Monday, January 07, 2008

Alice Medrich's Luscious Vodka Chocolates

One of my favorite cookbook authors is Alice Medrich. I credit her, back in the 1980s, to with awakening me to the marvel of truly fine chocolate. I was a graduate student in the Bay Area, and one day I decided to walk into one of her Cocolat chocolate shops. I bought a white chocolate champagne truffle, and popped the whole thing into my mouth. If your tongue can have an orgasm, mine did at that time. I had never tasted anything like it. Every once in a while after that I would treat myself to some goodie, whatever I could afford on an extremely tight budget.

When I moved from Hawaii to the east coast a few years ago, I lovingly packed her book, Cocolat: Extraordinary Chocolate Desserts, and mailed it. The post office lost the box, and I was so busy with work at that time, that I failed to replace the book promptly. When I did try to buy a new one, I discovered that the publisher must have lost its marbles, because the book was out of print, and I could only purchase it used, for quite a hefty price, via Amazon's marketplace. I bit the bullet and did so, a decision I do not regret.
Imagine my pleasure a few months ago, when I discovered Ms. Medrich's lovely new book,Pure Dessert. (Anita at Dessert First has also blogged about the book, as has Veronica's Test Kitchen). One of the first recipes that caught my eye was the recipe for Iced Citron Vodka Chocolates with Fresh Mint.
As I was preparing for the holidays, I discovered an alarming amount of chocolate that I needed to use up, as some of it was starting to bloom (that went into cookies). What better way to use up chocolate than to make . . . chocolates? And take a new cookbook for a test run? I doubled the batch (I don't recommend this, but I had a lot of chocolate, cream, and mint to use up). I did not have citron vodka, so I used Stolichnaya regular vodka and added a few drops of lemon oil to it.
The result? Delicious. I served them at a Christmas party, and people loved them, even Master Chow, who prefers white chocolate. I keep the chocolates in the freezer, and serve them ice cold. The vodka and faint mint and citrus flavors make the little morsels just go "poof" in your mouth when you bite into them. Medrich's instructions were clear, simple, and exhaustive (I'm going to summarize my adaptations below).
I can hardly wait to try other recipes in her new book!
Iced Citron Vodka Chocolates with Fresh Mint
Adapted from a recipe by Alice Medrich in Pure Dessert
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
1 cup plus 2-3 extra Tablespoons heavy cream
9 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, marked 55% to 60% cacao (I used Scharffen Berger)
2 Tablespoons vodka, plus 3-5 drops of lemon oil
12-16 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped, for dipping

An 8-inch square baking pan
Instant read thermometer
Baking sheet
Wax paper
Make the mint infusion:
Combine the cream and mint in a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight. I let mine sit for three days and it was fine.
Strain the cream using a strainer over a glass measuring cup, pressing the leaves to get all the cream out. Discard the mint, and add additional cream to make one cup.
Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with foil.
Make the ganache:
Chop the 9 ounces of chocolate into small pieces, no bigger than almonds, and set aside in a medium bowl.
Bring the cream to a low boil. Pour over the chocolate and gently stir with rubber spatula, until the chocolate is melted, and the mixture is completely smooth. Do not splash, or whisk or stir too briskly, or the ganache will have a grainy and cakey texture. Stir in the vodka and mix just enough to blend. Strain the ganache into the baking pan, level, and freeze until hard.
Line a large baking pan with wax paper. Cover a large cutting board with parchment paper. Using the edges of the foil, lift the slab of frozen ganache out of the pan, and flip it over onto the cutting board. Peel the foil off.
Using a large chef's knife dipped in hot water, cut the ganache into 6 or seven equal strips, taking care not to cut through the parchment paper, and working quickly to prevent the ganache from melting . Cut the strips into squares. Transfer the squares into the prepared pan, and cover it with plastic wrap.
Keep the squares frozen until ready to dip the chocolates.
Dip the chocolates:
To dip the chocolates, cover a sheet pan with parchment. Melt the chocolate for dipping over a double boiler of barely simmering water. When the chocolate is thoroughly melted, cool it to 100 to 105 degrees F. Working with small amounts of the squares at a time (keep the others in the freezer until you need them), dip them in the chocolate, using a fork, and wipe the tines of the fork against the edge of the bowl to drain excess chocolate back into the bowl. Don't let the chocolates sit too long on the fork, or they will stick. If you like, using the dipping fork, drizzle the dipped chocolates randomly to create patterns on their surface.
Refrigerate or freeze the chocolates in covered containers. They keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, or 3 months in the freezer. Note: the chocolates must be refrigerated, or they will bloom, as the chocolate shell is not tempered. They also taste terrific that way!


Blogger breadchick said...

OH MY GOSH! Who would have thunk this? I just brought back some vodka chocolates from Russia and liked them so much was sad that I hadn't brought back more and now here you go and provide me a recipe!

So much for the "no candy" January...

January 07, 2008 4:16 PM  
Blogger rowena said...

I give you triple credits for even attemtping reads exhaustive! I think due to HI's heat and humidity is why I never walked much down the chocolate road, but here of course I'm just too spoiled and buy them whenever the mood for good stuff hits.

BTW, I lost your recipe post on the braised brussel sprouts and eventually found it on google. I'm finally giving it a go tonight!

January 08, 2008 5:10 AM  
Blogger Madam Chow said...

Dear Breadchick and Rowena: I love it when you visit! Breadchick, you went to RUSSIA?! How did I miss that? That's definitely on my list of places to visit in my life.

Rowena, I know what you mean about Hawaii. I don't think I baked a pastry crust pie there for years - too difficult to work with and, as you know, no air conditioning in most homes. This was the first time I'd ever made chocolates, and I'm glad I tried it. Enjoy the brussel sprouts!

January 08, 2008 9:25 AM  

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