I've always wanted to try my hand at making fancy dipped chocolates. My favorites are the ones filled with creamy, gooey fondant in flavors like coffee or orange. But candy-making can be very intimidating. Many of the recipes I looked at sounded exceedingly difficult and time-consuming. But with Valentine's Day just around the corner, it's time to take the plunge.
This recipe from Better Homes and Gardens that seemed easy enough. It called for Amaretto or coffee liqueur, but I substituted in Chambord. Few things pair better with chocolate than black raspberry, and I wanted my candy to have a festive pink hue.
The BHG recipe also called for dipping chocolate or confectioners coating. Both can be hard to come by. Of course you can order them online but who plans that far ahead? I also find the flavor of most dipping chocolates somewhat muted, and definitely inferior to regular chocolate. I used regular semisweet chocolate chips melted with two tablespoons of solid vegetable shortening (you could also use butter or flavorless oil). The extra fat makes the chocolate a bit looser and thinner, which is easier for dipping.
The first step is to prepare the fondant. It's time-consuming, but not hard. Basically you just boil sugar, water, and a bit of light cream until the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage (240ºF). This took me a solid 30 minutes. It's important to watch your pot because once the mixture hits about 220ºF it bubbles pretty ferociously. Stir it gently with a wooden spoon to keep it from overflowing.
When the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage, remove it from the heat and let it cool to 110ºF. Then stir in the liqueur and—get ready for a workout—beat it vigorously with a wooden spoon until it's opaque, creamy, and quite stiff.
This will take about 10 to 12 minutes. You want to be able to shape the fondant into individual balls. If your mixture seems too soft, pop it in the fridge for three to five minutes before forming the balls.
Let your fondant balls dry and firm up for about 30 minutes before proceeding with the final step. Melt the chocolate and vegetable shortening in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. I found the best way to dip the balls was to drop them in the chocolate and fish them out with two forks, letting the excess chocolate drip off. Let your chocolates dry completely on a baking sheet lined with wax paper.
Did my homemade chocolates look as pretty as chocolates from a fancy candy store? In a word, no. The were a bit lumpy and misshapen, more "blobs" than "balls." But they had there own humble charm. More importantly, the flavor was exceptionally delicious. They tasted fresh and pure, full of rich dark chocolate and sweet, boozy raspberry.
Gussied up in paper liners and arranged in a pretty tin, they would make a perfect Valentine's gift for someone really special. The recipe yields about 32 chocolates. They will keep for a couple of weeks, tightly covered and stored in a cool place.