The good cheer and benevolence on everyone's minds, the gathering of family and friends, the warm cider, hot fireplace, sparkly lights on the tree. And best of all, Christmas treats. :-) (of course.)
Promptly after getting off the plane ride back from Taiwan, I was in the kitchen making the first of many holiday treats for the season: ginger carrot dark chocolate candies.
Okay. Before you call me crazy, hear me out. These didn't originally start out as ginger carrot chocolates. No, originally, I set out to make pumpkin chocolates. But, for some reason, I just couldn't get that idea fully formed in my head. So then I remembered these wonderful ginger cookies from a few weeks ago. Yum yum. Which led me to making ginger truffle filling. Then, as I leaned over the pot to smell the spicy aroma of ginger cooking in the cream, it hit me: these chocolates needed carrot.
And trust me, they are amazing. It's weird to think that a traditionally savory ingredient works so well in candies, but they are the perfect finishing touch to these chocolates! (The idea isn't all that out there, I suppose, since carrot cake requires lots of ginger flavor as well.)
The shreds of carrot in the truffle filling add a perfectly crunchy texture to the ganache. And the mild sweetness of the carrots compliment the spiciness of the ginger so well. Not to mention, eating these definitely make you feel less guilty about all that Christmas candy. :-P
As with rosemary-lemon sandwich cookies, pomegranate-basil cheesecakes, or pumpkin sage blackberry pancakes, I positively adore the fact that these unexpected ingredients like carrots, rosemary, basil, or sage work so well in sweets. You have to believe me on this one. :-) (Or, try them for yourself!--and make sure to let me know what you think.)
Read on for recipe...
Ginger Carrot Dark Chocolates
Makes about 48 chocolates, with leftover ganache
8 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbspn butter
2 heaping tspn ground ginger
1 Tbspn brandy
1 medium carrot (preferably organic), julienned into short and thin, thin strips*
16 oz. dark chocolate
1. Place 8 oz. chopped dark chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl. Set aside.
2. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine cream, butter, and ground ginger. Stir and bring to just barely a boil.
3. Remove the cream mixture from the heat and pour over the prepared dark chocolate in a bowl. Allow to sit for two to three minutes, then stir until the chocolate melts into the cream.
4. Stir in 1 Tbspn brandy into the chocolate ganache.
5. Add the cut carrots in the ganache. Allow the ganache to set in the fridge overnight.
6. Chop 8 oz. of the remaining dark chocolate and place in a double boiler. Melt this chocolate. Turn off the stove.
7. Add the last remaining 8 oz. of dark chocolate WHOLE, without chopping!, to the melted chocolate in the double boiler. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted. This is the easiest way to temper chocolate that I've found. No need to mess with marble pastry boards! But, if you have your own method, feel free to temper the chocolate as you wish.
8. Once the chocolate is tempered, make sure to keep it only hot enough to keep it melted. Turn on the stove to simmer the water in the double boiler if heat is needed.
9. Pour a teaspoon of melted chocolate into the molds one at a time. Once the chocolate is poured, use a paintbrush to spread the chocolate evenly to coat the inside of each mold. Do not pour chocolate into all of the molds first and then spread later--your chocolate will cool! Do this one single mold at a time.
10. Once the molds have been coated, place them in the freezer for about five minutes. Be careful not to leave them in for too long--the goal is only to let the chocolate set.
11. Remove the molds from the freezer. Roll small pieces of the ginger-carrot ganache--about the size of a small cherry. Press the ganache into the chocolate molds, leaving a tiny bit of space at the top of each mold.
12. Pour melted chocolate into the molds to cover the ganache. Jiggle each tray a few times, and tap them gently on the counter to allow the melted chocolate to settle and to release any air pockets.
13. Return the molds to the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour. Remove from the freezer and turn out onto a cutting board. If needed, use a round cookie cutter to trim the excess chocolate from around the candies.
*I chose not to shred the carrots because then you don't get the crunchy texture of carrot chunks that contribute so nicely to these chocolates. Instead, I used a mandolin to slice the carrot, cut those into strips, and finally, chopped the strips into one-to-two centimeter long pieces.