Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chocolate Curls: When nothing but awesome will do.

Chocolate is the ultimate flavor.  Have I ever mentioned I love chocolate?  Maybe once or twice?  Yep.  I even like cocoa powder.  Mama will tell you, I'll get a smidge of cocoa powder on a teaspoon and let the small amount rest on my tongue, the flavors migrating to every taste bud individually to collectively create an entire mouthful of taste. 

Years ago, when the fellows were young I had external radiation treatments where the left maxillary sinus was, after-surgery treatment for the nasty disease called Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (woohoo!!! 9 years into remission).  Radiation treatment to the face that close to the ole' schnozzola entirely messes up your smelling which entirely messes up your tasting.  I spent a miserable couple of months, missing the taste of chocolate.  Forget the fatigue, migraines, and weakness from the surgery and treatments, my very soul craved to be whole again with the delightfully-earthy completely-satisfying oral sensation that chocolate is.

It only follows, since chocolate is my favorite, that the chocolate cakes made here are the absolute prettiest and best-est tasting ever. Oh, all the cakes are moist and flavorful, with made-from-scratch fillings and icings, but that chocolate one? Well.  It takes the cake, although the butter cake with lemon curd filling and cream cheese icing runs a pretty close second.  It's also the prettiest, with a layer of dark chocolate ganache and topped with as many milk chocolate curls as won't fall off.

I use milk chocolate chips for the curls.  Dark and semi-sweet chocolates don't have enough fat in them to curl very well.  They'll make tiny tight curlicues that are fine for miniature desserts but not nearly large enough to use on a proper sized cake.  You'd be shaving for forEV-ER (<--insert kid's narrative of The Beast from the movie The Sandlot here).   You can do the whole melting-chocolate-on-the-cookie-sheet for dark chocolate curls but it's a lot of work.

Chocolate is temperamental.   If it gets a drop of water in it the whole batch will seize, turning into a delicious tasting cornmeal-consistency blob of difficulty.  Your options are to try to work shortening or butter back into it and use it for something else or **ahem** disappear it right out of the measuring cup with a spoon.  To date, no one has ever seen seized chocolate in this kitchen.  Heaven forbid it gets too hot either, the muddy looking dull mess is only fit for dolloping on a scrap of cake to be offered to the first youngster to come through the kitchen. 

I like to use Nestle Milk Chocolate Chips for the curls.  For sheer consumption, Nestle is not even close to a favorite brand of milk chocolate, but it does make the prettiest curls.   I've tried every brand of chocolate chip available at WalMart and Piggly Wiggly.  Please don't suggest I try something that's not found locally.   I do the absolute possible best with what's available; if the chocolate isn't at one of those two places, it's not getting bought.  Nestle Milk Chocolate chips are put into the smallest loaf pan.

See those egg shells in the pan on the back burner? I'll use four or five dozen eggs during the course of baking any given weekend.  I rinse them and put them in the warm oven overnight and then give them a whirl in the food processor to use in the garden.  They're an incredible and effective slug killer that doesn't cost a thing.

The big SunFire oven holds at approximately 115 degrees Fahrenheit, a little warm for melting chocolate, but the pan of chips is only in there for 20 minutes.

OOOoooo... Y'all are seeing lots of stuff today.  See my very old-fashioned dripolaters?  They make the best coffee ever.  Forget the French press.  It's the Deep South - I like coffee strong and without an accent, thankyouverymuch.

Twenty minutes later, the chips come out, ready to be stirred smooth.

**giggle** That's my favorite fork, too.  I don't know where it came from, it just appeared before the fellows were born.

Pretty and smooth curls not speckled with holes from air bubbles trapped in the chocolate require a little bit of effort.  It takes a good bit of bumping the pan on a solid surface, the same as cake batter, to have the bubbles rise to the surface.

I put the warm smooth milk chocolate in the butter tray of the refrigerator to cool.  Are you feeling poorly and a little down with life at this point?  Go ahead.  Get a spoon and have a taste of warm milk chocolate.  Bless our female hearts, it IS good for what ails us!  I'm smiling just looking at it.

Pay no attention to the organic bug spray beside the milk.  A steeped concoction of garlic, onion, cayenne pepper, and I forget what other two things are in it, that odoriferous non-toxic-to-kids-and-dogs pesticide will sour in a days time if left on a shelf.  It's nasty!  If you go to the effort to make it, re-purpose a Sunny Delight jug and store it in the refrigerator.

Tadadaaaa!  A very large solid bar of milk chocolate (and a good smattering of dark chocolate ganache in the cup behind it).

This is the smallest loaf pan I have, approximately 3.5 by 7.5 inches, it holds enough chips to top the 10" square cake.  A 9 x 13 inch cake requires another half-bag of chips to adequately cover in curls.

A single solid slam on the counter will release the chocolate from the pan.  Leave it there for five minutes to warm just a bit.  If it's too cold, the chocolate will chip off and not curl.  Now grab a favorite vegetable peeler and begin shaving curls!

Milk chocolate, because of the high fat content, melts at a lower temperature than dark chocolate.  Body heat is more than sufficient to cause melting.  You'll want to continually flip the bar from one side of the chocolate to the other in the curl-shaving process.  And get a messy hand.  I always start out with wax paper around the chocolate and always end up without it.  It hinders and slows the progress.  I can deal with this chocolate-y hand.

I discovered it's difficult to take photos of one hand doing something with the other holding the camera!   There isn't a tripod here and even if there was, it'd take another month of Sundays discovering the settings on the camera to allow for the photos of both hands involved in the chocolate curling process.

The chocolate has been shaved from one side to the other down to the width where several very wide curls can finish decorating the cake.


 Here is one last messy hand photo and the remnant of the milk chocolate bar that disappeared.  Some things are just better than others - chocolate is one of those things. 

I'm of the opinion that the Forbidden Fruit in the Garden of Eden might have been chocolate covered, chocolate being the biggest temptation since time began.  It makes perfect sense to me.  Why else would Eve have allowed a walking, talking serpent to convince her something she had walked by since Day Six was worth eviction?  That's my spin on it.

Here it is, a chocolate overload cake:  rich chocolate cake, chocolate Bavarian cream filling, chocolate butter cream icing, dark chocolate ganache, and milk chocolate curls.

And one more, just for good measure:

There have been a whole slew of bad weather systems that have torn through the South the past two weeks.  Lives have been lost, homes destroyed, and folks displaced.  If you're a praying sort of person, keep us in your prayers.   We'll 'ppreciate it!


  1. Well that just takes the cake Mary! So glad you're okay & that cake is enough to get us to move South. At work, so will talk to ya directly, hear? Luv C

  2. That's looks amazing! Thanks for the tutorial on chocolate curls!