“Rock On Chocolates” for Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Make “Rock On Chocolates” for someone you love battling Breast Cancer in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Cancer treatment can play havoc with your sense of taste. I remember when I was going through chemo water tasted off, crackers tasted like dirt, and salt was the only spice I enjoyed. But chocolate, well chocolate always tasted good.
“Rock On Chocolates” are a variation of what the French call “Rochers,” meaning rocks. This version has you mixing and matching dark chocolate, nuts, dried fruit, and spices for a crunchy dose of chocolate therapy that is customized to meet the taste sensibilities of a loved one battling Breast Cancer.
Yield: 15 chocolates
Time: 2 hours from start to finish
- Chocolate – ½ pound (8 oz) of high quality dark baking chocolate. I recommend using Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet baking bars. Ghirardelli chocolate baking bars are available at most grocery stores in 4 oz bars. You will need 2 bars for this recipe. Another great option is Trader Joe’s Pound Plus 70% Dark Chocolate or Bittersweet Chocolate bars. This is wonderful Belgian chocolate at a ridiculously low price ($4.99 as of Oct 1, 2012 at the Trader Joe’s near me.)
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.
- Mixes – This is where the customization occurs. Ask the person you are making the chocolates for what tastes good to them right now. To get the discussion started read the list of suggested nuts, dried fruits, and spices below. When a person goes through cancer treatment, their taste can be off. The beauty of custom chocolates is you can use ingredients that taste good to them at that moment in time.
Amount – You will need a total of 6 oz of nuts and/or dried fruit to mix with the chocolate. I recommend the proportion of 4 oz of nuts and 2 oz of dried fruit. However, you are encouraged to have fun mixing and matching).
Nuts (4 – 6 oz): Almonds silvers or walnut pieces. (NOTE: Almonds and walnuts are two of the healthiest nuts. Almonds are high in fiber, vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant), calcium, magnesium and selenium. Walnuts have the most antioxidants of all nuts and are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Dried fruit (2 oz): Dried cranberries, dried candied ginger, dried orange or lemon. (When I was going through chemo I found that citrus fruits tasted the best to me. The stronger the flavor the better.)
Nut Allergy Warning: Do not attempt to work with chocolate if you have nut allergies. Chocolate is often made in factories that also work with nuts.
- 2 microwave safe plastic bowls
- 1 spatula
- 1 cooking thermometer
- Baking paper (you can substitute a silicon mat or aluminum foil)
- 1 tray, cookies sheet, 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 work station. You will need a large empty counter surface or table to make and assemble the chocolates. I like to have my trays ready with baking paper and my fruits and nuts 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˚. Then you want to cool the chocolate to 88˚ – 91˚ degrees 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 which diminishes the appearance but not the taste. Chocolate bloom is the cocoa butter separating from the chocolate) and won’t harden properly (the chocolate will get hard in the refrigerator but start to soften when the chocolate reaches room temperature).
Melting the Chocolate
- Break the chocolate into small pieces and place 3/4 of the chocolate into a microwave safe plastic bowl. Place the remaining 1/4 of the chocolate aside in a separate bowl.
- Heat the chocolate for 1 minute.
- Remove the chocolate and stir. You will notice that when you first remove the chocolate from the microwave it retains its shape. Once you start stirring you will discover that the chocolate has indeed started to melt.
- If the chocolate is not completely melted, return the chocolate to the microwave and heat for 20 seconds. Remove and stir.
- Once all the chocolate is melted, take the temperature of the chocolate. It should be somewhere around 100˚ – 115˚. Don’t be alarmed if it is a bit higher or lower.
Cooling and Stirring the Chocolate
- 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˚. 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˚.
Ease of Making Small Amounts – 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 – Making the Rock On Chocolates
- Now that the chocolate is tempered you are ready to make the chocolates.
- Pour the nuts and dried fruit into the bowl and mix with a spoon.
- Spoon small amounts of the mixture onto the tray or cookie sheet covered in baking paper. You should have enough to make 15 rocks.
- Cool the chocolate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. You can leave the chocolate into the refrigerator up to 24 hours.
Shelf Life: Your chocolates 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.