by Jolene Lamb, coordinator, Culinary Institute, Lincoln Land Community College
The first snow has fallen, and Christmas morning is close upon us. To awaken on Dec. 25 to a fresh white winter wonderland sounds perfect. We are spending the holidays at home anyway; no traveling this year. So a fresh blanket of snow and the stillness and beauty it brings don’t sound all that bad. Snow or no snow, I’ll grab a mug of hot chocolate, probably a few Christmas cookies I made and enjoy the day in pajamas.
I recently discovered hot chocolate bombs. Apparently, I’m late to the party on this one because they seem to be all over the internet. The bombs are basically a hollow chocolate shell filled with hot cocoa mix, mini marshmallows and even sprinkles if you like. They are a bit tricky to make since the process involves tempering chocolate, but in a pinch candy melts can be used which don’t require as much precision to work with.
There are different molds that can be used. First is a silicone mold. Most often you’ll find a half sphere which is what I prefer. The other mold is an acrylic or hard plastic mold, which are a bit more work to use. The silicone mold is flexible which allows you to “push” a bit to remove the molded chocolate. The hard acrylic needs a firm whack to release the molded spheres. There are molds that are full spheres instead of two halves, but those can be even more difficult to coat with chocolate and to fill with the cocoa. The half sphere molds are easier for beginner use.
Let’s talk about tempering chocolate since it is vital to creating chocolate bombs, or any molded chocolate candies. Tempering is the process of slowly heating and cooling the chocolate to specific temperatures to ensure the cocoa butter forms crystals that line up and lock together, creating a solid chocolate that has snap and sheen. Tempered chocolate also contracts as the crystals lock together which is how it is able to be released from the mold. Dark, milk and white chocolate come into temper at different temperatures. You’ll need a thermometer and a double boiler set up. A double boiler is a pan with a few inches of simmering water and a glass or metal bowl placed over the pot, above the water.
Melt rough chopped chocolate in a double boiler to the following temperatures as measured with a chocolate thermometer: dark 120°F, milk 115°F, white 110°F.
Once melted, remove from heat. Finely chop additional chocolate and stir into melted chocolate in order to cool down the chocolate. Continue to stir chocolate until cooled to the following temperatures: dark 82°F, milk 80°F, white 78°F.
Place back over the double boiler and reheat chocolate to the following temperatures: dark 90°F, milk 86°F, white 82°F.
It is now tempered. A simple method of checking if the chocolate is in temper is to apply a small quantity of chocolate to a piece of paper or to the point of a knife. If the chocolate has been correctly tempered it will harden evenly and show a good gloss within five minutes. If not, start the tempering process again. To keep the chocolate in temper while you fill the molds, hold at the following temperatures: dark 88-90°F, milk 86-88 degrees F, white 82-84°F.
Hot Chocolate Bombs
2 ½ inch silicone sphere mold
Double boiler set up
Chef knife and cutting board
Small clean paint brush
24 ounces semi-sweet couverture chocolate
1 cup mini marshmallows
Favorite hot chocolate mix
Set up a double boiler and bring water to a simmer. Finely chop chocolate. Place ¾ of the chocolate in double boiler. Stir until melted and chocolate reaches 120 degrees F.
Remove from heat and stir in remaining chocolate. Continue to stir until melted and cooled to 82 degrees F. Place back on heat and bring chocolate to 90 degrees.
Make sure your molds are clean by polishing them with a paper towel. Paint a thin layer of chocolate into the molds coating the bottom and sides and refrigerate for 5 minutes
Wearing gloves, take your chocolate out of the molds by turning mold over and tapping, or gently pushing to loosen the chocolate from the mold. Fill half with hot cocoa mix and marshmallows.
Heat skillet over low heat until warm. Remove from heat
Working one at a time, hold empty chocolate half on the skillet for a few seconds, until edge barely melts. Immediately press onto filled bottom half.
Alternately, pipe some melted chocolate around the rim and attach the second sphere on top. Press gently to seal.
Use a gloved hand to wipe away the excess chocolate or simply roll the chocolate sphere in some sprinkles to finish the look.
Store at room temp. Place one bomb in mug and pour in scalded milk. Chocolate shell will melt and release the cocoa and marshmallows. Stir and enjoy.
If you prefer to go a simpler and more traditional route to make a cup of hot cocoa, try a few of these recipe suggestions.
1. Add a shot of vanilla simple syrup to your cup of cocoa to bring out a rich flavor.
2. Steep a few fresh mint leaves in your milk after scalding, then strain and discard leaves before adding cocoa mix.
3. Capture the quintessential holiday flavors of spiced cookies, pumpkin pie and eggnog by adding seasonal spices to your hot chocolate. Whether mixed into the drink itself or sprinkled on top, spices such as cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg and anise can completely transform an ordinary cup of cocoa into something unique and festive.
4. Spike your hot chocolate. For traditionalists, bourbon, rum, Irish cream and brandy are excellent additions. For alcohol that adds an extra burst of flavor, pour in flavored liqueurs such as peppermint, coffee, hazelnut, orange, cherry, and more. Surprisingly, red wine is another great way to spike hot chocolate. The flavors of wine and chocolate really complement one another, and the wine adds a unique depth to the drink.
5. To make Mexican hot chocolate, add chili powder and cinnamon. Typically made with bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, unsweetened cocoa powder, cinnamon and a touch of chili powder, Mexican hot chocolate is known and loved for its rich flavor and spiciness. Those who want their cocoa extra spicy can add a pinch of cayenne pepper as well.
Enjoy the holidays and stay warm with a cup of hot cocoa, snow or no snow this year!
Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management, Baking/Pastry, and Value Added Local Food, and non-credit cooking and food classes through our Community Learning Culinary Institute. For more information, visit our website at www.llcc.edu. Cooking or food questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.