Most people love strawberries – and strawberries dipped in chocolate are a double treat! So fun to eat and to see; so elegant, too (often with a glass of champagne), the thought just says “Be My Valentine!” over and over again!
But as I’ve said before, to get the best result you must start with the best ingredients. So, talk to your produce person at your fave market for the sweetest strawberries (our locals ones aren’t in yet and the cold weather may have delayed the crop we usually get this time of year). Next, get the very best chocolate you can find … at least 72% cocoa for the base. If you want to use ‘white chocolate’ (which is a misnomer), don’t be lulled into the stuff that’s mostly sugar … get a good grade of cocoa butter. Otherwise the sugar will have a cloying taste which will upset the balance of sweetness, chocolate and strawberry flavor.
And as regular readers of this blog know, I prefer to give you recipes before the event (not on the day of, if I can help it), so for this one you have a couple of days to make it before the Big Day!
Making these jogged my memory, too. When I first started at F&E, my boss (who had owned a candy store previously) asked me if I knew how to temper chocolate. I looked at him and said “Of course I do.” And he kept looking at me. Finally, I said … “What?” He then told me to tell him how to do it. With just a hint of sarcasm, I told him. He laughed and said, “OK, you DO know how.” Now, temper this chocolate and we’ll make some pretty dipped strawberries!” We did and had a line of customers watching us…tasting them, and of course, buying the ingredients!
So today’s ‘recipe’ will tell you how to temper chocolate. The importance of doing this is to give chocolate its velvety smoothness, nice ‘crack’ as the shell breaks, and shine. There are some people (and companies) that add shine by adding a little food-grade wax and it does work. But tempering, while more time consuming, is better (in my never humble opinions). And, it shows more love in the finished product!
How to Temper Chocolate
Unwrap chocolate and chop it into small pieces. Savethe crumbs. Place small pieces and crumbs in a microwave safe bowl.
Set time (depending on amount of chocolate you want to temper) for about 1 minute at 50-75% power. When finished, remove from microwave and stir well. If it has not all melted, return and continue at 15 to 20 second intervals until ALMOST all has melted. Remove and continue to stir until it is completely melted. Set aside and allow to sit until chocolate reaches room temperature. Repeat microwaving for 30 to 45 second at 50 to 75% of power until well heated and smooth but not hot. Do NOT let it boil.
Set aside again and let it return to room temperature.
Heating and cooling twice is usually enough – but I like to do it a third time.
This can be done on the stove top, but you must watch it VERY carefully so that it doesn’t burn. Originally when I was taught, we did it over a double boiler to insure that the chocolate didn’t burn; but if any steam gets into the chocolate, it will ‘seize’ up and become unusable for dipping. (It can sometimes be saved by adding ghee or clarified butter, but only for frostings, fudge, etc.)
If possible, get the long stemmed strawberries. They are easier to dip – and look prettier (and are easier to eat, too). Wash them and gently pat them completely dry.
Line a rimmed cookie sheet with waxed paper, foil or parchment paper (do not use spray). Holding the long stem (or insert a toothpick into the top leaf just deep enough to hold it, dip the strawberry into the tempered chocolate as deeply as you want it coated. Let the excess drip back into the bowl. Set the strawberry on the prepared cookie sheet and continue until all are dipped. Place in the refrigerator to set.
If you are planning to decorate them simply (white chocolate swirls, or milk chocolate <don’t forget to temper them also>, chopped nuts, etc.) you can do this before setting them on the sheet. If you plan to do something fancy (tuxedo, double or triple dips, etc.), let them set up complete, then do your next layer(s) the same way. Decorate, then let them set up before adding another layer.
Keep in mind that these can be done for other holidays as well. Use a thin layer of tinted frosting for Halloween; red and green Christmas lights, sports equipment. We’ll touch on these later in the year.
Meanwhile, have a wonderful Valentine’s Day and remember that you are all MY VALENTINES!