Saturday, March 27, 2010

Temper N: Chocolate for Easter Candy-Part 1

I picked up this little bunny chocolate mold while shopping in the local Snohomish antique shops recently. The 4-inch bunny is a reproduction. I think he is the perfect size for a solid chocolate treat. I like the simplicity of him.

After I purchased the bunny, my curiosity was piqued. I went on ebay and bought a really cool chocolate egg mold. It has three different egg designs. My favorite is the basket weave. These are half eggs which will be marvelous filled with coconut or peanut butter cream, or some type of ganache.

Tonight I decided to try my hand at tempering chocolate.

When tempered properly, chocolate will solidify with a glossy smooth sheen that is ideal for chocolate easter bunnies and chocolate filled eggs. If chocolate is not tempered correctly it tends to develop a white powdery coating called "bloom". Bloom isn't harmful, it just isn't very attractive.

The task of tempering is a little intimidating- but, the good news is that if you mess it up, you can just start over and no harm is done. So there really is nothing to be afraid of here

Callebaut and Valharona are two types of excellent quality chocolate preferred by expert chocolatiers. Unfortunately, I was not able to find these (I confess I did not look very hard). I selected Dilettante because they are a local operation and their quality is high.

I set to work and followed chef, David Lebovitz',advice for tempering. He makes it sound so darn easy:

Tempering Chocolate

(excerpt from:

1. The first step is melting the chocolate in a clean, dry bowl set over simmering water, to about 115° F.

2. The second step it to let it cool to the low 80°s F. I drop a good-sized chunk of solid (and tempered) chocolate in, which provides insurance by 'seeding' the melted chocolate with good beta crystals. While cooling, stir frequently. Motion equals good crystallization, aka, tempering.

3. The last step is the most important.

It's bringing the chocolate up to the perfect temperature, where it's chock-full of those great beta crystals. This occurs in most dark chocolates between 88° and 91° F. (Check with manufacturer if unsure about your particular chocolate.)

4. Remove what's left of the chunk of 'seed' chocolate, and your chocolate is dip-worthy: you can dip all the chocolates you want and all will be perfectly tempered. Don't let it get above 91° F or you'll have to begin the process all over again. If it drops below the temperatures, rewarm it gently to bring it back up.

My Result: Overall, I found the process really was quite easy. It takes a little while for the chocolate to cool to the 80 degrees and I caught myself a couple of times wanting to move on before the temperature was right. However, I stayed the course and my tempering results were pretty good.

The molding process was not so successful...

The bunny came out of its mold easily, but I was immediately aware of several air bubbles that formed. This causes the bunny to look a bit tattered. He is still cute though and I am pleased with this first attempt. I will have to find a better way to fill this mold so that bubbles are prevented.

The eggs were a bit more difficult. I had trouble removing these from the mold and it shows. I need to research better options for extracting these. Overall, though I like how the patterns are going to look on the chocolate.

The beautiful thing about working with chocolate as a medium is that tastes so good. I am sure that I am well over my calorie count for today from all of the tasting I have done. These delicious little mishaps are going right back into the double boiler and I will need to apply a little research to solve these chocolate molding issues (hopefully, before Easter next Sunday). I will keep you posted on the progress of that.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Stir N the Political Pot: Of Lemons and Healthcare Reform...

While, I never intended that this blog be used as a forum for political commentary, I felt compelled to write today on the economics of the proposed healthcare reform bill which is being voted on today by our government.

I consider myself an independent, because I tend to just shake my head in disbelief most of the time at what our government thinks is a good idea. I have no allegience to either party. I am progressive on the topic of human rights and freedoms, but quite conservative fiscally.

I believe that the New Healthcare bill that our government is voting on today is a really poor idea. This plan is a real lemon and I think it is only fitting that I use the following analogy to get my point across....

Let's say I own a lemonade stand. I pay for lemons and sugar and the space where I conduct my business. The water I use to make my lemonade is paid for by the people who I rent my shop from. I price my lemonade at $1 a cup. This covers the costs of running my business and adds a small percentage so that I can also make a small profit.

Now say that the owner of my shop comes to me and tells me that the water is no longer going to be free. I will have to pay extra for the water, because I cannot make lemonade without water and – while I regret the impact on my customers, I have no choice but to raise the price of each serving of lemonade to S1.10 per cup to cover this increased expense.

During this time, the person who sells me lemons and sugar has been hit with increased taxes on the sale of their products. They regret to inform me that they have no choice but to raise the prices of lemons and sugar so that they can cover their increased expense imposed by these taxes. I- in turn- have no choice but to pass that cost on to my customers and now a cup of lemonade will cost $1.30 to cover my increased expense.

The government steps in and tells my customers that drinking a cup of lemonade each day is now mandatory and those who don’t buy lemonade each day will be fined $5 per day. As a seller of lemonade, I am thrilled because demand for my product has instantly increased.

While my costs for ingredients per cup remain constant. I have to hire additional help to meet this demand and pay for a bigger shop and extra equipment. I set a new price on a cup of lemonade to a price that ensures I can meet these costs and not lose profit.

Yet, I find that I also must ensure that I am competitive. I see that Lou's Lemonade stand down the street is selling Lemonade for $4.50 a cup now. I realize that if I just substitue the costly sugar for a more inexpensive (and untaxed) artificial sweetner and then use a bit less lemon in each cup, I may be able to undercut Lou's price by 25cents a cup. I set my new price at $4.25 a cup, and soon Lou has no choice but to follow suit. He changes the quality of his recipe and settles on a more competitive price.

This is real business economics and I believe it is an accurate description of how our insurance companies are going to respond if the Health Care bill passes today. Take away the subsidies to Medicare (free water), impose taxes on drug companies and medical device manufacturers (lemon and sugar suppliers) and the insurance companies (lemonade stand) are going to be forced to increase their prices and decrease the quality of coverage.

When the government makes healthcare mandatory- you and I will be further hit because we will have no choice but to do business with the insurance companies. This is great news for the insurance companies. Insurance companies are big business! Their goal- like any other business- is to cut costs and increase revenues. All increased costs will be passed to the end users (you and me) –everyone will be paying more and getting less.

I – for one- will be hoping that the Health care reform bill fails today. I do believe that Americans need access to affordable quality healthcare. This plan is not going to provide that.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Cook N: Snow Ice Cream

This post is dedicated to my brother, Dennis, and his family who live in Denver, Colorado.

Yesterday, Dennis reported on facebook that they woke up to snow. I believe that this is not an uncommon occurance in Denver this time of year, but it is a stark contrast to the beautiful spring-like weather that we have experienced in the Pacific Northwest for most of the winter. ( is supposed to be a sweltering 70 degrees here today!)

I thought this might provide them a little "taste" of summer at their house too....

The link and video below is from the website "Living on a Dime". The recipe is for Snow Ice Cream.

It would seem that the only drawback to snow ice cream is that it is a little difficult to make if you don't have snow. Those of us in more "tropical" climates will still need to make our ice cream the old fashioned way.

Take a moment and visit They have a multitude of great ideas for cutting costs and living frugally.