#bakeoftheweek, #CookBlogShare, baking, Bucks County cookbook, candymaking, chocolate easter egg recipe, coconut easter egg candy recipe, coconut easter eggs, coconut-chocolate candy eggs, cookbook announcement, cookbook writing, Easter candy, Easter egg candy, heritage recipes, homemade Mounds bars, how to make your own chocolate Easter Eggs, Mary At The Farm, Pennsylvania, self-publishing a cookbook, Simply Eggcellent, Tea Time Treats, The Biscuit Barrel, We Should Cocoa
- I note the start and finishing times of every step of a recipe, even simple things like sweating onions.
- I compulsively double-check my grocery lists at the beginning of the week to make sure that I have the exact amount written down for each item.
- I measure and weigh all my ingredients.
- Trying to find an open spot in my freezer is beginning to resemble solving a jigsaw puzzle, such a muddle of half batches of muffins, odd bags of cookies, containers of stock and gravy, and various loaves of bread it has become. I am churning out more than my family can possibly consume, and a repetitive motif occasionally shows up: for example, that cake that we ate for dessert three weeks in a row.
Writing a cookbook, you say? How clever of you to guess.
Yes, I am writing a cookbook. The first of many I hope. It is a collection of heritage recipes from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, which I have culled from a collection of old community cookbooks, updated, and made usable for the modern cook—oven temperatures and pan sizes, anyone? The book will have approximately ninety recipes, each with a full-colour photograph, as well as a few tidbits about historical Bucks County restaurants. (Since staring work on the book, I have learned that this area is simply teeming with interesting places to eat. Last week, I had lunch at an old stagecoach inn that was the meeting place for the organizers of Fries’s Rebellion in 1799.)
I have wanted to be a cookbook author for some time. When I headed up to Toronto for Chef Training School, writing cookbooks was my ultimate goal—not, like most of my fellow students, owning a restaurant or becoming head chef at a ritzy hotel. I have, in round figures, thirty cookbooks that I want to write. And that is rounding down, not up.
Most of these ideas involve researching cuisines in other countries though, so I figured that I would have to wait a few more years before I could actually start working on any of them. But writing cookbooks was the plan. That was why I went to Chef School, why I studied journalism, why I took photography classes.
And then I read Mary At the Farm. Do you remember the Quaker Bonnet Biscuits I wrote about last year? The recipe originally came from this 1915 Bucks County chronicle, which is about a hundred pages of story and two hundred of recipes. Those recipes intrigued me so much that I immediately wanted to learn more about the cultural heritage of Bucks County. So I bought up all the old, local cookbooks I could find and read them from cover to cover. And cooked from them (you’ve seen some of the recipes already, here and here and here).
They impressed me. Certainly they were hard to cook from, and recreating the recipes included a good bit of guesswork, but the food was delicious. And I thought, it’s a shame that these gems of recipes have to languish in the pages of old books. Why shouldn’t I update them, re-write them to be intelligible to the modern cook, and compile the best ones in a new cookbook?
And why should I wait until I’m famous enough to attract a book agent and a contract with a big publishing house? Thanks to my experience with self-publishing my novel, I am perfectly happy to publish it myself. In the first place, the book will reach the public a lot sooner. Secondly, it means that I can do a full-page photograph of every single recipe without being told that it costs too much. I love cookbooks like that, and I want mine to be one.
I admit, self-publishing is a lot of work. “What do you do?” “Me? Oh, I’m a writer, recipe tester, photographer, designer, publisher, proofreader, marketing director, and publicist.” However, it is also heaps of fun. Someday I will have an agent and contracts, but for now, I’m going to enjoy my chance to write and photograph a cookbook exactly the way I envision it.
The cookbook’s title isn’t firmly settled yet—choosing a title is the hardest part of writing a book in my opinion: I had an awful time settling on the one for my novel—but I’ll let you know as soon as I decide. If all goes according to plan, the cookbook will be finished and available for sale by mid-summer. Update, June 6th, 2014: Potato Pie and Cherry Pickle–that’s the title I decided on–is now available for purchase! If you like this recipe, you might also enjoy the rest of the book. You can take a peek inside on its Amazon page.
I’m telling you about it now, because the next two months are going to be jammed with recipe testing, and I might not be posting here as much as I would like. I’ve tried to schedule time for the blog, but you know, things happen. So if I disappear entirely for the next two months—well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
It’s only fitting that I give you a recipe from the cookbook today: lovely little nuggets of chocolate-drenched coconut. The old books call them Easter egg candy. The candies taste like glorified Mounds bars, with a moist coconut filling encased in a crisp, glossy shell of tempered chocolate.
And since Easter candy means springtime, I’m linking the recipe up with The Biscuit Barrel challenge organized by Laura of I’d Much Rather Bake Than . . . She picked springtime as the theme, and baking for the challenge has been a solace for me, as the weather here in Pennsylvania persists in pretending that it is still winter.
Laura is also hosting We Should Cocoa this month, the lovely blogging event headed by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog. With another excellent choice, Laura selected coconut as the ingredient to pair with chocolate, and I immediately thought of these candies.
So, Easter has come round again, and I’m linking this recipe up again with a number of challenges. Because it’s too good not to share it every year!
I am going to stretch things a bit and share these with Belleau Kitchen’s Simply Eggcellent challenge as well, where the theme is also chocolate. Now, my candy only uses the egg whites, I admit . . but I remember that being quite sensational in itself, because it was the only recipe in my cookbook that used raw egg and so had to have that little disclaimer typed at the bottom of the page. And after all, they technically are eggs themselves . . .
Ingredients:1 14-oz. bag (400 g.) sweetened, shredded coconut 1 ¼ cups (150 g.) confectioners’ sugar, sifted 1 tablespoon (15 ml) whole milk 1 egg white* ½ teaspoon vanilla 1 lb. (454 g.) bittersweet couverture chocolate Melted white chocolate chips and oil-based food colourings for decorating
- Toss the coconut and confectioners’ sugar together in a large bowl.
- Add the milk, egg white, and vanilla. Knead everything together until the mixture forms a smooth, cohesive mass, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Scoop out tablespoons of the coconut filling and roll them into egg-shaped ovals between the palms of your hands.
- While you are shaping the eggs, you can also start the process of tempering the chocolate to dip them in. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan. Choose a metal bowl that will balance on the saucepan without the bottom of it touching the water in the pot, and place the chocolate in it. Set the bowl over the steam and let the chocolate melt, stirring it occasionally.
- Chocolate is tempered in order to convert as much of the crystal structure of the cocoa butter into the Beta 6 form as possible. Cocoa butter crystals are polymorphic, which means that they can bond in several different ways, and the Beta 6 form provides the best gloss and snap once the chocolate hardens. In order to encourage the formation of the Beta 6 bonds, the chocolate is taken through a melting process of specific temperatures. This all sounds very complicated and scientific, but tempering chocolate is actually quite simple.
- After the chocolate has melted, allow it to continue to heat until it reaches a temperature between 125°F and 130°F. In this temperature range, if you dab a little of the chocolate on the inside of your wrist or on the skin directly below your lip it will feel hot, but won’t burn.
- Remove the bowl from the steam and dry off the bottom of it with a dry towel. You do not want to get any water mixed in with the chocolate, as even a few drops will cause the chocolate to seize up and harden. Keep the pot of water on the stove at a low simmer.
- Allow the chocolate to cool, stirring it occasionally, until its temperature is just below 82°F. This is the temperature where the Beta 6 bonds form. Once the chocolate has cooled to this temperature, it is in temper. It will feel cool and the consistency will have thickened slightly. To test to see whether the chocolate is properly in temper, take a small strip of parchment paper and dip it into the chocolate. Drag the strip against the side of the bowl to remove all but a thin coating of the chocolate. Set the strip aside. In a few minutes, the chocolate should glaze over, and by the end of 5 minutes, it should have hardened completely. If it does not harden by the end of the 5 minutes, continue to cool the chocolate, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes, and then test again.
- Once the chocolate is in temper, use a loop dipper or a fork to dip each shaped egg into the chocolate, coating it completely. Tap the bottom of the fork against the surface of the chocolate to remove excess coating and then transfer the egg to a piece of wax paper to allow the chocolate to set. Repeat until all the eggs have been coated with chocolate.
- Once the coating on all the eggs is set, put small amounts of melted white chocolate into bowls and tint them with a few drops of food colouring. Make sure to use appropriate oil-based colourings, as water-based colourings will make the chocolate seize up (see step 7).
- Spoon some of one of the coloured chocolates into a paper cone (or you can use a Ziplock bag with the very tip of a corner snipped off) and pipe dots, stripes, flowers, or whatever else suits your fancy onto the surface of the eggs. Repeat with the remaining colours.
- Once the piping has hardened, arrange the finished eggs in a single layer in an airtight container and store in a cool place.
Yield: 3 dozen chocolate eggs
* Note: The egg white in the filling is uncooked, so if you are worried about that, you can use pasteurized egg whites instead.