Friday, December 10, 2010
HAPPY FRIDAY (or Saturday…depending on where you are, lol)! SP here with a scrumptious (and hopefully inspiring) post all about yummy, chocolate covered goodies! As many of you know - I LOOOOOOOVE to give gifts! And not all gifts have to be super expensive or extravagant or difficult :o) So, I wanted to share another favorite gift of mine! These are especially great for teachers and co-workers – but there are so many possibilites. If you have a book club – these would be perfect! Think about your neighbors or all of the ladies in your mom group, etc.! There are always those occasions when we want (or need) to give a gift, but cannot spend a lot…OR…we have to give lots of gifts to a group…and that is where these home-made treats come in! I should mention that grandparents seems to love these as well. Finally – I have been told many times that these are always a huge success at school fundraisers and fairs! And, best of all – this is a PERFECT way and time to spend time in the kitchen with your kids :o) I LOOOOOOOVE kitchen time with my little man…and with these, he gets to be creative and have fun…so it is a total win-win! (keep in mind, when dealing with melted caramel and chocolate – ONLY the grownup gets to do that part) :o)
So, today I will be showing you how *I* make chocolate covered spoon and caramel/chocolate pretzel sticks. I am NO expert (let’s just get that out of the way first, lol) and I am sure there are other ways and recipes for these…but this is just my take :o) Of course, this is one of those recipes/projects that really allows you to have fun and do whatever you like! If you do not like caramel…no problem, it is not necessary. If you prefer white chocolate – absolutely, go with that. If you are worried about nut allergies – NO nuts (and they’ll still be absolutely delicious)! You get the point…modify, add, and make them your own!
What are chocolate covered spoons? Well…they are exactly that…chocolate covered spoons, lol! You cover a plastic spoon with your favorite chocolate and then put the spoon into your hot coffee or hot cocoa, etc. The chocolate melts off the spoon and tastes yummy in your drink :o) Of course, they are also just adorable and fun and make great gifts!
I should tell you now that these are SOOOOOOO simple! However, it is a process and will take you a little bit of time in the kitchen. I find that spending the time to prep everything in advance, REALLY makes a difference not only with how the treats turn out…BUT, also with how much I enjoy the process, lol! I like things to be organized…and when you are melting caramel and chocolate…you really want to have everything ready-to-go! So, here is my ingredient/supplies list:
chocolate chips (your choice – milk, white, dark, semi-sweet – I’m guessing you could also use bark?)
toppings (nuts, candy canes, candy bars, mini chocolate chips, sprinkles, etc.)
cello wrap or treat bags
Just a few words about the ingredients. SPOONS – you can use any color or kind of plastic spoons that you like! I ordered all of mine from Oriental Trading (they have SOOOOO many colors and the price is great)! PRETZEL STICKS – I find the long sticks to be the best for this project. You have plenty of room to coat with chocolate (and caramel) AND have a ‘handle’ at the end! They also just look gorgeous! CHOCOLATE – again, go with what you like! I am thinking there is no reason why you couldn’t use the chocolate bark if you prefer. SHORTENING – this is to add to the melting chocolate…it helps to keep the chocolate from cracking. CARAMEL – see more info below…but this is optional; though – HIGHLY recommended if you are making the pretzel sticks! DOUBLE BOILER – ya know…a pan on a pan! When melting chocolate…you really never want to put the chocolate directly over a flame. So, you heat a little bit of water in the bottom pan and then place the chocolate in an upper pan. You can also melt your chocolate in the microwave. I just personally prefer to have it sitting on the stove (it also keeps me from having to re-heat all the time). TOPPINGS – see below :o) CELLO WRAP – you just need some way to cover and wrap your spoons. So, you can go with little bitty treat bags or squares of cellophane wrap, etc. RIBBONS – simply needed to tie up the cello wrap! That’s it!
So, on the subject of prepping…I like to have all of my toppings ready before I get started! You can use ANYTHING you like! I used crushed nuts (pecans and walnuts), mini chocolate chips, sprinkles, Snickers and candy canes. For the candy canes and snickers (really, any candy bars should work unless they are super soft…so go with your favorite) – I simply put them (separately, of course, lol) in my food processor and crushed them into little pieces. If you do not have a food processor – a blender should work – OR, you can simply place them in a ziploc bag and use a mallet or rolling pin to crush them up :o) So, you can go low OR high tech here, lol!
Alright…let’s talk CARAMEL! Let me first say that if you are ONLY going to do SPOONS…caramel is really not necessary and probably not worth the extra work. Simply because when you are doing CHOCOLATE spoons, it’s really all about the chocolate, lol! That is not to say that caramel isn’t awesome on the spoons! If you like caramel-flavored coffees…then YES – go for it! It is also great when melted into pumpkin and spice coffees. So really – it is totally UP TO YOU! You’ll see that I layered caramel and chocolate on quite a few of my spoons! But, the real point here is that IF you are going to do the PRETZELS – you really MUST start with caramel. Alright, so that’s not true, lol! Technically speaking, it makes no difference. However, when it comes to taste and texture…it is SOOOOO good! It adds a layer of flavor and creaminess that I love. So, for ME – I would personally NOT do the pretzels without caramel. If you opt to only cover them with chocolate though – of course they will still be yummy! Keep in mind that when coating with caramel…do that first (before chocolate). As far as the actual caramel – you can use the little hard caramel candies OR…purchase the tubs of caramel that are ready to microwave (that’s what I did). CAUTION: always use care when melting anything, but ESPECIALLY caramel…it is NOT fun if it gets on you…so, careful, careful, careful (and this is NOT a job for the kids)!
I already discussed this a little above…but wanted to mention again that you can melt your chocolate in a double boiler on the stove…OR, in the microwave. Personally, I prefer the double boiler, simply because I have more control over the temperature (and I do not have to keep re-heating). No matter how you melt the chocolate…you will want to add a little bit of shortening. I’m not exactly sure what all it does – but I know I have always been told that it helps to keep the chocolate from cracking AND makes them spoons last a little longer. I have never tried the spoons without shortening…so I can’t comment specifically :o) Now, bear with me – but I can’t tell you an exact amount of shortening, lol! If I had to give a measurement, I’d say about a teaspoon for every cup or so of chocolate. Just melt it right in with the chocolate. And, here are some great TIPS for melting chocolate.
Now for the FUN part, lol!
DIP THE SPOONS :o) It’s as simple as that! Once your chocolate is melted…you just dip each spoon (cover the entire bowl portion of the spoon and a tiny bit of the handle, too) into the chocolate. And, unless you have some kind of fancy contraption for holding the spoons until they set a little bit…you will need to hold on to them for a minute or so until they are no longer dripping (you’ll want to shake off any excess). You will want to add any toppings or sprinkles NOW…before they get too ‘dry’. You need a little bit of melti-ness (lol) in order for the toppings to ‘stick’. But, you do not want to add toppings while the chocolate is still too wet. You might have to try it a couple of times…and then you’ll figure it out :o) Then, when you feel like they have ‘cooled’ and ‘set’ enough – you can set them on wax paper or a silpat (nonstick surface). If I have room in my refrigerator, I like to put them in for a while – BUT…not until they have cooled to at least room temperature. You do not want to place them in the refrigerator when they are still warm :o) Oh, don’t forget that you can DOUBLE DIP them, too! It is fun to layer them with white and dark chocolate…or caramel and chocolate, etc. Just be sure to let the first layer cool and set first!
A little tip! Be sure to have some traditional little pretzels on hand…you can pour all of your leftover chocolate over them so that none of that yummi-ness goes to waste :o)
The same goes for the pretzels! I have found there is really no way to keep them perfectly round…unless you have an hour or so to hold each stick before setting them down, lol! I’m sure there is some kind of commercial contraption out there to do this…but it’s not something I have in my kitchen, lol! I always tell my husband that I need about 12 more hands when making spoons and pretzels :o) But, I don’t – so I just ‘get over it’ and realize there will be a ‘flat’ side where you set them down! The spoons are a little easier since you can place them upside down and only the very tip touches the paper/silpat :o) As with anything home-made…perfection is not always within reach, lol!
Here is what the pretzels look like when finished! On some of them – I covered them in the chocolate (don’t forget that I first coated mine in yummy, ooey, gooey caramel) – and with others, I just drizzled little stripes of chocolate on them (with a spoon)!
Let me just tell you – they are soooooo good, lol! I will also say that I do NOT like pretzel sticks by themselves…just not my ‘thing’ and you’ll never catch me eating one. BUT, you layer them in caramel and chocolate and oh my…I will eat them all (seriously, lol)! And, what is nice about them is they are substantial enough to serve as a little dessert! If you are having a holiday party or get-together…make a bunch of these and place them on the table or buffet, in some kind of pretty vase or glass! So easy and everyone can grab what they like. Not only that…but they also almost serve as decoration…they are so gorgeous and look very GOURMET! If you are like me…you probably grew up having the traditional chocolate-covered pretzels during the holidays. These are my version of those…just a little more ‘grown-up’, lol!
and…the spoons :o)
Again, same with the pretzels…if you are having a party – no need to individually wrap them. Just display them somewhere near the coffee area and watch them disappear, lol! However, if you are gifting them, or just want them to last a while – you will need to cover/wrap them in cellophane, etc. I used these little bitty treat bags from Oriental Trading (well pooh, they seem to be out of stock at the moment…but at least you get the idea) – they are perfect…no trimming needed! But, you could also use cellophane/plastic wrap from the market…or anything similar that is food-safe :o)
So, here are the FINALS…all wrapped up :o) We will have NEW PRODUCTS available in the Shoppe tomorrow…some of which you have seen in this post! And, some that will ‘pretty-up’ your spoon and pretzel packaging (but more on that tomorrow) :o)
Thanks for stopping by and reading all of my rambles, lol! As always, when it comes to instructions…I feel that more is more :o) Be sure to check out Denise’s post below (it is brand new today, too)…and YES…join us again TOMORROW as we start our END OF YEAR sale…complete with new products and a fun promotion!
HAVE A GOOD (AND HAPPY) day/night!