Where to start? Alice Medrich’s new book, Pure Dessert is full of delightful and unique sweet temptations. However, none of them seem to be too sugar-sweet in flavor as the premise of her book was to bring out the natural essence of the main ingredient. In her latest venture, she seeks to explore unusual combinations, or introduce nuances of other components that may enhance the overall taste of the end product. Her inspiration for the book came from this experience: “Faced with an overly sweet, complicated dessert or one made with mundane ingredients, I sometimes long instead for a bowl of plain yogurt drizzled with honey and sprinkled with walnuts or pistachios, a piece of bittersweet chocolate, or some ripe figs.” Her objective was to create simple desserts from just a few of the best ingredients. High quality ingredients are available now: organic yogurts, milk, cheeses, the best chocolates and cocoas – all these can “…elevate simple desserts…”
I decided to start with the Iced Citron Vodka chocolates, as I was fortunate to have tasted these particular nugget of decadence in her recent demo class. It was funny because I was the least interested in this particular recipe at the beginning (for one thing I hate mint chocolate), but after that initial bite that led to the crackling of its crisp chocolate covering, my tongue encountered the creamy ganache that was nestled so enticingly inside. The gustatory perception of an unknown but infinitely refreshing flavor brought me great pleasure. What was it? The mint? The citron vodka? Or was it the clever combination of both? Whatever it was it made me want to replicate these as soon as possible in my own kitchen.
And so I did.
Iced Citron Vodka chocolates with Fresh Mint
From "Pure Dessert" by Alice Medrich
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
- 1 cup plus 2 to 3 extra tbsp. of heavy cream
- 9 oz. standard semisweet or bittersweet chocolate without a percentage on the label, or any marked 55% through 60%. (To use higher percentage chocolate, consult Chocolate Notes below)
- 2 tbs. Citron Vodka such as Hangar One Buddha’s Hand (or rum)
- 12-16 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, for dipping
Chocolate Notes: Make adjustments for high percentage chocolates as follows: For Choclate marked 60% to 64%: use 7 oz (with or without liquer).For Choclate marked 70% to 72%: use 5 ½ oz (or 6 if using the rum) of chocolate and stir 2 tbsp. of sugar into the cream before heating it. Pour only half of the hot cream and sugar over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted, then add the remaining cream and stir to blend thoroughly.
- Fine strainer
- 8-inch square baking pan, bottom and sides lined with foil
- Instant read thermometer
To make the mint infusion: In a small container, combine the mint and 1 cup of the cream. Cover and refrigerate over night. Pour the mixture into a strainer set over a glass-measuring cup, pressing on the min leaves to extract the cream. Discard the mint and add additional cream to make one cup.
To make the ganache: Chop the 9 oz. of chocolate into pieces no bigger than pieces of almonds and place it in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a low boil. Pour over the chocolate. Stir gently with a rubber spatula until chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth; do not whisk or splash the mixture by stirring too briskly or the texture of the ganache will be cakey and granular instead of smooth and creamy. Stir in the liquor and mix only enough to blend. Strain the ganache (to refine the texture) into the lined pan, tilting it to level. Cover and freeze until hard.
Have ready a baking pan lined with waxed paper. Lift the sheet of ganache out of its pan, using the edges of the foil. Flip it over onto another sheet of foil set on a cutting board and peel of the bottom foil. Cut square centers: Using your longest knife blade dipped in hot water and wiped dry before each cut, cut the sheet of ganache into 6 or 7 equal strips, slightly wider than one inch. Cut across the strips to make squares. Work quickly to prevent thawing. Transfer the centers to the lined pan. Cover the pan with foil or plastic wrap and place it in the freezer until centers are rock hard. Keep them frozen until the moment you are ready to dip. (Centers may be sealed in an airtight container, and kept frozen up to 2 months.)
To dip the centers: Chop and melt the 16 oz of chocolate in a thoroughly dry heat proof medium bowl set in a pan of barely simmering water. Be sure that all your utensils are dry so that moisture does not come in contact with the chocolate. Stir frequently to hasten melting.
When the chocolate is almost completely melted, remove the bowl from the skillet and wipe the bottom dry. Stir until the chocolate is entirely smooth and melted. Cool to 100 to 105 F. Place the bowl in front of you. Set a cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper to the right of the chocolate if you are right handed (or to the left if you are left handed).
Remove one half of the frozen centers from the freezer and place them on a plate to the left of the chocolate (if you are right handed).
Place a center in the bowl of chocolate and use the dipping fork to flip it over and push it under the surface of the chocolate. Slip the fork under the center and lift it out of the chocolate. Tap the fork on the sides of the bowl to drain excess chocolate back into the bowl. Wipe the tines of fork against the edge of the bowl before setting the chocolate onto the lined pan. Repeat with the remaining centers on the plate. Use the dipping fork to drizzle chocolate randomly over the chocolates.
Work quickly to prevent the centers from thawing before they are dipped and to prevent them from melting in the warm chocolate. Don’t let the dipped center rest on the fork any longer than necessary or the center will stick on the fork. Remove the remaining centers from the freezer and dip them as before. Refrigerate the dipped chocolates at least long enough to harden the coating before removing them from the paper. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or freeze for 3 months. Serve cold, preferably on a tray set in ice.
I did not have much trouble with the recipe until it came time for dipping the chocolates. Alice made it look so easy in class. No matter what I did the chocolate centers kept on sticking to the dipping fork. Finally I used a salad fork and it was easier to slide the centers off to the waiting pan. You definitely need to work quickly since the ganache thaws really fast specially with the hot weather we are having right now. Instead of drizzling additional chocolate for decoration, I drew a curvy line on the chocolate.
One thing you must remember, especially with heating plain chocolate is to keep water droplets away from it. A drop of water can cause your chocolate to seize and be grainy. Alice always stressed this point whenever she melts chocolate over simmering water in the pan. She always had a towel to wipe the bottom once she takes it out.
The taste of my dipped chocolates was less intense than what Alice had made. She did say that the inspiration for these chocolates came from the Hangar One Buddha’s Hand citron vodka. I could not find the same label in my locale. It is available on-line and I might just cave-in and order it. Also my mint infusion tasted a bit weak. I just cut my mint into strips, I shall chop them up some more next time to heighten the flavor of the mint. She advises against heating the cream with the mint in it to get the infusion. The refreshing flavor of the mint gets muddled up when you do this.
Still, I am very happy with my first attempt. I do get that flavor that spurred me to create this immediately, albeit a bit lighter. This only makes me want to make this again, this time with the necessary adjustments and probably with a purchase of Hangar One Buddha’s Hand citron vodka!