Monday 24 August 2015

Fair trade jelly tip icecreams :-)

Back before we stopped eating regular chocolate, I was rather fond of jelly tip ice creams.  Recently, I've begun to wonder if I could make my own.  It turned out to be pretty easy - and very yummy :-)  The only difference is that you can't make them popsicle-shaped: a home freezer doesn't get cold enough to make the icecream sufficiently rigid to get it out of the moulds, so my jelly-tips are squat and fat.

Jelly (based on this, and other internet sites I've lost track of)

1T raspberry jelly crystals (1 box is 95-100mL)
1T + 1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup boiling water

Dissolve jelly crystals and sugar in boiling water.  Make sure everything's fully dissolved - may need to microwave it to achieve this.  Pour into four 100-150mL disposable paper cups and freeze at least 3 hours.

Adding icecream (based on this)

Slightly soften approx 1.5C vanilla icecream and spoon into cups.  Add posicle sticks, teaspoons or sticks from iceblock molds and freeze overnight.

Chocolate coating (based on this)

Melt together 90g dark chocolate (we used milk chocolate, but I think dark would be nicer) and 60g refined coconut oil and mix well.

Cut cups open to remove the ice creams and dip them in the melted coating.  The topping will freeze in a few seconds.  This gives quite a thin coating of chocolate so do at least two coats.

Note that this makes about twice as much coating as you need: this means you have more depth, which makes it easier to coat the ice cream.  Put the remaining coating in a glass jar and use like 'magic shell' ice cream topping (will need to remelt in the microwave first).

Anna and I enjoying our jelly tip ice creams in yesterday's glorious spring sunshine :-)

These worked really well.  The only thing I'd do differently next time is use dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.

Martin suggested that, in the future, we could make jelly tip ice cream slices instead: a bit less fiddly and just as yummy :-)  Here's the recipe I'll use for my first go at that:
  1. Mix 1 box raspberry jelly crystals with 1/2 cup sugar and 1 1/2 cups boiling water.  Pour into flat tray (around 20cm x 30cm) and freeze at least 3 hours.  Should give a layer of jelly about 7-8mm thick.
  2. When set, soften 5-6 cups vanilla icecream and spread over jelly.  Freeze till firm (probably overnight).
  3. Melt together 250g dark chocolate and 165g refined coconut oil.  Pour around 1/3 evenly over ice cream and wait until fully set.
  4. Cut into bars, put on a tray chocolate-side down, spread remaining chocolate over exposed sides.
It'll make a lot of jelly tip slices, but would make a great party dessert!  Let me know if you try it :-)

Sunday 16 August 2015

Fair Trade White Chocolate - an update

Since my previous post on chocolate-making I've learned one important thing: whilst it's relatively easy to make nicely-flavoured white chocolate, nicely-textured white chocolate is much more complicated!

Commercial chocolate-making involves three further steps beyond a simple mixing of ingredients: refining, conching and tempering.  Since my previous post, I've been learning about the first of these.

'Refining' chocolate involves grinding the particles in the chocolate (including the fat globules) till they are so small that your tongue can't detect them.  Commercially, this is done using either roll refiners (forcing the chocolate up a series of stacked rollers not unlike the rollers in an old-fashioned wringer washing machine) or a ball mill.

On a domestic scale, the 'state of the art' solution is the Spectra 11 Melanger.  Investing in such an expensive piece of equipment seemed insane for my purposes, but it gave me a clue.  The Spectra 11 is a modified Indian wet grinder.  We already have an Indian wet grinder: a Sumeet.  It uses completely different technology, but is designed to do the same thing, so I thought I'd give it a go :-)

With a commercial refiner (or the Spectra 11), you typically leave the grinder to run for many hours - sometimes even days.  I didn't know how long I could leave the Sumeet running before it overheated but I knew that it had a reliable cut-out switch so I wasn't too worried.  I planted it in the sink (so it couldn't 'walk' anywhere), turned the tap away for safety, turned it on and quickly removed myself from the scene.  It's very loud!

Sumeet in the sink

After 30 minutes I noticed a slight change in the smell, even from two rooms away, so I quickly turned it off.  The chocolate appeared to have caramelised ever-so-slightly, but it was also much, much smoother.  Very promising :-)  I later ground it for two increments of 10 minutes, allowing it to cool significantly in between.  It was yet more smooth after this, but not by much.  In the future I intend to grind it in 10 minute increments and keep going until I decide it's good enough (or that I've had enough of the noise).

refined (and slightly caramelised) white chocolate

It seems that this grinder is much more vigorous than those normally used for chocolate.  This means it has more potential to burn the chocolate, but it seems it also means that it gets the job done much more quickly.

So, here's my recipe for 'refined' white chocolate.


80g cocoa butter
80g milk powder
1/3 cup (80g) white sugar
seeds of 2/3 a vanilla bean (can probably use 1 1/3 tsp vanilla essence if you will later be adding liquid to the chocolate, e.g. if making ganache or mousse).

Mixing and refining:

1. Chop cocoa butter and melt in the microwave - takes 3-5 minutes.
2. Place Sumeet in the kitchen sink.  Fit one of the large jars with square blade.
3. Grind milk powder at least 20 seconds in Sumeet spice jar then transfer to large jar.
4. Grind sugar at least 20 seconds in Sumeet spice jar then transfer to large jar.
5. Pour cocoa butter into large jar.  Add vanilla.
6. Run on '1' for 10 minutes.
7. Leave to rest until close to room temperature again (approx 30 min.)
8. Run a further 10 minutes then rest again.  Continue until the chocolate is as smooth as you like it.  If you need to leave it for more than 30 minutes between grindings, transfer it to a shallow dish to cool.  When you return, break it into pieces, melt it in the microwave and continue.

  1. Running the Sumeet on 1 draws around 500W, so every 10 min. uses 0.083kWhr.  That's much less energy than it takes to boil the jug for a cup of tea and only costs us just over 2c.  It was making so much noise I figured it must be using heaps of electricity but it's not.
  2. If you don't have access to a good grinder, use icing sugar for the sugar and full fat milk powder for the milk powder (both are 'softer').  Add the other ingredients to the cocoa butter very slowly, beating well as you go.  You will make a product that tastes good but it will have a somewhat gritty/dusty texture.
  3. Other gadgets you can use to refine your chocolate are:
Some people have also used juicers or food processors but they generally don't get things fine enough.

Next I need to learn to 'conch' the chocolate.  In milk and dark chocolate, this step eliminates some of the bitter flavours in the chocolate.  However, it's also the point at which you add an emulsifier, so it's still important for white chocolate.  Emulsifying the chocolate further improves the texture and also makes it easier to temper.

I'll be using soy lecithin, the emulsifier most commonly used in chocolate.  It comes in both powder and liquid forms.  I've decided to use liquid lecithin as I think that will mix in better, and I've decided to buy it in capsules (rather than as a bottle of oil) as I think that will probably keep better.  I'll initially add 1% soy lecithin (which means my one bottle of capsules would do 50 batches!) and generally follow this advice.

Thursday 13 August 2015

Splashes of colour :-)

It's bitterly cold in Auckland at the moment (it got down to 3 overnight last night) and, whilst today is brilliantly sunny, there've been a number of very grey days recently.

However, even on the greyest day, there are two splashes of colour in our garden that make me smile every day :-)

Firstly, the brilliant calendulas in the garden outside my bedroom window.  These were supposed to be a companion planting with our summer vegies, but they've waited until the last few weeks to flower.  There isn't much in the garden for them to attract beneficial insects to or lure bad insects from (I can't honestly remember which they were supposed to do), but their brilliant colour delights me!

The biggest calendula is a cascade of colour - the others just have one or two flowers each but even they stand out brilliantly on a grey day :-)

Secondly, our grapefruit has begun to fruit for the first time this year.  We've probably had about 10 grapefruit so far, and there's a few more to come.  They're yummy to eat, but also a delight to see, glowing brilliantly on their tree.

The tree was still in shadow when I took this picture, so you can't see them in their full glory, but hopefully this gives you some idea of how brilliantly yellow they are.

Sunday 2 August 2015

The cost of flying

Later this month, Martin's off to San Francisco for a work meeting.  This won't be featured in our calculations of our carbon footprints: if work incurs the financial cost of the trip, we figure they (and, ultimately, their customers) incur the carbon cost, too.

All the same, I was wondering what the carbon cost would be, so I plugged his flights into Atmosfair.  He'll be flying economy and one way he'll be on a 777-300ER and the other way on a 777-200ER.

I was genuinely shocked to find that the carbon emissions of these flights add up to a massive 8.8T of CO2e!  That's the same as the carbon emissions from every aspect of both our lifestyles over an entire year!!!!

In the context of Martin's work, I don't think these emissions are unreasonable.  Hapara make software that's used by vast numbers of students.  Their business does seem to require a remarkable number of flights between their Auckland and San Francisco offices but, even if 100 such flights are made per year, that's less than 1kg CO2e per student per year (assuming 1 million student users).  After all, over the course of a whole year that's the same as the emissions that same student would incur from a one-off 10km trip on the school bus.

However, this kind of trip is something plenty of people we know undertake for pleasure once every few years.  In that context, those emissions are astonishing: double everything else one of us incurs over the course of a whole year.

As an aside, Air New Zealand appears to use uncommonly greenhouse gas-intensive planes.  If Martin made the same trip using what an 'average' European airline would use for it (according to Atmosfair), the emissions would be only 5.4T CO2e, not 8.8.  Similarly, for the trip to Timaru discussed earlier, he'd have been looking at emissions of around 500kg CO2e, not the 680 it actually takes.

You could explain this for the long-haul flight by saying that maybe Atmosfair's data there isn't actually very good - after all, how many 12+ hour flights did they have in their European data set? - but after I saw it applied to the Timaru flights as well I've started to wonder if Air New Zealand is the problem.