This post would probably have been more useful if I’d done it BEFORE valentines day. I am, however, one of those people who blithely decides, an hour before dinnertime, that they’re going to make some ridiculously involved and time consuming meal. It usually works out for me, but it does mean that things are often a little late and, as you see by this post, not in time for informative blogs BEFORE the event in question. In this case, on the 13th I decided that I would make my usual cherry chocolates and experiment with something I’d never done before, which is making chocolate mint leaves. Instructional chocolate books often describe how to make chocolate leaves- get some non-poisonous stiff leaves with good veins, coat them with chocolate and then peel the leaf off once the chocolate sets. I figured, why not use an edible leaf and simply not peel it off? Well, you’ll see how that went later 🙂 Firstly, the cherry chocolates!
Making these is not hard. Really, truly, not. Messy yes, time consuming yes, hard hell no! It does require a little bit of forward planning. Firstly you need a packet of glace cherries which you will submerge in port at a minimum overnight. Basically the longer you leave them the more port-y they get. Mine had been in a jar on the kitchen bench for about a month, so they were pretty strong (more evidence of my lack of orgnisation, they were for something else and I never got round to using them 🙂 ). Melt about 200/300gm of dark chocolate in a double boiler. Take a long handled teaspoon and your ice cube tray (you do have an ice cube tray, don’t you?) and coat the inside of a hole thoroughly with chocolate. Make sure that you’ve picked a tray with holes big enough to fit at least one whole glace cherry in or you’ll have to cut them up. You don’t want to be jamming them in against the sides though or you’ll get cherry poking through and juices leaking, they need to just sit in so you get a complete chocolate seal on the outside.Of course, if they’re a bit big you need to cut them and add a bit more- you need a good balance of cherry to chocolate, so in the end I guess cutting them is inevitable unless you get a tray that’s just right.
As you can see, with this heart shape tray I’ve had to use 3 half cherries so that they fit well. You can get this particular tray from IKEA for a dollar 😀 They also have a flower shaped one that perfectly fits exactly one cherry, so it’s nice and easy to use. Once your cherries are in you just top it off with more chocolate. Give the tray a tap or two on the table to shake out any bubbles and smooth down the top (which will be the base when you turn them out) of the chocolates. There you go, liqueur chocolates! Throw them in the fridge, or even in the freezer if you’re in a hurry, and shake them out when you’re ready as you would an ice cube. Be bit more gentle though, you don’t want to break them. You can put different innards in them too- my mother uses crystallised ginger, and you could experiment with soaking other dried fruits in various liqueurs. You can drink the port the cherries were in to sustain yourself 🙂 I love it, it’s very sweet because of the cherries. You can also make a little treat for yourself that doesn’t have to set so you don’t starve, as below.
Next was making mint leaves. I’d never done this before, but I figured it couldn’t be that hard (har har). My plan was to coat one side of the mint leaf with chocolate, leaving the other side all green and pretty. Thus, I went out and picked a bunch of mint, selected the nicest leaves and put them on a tray covered with foil to dry (it was raining at the time). Once they’d dried out I began experimenting. The first thing I discovered was that the chocolate would much rather stick to me or the spoon rather than the leaf, which was annoying. Still, it stuck better to the underside than the top of the leaf. The second thing that was a problem was that if you’re making an actual chocolate leaf, you use something stiff like camellia leaves- mint leaves are quite soft and flexy and so it was very hard to press the chocolate onto it without it just flopping away. I got a lot of chocolate on my fingers while supporting the leaves at first and had to wash my hands a lot so I didn’t get it on the upper side, but I got better at it as I practiced. Thus, if you plan to try this, make sure you have plenty of mint leaves to practice with so that you can pick out the nicest ones. You can eat the less nice ones yourself 😀 Thirdly, you need plenty of room on your tray, as they take up more room chocolate coated than non-coated, mainly because you can’t put them as close to each other.
I tried a few ways of applying the chocolate- dipping in one side, painting it on with a spoon and dipping in the tip and leaving the top uncoated. I found the best was was to use the back of the spoon and completely coat one side. The half dip method looks good, but it leaves the uncovered half all floppy. Definitely put the chocolate on the underside of the leaf- the chocolate sticks better, and it looks better once it’s cooled. Finally, make sure you’re chocolate is fairly cool- the ones I did first went a little grey because the leaf got cooked by the heat in the chocolate, the ones I did when it was cool stayed much greener. The photo I have is horrible, but they look pretty good in real life, and you know what? They taste pretty damn good too 😀