Saturday, October 29, 2011

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries and More

Now it's time to have some fun with simple yet elegant dining ideas. The first thing that comes to mind is chocolate-dipped strawberries, and since the creation of these is part of my job, I know a bit about the process.

When you dip strawberries in chocolate, one of the most important things is the temperature of the chocolate. Another consideration is the quality of the chocolate you use. Chocolate wafers (available at stores such as Michaels and JoAnn's or Wilton) are preferable to the baking chocolate or chocolate chips that you find at grocery stores. Lesser-grade chocolate contains vegetable oil that can cause a waxy film and taste to the finished product. And since these are meant to be "elegant" you want them to look their best. This also means keeping the temperature of the dipping chocolate between 85 and 90 degrees, so it is properly tempered and keeps its glossy finish.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
    <photo courtesy of>

  • Fresh whole ripe, unblemished strawberries (preferably with stem for dipping)
  • Chocolate - as fine a grade as you can afford for melting (solid bar chocolate, grated or chocolate wafers are preferable)
  • Food gel or paste food coloring (regular food coloring causes chocolate to thin and isn't as effective color-wise)
  • Other ideas (as offered below recipe)*
  1. Lay a tray or plate covered with waxed paper on your work surface.
  2. Melt milk or dark chocolate in a heat-proof bowl in the microwave at 70% power for approximately 1 minute. Stir and continue heating if not smooth and creamy in appearance OR
  3. Melt white chocolate at 50% power in a heat-proof bowl in the microwave and check after 30 seconds to ensure it's melting, not scorching. Continue heating until it's smooth and creamy in appearance. It won't take long. White chocolate scorches very easily and this causes it to cake rather than to melt smoothly. 
  4. Add food gel or paste, a small dab at a time, to a portion of the white chocolate to get the color you desire 
  5. Wash and pat dry the berries, pulling the leaves upward toward the stem gently so they don't get in the chocolate (this creates a "handle" with which to do the dipping)
  6. Dip one berry at a time in the bowl of chocolate, gently swirling it to ensure the entire berry is coated. Cover just about to the top, excluding leaves and stem. Hold upright and let the excess chocolate drip from the tip of the berry. Gently bend leaves back down to give a natural appearance.
  7. Lay the berry on the waxed paper (or, even better, hold the berry by the "handle" with one hand and gently drizzle chocolate from a small spoon or paper cone to decorate. A quick side to side sweep of a small stream of chocolate looks most effective as a drizzle. If you prefer, you can drizzle a thicker stream of chocolate up and down to give a striped effect
  8. If desired, drizzle the berry with a contrasting color and then allow to harden in the fridge for approximately 10-15 minutes (or more)
  9. For creative effect, after drizzling with more than one color of chocolate, use a swizzle stick or pick to gently draw the chocolate upward toward the stem, creating a swirl effect. Good for contrast.
  10. Have fun experimenting! That's the whole idea behind this activity!
*Other dippers for strawberries:
  • Sour cream and brown sugar
  • Melted chocolate and crushed nuts
  • "half and half" - half the berry in white chocolate and half in dark chocolate (tuxedo effect)
  • yogurt and granola with dried berries
  • caramel or fudge ice cream topping
  • vanilla frosting and toasted coconut
You can also dip maraschino cherries, bananas (whole or cut in half), pineapple spears, regular marshmallows, cut-out Rice Krispie square pieces and pound cake chunks in left-over chocolate to make a beautiful plate. Dipping half of the item and leaving the rest undipped makes a beautiful effect. Place on waxed paper and allow to harden in the fridge with the strawberries before serving on a white or black ceramic plate. 

How's that for simple elegance?

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