Archives for posts with tag: jess

It has become a holiday tradition for my friend and I to spend a weekend making chocolates for family and friends, but we were lacking the needed inspiration this year so decided to take a break. I couldn’t quite let it go completely so decided to have some friends over for an evening of hot cocoa and cider and it was so much fun!

Jess (of chocolate making fame) happened to be down to visit a couple days before the party so I roped her into helping me try homemade marshmallows. We had a Smitten recipe so I was confident, and it was justified. They came out perfectly and were the hit of the night.

marshmallows

The night of the party I had a ton of fun prepping toppings and putting them into little bowls. Then I heated up some almond milk and melted a serious amount of bittersweet chocolate.

melting chocolate

Adding melted chocolate to hot milk never quite works out the way I want. I stir forever and it still doesn’t quite come together. So I risked a pot full to the brim and used the magic stick (stick blender, that is) and tada! hot chocolate perfection! It was silky smooth and delicious. Incredibly rich, but delicious. I paired that with a second pot of hot cider.

One of the easiest parties I’ve pulled together and it was a perfect, mellow evening in the midst of holiday craziness.

the spread

Toppings included some absolutely incredible pumpkin spice liqueur (that appeared after the photo) that made hot cider magic, maple bourbon, Bailey’s, marshmallows, peppermint sticks, cinnamon sticks, candied ginger, orange zest, chocolate shavings, salted caramel, sea salt (the most popular topping) and my personal favorite: star anise. The great thing is that most of the toppings worked with either the hot chocolate or the hot cider.

toppings

We kept the servings small so everyone could try a few versions, then enjoyed a night of yummy drinks and good conversation.

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This is one of my all-time favorite splurges – a cooking class at the Dirty Apron. Wow, do they know what they’re doing, with every tiny detail perfectly thought through. You arrive to wine and appetizers at a family-style live-edged table. Once everyone is settled you move into the classroom/kitchen for your first demonstration. Then everyone breaks into individual cooking stations to make that course. Once finished, it’s back to the dining room to enjoy your creation with more wine. Repeat 3 times. Normally it’s an appetizer, two entrees and dessert. My expectations are higher each time and surpassed every time.

This class was BC Dine and Vine: A Celebration of Local Flavours and may be my favorite yet. The dishes were incredibly tasty and for once I was happy with my plating each time (I’ll chalk that up to the good demo). Time to start saving up for next year’s class!

Here’s what we made:

Proof I really did make the food!

Proof I really did make the food!

More proof :)

More proof 🙂

Prawn and yuzu ginger vegetable gyozas (I'll make these again for sure!)

Prawn and yuzu ginger vegetable gyozas (I’ll make these again for sure!)

Crispy seared sockeye salmon with a scallion potato rosti. (I still can't believe I made and plated this!!)

Crispy seared sockeye salmon with a scallion potato rosti. (I still can’t believe I made and plated this!!)

Crispy BC duck breast, sherry orange gastrique and apple, green bean saute.

Crispy BC duck breast, sherry orange gastrique and apple, green bean saute. (This one and the dessert are Jess’s creations)

Apple and almond tart with chai ice cream and vanill maple (I only ate half the duck course so I'd have room for dessert)

Apple and almond tart with chai ice cream and vanill maple (I only ate half the duck course so I’d have room for dessert)

The menu with the local wine pairings.

The menu with the local wine pairings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last year we thought we ruined the chocolates and they were perfect. This year we got lazy and paid the price…

We were both over whelmed, feeling the stress of the holidays and decided to try and be nice to ourselves during the chocolate making process. We sat on the couch and talked now and then, we ate three meals of real food and there may have been wine. And there may also have been chocolate that wasn’t well tempered. The problem is, you don’t know how the tempering process went until you’re 10 hours in and there’s no going back. It was time to take the chocolates out of the molds and well, they didn’t come out. There was mild panic as we tried again and then as the realization sunk in that they might not come out at all the real panic began. After some freezer sessions and some serious banging of the molds outside where we could make more noise, we finally got (almost) all of the chocolates out of the molds. They weren’t perfect, but at that point at least they existed and we new that our friends & family would appreciate the story, appreciate that we tried to enjoy the process and most of all appreciate the fact that they still tasted amazing!

The adventure begin early this year - testing various combinations for the centers. Here are two versions using Apple Cider Syrup. One was apple cider caramel and the other an apple cider, vanilla and white chocolate ganache. We went with the ganache - aka Apple Pie Alamode (although I forgot to add the cinnamon to the final batch).

The adventure begin early this year – testing various combinations for the centers. Here are two versions using Apple Cider Syrup. One was apple cider caramel and the other an apple cider, vanilla and white chocolate ganache. We went with the ganache – aka Apple Pie A la mode (although I forgot to add the cinnamon to the final batch).

Next up - my favorite chocolate combination - Passion Fruit! I tried four, passion fruit gelato jell and the most incredible passion fruit jam. Each with white and milk chocolate. The passionfruit jam with milk chocolate was the clear winner (and I think the overall chocolate winner of the year, but I'm biased)

Next up – my favorite chocolate combination – Passion Fruit! I tried four: passion fruit gelato jell and the most incredible passion fruit jam, each with white and milk chocolate. The passion fruit jam with milk chocolate was the clear winner (and I think the overall chocolate winner of the year, but I’m biased)

The four centers: Apple Pie A la Mode, Passion Fruit, Burnt (really burnt - oops) Caramel, and a Dark Milk Chocolate to pair with the Honey Roasted Peanut Butter

The four centers: Apple Pie A la Mode, Passion Fruit, Burnt (really burnt – oops) Caramel, and a Dark Milk Chocolate to pair with the Honey Roasted Peanut Butter

Five pounds of beautiful bittersweet chocolate.

Five pounds of beautiful bittersweet chocolate.

Four molds at the ready.

Four molds at the ready.

Getting there - Shells have been set, fillings are in, sealing them and then futile attempts to release them are still to come.

Getting there – Shells have been set, fillings are in, sealing them and then futile attempts to release them are still to come.

While the chocolates set, we used the extra to dip Swedish Fish (addictive!), pretzels and apricots. And to make bark: peppermint candy, dried nuts & fruit, and cashew, toffee & sea salt.

While the chocolates set, we used the extra to dip Swedish Fish (addictive!), pretzels and apricots. And to make bark: peppermint candy, dried nuts & fruit, and cashew, toffee & sea salt.

We blame the wine, for this year's not so perfectly tempered chocolates.

We blame the wine, for this year’s not so perfectly tempered chocolates.

My other favorite part - packaging them up!

My other favorite part – packaging them up!

To continue the chocolate theme, I had a Hot Chocolate Bar set-up for friends as they came to pick-up their chocolates.

To continue the chocolate theme, I had a Hot Chocolate Bar set-up for friends as they came to pick-up their chocolates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Time for my good friend Jess and I to commit ourselves to chocolate making for one full weekend. It’s daunting every time and yet, I love it every time. It’s always more work than we remembered and it’s always more rewarding too. One of my favorite parts is deciding on our many flavors and we hit some winners this year!

But first things first, seven pounds of chocolate need to be chopped before it can be tempered and turned into shells. This year I borrowed and new weapon from a friend and I still had to chop a block every other day but each one sure went a lot faster!

ready to chopNext, up heading to Vancouver – I even had snow on the drive to help set the festive mood – and getting all set-up. We were both exhausted from a couple hard weeks so tried to take our time, lay everything out and only do things one at a time (and I still forgot to steep the chai in the cream for the chai truffles and tried putting the wrong filling in the wrong mold – but we managed to catch both things early and fix them!).

ready to go

Each mold with the makings for the centers

3 types of ganache and 1 vegan caramel waiting to be put into the chocolates

3 types of ganache and 1 vegan caramel waiting to be put into the chocolates

Next up the couple hours it takes to temper the chocolate. It has to be heated to the correct temp, then lowered back down and then brought up to the magical two degree range we then have to keep it at for the many, many hours it takes to finish the molds. We have learned to use as much chocolate as we can afford since the increased volume is easier to keep at a steady temperature.

Step one, coat the molds with chocolate. Step two, fill with ganache. Step three seal up the molds with more chocolate. (each step has to sit and set-up for an hour or so).

Molds all sealed up

Molds all sealed up

Jess has the hardest job - gently scraping the excess chocolate off (without breaking any) so we can release them from the molds.

Jess has the hardest job – gently scraping the excess chocolate off (without breaking any) so we can release them from the molds.

We spent quite a few hours this year convinced we’d lost temper on the chocolate and sure they were all going to be streaky and ugly. There was total joy (and maybe a few tears) when we unmolded the first batch and discovered that they were perfect!

Vegan burnt caramel

Vegan burnt caramel

This was the other saga of the chocolate making – my quest for vegan caramel. I originally wanted caramel that was soft enough to be a good center, but hard enough that we could cut it and dip it into the chocolate. I failed on all six tries. Luckily I saved this batch of burnt caramel – it just tasted too good to toss. We piped it into our new mold and it ended up being the best chocolate of the season! Gotta love (and trust in) happy accidents.

Here are our other creations:

White chocolate peppermint

White chocolate peppermint

Milk chocolate caramel hazlenut

Milk chocolate caramel hazelnut

Dark milk chocolate chai

Dark milk chocolate chai

We also dipped vegan peanut butter balls, pretzels and a few swedish fish into the chocolate.

pretzels and pb balls

And, we’ve learned to use all the excess chocolate to make tasty bark – another way to play with new and tasty flavors.

This year we had cranberry, macadamia nut & white chocolate; toffee, cashews & bacon salt and "kitchen sink bark" with the rest of the white chocolate, macadamia nuts, cashews and a few hazelnuts.

This year we had cranberry, macadamia nut & white chocolate; toffee, cashews & bacon salt and “kitchen sink bark” with the rest of the white chocolate, macadamia nuts, cashews and a few hazelnuts.

The next day was my other favorite part – packaging up all our pretty chocolates!

All this stuff and I stuck to simple white boxes with either red or green bakers twine.

All this stuff and I stuck to simple white boxes with either red or green bakers twine.

The vegan box (peanut butter balls and cardamom caramels)

The vegan box (peanut butter balls and cardamom caramels)

ptrezel boxsampler box

And finally, the best part of all. Giving these treasures out to friends and family!

Well that and starting to think up possibilities for next year 🙂