Thursday, February 16, 2012

Belated Valentine's Mint Chocolates, Out of the Woodwork

...but first--this is the snow pile in our cul-de-sac after almost two weeks of thaw! It's almost as high as the alders. I am so grateful for plow trucks--without them, we would be buried!
I had this post ready to share yesterday, a Valentine's delight as I'd hinted on Monday... 

...but yesterday was a "packet deadline" day, and by the time I'd gotten my packet in, finished up a lecture, and sat in rehearsal for over three hours, not having slept much the night before, my very sensible husband insisted I go to bed instead of posting!


Rehearsal? Yes! I'm going to share a couple poems as part of "Out of the Woodwork," a variety performance here in town on Saturday night. Two short poems, one of them I just wrote for our friends Tom and Jeanie as an elegy for the death of their son. Here's the local newspaper's announcement--it even mentions me and what I'll share a little ways down!

I used to spend many hours of every week at rehearsals. Showing up for these few, and as a poet, not a singer or instrumentalist (although, like everyone else, I do get to sing for the Finale of the show) is an interesting revisit of what used to be so central to my life. There are several wonderfully versatile musicians who are really anchoring the show, playing several instruments, supporting and shining in turn. In the past, I used to be in that kind of role. I don't at all mind not being; it's just interesting to observe how it is to be a small part of a team, briefly individuated when I come onstage and perform my poems, and otherwise in the background.

I have to be careful with my eye contact: I tend to pay close attention, and when the director is looking around for someone, my eyes are right there--but in this case, I'm not the one she needs!

OK, about those mint chocolates. They were an experiment, and I'd say a successful one, sort of along the lines of the pomegranate fondants I made at Christmas, utilizing Irish Moss gel for a soft but creamy texture.
This time, I tried using pili nuts. They were a delicacy when I lived in HI--several farmers at some elevation grew them. They're even fattier than macadamia nuts, and like mac nuts, seem to have mostly monounsaturated fat and very little omega 6, so good in my book. Phil doesn't care for them because they don't have a distinctive flavor, but coupled with their creaminess, that makes them a great base for raw desserts!

Mint Chocolate Fondants (sugar free, vegan, mostly raw, gluten free)
For the filling:
1 cup pili nuts (cashews or macs would also work)
1 cup Irish Moss gel
1/2 cup nut milk
1/2 cup erythritol
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cacao butter
1 tablespoon lecithin

Blend together all but the last two ingredients in a high-powered blender. To make it easier on the blender (but dirty more equipment), process the nuts into butter in a food processor first.
Then, add the cacao butter and lecithin and blend again until very smooth.

I used only 1/8 cup cacao butter, and it meant that the filling took a very long time to set, and really needs to be kept refrigerated or frozen. The extra cacao butter will provide more solidity.

Pour the filling into a bowl and refrigerate until it firms up a bit. Then, either form into balls, or put in molds--I used my heart-shaped ice cube trays from IKEA again. They'll need to be frozen for some time before coating.

For Coating:
Homemade raw chocolate or your favorite high quality dark chocolate
And/or homemade carob chocolate (here's my recipe).
(I did both)

Melt the chocolate gently, and dip the fondants in it, ensuring they are thoroughly coated. Set them on a nonstick surface so that they don't break apart when you pick them up. Our ambient temperatures are such that it's quite a challenge keeping the chocolate melted enough, and with the lesser amount of cacao butter, the fondants were also softening up quickly. Best to keep them in the freezer and pull out a few at at time, with chocolate-covered fingers!

I'm not the best at coating chocolates--they never seem to come out perfectly smooth when I do them. But homemade-delicious-looking, you betcha!

These are creamy, smooth, not overpoweringly sweet, with a lovely mouth-feel.
I'll be back tomorrow with the post, also promised on Monday, about food and what counts as "good" for me...
Have a beautiful day!