is the first temperature you want to reach, but not pass. Take it off the heat a bit before the you reach the temperature as the residual heat from the pot might keep warming it up. This is why you need a bain-marie as it changes slower than over direct heat. You can put the pot on a cold surface if it's going too fast. Just be careful not to get any water in to the chocolate. Once T1 has been reached stir in the remaing 1/4 of chopped chocolate. This allows for a more even crystallization. Let it cool off to T2 while stirring it. Then slowly heat it back up to T3 which is the working temperature.

Step 3: Making the shells. Pour the chocolate into the mold and turn it in all directions to make sure it distributes all over the sides. Leave to rest upside-down over a grill rack. Scrape off the remaining chocolate on top. This is where I made mistake number one. I used far to little chocolate which resulted in very fine shells, which weren't going to hold anything liquid. Also, realizing my mistake I panicked and threw it in the freezer to make it cool of faster. As I started adding a second layer it hardened immediately and made very uneven shells. See below for the final guide for the perfect shell. 
Step 4: Adding the filling. After the shells have hardened, time to add the filling. As I knew my shells were very fine I went for my solid filling which I made small balls of and squeezed in to the shells. Then I poured another layer of chocolate on and put them in the fridge to harden.  
Step 5: After about 10-15 minutes of hardening I banged out my chocolates. These were some of the better looking ones, but many were cracked and full of tiny holes from air bubbles. Hmm, well, they could be eaten just the same... It's chocolate after all....
Step 3 - 5 revisited: So, for my definitive guide for the perfect shells, I got all creative and melted a bit of white chocolate which i drizzled in the molds with random patterns. i then tapped the mold against the table a few times to get rid of any bubbles. I let them harden, but not in the fridge. Just the time it took to melt the chocolate for the proper casings.  
I melted the chocolate according to the tempering process (one thing I did get right the first time). This time a made a bigger portion so I had plenty to work with. After reaching T3 I poured it in to the molds and carefully made sure it was well distributed. Then I tapped the mold against the table several times to get rid of any tiny bubbles.  
I then turned the mold upside down over an oven grill with some baking paper underneath. This way the chocolate would run down the sides and create a thicker shell. After settling for a couple of minutes I turned it round again and scraped the excess off the top (you always want a clean top; use a flat silicon spatula). I put in a zip-lock back and put it in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to solidify. All the drippings on the baking paper was scraped up and put back in to the bowl of melted chocolate.  
After hardening I held the mold up against the light to find any this areas where the light came through. With a fine brush I painted those areas until no longer transparent. Finally, a good set of shells.
 I poured the liquid caramel filling with rum essence in. 
 Filled them up with more chocolate which was scraped clean and flat with the spatula. It was then hardened further 10 minutes in the fridge before tapping them out,
And here, the final result...home-made caramel filled chocolate. A littel laborous, but so worth it.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012


Today's recipe is a homage to my aunt Dorthe, also known as Flo, who runs Tebstrup Gedeosteri (click link to visit their page), where they produce a variety of wonderful organic goat cheese. Although it's actually just a simple bruschetta, I've decided to call them "Go with the Flo". Here's what you need:

Day-old bread, toasted
High quality extra virgin olive oil
Freshly blended tomatoes (with a bit of garlic for a kick)
Tebstrup Gedeost in oil (or any soft goat cheese)
A couple of fresh basil leaves, cut into fine threads (look up the cutting technique 'chiffonade')
A light sprinkle of sea salt flakes (fleur de sel)

Assemble the toasted bread with some drops of olive oil, the tomato and the cheese. Toast it a bit further. Sprinkle on the basil, some more olive oil and the sea salt.  

The tub of soft goat cheese in oil with thyme, rosemary and pink pepper corn. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Sinful Chocolate Ice Cream w. Marzipan

Making and eating this chocolate ice cream will send you straight to hell if you believe in the seven deadly sins: You'll feel gluttonous, no doubt, and greedy. You simply can't eat and have enough of it. The rich, velvety texture of the chocolate along with it's aphrodisiac properties will make you lustful. Or you'll just want to sit quietly and savour it by yourself, feeling pretty slothful. You'll envy those who have made it, and feel pride when you have made your own batch. And I assure you, you'll feel the wrath building up inside you when the tub is empty until you make some more. For those who take the above-mentioned sins lightly, you'll have to make this. You'll need:
300 ml cooking cream
150g dark chocolate
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Woodshade, the Danish brand I've promoted earlier)
Good pinch of table salt
4-5 egg yolks
115g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla sugar/extract
300 ml whipping cream
75g of raw marzipan (Again, Woodshae organic).

 Start by chopping the dark chocolate in to smaller pieces. Reserve about 50g for chocolate chips to be added at the end. Bring the cooking cream to a light simmer and add chocolate, cocoa powder and salt. 
 Take it off the heat and stir until all the chocolate has dissolved.
 In another bowl, beat the egg yolks with the icing sugar until it's light and airy. Add the vanilla sugar.
 Add the chocolate mixture into the eggs bit by bit while stirring. Don't pour it all in at once, or the yolks will cook and coagulate.
 Pour the mixture back into the pot and heat at very low temperature until the mixture reaches a temperature about 70ºc. Any higher and the mixture might curdle. If you don't have a thermometre the common wisdom is to wait until the mixture is thick enough to cover a wooden spoon. However, the chocolate already makes this mixture very thick. I recommend using a thermometre. They are relatively cheap and you'll be using it for a lot of other things in the future. Whip the remaining cream and gently fold it into the mixture. Refrigerate it overnight stirring it once or twice.  
 Pour it in to your ice cream machine and let it churn until it has the consistency of, well, ice cream.
 Make small balls of raw marzipan and mix them into the ice cream along with the remaining 50 grams of chopped dark chocolate. 
Pour the ice cream into tubs and freeze for at least 1 hour for it to firm up a little more. All I can say is, "You are welcome."

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Boston Cream Cake

This is just a very quick recipe for Boston Cream Cake. It takes very little time to prepare and is made with ingredients that we usually have in our kitchen, with the exception, perhaps, of the cake base. Here's what you need:
1 Cakebase
3 Eggs
6 tbsp Sugar
2 tbsp Corn starch
1/2 tbsp Butter
250ml Cream
250ml Milk
1 tsp Vanilla
Pinch of salt
110g Dark Chocolate
120ml cream
1 tsp butter Pinch of salt
 Beat eggs, sugar and corn starch in a bowl until fluffy.
 Heat up the cream, milk and butter till it just starts to boil. Turn down the heat, add the egg mixture and stir while cooking for about 1 minute. It should start to become thicker. Add vanilla and a pinch of salt. Let it cool down completely.
 Pour one half of the mixture over one layer of a cake base. It should be thick, and not too liquid. Don't let it go all the way out to the edges. Put another cake layer on top. Gently press it and the cream will start reaching the sides. Pour the other half of the filling over and repeat with the last layer of cake.
 To make the ganache, bring the cream to a boil add the butter and pour it over the chocolate cut in smaller pieces. Let it sit for a minute, then stir until smooth. Add a pinch of salt.
Pour the ganache over the cake and spread it gently to the edges until it starts dripping over. Let it cool down completely before serving. 

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Pretty Good Pasta Salad

If you haven't noticed, we are entering summer and, hopefully, that means many picnics, barbecues and other outdoor eating events are awaiting. So what are you going to make to accompany all those grilled steaks and chicken? I suggest this rather decent pasta salad I whipped together. As with all salads the list of ingredients can vary totally according to your taste, but I will give you my choice plus a few hints on how to boost flavours. 
You (may) need:
500g multi-coloured pasta screws (or any other with good surface area)
2 cloves of garlic
150g of bacon
2 tbsp tomato concentrate
1 tsp dried oregano
Pinch of red pepper flakes or some cayenne
Extra virgin olive oil
Handful of cherry tomatoes
1 cucumber, diced
Handful of black olives
5-6 sun-dried tomatoes, soaked
Feta cheese cut in to small cubes
Handful of fresh basil
Handful of fresh chives

 Put the pasta to boil according to the package and drop two cloves of garlic with the skin into the water. Meanwhile, cut the bacon into small strips and fry until crispy. Remove from the pan, but keep the fat. When the pasta is done, rinse it under cold water and set it aside to drain and cool down. Remove the two cloves of garlic, which should by now be soft and easy to squeeze out of the skin. Crush them with the side of the blade of your kitchen knife until it becomes a paste. Add it to the rendered fat from the bacon, add the tomato paste, oregano and red pepper flakes. Fry it for a minute at medium temperature. Add a good glug of extra virgin olive oil. Finally, mix it in with the cooled-down pasta in a bowl.
 Half or quarter the cherry tomatoes, half the olives, cube the cucumber, chop the herbs and slice the sun-dried tomatoes. Mix it all with the feta cheese into the bowl of pasta. 
Leave the pasta covered in the fridge for at least an hour or more for all the flavours to develop and mix. It wil easily last a couple of days in the fridge. Only the cucumbers might go a bit soggy, so best add them not too long before serving. Have a great picnic.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Rhubarb and Strawberry Pie

Rhubarb and strawberry pie is really a pie of transition. There is a small overlap at the end of the rhubarb season when the first strawberries start coming out, and that's about now. So it's time to get cooking. I was inspired to this pie filling by the wonderful people at If you are not familiar with that page but like baking, bookmark it now. You will come back, I guarantee that. I just made a few spice adjustments to their version. But really, it's a straight forward recipe, so I doubt anyone can really patent it. And then I made my regular pie dough.  To make the dough, make sure all the ingredients are well chilled. If you have a food processor, this is the easiest way to do it. Just whiz the butter and cold flour together until it has the consistency of wet sand. The slowly pour in the water while the machine is on. As soon as it forms to a ball stop, divide the portion in two two pieces (on which is 1/3 and one which is 2/3). Shape like a ball and wrap them in cling film and put the in the fridge for at least an hour before. Alternatively, make the dough with a fork and some elbow grease. Just make sure the butter never gets too warm. You'll need:
Pie dough:
280g flour
1tsp salt
150g cold butter
5-6 tbsp ice cold water
500g Strawberries
500g Rhubarb stalks
150g Sugar
3-4 tbsp cornstarch (sifted)
1 tsp Chinese five spice
1 tsp vanilla powder
1 tsp orange flower water (optional)

Wash the stalks and cut them in equally sized pieces of about 2 cm long. Half the strawberries. Sprinkle the orange flower water over.

 In a separate bowl, sift the corn starch and mix in the sugar, five spice and vanilla. Mix well, reserve 2 tbsp and sprinkle the rest over the strawberries and rhubarb and give it a good toss. Set it aside in the fridge while preparing the dough.
Roll out the bigger ball until it's big enough to fit inside the pie form and go up the sides. I usually do it between a piece of oven paper and some clingfilm lightly dusted with flower. this makes it easier to lift it up into the pie form. Dust the base with the remaining two tablespoons of the sugar mix. 
 Put in the strawberry and rhubarb filling. Roll out the smaller ball of dough. Cut it into strips and start getting creative with your weaving. Turn on the oven at 200ºC. While the oven is getting hot, place the pie in the fridge. Brush the top with milk and then bake for about 45 minutes. Let cool down completely before cutting into it. And by completely, I almost mean over night.
As it's such brilliant weather I decided to add a scoop of my homemade ice cream on top and splashed it with some of the juices from the pie. Just heavenly, I have to say. 

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Paella Mixta

When people think of Spanish food, one of the first thing that comes to their minds is probably the Paella. It's become synonymous with beach, sun and fiesta on the Spanish coast. However, I believe that the majority who have eaten paella in Spain has never eaten it properly prepared homemade style, but have been subjected to quickly heated, pre-cooked rice mix that comes from a frozen bag and added a couple of prawns for decoration. In fact, paella, which comes from the Valencia region in Spain, has many different varieties according to what has been added. I'm making a paella mixta, which combines seafood and chicken. Others use rabbit, seafood or vegetables only. Paella is more a way of cooking the rice than any final list of ingredients so feel free to improvise. I'm using my girlfriend's method, which she learnt from her mother.
2 squids
1 glass of white wine
1/2 kg of fresh mussels, cleaned
1/2 kg of clams
1/2 kg of fresh prawns with shell and head
1 l. of fish/seafood stock
1 green pepper
1 onion
1-2 cloves of garlic
1/2 kg of chicken (upper thighs and drumsticks cut into smaller pieces, wings)
1 -2 tsp of sweet paprika
1 pinch of saffron
3/4 kg of round paella rice, preferably Arroz Bomba from Valencia 
Salt to taste
Olive oil for frying
Green olives

 Start by cleaning the squids, remove the heads, pull out and throw away the guts and the plastic-like bone it has. Peel off the skin and cut the head off just above the tentacles. Cut the body into rings, leave the tentacles whole or half them. 
 Bring the white wine to a boil and steam the cleaned mussels in it under a lid for about 3 minutes. Shake the pot now and then so they move around. Discard any that hasn't opened. Remove the mussels, but keep the liquid.
 Steam the clams in the liquid from the mussels. According to my mother-in-law, it's best to do the clams and mussels in separate batches, in case one mussel is bad or full of sand. Then you won't spoil the liquid from the mussels. However, I am a bit lazy and in my case they were more boiled than steamed.  Again, any that hasn't opened after 3 minutes should be thrown away. Remove clams and keep the liquid. This seafood stock is the real secret to a great paella. Add the extra litre of stock. Remove the heads from the prawns and let them simmer in the stock at low heat while preparing the next step.
 First, turn your oven on at 180º. Then finely chop the onion and the green pepper. Fry in a bit of olive oil until the onion is translucent. Then add the chopped or minced garlic. Add the chicken pieces and fry until brown.
 Add the prepared squid and the prawns, fry for a couple of minutes, then remove prawns. Add a the paprika. 
 Put the pinch of saffron in a tbsp of the hot seafood stock. Let it soak for a minute before adding it to the pan.
 Add the rice and let it fry for 4-5 minutes with the rest of the ingredients before adding the stock. Just remember to keep stirring it so it doesn't stick and burn. Add the simmering stock until the rice is just covered. It's important that the stock is simmering hot. The rice shouldn't be cooled down once they start cooking. Traditionally, paella is made in a flat pan over an open fire or gas burner. I have neither, so I like to finish mine off in the hot oven. That way I compensate for the deeper pan by adding heat from all directions. A little more stock may need to be added depending on the type of rice you use.
 When the rice is almost cooked through, take it out of the oven, cover it and let it finish cooking by itself for a few more minutes. The rice should be tender, not mushy nor hard at the centre. The individual grains should be loose, but it's OK if there is leftover liquid. The paella will be what is called slightly 'caldosa'.
Stir in the clams and some of the mussels and prawns. Use the rest to decorate along with some green olives (you can also choose to cook the olives with the paella). Serve with a slice of lemon on the side. Buen aprovecho.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Valentine menu suggestion

Valentine's Day is upon us and for those romantic souls out there who seek to woo their loved ones (and who happens to have a day off just to prepare a lovely meal) I've put together a little suggestion for a menu. It's vibrant, full of flavours, light, packed with vitamins and carbs so you'll have plenty of energy and not too heavy a stomach, just in case... you know, you decide to go running or something afterwards.

Starter: Cold Tomato Soup with Crab Salad (click here to get the recipe

Main: Homemade Ravioli (Recipe)

And for desert: My Valentine Chocolate Cake (Recipe)

All the best of luck.