Chocolate Making Tips

Chocolate

Candy is one of my favorite things to make. Over the years, I’ve made my fair share of marshmallows, caramel, truffles and toffee. However, where I always struggle is adding chocolate to these delectable treats. It seems like that should be the easiest part- heat up some chocolate and dunk. My experience has not been that simple. Chocolate is a fickle food.

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending a workshop at Rachel Dunn Chocolates in Concord, CA. This class was ideal for me. The fillings were made and the whole class was about dipping. Here are my takeaways:

  1. Use More Chocolate: You need more than what the recipe requires in order to avoid the scrapping the bowl to cover the final chocolate moment (my biggest downfall). Give yourself enough chocolate to have a good dip by keeping an extra two to three pounds on hand as starter chocolate. Use both the amount suggested and your starter chocolate. When you are done dipping, pour and spread the extra chocolate out on the counter. If you’ve tempered it properly, you can use it as your starter chocolate next time.
  2. Dip and Flip: When dipping items in chocolate, it felt right to dip and then slide the tool out. This method results in a mess. Instead, dip the chocolate and flip it so that the your tool is on top. It helps give an even coat. Think about the truffles you see in stores with little peaks artfully on the top…yup, dip and flip.
  3. Stir the Chocolate: Chocolate likes to set. To help prevent it from setting, stir the chocolate. It needs to be stirred from the outside in. However, if the outside starts to set, do not include that area in your stir.
  4. Be Aware of your Surroundings: That draft in your house? It impacts the chocolate too. Be aware of the temperature changes as you dip. Some methods recommended for the home cook to keep chocolate at the right temperature includes hot pads with linen layering and keeping a warm oven open.
  5. Thickness Matters: Ok, first get your mind out of the gutter! We are talking about different types of candy needing different types of shells. Consider the filling and what type of thickness would compliment it. For example, a truffle is great with a thin shell. To create the right thickness, tap on the edge of the chocolate bowl to get rid of excess chocolate (more tapping= thinner).
  6. Cool the Chocolate: This one is a little more tricky. Once you are done with the chocolate, you want it to cool immediately. However, if you are somewhere it is hot, that might not happen. Pop the chocolate into the fridge for a couple of minutes. However, don’t leave it in for too long or you may get a sugar bloom.

Hope these tips help with your future chocolate endeavors. Happy chocolate making!

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DIY Bar

DIY BarAh, the beginning of a year. Those New Year’s Resolutions of last year (i.e. blogging regularly) went out the door. That doesn’t mean I won’t try again this year. I wanted to share a few projects that I did have fun with, so you may see a couple of posts pop up. Let’s start with the DIY bar.

This project all began when I realized: (1) I was living with someone who had a large alcohol collection that was overrunning a wine rack and (2) the price of a bar large enough to fit the collection was outrageous for the quality/materials being used. Pinterest was a great place for inspiration. One particular post for a mini bar struck my fancy and something that seemed reasonable to do.

The Hunt

Without an existing book case, I ended up surfing Craigslist until I found the right piece. I fell in love with a bookcase with rounded corners that reminded me of Mad Men. However, it was missing all of its shelves and the top had some serious water rings. A quick trip to home depot resulted in some new shelves. Plus, they cut the wood to the dimensions I needed for free!

Bookshelf

Yikes! Look at those rings.

The Cleaning

After much debate, I decided to refinish the wood surface on the top. The YouTube videos made the process seem so fun and easy. Haha- I was in for a treat. This endeavor required purchasing wood stripper, stain, top coat and specialized tools to apply all of these harsh chemicals. It appeared that the piece had a veener on the top making the whole thing tricky.

After spending a half day finessing the top of the piece using the wood stripper, it did not seem to do much. I opted to use fine sandpaper by hand and then gave up and broke out the big gun, the electric detail sander. Luckily for me, the veener layer was thick enough to handle it and the sander worked wonders. The staining and top coat were much easier in comparison. However, being outside was not ideal as little dust particles would blow into the top coat. When all was said and done, the top looked 100 times better. However, in hindsight, for the amount of time it took, I may have gone the route of painting the whole thing instead.

The Finishing Touch

With the top all shiny and new, the rest of the exterior needed some love. I happened across a bottle of Feed and Wax product by Howard around the house and it worked miracles. One of the biggest problems with wooden furniture is that it gets dry over time and things like Pledge just don’t cut it. The conditioner goes into the wood and helps it to really shine. The piece of furniture I bought was so thirsty, it needed a few treatments. The results were so awesome I went around “feeding” all the other furniture (yes, I get a little overly excited about cleaning). Just be aware that you need to apply it to the whole piece of furniture because it can darken it. You should probably spot check it before going crazy like I did.

To the make the piece not look like a bookshelf, I opted to buy some shelf lining paper from Amazon to add to the back. A word of wisdom on this- buy paper that is easy to match. I had to use two different rolls with three strips of it to make it work. It is also best to lay the furniture down when adding the backing.

The attempt to stain the new shelves to match the top of the piece failed miserably- mixing wood types does not work! Luckily for me, I scored a free can of paint from Kelly-Moore to celebrate a new paint line. The shelves got a rich chocolate color to match the lining paper. I also purchased wine glass racks at a local building supply shop to hold the martini glasses.

Finally, I was able to move all of the alcohol in and sprinkle in accessories like a vintage shaker from my grandparents and bar towels. After all was said and done, I was happy with the end look.