Chocolate Covered Pretzels, Fruit, etc.

Chocolate Coated Pretzel and Dried Apricot

Chocolate Covered Pretzels, Fruit, etc.
Author: 
Recipe type: Snack, Candy, Gift
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Yield: Varies by size and type of dippers
 
During the holiday season, a favorite gift is chocolate coated pretzels, dried fruit, maraschino cherries or fresh fruit such as strawberries. The trick to making chocolate covered anything is to temper the chocolate. Once you have tempered the chocolate, you can dip whatever tasty treats you care to dip and place them on trays to cool completely and solidify. Properly tempered chocolate sets up easily into a glossy coating for your treats. While the process seemed scary to me for many years, it is a simple matter of controlling the temperature of the chocolate and mixing in unmelted chocolate to provide the seeds of the crystalline structure required for the glossy coat and snap of tempered chocolate.
Ingredients
  • Approximately 1 pound block or bar of good quality eating chocolate (Do not use chips as they don’t seem to temper the same way.)
  • Goodies to dip
Instructions
  1. To temper the chocolate use a serrated knife to make cuts that shave thin slices off the corners of the bar or block. Turn the block to get fairly small surfaces to cut and continue until the entire bar is cut up into small pieces.
  2. Put half the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl or in a double boiler. If you are using a double boiler, do not allow boiling water to touch the bottom of the upper pot or get into the chocolate, which will make the chocolate seize up into a hard mass that cannot be tempered and will have to be used in a recipe that calls for a lot of liquid. If you are using the microwave oven, cook on high power for 30-60 seconds and stir to equalize the temperature throughout the chocolate. Cook for another 30-60 seconds and stir again until all of the chocolate is melted and the temperature reaches 105-115 degrees F. If you need to, cook again in 10 second increments, stirring after each increment until you get a uniform temperature and all the chocolate is melted. If you are using a double boiler, stir over hot water just until the chocolate is all melted and reaches temperature. Remove from the heat. If you overshoot on the temperature, stir and let the chocolate cool at room temperature until it reaches 115 degrees F or less.
  3. Add the remaining half of the chocolate and stir until all the chocolate is uniformly melted and the temperature reaches 88 degrees F. At this point the chocolate is tempered and can be used for dipping.
  4. When I dip pretzels, I use the hook end of a large unbent paper clip to hold the pretzel. I dip it into the chocolate and drag it on a non-stick silicone sheet lined pan to remove excess chocolate and then place it on a clean non-stick silicone sheet or parchment paper to set. At this point you can garnish with sprinkles, colored or plain sugar crystals, or other decorations. You need to garnish before the chocolate sets, so work quickly. Fresh fruit such as strawberries can be held by their hulls and things like dried apricots can be held with tongs or fingers and dipped only half-way. When you dip things like fresh fruit or maraschino cherries, make sure that you have dried the surface before attempting to dip so that the chocolate will adhere.
  5. Leftover tempered chocolate and the drips you have on your “excess” pan can be gently reheated to 88 degrees if they get too solid to work with.

Clouds with Custard and Fruit



Clouds with Custard and Fruit
Author: 
Recipe type: Desserts, Vegetarian
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Yield: 12
 
This is a variation of the classic Pavlova dessert. It is a simple meringue, baked into crisp little nests for custard filling and ripe berries. I developed this recipe to enter a contest held by the local hospital for heart healthy recipes. This was a winner in the dessert category. The hospital’s chef prepared a wonderful dinner for us, serving our winning entries. It was a little early for strawberry season and that was the only berry he used as cost was probably a consideration, but he enhanced the flavor of the strawberries with a little lemon juice and thinly sliced mint leaves. You might choose to do the same. I find they make an elegant presentation when each person has an individual serving, but you must assemble the dessert just prior to serving or the custard and berries will start to melt your crisp meringue shell. If fat and calories are not an issue for you, you can use whole milk for the pudding and perhaps even serve the clouds with a pouf of whipped, sweetened heavy cream with a touch of vanilla extract. It would not even be outrageous if you decided to make only 8 servings with this quantity of ingredients. When making the meringue, separate the yolks from the whites while the eggs are cold so that the yolks won't break as easily. It is helpful to use a small bowl to put each egg white into while separating so that if you accidentally break a yolk, you will only lose the single egg white. Use a very clean bowl and beaters and ensure that not a bit of yolk has gotten into the egg whites. Any fat in the whites will stop them from beating up into a stiff meringue.
Ingredients
  • 4 egg whites (room temperature for greatest volume)
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 small package Vanilla Instant Pudding (can use sugar-free)
  • 1 1/2 cups cold low-fat or skim milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 2 cups fresh berries (any combination of, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries or sliced strawberries)
  • 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 225ºF.
  2. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Add granulated sugar gradually, beating until stiff, shiny peaks form.
  3. Spread the meringue into 12 small circles or one big circle on parchment-covered baking sheets, indenting center slightly. Bake 1-1/2 hours. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues in until cool. You can leave them overnight. If you make them ahead, store in an airtight container or they will absorb moisture and get sticky.
  4. Whisk the pudding mix, milk and flavoring in a medium bowl for 2 minutes until thickened. Refrigerate. When you are ready to serve, stir the pudding to make it creamier, place the meringues on plates and fill the centers with the pudding. Top with berries and dust with powdered sugar. (If you have a tea strainer or mesh ball, that is an easy way to sprinkle the sugar without much mess.)