I know it's a little early to be thinking of making Christmas candy, but I had huge blocks of Ghirardelli chocolate in the freezer and virtually all the ingredients to make nine out of eleven fillings.
--this is called planning ahead. I bought all those blocks of chocolate last spring because I knew they would disappear over the summer months!
Some are new flavors. Some are tried and true flavors that I simply didn't have enough filling left to make a batch of candy.
I tried to measure and time everything so I could tell you that it's a 'one size fits all' procedure, but I can't.
The fruit purees took up to 45 minutes to boil down (and boil over in the case of Bronx Cheer, a raspberry filling--walk away for one measly second to read a food blog and BAM! Oh, the flames! The sizzling! the mess!), while the liqueur syrups were finished in less than 15 minutes.
Some of the fillings needed more cream than others (the ones made with dark chocolate, for sure), while the ones prepared with white chocolate didn't really need any cream.
Shoot, I had to remake a couple of them because they didn't harden like I expected them to after they cooled down. Cherries Jubilee was one of those culprits, while Pilgrim's Progress (maple) had the opposite problem of setting up while I was stirring in the chocolate. I packaged it anyway, but turned right around to fix the problem.
Though they are in the freezer, I have a feeling I'll have to rework Mango Madness and Bronx Cheer. I really don't want to add more chocolate to harden them up, because it will change the flavor profile. Ugh!
In one or two of the flavors, I added a touch of salt to cut the sweet and enhance the flavor.
I also checked the temperatures while I was cooking them down.
And no, there was no magic number here. Some of them were at the perfect syrup texture at 100 degrees Celsius, but other syrups were finished at 90 degrees C.
I added sugar to all of them, but it varied too. I didn't want them too sweet since the chocolate could push it into the overly sweet category--especially white chocolate, as it can be a little cloying!-- but if there wasn't enough residual sugar in the liquor or fruit, then I needed the sugar to make the syrup.
So while I was making the fillings, I was tweeting about it. A few people responded, but I had fun making up names to go with the fillings--some are lame, but some are very fitting!
This is what I made yesterday:
Pilgrim's Progress -- maple, made from 100% dark amber maple syrup
Midnight Magic -- blackberry and Crème de Cassis puree, it's a beautiful deep purple
Mango Madness -- No mangos, so I tried a Bare Naked smoothie with vodka, a gorgeous yellow-orange color
Bronx Cheer -- raspberry, yanno, Raspberries with raspberry pucker-- a simply divine red with a hint of pinkness
Honey Bear -- honey, Barenjager liqueur with dark chocolate
ButterShots -- butterscotch, Buttershots liqueur with dark chocolate
Cherries Jubilee -- Frozen dark cherries (we don't really get cherries here) and a Bacardi Rum Reserve (I didn't have any brandy!:-()
PomPom -- Pomegranate juice
Cup o' Joe -- coffee, Kahlua liqueur in dark chocolate
I still need to make Strawberry Margarita (I didn't have any limes) and Black Forest (no cherry pucker). The difference between the two cherry fillings: Black Forest and Cherries Jubilee is the liquor the fruit is macerated in and the type of chocolate, dark chocolate for Black Forest, and white chocolate for Cherries Jubilee.
Once my fillings are finished, I can experiment with some various caramels that I want to try.
Why am I starting so early?
Because molding chocolate is a time-consuming, back-breaking job that uses ALL my available counter space, including the stove! I simply don't want to stop what I'm doing to make a filling.
And since I just defrosted the freezer, there's all sorts of room!