The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at http://www.chocoley.com offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!
Wait, did that say candy? Well, there is no better way to get the attention of a sweet tooth or her five year old daughter than to mention the word candy. From the moment I read the challenge this month, I was excited. Now, you know my opinion about when the challenges include contests, but not even that could dampen my spirits.
Lisa and Mandy (two totally awesome ladies and amazing foodies) provided a whole lot of recipes as inspiration for us, and challenged us each to make (at least) one chocolate and (at least) one non-chocolate based candy.
The first candy that I decided to try was one for which they provided a recipe, and it is called pate de fruit. Pronounced "pat du fwee," this is basically a fresh fruit jelly candy. I love anything fruity, and a fresh fruit candy seemed right up my alley. Unfortunately, the only fruit of which I had an abundance at the time was bananas. Do a google search for banana pate de fruit. Not a lot comes up. Undeterred, I tried anyway.
Little miss helped me peel and chunk up my bananas.
Then using my immersion blender, we turned the bananas (plus one peeled, chunked up apple, for the natural pectin in it and to add just a bit extra...) into a puree, which we then cooked on the stove top over medium heat to 225 degrees.
The cooked jelly is then poured into a pan and sprinkled with some sugar, than left to set.
Once the jelly sets, it can be cut into shapes, rolled in some sugar, and, voila! Beautiful candies! Right? Well, mine never quite set enough. I tried to make little pate de fruit dots using my apple corer.
Umm... okay, they stuck. Using a toothpick to get them out, I kept trying...
They look pretty good, right?
Now look at them from a different angle...
Umm... I don't think they are supposed to ooze down through the rack like that... Not wanting to scrap all the hard work, I scooped the rest of the jelly into a jar, and now have candy flavored jam instead of, well, candy.
Not to be deterred, and inspired by another Daring Baker on the forums, I decided to try a different non-chocolate candy - rock candy. I mean, what a fun science lesson for the five year old, right? Growing our own sugar crystals? Cool!
So we wet and sugared some lollipop sticks to provide something onto which our sugar crystals could grow.
We then made a super saturated sugar syrup (twice as much sugar as water), which we boiled, flavored (using candy flavoring concentrate) and colored in rainbow colors.
We set our sticks into the jars (and glasses), we then set the whole thing aside and waited excitedly to watch our candy grow.
And then we waited some more.
And some more.
We saw sugar crystals grow, all right... just not on the sticks.
Yeah, that is a pretty rainbow of hardened sugar on the glasses. As for our rock candy lollipops?
Not so much.
Trying not to get too discouraged, I actually tried again. This time using string instead of lollipop sticks, just to see if that was the problem.
It wasn't. I don't have a picture of the final fail on this one, but suffice it to say it didn't fare any better than my sticks. Daddy tried to make the best of the situation by using some of our rock candy syrup as simple syrup to make us some mojitos, but, well, that didn't work out so well either...
Ever vigilant, I tried another non-chocolate candy, again inspired by another Daring Baker in the forums. She showed us some super cute, super easy gummy candies, made using a package of jello, extra unflavored gelatin, and a little bit of water. Little miss helped me make this one.
The resulting liquid is then poured into candy molds. I used a cupcake-decorating sqeezy tube to make it a little easier for little hands to help.
The resulting gummies were... okay. They tasted like highly concentrated jello (which, well, they are...), but had a kind of weird consistency. And, while they were easy to peel out of the candy molds, they stuck to everything else, including the paper plate onto which I put them fresh out of the candy molds... So I rolled them in some white sugar to relieve some of the sticking.
I can't call them a complete fail, because I think they worked out how they were supposed to, but I can't not call them a fail, because a day later, they were almost impossible to chew - it was like chewing a chunk of rubber. Not pleasant. Oh well.
On to the chocolates, shall we??
Lisa and Mandy provided us with several scrumptious looking chocolate recipes as well, and I decided to try to make truffles. I made two kinds - plain milk chocolate, and mint-milk chocolate. The process for making the truffles themselves is straightforward - make a simple ganache, let it set, then shape it into truffles. The ganache is simply chopped chocolate melted by being mixed with simmered heavy cream. Easy peasy, right? And to make the mint? Simple - just add some fresh mint leaves to the cream as it simmers!
I let the mint steep in the cream for an hour, then reheated it and strained it over my chopped milk chocolate bits.
Once all of the chocolate was melted, I set the bowls aside to cool a bit, then into the fridge to set completely.
When I was ready to make my truffles, I simply scooped:
and rolled (with a little help from some little hands):
I then set my rolled ganache truffles into the fridge to harden back up, as I was really hoping to coat them in lovely tempered chocolate. Note my classy sticky note reminding me which are the plain milk chocolate and which are the mint ones...
Now, tempering chocolate was kind of the whole point of this challenge. Unfortunately, tempering chocolate is quite an exacting process. It requires time, patience and a specific kind of candy thermometer. None of which I possess. Did that stop me? Nah! I chose to try tempering my chocolate using a method called seeding. Basically, chocolate pieces are slowly melted over a double boiler, then the temperature of the melted chocolate is carefully lowered by mixing in unmelted pieces of chocolate. Make sense? The temperatures are also very specific, but without a chocolatier's thermometer, well, I couldn't control that so well. But I tried.
Because tempering is usually easiest with larger amounts of chocolate, I decided that, in addition to coating my truffles, I would try to make another kind of chocolate candy as well. And since my truffles were safe in the fridge, I started with my molded, filled chocolates. I painted my mold (okay, a silicone ice cube tray) with my "tempered" chocolate.
For my filling, I chose a delicious cinnamon caramel sauce that I have made before. But someone must have told the caramel sauce that I was making it for this challenge. And we all know my track record so far on this challenge. For the first time ever in my caramel-sauce-making history, my caramel crystallized.
Seriously?? Luckily it wasn't too bad, and after straining, the sauce was fine.
Once again using my cupcake decorating squeezy bottle, I filled my chocolate painted molds.
By this time, though, my "tempered" chocolate had cooled, and had become hard to pour. Umm... that was quick... I tried to bring it back up to temperature, but, well, I had no idea what I was doing. Daddy helped me, too, giving his attempt at re-tempering the chocolate, and we somehow managed to get all of the caramel covered with chocolate, sealing off the candies.
When it was time to pop them out of the molds, this was the result:
Umm... those look frozen, don't they? They aren't I promise. They just don't look tempered at all. Or even all that attractive for that matter, truth be told.
They tasted delicious, the cinnamon caramel and milk chocolate tasting delicious together, but they will not win any awards. Anywhere. And unless they were refrigerated, they were also a little messy to eat.
As for the truffles, well, they didn't fare much better. We managed to coat a few in the "tempered" chocolate, but had so much trouble that we soon gave up. So the truffle on the left is the milk chocolate, simply rolled in sweetened cocoa powder and the one on the right is the mint chocolate, with a milk chocolate coating.
They turned out alright, but not fantastic. The mint chocolate set much firmer than the milk, so while they look the same in these photos, that is only because they were stored in the fridge.
A few minutes later, the milk chocolate truffle (on the left) was super soft and mostly lost its shape. Oh well.
So, if you're counting along, that is one pate de fruit, two attempts at rock candy, one batch of gummies, two types of truffles and one attempt at filled chocolates. None of which worked how they were supposed to. Challenge 7, me 0. Ouch.
So to make myself feel better, I also made some peach fruit leather. Because little miss thinks it's candy, and I will encourage her to think so.
In reality, it's fruit. Lots of peaches, one third of a cup of sugar.
The fruit is cooked down, then blended smooth with the immersion blender.
The syrup (which, by the way, would be awesome as, well, syrup!) is then spread onto a rimmed baking sheet and set in a (very) low oven all day. Or as long as it takes.
The result is delicious. We roll it, then use kitchen scissors to cut strips as we want them.
Simple, delicious, and decidedly not a fail.
Lisa and Mandy, you ladies are awesome. Daring Bakers? I am in awe and, to be honest, very jealous of all of the results I saw on the boards this month. Hats off to all of you for some beautiful, delicious looking candies.
I highly recommend you check out the sweet confections prepared by our bakers this month. You won't be disappointed.
17 hours ago