My Aunt Vivian always bought the most exotic fruit she could find to serve on Rosh Hashanah.
When I was young the only fruit you could find at stores were apples, oranges and bananas. But Aunt Vivian would scour the markets for something new or exotic. One year it was star fruit. Another year it was a big ripe pomegranate.
Today these fruits are readily available. But when I was young serving exotic fruits was something we did for the High Holidays.
This year add the tradition of serving special fruit at your Rosh Hashanah table by making homemade chocolate-dipped dried fruit.
QUANTITY: 40 pieces of dipped fruit TIME: 2 hours from start to finish
1 lb high quality baking chocolate.
Buy Baking Chocolate. Baking chocolate is found in the baking section of the store. It usually comes in bars (4 oz – 6 oz) or 1 lb blocks. Make sure it says “chocolate for baking” or “premium baking chocolate” on the wrapping. You want to avoid accidentally buying unsweetened chocolate. Also do not substitute chocolate chips. What makes chocolate chips keep their shape when you bake them in cookies is exactly the reason why you want to avoid using these bake-stable chocolate morsels for making candy. Kosher Chocolate: Many of the finer baking chocolate is kosher.
Dried Fruit (one package of each)
Pineapple rings, mango slices, and flattened banana work well with chocolate.
2 microwave safe plastic bowls
1 cooking thermometer
Baking paper (you can substitute a silicon mat or aluminum foil)
2-3 trays, cookies sheets, or any flat surface that will fit into your refrigerator.
STEP 1 – Preparing Your Work Area
Before you begin working with the chocolate, prepare your workstation. You will need a large empty counter surface or table to make the chocolate-dipped fruit. I like to have my trays ready with baking paper and my dried fruits in small separate bowls before I prepare the chocolate.
Avoid Odors in Refrigerator: Chocolate will absorb smell. Make sure your refrigerator is odor free before you use it to cool your chocolate. You don’t want your chocolate to smell like last night’s dinner.
STEP 2 – Preparing the Chocolate
To begin you need to prepare the chocolate through a process of heating, cooling, and stirring called tempering. The heating melts the chocolate and breaks down its crystal structure. The cooling and stirring makes sure that the right crystals (the beta crystals) become dominant so that your chocolate will harden and have a nice glossy shine. There are specific temperature marks you need to work within. You want to melt the chocolate at 100-115 degree Fahrenheit. Then you want to cool the chocolate to 88-91 degree Fahrenheit.
The Importance of Tempering: If you try using chocolate by just melting it and not tempering it, your chocolate will have grey streaks—called chocolate bloom. The bloom may diminish the appearance but not the taste since chocolate bloom is merely the cocoa butter separating from the chocolate. Also, the chocolate won’t harden properly. The chocolate will get hard in the refrigerator but will start to soften when the chocolate reaches room temperature.
Melting the Chocolate
Break the chocolate into small pieces and place ¾ of the chocolate into a microwave safe plastic bowl. Place the remaining ¼ of the chocolate aside in a separate bowl. The ¼ that you put aside small should be broken into pieces no larger than chocolate chips. The smaller the pieces the better.
When you prepare the chocolate for melting, break it into small pieces (the smaller the better). This aids in smooth and even melting.
Heat the larger bowl of chocolate in the microwave for 1 minute.
Remove the chocolate and stir. You will notice that when you first remove the chocolate from the microwave it retains its shaped. Once you start stirring you will discover that the chocolate has indeed started to melt.
Return the chocolate to the microwave and heat for 20 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir. Because chocolate burns easily, it is best to heat it for short intervals.
Continue heating the chocolate for 20-second intervals until it is mostly melted.
When you have only a few small pieces left that are unbelted, do not return the bowl to the microwave. In stead stir the chocolate until the last few pieces melt.
Once all the chocolate is melted, take the temperature of the chocolate. It should be somewhere around 100-115 degrees. Don’t be alarmed if it is higher.
You are now going to cool the chocolate. To do this you will add the small bowl of chocolate pieces you put aside to the melted chocolate in four batches. This is called “seeding.” After you add each batch stir the chocolate until all the chocolate is melted. Be patient. The chocolate will melt if you continue stirring the chocolate.
After you add each batch take the temperature of the chocolate. The chocolate is ready when it is between 88-91 degrees. Because chocolate is impacted by ambient room temperature, your chocolate can cool faster one day than another. Some days you will need to add all four batches to cool the chocolate. Other times the chocolate will be cool by the second or third batch of seeding. If it is a really warm day, the chocolate may not be cool enough even after you add the fourth batch. If this should happen, place the bowl of chocolate in the refrigerator for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes remove the bowl and stir. Then take the temperature again. Repeat this process until the temperature is down to between 88-91 degrees Fahrenheit.
The chocolate is ready for dipping when the temperature reaches between 88 and 91 degrees.
Temper Chocolate in Small Amounts for Better Results – Chocolate is easiest to temper when done in small amounts. When you temper large amounts of chocolate it takes longer to cool the chocolate to a consistent temperature because the chocolate on the top of the bowl will cool faster than the chocolate on the bottom of the bowl.
Testing to Make Sure Chocolate is Ready – You can test to make sure your chocolate is ready by dipping a knife in the chocolate and then placing the knife in the refrigerator for 4-5 minutes. If the chocolate turns hard and shiny within that time your chocolate is ready.
STEP 3 – Dipping the Fruit
When the chocolate is tempered you are ready to dip the fruit. You will be dipping each piece of fruit individually.
Take one piece of fruit in your fingers and dip it halfway into the chocolate. Then take the fruit and place it on the baking sheet.
Continue dipping each piece of fruit until all the fruit is dipped.
Place the dipped fruit on a tray lined with baking paper and cool in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
You need to work quickly because once the chocolate gets below 88 degrees it will start to harden. If it does harden, you need to go through the tempering process again.
Cool the chocolate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. You can leave the fruit dipped chocolate in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
Shelf Life: Your chocolate-dipped fruit should stay good for 2 months. However good chocolate does best when stored in a cool and dry place. Extreme variations in temperature will cause grey streaks to form.
Make chocolate-dipped dried fruit a part of your Rosh Hashanah tradition.
For more information on how to dip dried fruit and other items in chocolate, check out this wonderful video by Peter P. Greweling of the Culinary Institute of America. Greweling is the author of Chocolates and Confections at Home with The Culinary Institute of America. Greweling has produced an accessibly written recipe book that refreshingly demystifies working with chocolate for the home cook.