I think this might be the latest that I have ever completed a challenge and blogged about it. It is just under an hour away from the deadline for the reveal (although I guess I do really have tomorrow too to be considered on time on the 27th) and I am just now typing it up. The good thing is that the experience is fresh in my mind, the bad thing is that if there are any typing or grammar errors please chalk it up to the fact that I feel like I need to keep my eyelids open with toothpicks.
While I enjoy making candy, and have some experience with making it, it is not something that I do very often. I think of making candy as being something more for the holidays to give away as little gifts. Add to that the fact that I am going back to work after taking a break for the last 4 1/2 years to stay at home with my son and you can imagine that I am pretty busy right now. However, that being said I did manage to squeak out this month’s challenge.
I started with Almond Roca. This is something that I have made with my mom since I was a little kid. It is a persnickety candy in that you are dealing with heating sugar and butter to the hard crack stage and as I was reminded tonight, it can go from hard crack stage to ruined in the matter of a few seconds. My first batch was going along beautifully. I hadn’t made it in a few years so I was trying to recollect if the recipe was correct in telling me to cook it to 350 degrees F since that seemed a bit high. While debating this I decided to go ahead and see where it took me. At about 275 to 280 degrees F the butter and sugar started to separate. I thought that since I hadn’t made it in a while and couldn’t remember what it transformed into next that maybe this was just a stage it was going through (like one of the many others in this process) and it would eventually get back to where it needed to be. I just needed to be patient and wait. Ummm, no. I was definitely wrong to continue past this point and should have trusted my initial instincts. I was a bit miffed that I wasted an entire pound of butter and two cups of sugar in the process, ending up with burnt sugar sitting underneath a layer of brown, burnt butter. Thankfully I had not tried to pour it on my chocolate and almonds so those were still salvageable.
I decided to give it one more go. After all, the chocolate and almonds needed something to go along with them and now that I knew what the butter and sugar looked like right before it turned I would be able to stop it at the right time. Yes and no. Right about 275 to 280 degrees F the mixture looked like it was starting to separate into two different entities again. So this time I just decided to stop it there before it quite reached the hard crack of 300 degrees F and pour it on the chocolate. I figured that even if it was a bit soft at least it wouldn’t be burned. The verdict . . . yes it is softer than it should be (more of a dissolving sugar/butter than a hard toffee) but it still tastes like it should. However, I would still consider this a fail since it didn’t turn out how it was supposed to.
Let’s move on now to the chocolates. I had a really hard time deciding what type of chocolate to make. I really wanted to make a chocolate that was filled with a raspberry cream but it was so difficult to find a recipe to use. I should probably clarify that statement. There were many recipes out there but because I had never made a cream filled chocolate before I wasn’t sure which ones would work and which ones wouldn’t. Many of them also called for fondant which seemed a bit strange to me so I shied away from making a cream filled chocolate like I wanted to. Instead I decided to base my chocolate on a turtle with the addition of pretzel pieces.
Tempering the chocolate was an interesting experience. Personally I don’t know if I even needed to do this process. I didn’t have time to buy couverture chocolate so I went with Lindt chocolate already in bars. As you know, this chocolate is already tempered since they want their product to have a crisp sound and feel when breaking it into pieces and a shine upon unwrapping. I went ahead and chopped it into little pieces, melted it over my double boiler, but then struggled to get it down to the temperature that it needed to be. I kept adding chocolate pieces and chocolate pieces and chocolate pieces. Finally I got it down to a good temperature but not all the pieces melted and weren’t going to. I heated it back up just for a second and it skyrocketed up 15 to 20 degrees F. Ugh. Now the process again of waiting for it to cool down. Finally it got down to about 90 degrees and I decided to take a leap of faith in getting the chocolates finished. I used a ladle to spoon the chocolate into the molds, stuck it in the fridge for 5 minutes, put in the caramel, pretzel pieces, and pecans, covered with more chocolate and let it sit in the fridge a bit longer.
Out popped beautiful chocolates! I cracked my cheapy little mold in the process but I was impressed by the shiny look of these guys, even to the point where you could see the reflections of the lights. If only they tasted as good as they looked. I know, I know, another fail, how could that be? The chocolate was way too dark and overpowering. I ended up using 85% cocoa and it was just so, so strong that you couldn’t even taste the caramel, pretzel or pecan pieces. I was super disappointed. Did I say super, because I was SUPER disappointed. I hate spending money from our food budget on things that don’t quite turn out. It is so disappointing. Did I already mention that I made two candy’s tonight and both of them were disappointing. Yep, I thought so.
So, anyway . . . the Almond Roca really is a tasty candy if you can get it to the hard crack stage without burning it. I may try the chocolates again with milk chocolate (or a lower percentage dark chocolate) but right now I am candied out. Enjoy!
Note: Even though my Almond Roca didn’t reach hard crack stage it actually stayed hard in the freezer.
7 ounces milk chocolate bar (freeze ahead)
1 cup chopped almonds
2 cups sugar
1 pound butter
Grate frozen chocolate bar. Chop almonds. Cover a 9×13 cake pan with 1/2 cup almonds. Sprinkle 1/2 grated chocolate bar on top of almonds.
Melt butter over medium heat. Add sugar, stirring constantly until it is 300 degrees F or hard crack stage.
Pour immediately over grated chocolate and almonds. Spread evenly. Cover immediately with other half of chocolate bar and sprinkle with rest of almonds. Let stand to cool. Once cool, turn it out of the pan and break it up.