Unhealthy Obsessions

This page last updated: 30 June 2013.

On this page find a few recipes for, perhaps explorations into, unhealthy things.  The entries are in date order, most recent at the top.

Alcoholic Chocolate Cherries - Experiment Five
30 June 2013

So, success at last, but not exactly cheaply.  We purchased 2.5 kg of dry ice from www.chillistick.com.  It is delivered by courier and arrives in a very thick-walled polystyrene box. You have to use it on the day it arrives as it is evaporating all the time, so time things carefully: you will need to be able to spend the entire day on chocolates.  Oh, and it apparently gets down to -80 C so you won't need to leave things in it for very long.  Aside from the dry ice, you will need soaked cherries (as for experiment one below), two sacks of couverture chocolate from the Home Chocolate Factory (we used one dark and one light), one of those insulated picnic hampers that the 30 mm hemispherical chocolate mould should fit inside, and a helping hand.

Begin by making a mixture of three to one icing sugar and the liquid from your soaked cherries.  21 tablespoons of sugar and 7 tablespoons of liquid will allow you to make 24 chocolates with the 30 mm hemispherical moulds.  Take your two 30 mm hemispherical chocolate moulds: into one put two teaspoons of the mixture and into the other one teaspoon of the mixture and half a soaked cherry.

Mixture in place
Mixture and cherries in place

Put these in the coldest place of your coldest freezer to solidify a little then, after an hour or two, place the mould with the cherries in it upside-down on the other mould, neatly aligned.  Put them back in the freezer for half an hour so that the two halves can bond.

Put some (at least 1/3rd) of your dry ice in the base of the insulated picnic hamper.  Take the pair of moulds out of your freezer and put them into the hamper too, then put foil on top of that to keep the coolness in.  Replace the lid of the hamper and wait for one hour.

                mould in the hamper
                foil over the mould

While you are waiting, take a good quantity of the darker couverture chocolate and temper it by bringing the main quantity up to 44 C, then taking it off the heat and mixing in 1/8th more then 1/8th more again until the temperature drops to 32 C.

The couverture chocolate
Bringing the main quantity up to 44 C
Mix in 1/8th then 1/8th more, bringing the
                  temperature down to 32 C

Take the moulds out of the dry ice.  The race is now on.  One of you should peel back the now very stiff silicon mould and pop out the centres.  If the two halves haven't bonded together, add a little more of the cherry juice to the joining surface to act as glue and squidge the two halves together.  Your helper should then take the centres and drops them into the chocolate, turn them very quickly with a fork and then, equally quickly, hold each centre on the fork and bank the fork on the side of the chocolate bowl to remove excess chocolate.  The coated centre is then placed on grease-proof paper to set.  You may find that there is some leakage of goo - patch these holes up with more melted chocolate as you go. 
If you find you don't have enough chocolate you can always return your mould to the cooler and make more by returning the chocolate to 44 C and adding more couverture.

The frozen mould
                frozen centre
Covering the frozen centre
                covered chocolate with a leak
Patching a leaky chocolate
The chocolates properly coated

Repeat this process for as many sets of mixture as you care to, using up the remaining dry ice.  For information, we tried using ice-cube trays instead of the silicon moulds but the centres were very, very, difficult to get out so the silicon moulds are absolutely recommended.  Condensation will form on your chocolates as they cool so leave them overnight to dry out.

The following day, take a good quantity of your lighter couverture chocolate and temper that in the same way.  Use a basting brush to paint each chocolate with this outer coating - this will ensure that the coating is not too thick and this coating will cover up any possible remaining leakages.  Leave to set.

The couverture chocolate for the outer coating
A coated chocolate
The finished article

So, what did we get?  Well, here's one of the mis-shapes cut open beside a picture of the original.

The finished article dissected
                Boeri Bodrato equivalent

Clearly a goo!  At last, we've done it.  But of course it is not cheap to get dry ice delivered.  So we need to find a cheaper way next.

Alcoholic Chocolate Cherries - Experiment Four
27 June 2013

No pictures of this one as there is nothing useful to report.  We tried making a five to one mixture of icing sugar with the liquid from the cherries and freezing it in one of the 30 mm hemispherical moulds.  The problem is that the freezing point of a sugary mush this dense is around -30 C, whereas a normal freezer will only go down to -20 C.  So not a ball, more a lump of soft putty that it is impossible to coat with chocolate.

We then tried reducing the mixture to a three to one icing sugar to fluid mix and, this time, filling two 30 mm hemispherical moulds, putting half a cherry into one of them and, once they have been left to freeze overnight, putting the two together so that spheres are formed.  This time we did get a ball, quite gooey but still a ball.  However, as soon as you attempt to cover it in chocolate the ball loses consistency immediately and you just get goo everywhere.  Hmph.  The way to do this would be to use liquid nitrogen to freeze the balls but liquid nitrogen is difficult to get hold of in small quantities for cookery.

So we took to a plan B, which is to make hollow hemispheres of chocolate, put a one to one icing sugar/liquid syrup in them, freeze that, add a half cherry on top and then put a chocolate coating on top of that.  So they won't be spheres but the should hold their own structurally.  This worked reasonably well from a structural standpoint, relatively little leakage and they could be patched-up but the taste wasn't as nice as the properly sweet goo of experiment three.

Update - someone pointed out today that dry ice gets me down to -46C and that's available from places such as www.chillistick.com.  Not cheap but it has GOT to be done.  This weekend is gonna be fun.

Alcoholic Chocolate Cherries - Experiment Three
16 June 2013

In experiment three we've tried two moulds and chilled goo.  It went something like this.

In a small bowl, mix one tablespoon of the liquid that your cherries have been soaking in with five tablespoons of icing sugar.  Place this in the fridge.

Icing sugar and
              cherry goo mixture

Take two 30 mm hemispherical chocolate moulds.

Two 30 mm hemisperical
          chocolate moulds

Put one of them in the fridge.  Take 12 of your soaked cherries and cut them in two.

12 cherries halved

Melt four 100 gm bars of Green & Black's chocolate, half 34% cocoa, half 70% cocoa, using the same tempering technique as below (though we're still not sure it's working).   Use a large teaspoon to put the chocolate into the mould that was not in the fridge and then take out the mould that was in the fridge and do the same.

Filled moulds

Push the half cherries into the mould that was not in the fridge then take your bowl of sweet goo out of the fridge (the goo should now be the consistency of putty).  Use your fingers and the rear end of the spoon to add a lump of goo to the bowl of each cherry.  Do this as quickly as you can - the chocolate in the mould that was in the fridge is solidifying on the outside as you do this but you don't want the chocolates to solidify totally.

Halves of cherry pushed into place
Half of cherry in place
Goo in cherry halves
Goo in cherry half

Flip the other, chilled, mould full of chocolate upside-down on a chopping board and give it a minute to let the innards of each hemisphere run out.  Then lift it onto the top of the mould with the filled cherries, lining the two moulds up as you do so.

The moulds on top of
            each other

Eat the chocolate goo from the chopping board with your fingers.  Leave the moulds for half an hour to solidify and then carefully peel off the top mould.  Pop out the chocolates.  They may well not have fused together so just gently push them back into place so that you know which is paired with which.

Peel the top mould back carefully
The chocolates in the moulds
The chocolates out of the moulds

Melt another two 100 gm bars of chocolate, again
half 34% cocoa, half 70% cocoa, using the same tempering technique, androll the chocolates in this, using it to glue any loose halves back together again.

Extra chocolate rolled on
The insides

So, what's the verdict?  Well, the halved cherry is about the right quantity of cherry and, as you can see from the picture on the right above, the cavity has worked. However, the coating of chocolate is still too thick and, though the goo is better then before (i.e. the result is sweeter), there still isn't enough of it.  Could possibly inject it back in again? Hmmph.

Next, what we think we'll try is using the moulds to make a small frozen ball of goo topped by a half cherry.  We can then coat this in liquid chocolate in the thinnest form possible and, hopefully, the goo will deliquesce afterwards.  Since this tempering thing plainly isn't working with the Green & Blacks chocolate, we'll also try it with the couverture chocolate from
the Home Chocolate Factory.

Alcoholic Chocolate Cherries - Experiment Two, Execution
6 May 2013

Time to execute experiment two.  We used the Home Chocolate Factory method to temper the chocolate, which is basically melt 2/3rds of your chocolate to 44 C and let it cool while adding the remainder of the chocolate.  It is questionable whether this worked since, at the end, the chocolate did come out somewhat streaky (though this might have been from the alcoholic cherry juice getting mixed with it).  Note that you will need a cooking thermometer and that using a metal bowl, rather than a glass one, is useful as you do actively want the chocolate to cool.

For this first part of the execution we used two 100 gm bars of Green & Black's chocolate, one 34% cocoa the other 70% cocoa.

Split the chocolate
                into 2/3rds then another two halves of the remaining
Melt the first 2/3rds in a
                metal dish over boiling water at 44C Remove
                from the heat and add the first half of the remaining
                1/3rd, then the second half The
                contents should cool to around 32C

We used a large teaspoon to plop the chocolate into the mould.  This was allowed to cool a little and then put in the fridge for 3 minutes before bringing it out again and placing it upside-down on a chopping board.  After letting it sit for a minute we turned the mould over again so that some of the chocolate in the middle of each of the moulds plopped out.  Eat the messy leftover chocolate off the chopping board.

The chocolate in the mould
                mould upside-down after removing from the fridge The
                mould turned the right way up once more

The original plan had been to do this twice to make two sets of hemispheres and then mate them with a cherry and some goo inside.  However, we realised at this point that there was no way enough room left inside the hemispheres to do that so we changed tack.  Instead we placed a cherry inside each while the chocolate was still melted, then we melted another two bars of chocolate (200 gm, in the same cocoa proportions as above) and plopped that as neatly as we could on top.

                cherries in the mould
                cherry in the mould Melt more chocolate on each cherry The chocolate on the cherry

We left this to cool properly then popped out each of the cherries from the mould and trimmed the excess chocolate off as best we could.  The cherry can end up being exposed during this process so we melted the chocolate trimmings along with another one and half bars of chocolate (150 gm), just 34% cocoa this time, and rolled the chocolates in this to seal them up again.

A chocolate popped from the mould
The chocolates popped from the mould The chocolates trimmed of excess The chocolates coated further

As you can see from the last picture, we placed the chocolates into petits fours cases at this point in the foolish belief that we'd pretty much finished.

Now for the injection.  We filled the syringe with the liquid from the cherry jar, got a bowl of boiling water to heat/unblock the needle and then injected each chocolate with the liquid.  The needle often clogged on first injection (because the chocolate is actually pushed up into the needle on the way in) so it is usually necessary to push the needle in twice, the first time to make the hole, then put the needle into the boiling water to unblock it, and the second time to inject the fluid.

Fill the
                syringe with the fluid from the cherry jar
Use the
                boiling water to unblock the syringe between injections Inject the chocolates with the fluid

Now, as you will see, this caused a problem as there is no real cavity for the fluid to go into (other than maybe a small space in the middle of the cherry) so instead it squirted out of the weakest part of the chocolates.  Hence we melted a final one and a half bars of chocolate (300 gm), just 70% this time, removed the petits fours cases and gave the chocolates a final coating.

Chocolates after final coating
Chocolate after final coating Inside the chocolate

So, what were they like?  Well, there was quite a lot of chocolate from all those coatings, significantly more than in the original
Boeri Bodrato.  The cherry was juicy but there was no actual fluid because there wasn't a cavity.  Edible, and not bad as chocolates but also not quite what was intended; need that mouthful of alcoholic fluid.  Some things to try next as improvements:
  1. Make an exit hole with the needle before injecting so that there is no pressure build up to break the chocolate.  But does injecting really work anyway unless there is a cavity?
  2. Maybe make an almost icing-like paste from the goo and slather that in and over the cherry instead? It is rumoured that there is something which liquifies over time.
  3. To avoid all this coating, use two moulds and trap the cherry between them.
  4. Suss this tempering thing.

Alcoholic Chocolate Cherries - Experiment Two, Preparation
29 January 2013

We've done some more research. We have found hemispherical chocolate moulds, 30 mm in diameter, from the Home Chocolate Factory.  On Amazon we have found a syringe with a "cream needle", a needle normally used for medical purposes, 1.1 mm in diameter, so it should be capable of injecting syrup.  We've read-up on how to temper chocolate (the nice Home Chocolate Factory people send a free leaflet with the moulds).  And we've set off another 800 gm of cherries into alcoholic storage, same syrup as before, this time leaving no stalks in place and stoning the cherries with an olive-pitter we happened to have on the handle of a garlic press.

Mould and syringe
The "cream needle", 1.1 mm in diameter
                punnet, 400 gm, of cherries, enough for one 70cl jar (we
                made two) Stoning the cherries, quite messy - either wear red
                or nothing at all while doing this
                stoned cherries in a 70 cl jar
                cherries in the syrup, ready to be stored for three

Now, we wait...

Alcoholic Chocolate Cherries - Experiment One
29 January 2013

Several years ago our local delicatessen, Sceptred Isle, now sadly closed, managed to source some marvellous alcoholic chocolate cherries.  They were, are, made by Bodrato, an Italian chocolate company, and were called Boeri Bodrato.

                Boeri Bodrato big box
Inside the box
Inside the choc

Each chocolate consists of a whole cherry, soaked in grappa, inside a chocolate shell; a mouthful of taste explosion and quite a large amount of alcohol.  Bodrato have one UK importer, Red Or White, but the quantites available are not huge so we thought we'd try making our own.  Not that we're ever likely to get close to the original but we thought it might be fun to try.

Our first experiment was to soak a punnet of cherries in an alcoholic syrup for three months and then coat them in chocolate.  The recipe is as follows:

- 435 gm cherries, stone left in and with a short stalk left for prettiness
- 350 ml cognac (half a normal bottle)
- 175 ml water
- 100 gm sugar
- 4 cloves
- one cinnamon stick
- three bars of good quality chocolate (e.g. Green & Blacks 36% cocoa)

Take two 70 cl storage jars and divide the washed cherries between them.  Add two cloves to each jar.  Snap the cinnamon stick in half and put half in each jar.  Add the sugar to the water and heat to dissolve the sugar.  Let it cool, add the cognac and then pour the liquid equally over the cherries in the two jars.  Close them tightly and store in a dark place for three months.

Once the cherries are ready, melt the chocolate in a glass bowl placed over simmering water in a pan. With the aid of a spoon, coat the cherries in the chocolate, placing them in petit four cases if you like to contain the flow of the chocolate.

So how did the experiment turn out?  Well, the cherries were very alcoholic but there wasn't as much fluid alcohol as we would have liked.  The little stalks left in place looked pretty but they, and the stone in the cherry, got in the way of the eating experience.  And they didn't keep very long, the chocolate falling away after a few weeks.  We need some chocolate tempering technique and a more liqueur-like approach to chocolate making.

29 January 2013

Limoncello is rather a variable thing, ranging from the divine to the over-sweet to the basically-chemically.  Having had several in our time we thought we'd have a go at making our own as it is trivially easy to do.  Some experimentation has lead to the following recipe.  The result is around 25% alcohol and so it doesn't freeze when stored in the freezer, making it an excellent summer-time tipple.

The ingredients are simple - four parts vodka to one part sugar to one part lemon juice, plus lemon rind (unwaxed of course).  One lemon gives about 40 gm of juice, so a good scaling would be:

- 1 litre vodka
- 250 gm sugar
- juice of 6 lemons, plus rind

This fits neatly into a 2 litre storage jar.

First of all, pare the rind from the lemons (most easily with a zester to get nice long fine strips). Put the rind into the 2 litre storage jar.  Juice those lemons into a small pan, add the sugar, then heat to dissolve the sugar.  Pour the mixture into the storage jar, add the vodka and close the lid of the storage jar.  This will likely take you no more than 20 minutes.  Shake the jar twice a day for two weeks and your limoncello is ready.

Decant the liquid into 0.5 litre sloe gin bottles as these are really easy to pack into your freezer.  After decanting the liquid into the sloe gin bottles, stuff the lemon rind equally into the bottles also.  Store in the freezer until required and always pour directly from the freezer for a lovely oily consistency.

Limoncello in a sloe gin
          bottle, just out of the freezer

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