I have a confession to make: I haven't really felt much like baking at home lately.
I'm not exactly sure what it is..... This semester is much more stressful than I anticipated and has been much more waring on my spirit. Plus, my kitchen scale battery dieds and I haven't had a chance to replace the battery yet.
But, with Valentine's day coming, I knew I needed to get some sort of inspiration and create something I could mail to some of my friends and family.
I'm taking a Candies & Confectionaries course this semester, and although it isn't my favorite class, I decided to stretch myself and do more candy work and make homemade candy boxes to mail. In addition to the candies I made, I purchased ones made in my class and in an advanced class.
Really, though, all this home project did was make me even more frustrated..... I am COMPLETELY CONVINCED that I am never meant to be a chocolatier. Oye.
Anyway, my contribution to these candy boxes was homemade Mounds and Almond Joys. I found my recipes here.
Candies, ready to be cut to individual size.
Why Mounds and Almond Joys? Well, A really really likes coconut, so I knew I wanted to make them for him :) But I've also got a couple friends with nut allergies, so I made sure there would be nut-free candies to include in their boxes....
Yes, I made extra especially sure not to contaminate the Mounds with the nuts from the Almond Joys..... I cut and dipped the Mounds first before finishing the almond joys.
Candies waiting to be dipped in tempered chocolate.
The whole process was rather an ordeal..... Everything, baking-wise, lately seems to be an ordeal. The first time I made the coconut filling, I overcooked the sugar mixture because my thermometer malfunctioned once the coconut was added. And so instead of nice, chewy coconut centers, I had hard, sticky coconut centers that probably would have taken fillings out of teeth! So, I started over. The second time, I just cooked the syrup and coconut mixture slightly instead of relying on the thermometer. (NOTE: I rarely advocate not using a thermometer, but this is one instance where I would).
Then came the tempering of the chocolate for dipping the centers in. This portion of the project is also known as hell. I have a great dislike for tempering chocolate in class. But it's even worse at home where you do not have an endless supply of chocolate and/or cocoa butter on hand (especially high quality chocolate pieces) nor do you have a marble slab. Armed with bars of Ghiradelli chocolate (which I first had to chop), my thermometer, a microwave, a spatula, and other necessary equipment, I set about the temper and dip the chocolate......
Sorry there are no pictures of this process. I was too busy feeling like I should smash my head against the wall.... repeatedly.
Eventually I dipped everything, but it took several hours (complete with the point where I had to start COMPLETELY OVER on the chocolate part because I mis-set the microwave timer and broke the temper), I lost most of my sanity, and the candies looked ugly. But they were done. And they tasted pretty good.
When it came time to packaging the candies, I decided to make a key! After all, I hate when boxes of chocolates don't say what each candy is. There's nothing worse than biting into a candy and discovering you weren't expecting that specific filling and perhaps do not even like it.
Oh, I also made lovely heart shaped marshmallows that were suppose to be included in the candy boxes. But alas, I didn't realize I had forgotten to include them until after I was finished mailing the packages..... Oh well, I'll use them in another recipe.
A finished box with the cards I photographed and designed.
Here's hoping everyone has a wonderful Valentine's Day filled with sweet treats!