One of the joys of being an aunt is creating new traditions with the little ones. As an aunt, I've found that cooking and baking with my nieces is our bonding time. My little nieces generally love to help me with making Thanksgiving dinner. I usually cook the potatoes then let them take turns mash the potatoes. They love it. This year, I thought I'll do something extra special. I read about chocolate stirrers on the webs somewhere and then found the King Arthur Flour's blog about Cocoa Blocks. I thought it sounded easy enough to do and we all love chocolate. It's such a beautiful idea - make fudgy chocolate blocks then stir the chocolate into hot chocolate milk! Perfect to do together and these make great gifts.
If you follow the recipe, it would come out looking like this. But be sure to set it aside overnight Or for several hours to firm up. I let it cool at room temperature. The little ones will keep asking, "When can we continue? Is it ready yet?" every hour but resist. It will cut much better once you give it enough hours to firm up. It really does work to dip knife in hot water, then wipe knife and cut into blocks.
As additional fun, I had the little ones break up some candy canes from their Halloween stash. It was oh-so-much fun for them, using a little wooden mallet to break up the candy canes. I wrapped candy in foil or paper towel first so as not to have the pieces fly everywhere. Or you can simply purchase Peppermint Crunch or the Peppermint Snow. It won't be as much fun and you won't be able to take out frustration the same way, but sometimes the easier way is just as good.
This is the Chocolate Blocks with the peppermint. Most of the peppermint is on the bottom. I thought it would look nice and help the truffle-like bottom to be a tad less sticky. Overall, the little ones loved stirred it into hot milk for hot chocolate and they also ate it like fudge. The peppermint added a light minty flavor. It's creamy and definitely a comfort against the cold wintry weather.
From King Arthur Flour Company's recipes:
(Their website is wonderful. You can click and use either volume or ounces or grams measure.)
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (1 1/4 cups)
- 3 cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (chopped chocolate bars or chips)
- 3/4 cup unsweetened baking chocolate
- wooden sticks
1) Line an 8" x 8" pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
2) Heat the cream and condensed milk over low heat until steaming. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate; allow it to gently melt.
3) After about 10 minutes, return the chocolate mixture to low heat to completely melt the chocolate. Whisk vigorously until the mixture is thick and shiny. Add a few drops of flavoring oil if you like; hazelnut, coffee, or vanilla are popular flavors.
4) Pour the chocolate mixture into the pan; shake the pan gently to level. Sprinkle with cocoa, if desired. Set aside overnight to slowly set up.
5) Run a knife around the edge of the pan and turn out onto a clean cutting surface.
6) Slice into 1 ¼" cubes. Heat a knife in hot water and wipe dry before each cut, for smoothest cuts.
7) Stick a wooden stick into the center of each block.
8) Roll in cocoa or crushed peppermint candy, if desired.
9) Wrap in waxed paper, parchment, or plastic wrap to store.
Yield: about 3 dozen blocks.