So it’s time to start thinking about Christmas gifts! Oxford street is bursting with Christmas shoppers at the moment, and there’s nothing worse I can imagine than joining these hordes in their shopping frenzy. No, not for me! Instead, I like to hide away in the calmness of my little kitchen and make my own, edible gifts. What’s more personal and full of love than home-baked cookies, cakes and breads? But if you want to glam the whole thing up, then it’s worth considering making chocolates…
I’ve never really had a go at making chocolates. It always seemed quite daunting and messy: tempering the chocolate, dipping stuff into chocolate and letting it dry for ages while not touching it. And then I came across a variation of this really easy recipe in a German Xmas baking magazine. I had to try it! But not without changing most of the recipe first. So, here you go, here’s Anne’s Kitchen’s first recipe for super easy, but wow-ing chocolates!
Now, before you get started, there are a couple of things worth considering: first of all, the chocolate. Don’t just use any kind of random dark chocolate, or you might be disappointed. When making chocolates, it’s super important to use high quality chocolate with a high cocoa solid content (at least 60%). This really makes a difference, since effectively, what you’re doing is melting chocolate and then letting it harden up again – which can really mess with its appearance. Remember those chocolate bars forgotten in some pocket, that had melted and hardened up again? Didn’t they turn out a white-ish mess? Yes, and that’s all down to the low cocoa solid content. So, believe me, better pay a bit more for your chocolate, it’s worth it.
Second, the marzipan. I’d strongly recommend to go for some artisanal marzipan, made with real almonds and without any added almond essence. It should taste as natural as possible. Effectively, good marzipan is nothing more than almonds, icing sugar and eggs…
Always remember, your food is only as good as your ingredients. So, for luxury chocolates, it’s really worth spending a few more pennies on…
Makes 24 chocolates
70g candied orange peel
50g icing sugar
200g good quality marzipan
30ml Cointreau or Amaretto
24 whole almonds
2 tbsp sugar
80g good quality dark chocolate (look for cooking chocolate with a high cocoa solid content, at least 60%)
Finely chop the candied orange peel. Cut the marzipan into small cubes. Put both into a bowl and knead together with the icing sugar and alcohol, until it all becomes one homogenous mass.
Roll small chunks of the marzipan mix into walnut-sized balls between your hands. Once you’ve used up all your marzipan, and have all your little balls lined up, prepare the almonds.
Dry-roast the almonds in a frying pan until they start becoming golden. Then, add two spoonfuls of brown sugar and make sure all the nuts get covered in the sugar so that they caramelize. As soon as they caramelize and become darker, put the almonds onto a cold plate – this will stop the caramelizing process. Set aside while making the chocolates, and break the nuts apart once they’ve fully cooled down.
Now, melt the chocolate in a bain-marie. For this, pour boiling water into a saucepan, place a second, heavy-bottomed saucepan with the chocolate the hot water (make sure the water doesn’t boil anymore when you melt the chocolate- the heat could burn it).
Once the chocolate has melted, dip each ball into the chocolate with a fork and cover it entirely with chocolate. Take the chocolate ball out and place onto a silicone mat (or onto a sheet of non-stick baking paper), and decorate with an almond as long as the chocolate is still soft.
Let the chocolates firm up. This can take up to two hours. Once they’ve hardened, you can keep the chocolates in the fridge or in a cool place for up to 2 weeks. I bet they won’t last a day!