Chocolate Recipes Unwrapped
Thursday, March 22 2012
With Easter fast approaching, I’m sure you’ll all thinking about one thing: the joy of waking up on Easter Sunday to a trail of chocolate eggs and freshly baked hot cross buns, then spending the day scoffing your face with delicious foil-wrapped goodness.
For some students, however, Easter can be a bit of a downer. You’re away from the family, you’re poor and you’re already worrying about the extra kilos you may have collected over the Christmas holidays… you don’t want to go to the supermarket and buy those shiny but ridiculously overpriced eggs that taste half as good as last year. You especially don’t want to go out and buy them for other people.
Have no fear, chocolate lovers! Here are some basic gift ideas to help your chocolate reach its full potential without reaching into your wallet.
Homemade chocolate moulds: The one drawback with being a chocolatier is that, if you want to do it right, you need a lot of equipment that the average student doesn’t want to clutter their kitchen, let alone can afford. Chocolate moulds are probably the biggest hurdle I’ve come across, but also the easiest to jump over. Next time you buy something that comes in a hard plastic cover, wash it and save it. My favourite moulds, however, are the silicone ice-cube trays. I prefer silicone for its flexibility: it makes it much easier to remove chocolate without having to grease the mould or fill it with cling wrap, and you can pick up a set of fun and standard shapes for less than a dollar a tray.
Chocolate bark: An easy one that looks spectacular, all you need is a block of chocolate and some decoration. Melt your block of chocolate and then spread it onto a tray covered in baking paper, then grab whatever you want and throw it on the top: dried fruit and nuts work well, but you can always use chopped rock candy, marshmallows, praline, straight sugar, anything you desire. Top it with another block of chocolate and use a toothpick to swirl it around for a marbled effect. Once you’ve topped it, put it in the freezer and leave it until it is rock hard, then take it out and go to town on it with a hammer or the side of your bench. The result is a collection of pretty shards of chocolate that you can wrap up for friends and family.
Truffles: The best thing about truffles is that you can make them out of anything. Don’t have enough chocolate in your pantry? Use up all the leftover cake and biscuits in your house to make a delicious gift. All you need in truffles is 700g of cake or biscuit to one block of chocolate. Feel free to experiment with a dash of spice here, a splash of liquor there, some extra fruit and nut on the side, whatever you feel like. Then all you do is crumb the cake/biscuit, melt the chocolate and mix. Shape it into balls and then roll them in a topping: cocoa powder is good for a sophisticated look, while coconut and biscuit crumbs are good for the more playful.
Fudge: The ratio I like to follow is one can of condensed milk (395g) and about 100g of butter to one of block chocolate. Basically, melt and mix. You can add crushed nuts or biscuits, fruit, lollies, spices, anything you like to it. Bailey’s and dark chocolate always goes down a treat. Once you’ve mixed it, pour it into moulds or a bar pan and refrigerate it until solid. Add less butter and condensed milk for harder fudge and more for the real melt-in-your-mouth goopy kind.
Praline: For the chocolate intolerant, praline is also a good gift because it is sweet, visually appealing, and can be used for all sorts of things. Basically put a cup of sugar in a saucepan on low heat with a couple of teaspoons of water and melt it, then turn the heat up to high and bring it to the boil. Stir about five to seven minutes until it starts to turn golden brown, then pour onto a tray lined with baking paper and leave it to set. If you’re adding things to it, either mix it into the sugar in the saucepan or lay the ingredients on the baking tray then pour the sugar over it. Be careful, the sugar will not only be boiling hot but it will stick to you if you touch it. Once it has set, crack it with a hammer and you have a praline, which you can either wrap and give away or use in other recipes such as these.
Coconut melts: Another chocolate free recipe. For this all you really need is a bag of desiccated/shredded coconut. Pour a cup or so into a food processor, turn it on, and process the coconut until it goes wet and smooth, about two to three minutes. Pour it into moulds and let it set. The result is an intense coconut flavoured and not too sweet candy that is not only delicious but has fewer calories than most chocolate. You can also use this as a replacement for chocolate and/or butter in other recipes, including the ones above.
Now that you have these basic recipes down pat, you can go off and make your own cheap and customisable chocolate gifts for Easter. Enjoy!