Monday, October 10, 2005

Chocolate Strawberries (and Lazy Fondue)

One of the pure joys of strawberry season is to have chocolate-dipped strawberries. They're not as hard as you might think, though you do have to prepare them sufficiently in advance so as to let them cool to room temperature.

You will need:
Washed, firm strawberries (as fresh as possible without exploding into juice when you handle them)
Chocolate of your choice (do NOT get melting chocolate, which just tastes waxy)
A double-boiler
Waxed paper

You put some water in the bottom pan of the double boiler, heat it to boiling, and turn off the burner. Put your chocolate in the top pan and let it just melt (stirring helps.) Add some cool chocolate to help bring down the temperature and stir it in. Exposing the chocolate to air is called "conching" and helps to give it a good taste and texture— but since you're using prepared chocolate, and proper conching takes days, don't worry about it. :) Then you dip the strawberries (using a spoon helps to coat them):

Place the dipped strawberries on waxed paper and let cool completely. If you put them in the fridge, you increase the chance of "bloom", which is the mottled surface that sometimes appears on melted and re-hardened chocolate. While unattractive, bloom is not in the least dangerous and can be gotten rid of by re-melting and mixing the chocolate. In fact, I used chocolate bars with bloom for coating these strawberries, and as you can see, they look great.

(Incidentally, that lighter chocolate of the somewhat unfortunate color is Symphony bars, extremely milk chocolate. It's what I had on hand. Dark chocolate is best for strawberries as the bitterness is a perfect foil for the sweet berries.)

If you are having trouble making the chocolate melt smoothly, I have been told that margarine (not butter!) can help the chocolate melt properly. I have never had trouble making the chocolate melt.

I have also been told that you can melt chocolate in the microwave. (Which makes sense, because melted chocolate bars were how they discovered the cooking applications of microwaves.) Be extremely careful if you try this, as chocolate gets very hot very fast, and do no longer than 30 second bursts, if that.

Now on to the lazy person's chocolate fondue. It's simple; you go on a picnic, you take your chocolate bars, unwrap them, place them in a sturdy container (not, I repeat, NOT one-use plastic containers)... and then you leave them in the car with the windows rolled up.

On an overcast summer's day where the temperature is in the 70s, a closed car in the sun can get over 160ยบ in half an hour. And, of course, everyone knows how melted candy bars get in your pocket on a warm day, so why not take advantage of this fact? When it comes time for dessert, simply get the pot-o-melted-choc out of the car and dip your fruit and your cake in the melted chocolate. You could even do a reverse S'more and dip marshmallows in melted chocolate and sandwich them between graham crackers.

Dang. Now I want S'mores.

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