Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Chocolate Christmas Gifts.

Only a few days separate us from Christmas and the pressure is on! I feel I have a million things to do but I don't have enough time. That's why I decided to prioritize and just stick to the basics, and what's more basic than gifting loved ones on Christmas?
During previous years, I baked batches upon batches of cookies and decorated them. The result was wonderful but really time consuming. This year I decided to make simple yet elegant and delicious gift items. Chocolate was the answer!

One of my favorite flavor combinations is that of orange and chocolate. I have used it before in so many of my recipes and I keep on experimenting with it.  Candied orange peels dipped in dark chocolate, known as orangettes, make the perfect gift item and are the ultimate way to do justice to this amazing food pairing. 

I used 3 medium size oranges  which yielded more than 30 orangettes. This should give you an idea and help you adjust the quantities according to your needs.

As orangettes require only two main ingredients  this means that you need to get both of them right. The candied peels need to be sweet enough, bursting with citrus flavor, and neither too soft nor too thin and dry. The chocolate needs to be tempered just right.

Temper more chocolate than you need. This would give you the opportunity to make another excellent and fast dessert that is also a great gift idea: mendiant. Mendiants are made from chocolate shaped like a disk and topped with dried fruits and nuts.

Now let's get started on making these two delicious and easy to make chocolate specialties.

For the orangettes you need:
  • 3 oranges (pick varieties with a rather thick peel) 
  • water
  • sugar
  • the juice of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp of cointreau (or any other orange liqueur) 
Cut off the head and bottom of the oranges, then cut through the skin to get 4 big segments.

Cover with cold water, heat and when the water starts boiling leave it for 2 min then drain the water and repeat the process for 2 more times. This removes the excess bitterness from the peel but keeps the much loved orange flavor.

After the third boiling, drain the peels and let them cool down. Once cooled, cut them into strips and weigh them. Add the same amount of sugar as the weight of the peels. In my case I added 220 g of white sugar.

Add the orange juice, cointreau and then cover with just enough water to cover the peels.  Cook for about an hour. Leave the peels in the syrup for an additional  hour, or until they cool down completely, then remove them and let them dry for a day over a cooling rack!

Now it's just a matter of dipping the orange strips into the chocolate. I  personally like dark chocolate for this recipe, but you can use the chocolate you prefer. 
Temper the chocolate, with the technique you like. I tempered around 300 g.
Just dip about 3/4 of the orange strip into the dark chocolate  and place them on a parchment paper until they harden. 

For the mendiant:
Spoon some melted and tempered chocolate on a parchement or wax paper, swirl a bit to get a beautiful disk shape then drop the nuts or candied fruits of your choice. Ever so gently press the surface of the nuts and fruits to make sure they stick to the chocolate once it hardens. 

Arrange a collection of orangettes and mendiants in the boxes of your choice to make great gifts for your loved ones during Christmas. 

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