There is probably an equation or law of physics somewhere that states that the difficulty of any given task is directly proportionate to the amount of arrogance or naivety of someone proclaiming, “How hard could it be?”
Let me start by saying, I’m no Julia Child. I’m not even close. I can follow a recipe and make passable dinners, but I’m really not a gourmet. However, I do consider myself frugal; in an attempt to both save money and give from the heart, many years I make Peanut Butter Balls and Chocolate Chip cookies to send/give out as Christmas gifts. So far, my family and friends have loved it and I’ve had no complaints. I usually borrow my mother’s double-boiler to melt the chocolate for the Peanut Butter Balls.
This year, I wasn’t able to borrow her double-boiler, so I improvised and used a saucepan with a smaller pan to fit on top. It was practically the same thing anyway, so how hard could it be? Right? THIS year, I learned about something called “seizing”. Some of you are probably nodding your heads in sympathy, but for those of you who don’t know:
- If you overheat your chocolate, it will seize.
- If you get a droplet of water or steam in the chocolate as it’s melting, it will seize. Seizing turns your chocolate into the consistency of wet sand. This makes it unsuitable for dipping, and only (possibly) good for brownies, cakes (or chocolate sand-castles you could maybe leave on a plate for Santa) or more likely, the trash. 😦 You can attempt to save it by adding a little bit of cooking oil or butter (less is more: add a tiny bit at a time while stirring continuously) — sometimes it will smooth it out enough. Mine, alas, was too far gone, even for Santa sand castles. First ($$) lesson learned.
So, I finally got the milk-chocolate melted exactly right and finished dipping the Peanut Butter Balls and decided to dip pretzels. What a great idea! The milk-chocolate-covered pretzels turned out lovely!
I still had half a bag of pretzels left over, so I thought I would get some white chocolate and dip the rest of them in that! Easy, right? I mean, sure, white chocolate tastes different than milk chocolate, but it’s still chocolate. How hard could it be? You’d think I would have learned the first time, but after having overcome the seizing problem, I was brimming with confidence!
Well, guess what? White chocolate isn’t really even chocolate! *Gasp* I know! Crazy, huh? It’s actually made of different ingredients and doesn’t contain chocolate solids at all! It also has a lower melting point than milk or dark chocolate, so it burns more easily. It’s harder to melt to a dipping consistency. You have to stir it A LOT more often. My first attempt was too thick:
My second attempt (after using a bit of cooking oil that I had learned from my experience with the milk-chocolate) was too thin:
By now I felt like Goldilocks, and decided that rather than labeling my third attempt “Just Right”, I would call it “As Good As It’s Going To Get This Year”.
You’re aiming for a consistency of something like pancake batter without the lumps:
Second ($$) Lesson learned. Oh, and I also learned that rather than dealing with bags of chocolate chips and trying to melt them, there is such a thing as “Melting Chocolate”, specifically made for dipping stuff. /facepalm. Somewhere, Santa’s Elves are laughing. The white chocolate pretzels may not look pretty, but they taste delicious (I tried them, just to make sure).
Well, I’m off to put the finishing touches on my “home–cooked goodie bag” Christmas gifts. Maybe they’ll be so thrilled with the Peanut Butter Balls that they won’t even notice how sad my white-chocolate pretzels look. And maybe next year I’ll just buy gift cards.